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The Guardian of All Things: The Epic Story of Human Memory

3.55  ·  Rating Details  ·  116 Ratings  ·  26 Reviews
A sweeping exploration of the history of memory and human civilization

Memory makes us human. No other animal carries in its brain so many memories of such complexity nor so regularly revisits those memories for happiness, safety, and to accomplish complex tasks. Human civilization continues because we are able to pass along memories from one person to another, from one gen
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published August 21st 2012 by St. Martin's Press
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(showing 1-30 of 1,451)
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Jun 03, 2012 Caren rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult-nonfiction
This was one of the best books I have read in a long while. The title, from a quote attributed to Cicero, tells us that the human perception of the importance of memory is very old. Think for a moment about what distinguishes us , as humans, from other creatures. Is it not our consciousness, not only of ourselves, but of the place we hold in the time/space continuum? Is it not also the fact that we can remember a past and contemplate a future? The author takes us on a fascinating journey through ...more
Clare Cannon
A detailed study of the history of human memory which reads more like an historical narrative than a self-help guide. It incorporates a history of many forms of human communication: symbol creation and writing, politics and official record keeping, different schools of philosophy and historical theory, a history of attitudes towards God and religion, printing, sound and film recording, digital data collection, memory loss and the future possibility of memory implants.
Oct 08, 2012 Chris rated it did not like it
Shelves: history, first-reads
I won this book on first reads, and thus really wanted to like it. I ended up being disappointed.

The title is a little misleading -- it's more of a book on the technology of preserving memory, rather than the science of memory itself; more pop-history than pop-sci. That was fine by me. It's also incredibly ethnocentric. It starts almost entirely about Europe and North Africa, narrows down to America once it is established, and then narrows even further to just Silicon Valley with only brief ment
Aug 05, 2014 Dale rated it did not like it
Shelves: nonfiction
I found this book to be almost unreadable even though the topic appeals to me. Mr. Malone needs to EDIT himself. The book suffers incredibly from the overwhelming number of tangents (a few are interesting, but belong in an Afterward or as footnotes. The book is actually fatiguing to read: his prose is repetitive - he has little confidence that the audience caught on the first three times he states the same fact. The section on the history of human memory, and the psychology/anthropology regardin ...more
Jennifer Osterman
Jul 13, 2012 Jennifer Osterman rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This book is a fascinating survey of the history of mankind's attempts to immortalize human knowledge. From the birth of communication to the advent of the Internet, Malone touches on all methods of documentation and recording. Despite the huge scope of the topic, this book did not seem neglectful or too ponderous when discussing details. I file this book alongside Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything in terms of edutainment value.

Highly recommended!
Feb 28, 2013 Stephen rated it did not like it
So...this book, it's full of errors. Ridiculously full of errors, so much so it was like watching a movie so bad that it's enjoyable. I can only speak to the section where I already knew something, which are those furthest from the authors expertise in modern technology (and I expect he knows those better) but boy do the pseudo-facts come fast and furious.

In just the first few chapters, Malone gives far too much credence to reconstructions of the history and use of cave paintings, talking about
H Wesselius
Nov 09, 2012 H Wesselius rated it it was ok
For a book and an idea, it held alot of promise but was in the end disappointing. There's some fascinating information in the early chapters on the evolution of man and memory both biological and anthropological thats worth the time to read. However, as one progresses through the book, the reader perceives an author who's not terribly comfortable with some of the topics especially the medieval era. Its only when the author enters the late 19th century and focuses on American business and technol ...more
Joe Ciola
Jul 20, 2014 Joe Ciola rated it it was amazing
Occasionally a book turns out to be nothing like I imagined. However, unlike other such books, this had delightful and in intended consequences that did not disappoint. The title is quite descriptive of the author's intent, but the message is surprising. The author's style reminds me of the late 1980's James Burke BBC series, "The Day the Universe Changed," by which he captures you with the main element and then by deliberate, intriguing stories of numerous chronological historical events, proce ...more
Christina Dudley
Jun 06, 2012 Christina Dudley rated it really liked it
For full review, see blog -

Really enjoyed this book. Fascinating and far-ranging history of human memory, from hominid days to the gabillion gabillion links of the Internet, and everything in between. Made me want to print my own novels on vellum because it appears the most durable.

Because Malone's book covers such a giant subject, he touches on everything imaginable: clay tablets, print, automatons, film, sound, computers, you name it.

