Becoming a Grand Master of Memory: Foer’s Quest

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform summary of "Moonwalking With Einstein" by Joshua Foer. Shortform has the world's best summaries of books you should be reading.

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What is a grand master of memory? How does someone become a memory grand master?

A grand master of memory is a person who has passed a certain set of memory skill tests. The author of Moonwalking With Einstein became a memory grand master during his memory training.

Read more about becoming a grand master of memory below, as well as info about some famous ones.

Joshua Foer’s Memory Journey

In 2005, journalist Joshua Foer attended the US Memory Championships and became interested in memory. Over the next year, he interviewed mnemonists (master memorizers), researchers, and scientists; researched the history of memory; and trained with a memory master, learning enough mnemonic techniques to win the US Memory Championships the following year. 

Moonwalking with Einstein (the title is a mnemonic) is a record of everything Josh learned during his year of exploring memory. Most notably, he learned that a good memory isn’t an inherent talent—anyone can improve their memory if they employ the right techniques.

Foer became a grand master of memory. To be a grand master, you have to be able to memorize 1,000 random digits in less than an hour, the order of ten shuffled decks of cards in less than an hour, and the order of one deck in less than two minutes.)

Ed Cooke

Ed Cooke is a British mental athlete and a grand master.

Ed was the author’s memory technique coach. He finished in eleventh at the 2005 World Memory Championship after flubbing the speed card event.

Lukas Amsüss

Lukas is an Austrian mnemonist and has achieved the rank of grand master of memory. He and Ed co-founded a society of memorizers called the KL7. KL stands for “Knights of Learning” and the 7 represents the original seven members. Lukas and Ed also have plans to start the Oxford Mind Academy, which is like a gym for brains, with Ed and Lukas acting as personal trainers.

Being a memory grand master brought Josh Foer some small scale fame, but Foer maintains that anyone can improve their memory with the proper training and techniques.

Becoming a Grand Master of Memory: Foer’s Quest

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best summary of Joshua Foer's "Moonwalking With Einstein" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Moonwalking With Einstein summary:

  • The memory techniques that took the author from novice to US memory champion in one year
  • The 6 key types of memory we use everyday
  • Why memory isn't just genetic, and how you can improve your memory with the right techniques

Carrie Cabral

Carrie has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember, and has always been open to reading anything put in front of her. She wrote her first short story at the age of six, about a lost dog who meets animal friends on his journey home. Surprisingly, it was never picked up by any major publishers, but did spark her passion for books. Carrie worked in book publishing for several years before getting an MFA in Creative Writing. She especially loves literary fiction, historical fiction, and social, cultural, and historical nonfiction that gets into the weeds of daily life.

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