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Total Memory Makeover: Uncover Your Past, Take Charge of Your Future

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Moonwalking with Einstein made memory hot, and now beloved actress and New York Times bestselling author Marilu Henner presents an engaging, personal, and prescriptive guide to enhancing your life by improving your memory.Albert Einstein says, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Marilu Henner takes it a step further, explaining, “That’s not insanity; it’s bad memory.” Known for her relatable voice, sense of humor, and life-changing advice, Marilu now serves up an inspiring guide describing how an enhanced memory can help you to improve the quality of your life, come to terms with your past, and achieve your goals. 

In 2010, millions of viewers tuned in to an episode of 60 Minutes which featured Marilu as someone with Superior Autobiographical Memory—an uncanny ability to recall details of every day of her life—a talent shared by only six other people in the world. Here, in expanded detail, Marilu reveals the benefits having a great autobiographical memory has had for her, and then shares her personal insights and experiences as to how having a reliable memory has helped her in countless scenarios. She also gives readers advice in making memory work for them, from having the right attitude about life and developing a healthy mindset about the past, to building a personal history “track” and using it to actually change your life! Accessible, entertaining, and educational, Marilu’s latest is sure to resonate with readers everywhere.

256 pages, Hardcover

First published February 21, 2012

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About the author

Marilu Henner

16 books29 followers
Marilu Lucy Henner is an American actress, producer and New York Times best-selling author.

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5 stars
39 (15%)
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69 (27%)
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83 (33%)
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44 (17%)
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12 (4%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 47 reviews
Profile Image for David.
387 reviews
May 14, 2012
Ted Williams, the greatest natural hitter in baseball history, was a flop as a batting coach. IMHO, Marilu Henner, who is one of only a handful of folks with HSAM (Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory), is no memory guru. Her book is interesting, but not very helpful to we mere mortals who have trouble remebering where we put our reading glasses.
Profile Image for Judi.
339 reviews1 follower
May 1, 2013
Ummm...I wasn't thrilled with this book. People tell me all the time what an amazing memory I have, so I got this book to help me dig deeper and to recover some periods in the my life where I have no memories at all. Being as this is a self-help/instructional type book, my review is largely based on those two things. I already knew that music was a huge tracer for me, so I started out quite excited about the whole find your track thing. However, it did seem to me that most of her exercises were geared toward someone who has an autobiographical memory; none of the exercises changed anything for me. And when Henner discusses embracing "negative memories" and uses for example getting a C in grade school, it was hard for me to relate to her.
Profile Image for Steve.
58 reviews2 followers
October 16, 2013
I did not finish reading it. I put it down and forgot to pick it back up.
Profile Image for angie.
364 reviews40 followers
June 8, 2012
This was released today!! I'm so excited to see a brand new book out on memory. I haven't gotten far enough along in Total Memory Makeover to have a strong opinion yet, but I have always been fascinated with the topic and how our past affects our present and I plan to read to the very end.

(Four stars) So far, I'm pleasantly surprised to find that there is not just a lot of personal experience woven into Marilu Henner's book, but helpful factual tidbits about different kinds of memory, how to improve it and how even though we think we've forgotten the seemingly little things that have happened, they still shape our lives and are always somehow with us...

Marilu Henner promises she will leave her readers with tricks to retrieve long-forgotten memories and how to turn bad experiences into life lessons...hoping this is the case!:)