I've already put this on my hub's
Jul 20, 2015 Jennifer rated it liked it
This was a really fascinating new take on the reasons for progress of early hominids - I found it insightful and revelatory as an explanation for the development of our species over those competing and cohabiting with us.
The speculation on the nature and purpose of the paintings at Lascaux was also new for me and very interesting. Then the story of literacy and illumination and scrolls of papyrus to paper and the value of the early repositories of papyrus and paper, and the power and dominance
Jenna DeFrei
Mar 21, 2015 Jenna DeFrei rated it really liked it
I mistakenly assumed this book was about the brain. Rarely do I not first read the cover jacket of a book, but fascinated with the brain as I am, I read this book without really knowing what it is about. I am not disappointed. Malone takes us on a long tour of human memory, memory stored OUTSIDE the brain. From the first scribbling and art by early humans on rocks and cave walls, to the millions of trillions of bytes of information (memory) we now have at our fingertips on the WWW, and everythin ...more
Aug 09, 2012 Trish marked it as to-read
So anxious to read this!!! My mom has Alzheimer's and I'm so interested in our Memory! It's hard to see her through this disease.
Apr 04, 2013 Julie rated it did not like it
I love books on the subject of memory, but this was tedious and unreadable.
Aug 24, 2014 Gary rated it liked it
This is a good book, but not a great book. There are several inconsistencies - and that to me always damages the credibility of the rest of the book. For example, in one chapter the author says "In the beginning was the Word" are the first words in the opening of the Bible. Those words ARE the opening words of the book of John, but they are NOT the opening words of the Bible. And there are other similar inconsistencies. None of them are huge, but they each little by little damage the credibility ...more
Tom Hunter
Nov 04, 2015 Tom Hunter rated it it was amazing
I really did not know what to expect from this book. I will say it did an excellent job of overturning every single aspect of human memory, from our perspective as its users. Not a lot of neuroscience. Still a great read.
Jan 03, 2013 Bryan rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed the book very much (although I found it to be hard to read) and was fascinated by the examples of memory through out history. I do not agree that people will one day be replaced or enhanced by technological in the sense of memory. All we, as people can do, is record and share our accumulated memory (or wisdom) with the next generation. Much in the same way as the people of the past. Yes technology has improved the memory and knowledge of all of mankind and will continue to do so; we mu ...more
Feb 03, 2013 Leslie rated it really liked it
Shelves: library-books
The Guardian of All Things is the fascinating story of humanity's quest to record its memories for the future. From cave paintings to microchips and beyond, with detours for the "memory theatres" of the Renaissance and modern studies of the brain, Malone mostly examines the exterior technology of memory, but his reflections on the implications of those technologies are thoughtful and insightful. I would actually give this book 3-1/2 if it were allowed, because I found the part on computers to be ...more
Jun 17, 2016 Benjamin rated it really liked it
Like James Burke's Connections, this book magically connects innovations over hundreds of years (one innovation leads to another and to yet another) to describe how we've evolved the capture of human memory. From cave painting, to tablet carving, to writing, to paper, to quills, to pen, and so on to computer RAM. The marvelous connection of a 1600 automaton duck created for the French court (it consumed food and pooped duck scat) leading to the creation of computer tabular cards was particularly ...more
Sep 28, 2012 Shaun rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would. If you like Malcolm Gladwell, it reads a little bit like his books. It's all about the human brain and memory and how we can store what our memories in things like books, computers, etc. I found it quite fascinating as the author stepped through the history of memory. I learned so much about things I didn't anticipate. I would highly recommend this book. It got me motivated to write my own memories down.
Aug 29, 2012 GONZA rated it really liked it
I was so happy when I received this book from Netgalley as I consider myself a little bit of a Neuropsychologist so memory held a big part of my interest. This is a well written essay that covers more or less everything there is to know about memory, from an anthropological and linguistic point of view also and this journey is very interesting and well written.

Dec 18, 2015 Mysteryfan rated it it was ok
A poor choice of title and an ultimately flawed book. It's not about human memory, it's about the devices we've created to store information for us. I wanted to title it "From Stones to Skins to Silicon: the epic story of our mnemonic devices." As a reporter in Silicon Valley, he had a great seat for the development of computers. He's a little shaky on history.
Juliana Philippa
Oct 26, 2012 Juliana Philippa marked it as to-read
Wall Street Journal, October 25, 2012 - "How to Avoid a Bonfire of the Humanities 'English majors are exactly the people I'm looking for,' one successful Silicon-Valley entrepreneur recently told me" by Michael S. Malone
Sep 11, 2014 Erick rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
Very interesting. Had never thought about memory in
quite this way. Malone has presented his subject in a
very broad, but detailed and easy to understand manner.
Lucy Rowles-springer
Sep 08, 2012 Lucy Rowles-springer rated it it was amazing
Love this book, I'm fascinated by the brain and the way it works and this book explains it all really well.
Oct 14, 2012 Nina rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Not really what I was expecting, but still pretty interesting.
Burky Ford
Sep 06, 2012 Burky Ford marked it as to-read
Could not find a copy (hardback or e-book).
Joanne Carabeo
Joanne Carabeo marked it as to-read
Jul 20, 2016
Chris marked it as to-read
Jul 17, 2016
Waltter Montteiro
Waltter Montteiro marked it as to-read
Jul 15, 2016
Elisa Marie
Elisa Marie is currently reading it
Jul 12, 2016
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Michael S. Malone is a journalist and author who has been nominated for the Pulitzer price twice for his investigative journalism contributions. He has a regular column Silicon Dreams in Forbes (previosuly Silicon Insider for ABC)

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