I debated for a couple of weeks over posting about this book (no, I really don’t post every title I read) … I figured it’s already such a fabulous, internationally bestselling read that I was convinced everyone would have either read it, or read enough about it, that any more fodder out there about its merits would be just that – mere fodder. This morning, I decided I just had to post – not so much a review, but a most grateful testimonial.
So I’m scheduled to run Leadville 100 in about a month. Although I’ve been training for two years, I’m really really nervous because I’m coming back (sooooo slowly!) from last month’s bum ankle (click here for the book associated with that little folly). In preparation for next week’s training on the actual course with my fabulous coach (yes, he of Born to Run fame), I’m supposed to memorize all the aid stations and their distances along the high-altitude mountainous course.
As I headed out this morning at 3:00 a.m. (not a typo – I’m gonna be doing night running so better be ready!), I glanced at the station/mileage chart, channeled Joshua Foer, and built my own Deadville memory palace within a minute or two. So far, so good. Almost 12 hours later, and that palace remains solidly intact, complete with my May-baby daughter who quit piano at 13.5 and Roger Ebert who is gonna be 74 year-old, four years after I finish Deadville.
Confused? Just read this book … it’s a miraculous tool, especially for overloaded, doddering, aging brains (like mine!). In fact, a close friend who’s been noticing my rapid decline the last decade is the one who (thankfully) put the book – in CD form, read ever so smoothly by Mike Chamberlain – in my hands!
Learning to build memory palaces is merely a small portion of young Foer’s delightful read. While it’s got an element of “how-to,” it’s also quite a nail-biting memoir of a year in the life of a talented, determined young man and his training – with mental athletes from around the world – to fulfill what begins as a rather roundabout goal to become the next U.S. memory champion. [Major talent runs in the family, by the way – Foer's oldest brother is The New Republic's editor-at-large Franklin Foer, his other older brother is the wunderkind author Jonathan Safran Foer, his sister-in-law is the luminous National Book Award finalist Nicole Krauss!]
No spoilers here, but the journey is intensely mind-boggling as it is entertaining. If you must know sooner than later, you can check out Foer’s TED talk, but go back and read the rest of his book because you don’t want to miss chunking, what jokes and sex have to do with memory (bet you can instantly recall a dirty ditty!), “profligate fad chaser” Mark Twain, “‘person-action-object;’ or, simply PAO,” and the part I took most personally: “We value quantity of reading over quality of reading.” OUCH. Although a girl can never have too many memory palaces, right? I’ll just keep building …
Readers: Young Adult, Adult