Remember Word Freak, the book about overly-focused Scrabble players (well, OK, fanatical Scrabble players)? Or King of Kong, the recent documentary about competitive Donkey Kong players with rather interesting off-screen lives? Now, we have Moonwalking with Einstein, a book that delves into the world of "mental athletes": ordinary people whose powers of memorization seem to be almost super-human.
Author Joshua Foer starts with the most basic question: How do they do that? In search of the answer, he studies the history of human memory, interviews amnesia victims and the real Rain Man, learns tricks of the trade, explains the "OK Plateau," and yes, tells us exactly what the book's title means. We sit in at the World Memory Championships, where contestants use headphones and ear plugs to block out noise while they memorize freshly-shuffled decks of cards and lists of hundreds of numbers and words in a matter of minutes.
Foer discovers that people with extraordinary memory aren't necessarily highly gifted or savants. For the most part, they've just tapped into methods known to scholars for centuries. He also tells us how modern conveniences like cell phones and the internet are actually changing the way our brains retain information. Moonwalking with Einstein just might help us all realize that with a little time and attention, we can all tap into more brain power than we think we have. It's an unforgettable read. Now, has anyone seen my keys?