Oddly enough, I'm reading a fiction book right now that just happens to deal with memory and one of my favorite quotes from it (The Street Sweeper) is: "If you can manage not to hate yourself, then it won't hurt to remember almost anything: your childhood, your parents, what you've done or what's been done to you."
Profile Image for Susan.
182 reviews7 followers
April 30, 2012
All in all, I give this book three stars. There were many excellent parts that I would give five stars. Some of those include her quiz to determine what your dominant sense for remembering is. Before taking the quiz, I thought I would have been visual, but found out and totally agree that my sense of smell is tied up with evoking my memories ( for example: the smell of autumn leaves and the memories it brings, the smell of bread baking in the oven, the smell of oranges evoking memories of Christmas and family gatherings, the smell of honeysuckle evoking the memories of my childhood summers). I also really like her descriptions of the different types of memories: horizontal, vertical, mushrooming, and sporadic. Her advice to lead a more conscious life by tending to our attention units is an excellent way to help us remember. Her advice to utilize your interest tracks to retain and remember is also interesting. However, the suggested exercises in the book caused me stress because I could not find an initial memory to trigger deeper memories. So, that is why I rated it three stars.
Profile Image for Sam Dye.
212 reviews4 followers
July 27, 2012
Listened to this from Silver to Denver. A lot of it is a story of her HSAM (Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory) and her TV/acting career (Taxi etc). Her contention is that if we access a lot of our memories via various methods she gives, we can better predict and deal with the future and help ourselves psychologically. Ar the end she pushes natural ie non-processed eating. She goes through ginko etc but makes a false statement "all proven to be effective" or something to that effect. The next time I have to do the 11 hour trip alone I'm doing another audiobook. I am eating better since I listened to it. To access all my "tracks" would take a lot of time but I have mostly dull journal entries for some of it. Her presentation did prompt me to make more of a feeling analysis of my entries.
Profile Image for Alexandra .
261 reviews4 followers
October 30, 2012
This would've been better as an article; everything that I wanted to know about Henner's autobiographical memory she managed to sum up nicely in a few pages. The rest of the book was a boring combination of her memories and an attempt to turn the book into a self-help with folks who struggle to remember their own past. But her ideas don't work for those who don't share her talents, so I didn't get much out of it. It would be fun to read a straight-up memoir of her life, though--I hope she writes one some day.
Profile Image for Pat.
4 reviews
August 8, 2012
Kind of interesting to learn about autobiographical memory. I sure know I don't have it. Does have some good tips but I'm not one for doing exercises from a book. I have a pretty good memory for my purposes. But hers is amazing!
Profile Image for Mary.
3 reviews
June 22, 2012
If you can get it free, ok. Otherwise, don't waste your money.
Profile Image for Rachel.
697 reviews12 followers
August 7, 2012
I've been fascinated with Marilu Henner and her extraordinary memory ever since I saw her discussing it on a talk show several years ago. She can remember exactly what happened to her on any given date going all the way back to her early childhood. Since then, her special ability has been studied and given a name - Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory or HSAM. Only a handful of people have been found who have this ability.

I was expecting that the self-help aspect of this book would focus on how to improve one's memory going forward. My memory is terrible and getting worse so I was hoping for some tips to fix that. However, this book focuses more on retrieving past memories and building a personal timeline. There were quite a few exercises that involved starting with an initial memory and unlocking more from there. This technique did not work for me because sometimes I didn't even have the initial memory required - maybe I'm just too far gone. I know there are people who have had success using Marilu's techniques but I am not one of them.

Marilu's book is not just a self-help book on memory. She includes quite a bit of biographical information and personal examples, which I appreciated. I liked learning how HSAM has affected her life and her relationships through the years.

I listened to the audio version of this book which is narrated by Marilu herself. She does a fantastic job, of course. I think she's one of the most cheerful people in show business and that definitely comes across in her narration of this book. Included with this audio book is a 45 page PDF file that has all the exercises and quizzes, which is good because there are a lot of them. It would be a real pain to have to stop the audio book and take notes but with the PDF that's unnecessary.

Even though this book didn't improve my memory, I still enjoyed listening to it. I think that could benefit others, it just wasn't right for me.
Profile Image for Sheila DeChantal.
632 reviews71 followers
July 3, 2012
Marilu Henner has a gift that is known to only six other people in the world. She can recall every detail of her life, now just the big events like the day Kennedy was shot, 9-11, or a surprise birthday party... but also a random Thursday in August of 1980, or a Sunday morning any year since she has been five.

In Total Memory Makeover, Marilu shares the benefits to having such a memory, and shares exercises we can all do to strengthen our own memories.

Total Memory Makeover is exactly what is says it is. An audio book (or book) about Marilu's gift of total recall, and what we can do to strengthen our own skills. 7 hours and 58 minutes long, Marilu takes us through her growing up with this skill, and how it can be used to help us makes better choices in our present day. I found it interesting that Marilu explains that by remembering moments of great pain in our life (say, like a break up) it can help us see the red flags as we go into new relationships. And that works for good things too... by remembering how great it felt to fit into a smaller size of jeans 4 years ago can help us say no to bad food choices today.

