Casey Schwartz reviews Joshua Foer’s  Moonwalking With Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything. Foer competed in the U.S. memory competition in order to practice the way we once remembered:

“If you were a medieval scholar reading a book, you knew that there was a reasonable likelihood you’d never see that particular text again, and so a high premium was placed on remembering what you read,” Foer writes. “You couldn’t just pull a book off the shelf to consult it for a quote or an idea. ”

The invention of the Gutenberg press meant that books were no longer such a rarity that you had to imprint their contents onto your memory whenever you ran across them. Once they became retrievable, books changed the way people read. Now, information is even more easily tracked; all events easily documented; all opinions available. Knowing this, do we know things differently? Do we engage more casually with our lives, on the theory that any experience can be reduplicated later?

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to