In this article you will find – within the scope of books on personal development – short reviews and recommendations on books about memory, how it works, how to train it ... and also how to cheat it.
by Joshua Foer
In Moonwalking with Einstein, science journalist Joshua Foer recounts an exciting journey he embarked on to explore the mysteries of human memory.
Joshua begins his journey as a journalist at the 2005 USA Memory Championship, where he wants to find out: Why can some people remember multiple shuffled decks of cards or tens of thousands of digits of pi - while others forget where they put their keys?
He makes friends with some curious memory acrobats and discovers: Behind these top performances are neither tricks nor exceptional talent but learnable techniques to transform abstract data such as playing cards or numbers into information that our brains can better memorize, namely images, feelings, and stories placed in specific locations in so-called memory palaces.
Joshua gets persuaded to participate in the next memory championship and begins intensive training. He meets numerous memory artists, people with Savant syndrome, and people with severe memory loss and tells about his experiences with them.
He describes the history of memory techniques (they were already used in ancient times and disappeared only when the invention of printing made them obsolete) and explains the neurological context of their functioning (the human brain did not evolve to remember phone numbers, appointments, and to-do lists, but its environment, food places, and sources of danger).
He describes the actual techniques only superficially - if you want to know more about them, you can quickly find detailed explanations on the Internet (e.g., about the memory palace, the Major system, and the PAO system).
Joshua's journey comes to an end with his participation in the 2005 memory championship. As for how it ends, it's best to read it for yourself.
The book is highly entertaining, exciting in parts, pleasantly humorous, and a whole new reading experience due to the mix of personal adventure and science.
I recommend it to anyone interested in the capabilities of human memory - even those who don't want to become a memory professional.
Suitable as an audiobook? Yes.
by Lisa Mosconi, PhD
Lisa Mosconi is a doctor of neuroscience and nuclear medicine and an expert in Alzheimer's prevention and nutritional counseling. In her bestseller, she explains how our diet affects our brain and which foods we should (and shouldn't) eat to keep our brain fit for peak performance well into old age.
The author gives numerous practical tips and advice, such as what kind of olive oil to buy, which types of meat and fish and which dairy products are recommended (and which are not), and what to look out for in food labels.
She dispels common myths, explaining, for example, why most low-fat foods tend to be bad for us and why chocolate and wine (in the right types and amounts) are healthy.
The book is based on years of research and is written easily for laypeople to understand. The author does not expect readers to completely change their eating habits overnight but provides specific, prioritized recommendations for a gradual transition.
The book concludes with an extensive collection of healthy, delicious, and easy-to-implement recipes.
Suitable as an audiobook? Only limited due to the just mentioned recipe collection, which is unfortunately not supplied as a PDF.
by Annie Murphy Paul
For a long time, the prevailing belief was that we learn and engage in thought and intellectual work best when alone and sitting quietly – with nothing but our minds. However, our minds were not designed for the increasingly complex, abstract ideas that bombard us in the modern world.
In “The Extended Mind,” science journalist Annie Murphy Paul shows, based on numerous scientific studies, how we can dramatically improve our cognitive abilities by extending our minds to include our bodies, our environment, and our relationships.
We can pay attention to bodily signals, engage our brains through physical activity, create an inspiring environment, or take walks in nature, as many historical figures have done. We can collaborate with colleagues on a flip chart or attach and rearrange sticky notes on a bulletin board.
Even expanding the computer desktop across multiple monitors can noticeably relieve the brain, as it leverages one of the brain’s fundamental functions – spatial orientation – by positioning different programs in distinct locations. Moving digital data around the room with our hands, as Tom Cruise did in Minority Report, has not yet become a reality. Still, it impressively demonstrates how mental extensions can drastically improve our ability to absorb and process information.
The author has thoroughly researched and bases all principles on numerous exciting and impressive research findings. All of you who feel like you can’t fit more into your head can breathe a sigh of relief: you don’t have to – instead, calmly tap into the resources outside your brain!
Suitable as an audiobook? Yes.
by Dr. Julia Shaw
How reliable are our memories? Did everything we remember really happen exactly like that? As a rule, no, claims legal psychologist, Dr. Julia Shaw.
In this book, she shows that our memory is not only unreliable ("Where did I put my key?"), but also stores memories incorrectly, changes them afterward, combines them with other memories – and can even be unconsciously manipulated from the outside.
As an example, the author describes studies in which she implanted false memories in test subjects until they were firmly convinced that they had committed a crime.
These research findings are particularly relevant to the justice system: If we cannot trust memories one hundred percent – should we be allowed to convict people based on witness testimony alone?
We also learn what our modern world, in which we are constantly inundated by stimuli, in which information is available at the touch of a button, and in which we share filtered aspects of our lives on social media, is doing to our memory.
We can use the insights from this book to clear up misunderstandings and disagreements, protect people from misjudgments, help overcome trauma, and – combined with the proper techniques – to store information almost unaltered.
This book is written in an understandable way; it's entertaining and eye-opening. A recommendation for all who do not want to be helplessly exposed to the fallibility of their memories.
Suitable as an audio book? Yes.
by Jim Kwik
Jim Kwik is a long-time expert and coach on improving mental performance.
His core message is that we all have the potential to improve our mental abilities continuously and limitless. We can become more productive, achieve goals that seem unattainable, and ultimately live the life we want.
What it takes are the three M's: mindset, motivation, and methods.
Much has already been written on the first two points:
We need to get rid of deeply held, limiting beliefs about ourselves, replace negative views with positive ones, and redefine the boundaries of what we think is possible.
But where most self-help guidebooks end, Limitless has just warmed up.
The strength of the book, in my eyes, is in the methods – the concrete, actionable, step-by-step techniques and exercises for the following five aspects of performance improvement:
- Focus / Concentration
- Efficient and effective learning
- Memory training
- Speed Reading
- Decision making
In addition, there are valuable tips on nutrition, sleep, exercise, environmental design, and inner balance.
Limitless is absolutely worth reading, and Jim Kwik is a great teacher. I learned so much that I don't resent the occasional self-promotion of his online products.
It should not go unmentioned that much of the material is repeated in his talks and podcasts. But the repetition of a topic from different angles reinforces the learning effect, as we have learned :)
Suitable as an audio book? Yes, absolutely.