For the rest of my review please go to: http://bookjourney.wordpress.com/2012...
Profile Image for Vin.
108 reviews
May 4, 2012
I got this book not because I am looking to improve my memory, but because I suspect i may have a Very Good Autobiographical Memory if not a Superior one, and I was hoping that there would be some kind of test within to find out...There was no such test, but there were some fun & interesting exercises, and some fascinating information about styles of remembering, and which of your 5 senses dominates your memory. I also enjoy witnessing Marilu in action—"I had my first date with so-n-so on October 9, 1970..." I love remembering what date I did this or that on, but I rarely share that with anyone because it usually creeps people out. I like that Marilu is proud of her ability. I only gave the book three stars, because, as a how-to book, it is written for all ages, eighth-grade to octogenarian, and it would probably only appeal to a handful of people who are really trying to improve their memories. I'm aware that most people find it very convenient to forget anything they don't want to remember...and you find out why that is not an overall healthy way to think when you read through the first few chapters...
Profile Image for Debbie.
106 reviews5 followers
May 19, 2012
I was excited about this book and gave it a good try, but ultimately I was disappointed. Ms. Henner repeats herself over and over, as though she's being paid by the word. (I guess in a way, she is!) Things she told us about at the beginning pop up over and over again, and I found that annoying. I thought it was interesting that (in a book where she promises we'll be able to remember every class on our high school schedules no matter how old we are) she didn't think we could remember the same fact from one chapter to the next! The quizzes did nothing for me, and I felt as though I was slogging through pages and pages trying to get to......something. "Let's get on with it!", was the phrase that kept occurring to me. For many, many pages she talks about how she's going to help the reader improve his/her memory, but it seemed to me like a lot of talk and very little action. I started skimming toward the end, ultimately finished it, but was left feeling very unsatisfied. I wish I had used that time to read something more worthwhile.
Profile Image for James Johnson.
518 reviews8 followers
March 13, 2016
The author should stick to acting and stay clear of writing books on memory. Having highly superior personal memory hardly qualifies her to teach others about memory or relationships or nutrition or practically anything else. The author's statements came across as authoritative but always lacked the scientific or academic citations that could have lent credibility to her words. Instead, I think she was making most of it up.

Henner bases the bulk of her book on the assumption that remembering stuff makes you better; happier, more successful, focused on constant improvement, and she even used the phrase "a better parent". This book was pretentious, mediocre, and potentially harmful. I'm not sure why a person who knows that she has significantly larger brain structures thinks that she has any business trying to teach her "tricks and tips" for remembering to mere mortals with average-sized brain structures or less.
235 reviews
May 15, 2015
I heard about this book from the author herself, Marilu Henner, on an NPR interview. I was fascinated by her super autobiographical memory - give her a date and she can recall in intricate detail what she did that day. Given that I struggle with remembering what I did yesterday, I thought her book might offer some insights into improving my memory. Well, while reading the book convinced me that my memory isn't really all that bad, I was underwhelmed by this book. A little too much self-help for solving all of your life problems - if you could just remember better, you would stop making all those mistakes. And a few times I wanted Ms. Henner to humble herself a bit and not feel the need to flaunt that memory of hers. The exercises of calling up memories was great but, all in all, not really that beneficial. Sorry - not my cup of tea.
Profile Image for Carey.
190 reviews13 followers
August 11, 2012
NEW SHELF! ...."ABANDONED"...I learned in "The Book Whisperer" that it's OK to abandon a book if you're not relating to it. I chose to put this book down after having read about a third of it. Marilu Henner is one of 12 people in the world that have been diagnosed with HSAM (Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory). This means she's able to recall every detail and date of her life since early childhood. Wow! She gives exercises in the book that she believes will increase your memory. The exercises are interesting, and maybe a little enjoyable; however, I found it a little discouraging due to my middle-aged memory. She includes lots of intriquing information, but for me it just wasn't worth the time.
Profile Image for Kristina Stanley.
Author 9 books91 followers
October 16, 2012
Light but interesting. I was hoping for more insight on how her memory affected her life. This book is more of a self-help type book for improving your memory. I enjoyed reading it and have been practicing some of the memory exercising. There are some interesting insights on living healthy lifestyle near the end of the book. I think I might buy one of Henner's lifestyle books. I like Henner's fun but serious way of writing about daily life.
Profile Image for Barbara.
Author 2 books51 followers
June 30, 2012
I would probably give this 3.5 stars. The first part of the book was so so. Then it got better and into how to recall your memories, using timelines, your senses, etc. I really liked the senses part of the book. I also like some of the questions in the book to trigger your memory. She also talks about using a journal to log a sentence or two everyday to jog your memory.
Profile Image for Rosie.
Author 18 books29 followers
May 27, 2014
Marilu Henner wrote this book very clearly and easy to follow.
I really enjoyed this book. It does require some work as far as writing, which I was able to do some, but not all.
This book was very interesting and I would like to read more of her books.
October 1, 2019
I appreciate the information and what Marilu is attempting to do. However it doesn't come together very well.

Marilu spends a really long time talking about how important it is to remember things. How it helps in making future decisions, how it's part of who we are, how it can be fun to revisit old memories. It's understandable that she wants to argue in favour of it as justification for the book and her passion for remembering stuff really shows.

However she totally oversells it. She writes things like "Memory is everything" and memory is what makes us human - when obviously there is more to life than memory. A computer can hold things in memory, that doesn't make it human or worthy of adulation. She is a bit full of herself and self-congratulatory in this respect at times. Memory is only one aspect of performance and living. What is the point of having countless memories of things people said or did if you can't fully process them and carry out the results to benefit in your own life? At one point near the end she indirectly mentions how nobody can win an argument with her - as if every argument was about some fact you're trying to recall!

In another part Marilu nonchalantly mentions how in a certain sense autobiographical memories in our head are the exact same as video files on a computer to be played when we want - and I thought yeah that's a very interesting point. Just because you remember something doesn't mean you have any better understanding of it. We could all go around wearing cameras recording everything if it were that important. What is useful is the highlights, the important bits, that's how memory is supposed to work.

The way people become the best in the world at things is normally through both amazing talent and amazing training/practice. HSAM individuals are known to spend a lot of time reflecting on their past and they have large parts of their brain that are characterized by people with OCD. One of this book's strengths is in how Marilu explains this part of her - how her autobiographical memory developed over the years. It's quite fascinating at times but there probably isn't enough of it to last a whole book. I really appreciate this information and to understand some of the passion Marilu has for her autobiographical memory and it's to some extent infectious.

However whether or not it's worth doing all the exercises and implement it all is quite another. Sometimes she says things like "most people can remember this" or that or whatever, and that may be quite true for MOST people. However she is alienating the half of people who fall below the average memory ability, and those are the ones who need the book the most. I did feel alienated on a few occasions, particularly with the strong propaganda Marilu was also putting out about how important memory is to be a real human such as herself excels at. Rule #1 of being liked - don't insult your target audience.

Later in the book she talks about making a journal of what happens in your life, and she advises to break it into anticipation, participation and recollection. Some of these ideas I like. However it all takes time and effort. Another thing is that when you write something down or record it some other way, it's like it becomes something else. You lose a part of the memory of it. No prizes for remembering something if you just wrote it down and have been looking over it every day, that's not really developing your memory.

By going over what happened again your autobiographical memory will no doubt improve but at a cost of time and effort. Unlike Marilu Henner people with significantly below average memories cannot afford to waste time or neurons on things that aren't important. Marilu Henner strongly claims that your brain will become better at this over time and do it automatically, but every time you're randomly revisiting the past you're using up your brain from what it could be doing right now. How is this going to help when you see someone you should know but you don't recognize them or remember things about them? The book has no answers to this.

In some ways you are being sold a lie. There is little or no evidence anything in the book will make you remember better because if it could everyone would be doing it. At one point Marilu talks about turning up how much "juice" you feel in your life and trying to be more excited about mundane things so then they'll be memorable, farcically claiming that maybe this is the entire reason for HSAM even though she knows it's not as she said elsewhere in the book. The only advice that really seems to stick hard is to revisit old memories if you really want them to stay with you, which comes at a cost, and which people create their own strategies for doing automatically to compensate for their memory not being as good as they wish. It is hard to show any real benefit from reading the book after having read it.

I didn't know if it was just me at first but the book really starts to drag the more it goes on, especially the second half. Near the end Henner does a chapter on teaching others the methods, then a chapter on lifestyle and diet, which is fine but not something I think I need more information on, and a finishing note by her husband on how great she is.
Profile Image for Barbara.
312 reviews1 follower
May 14, 2012
Skimmed it to get an overview of what the book is about, then went back and started doing some of the exercises. Interesting, and will be useful, in spite of the way the book is written.
Profile Image for Ingrid Lola.
145 reviews
June 6, 2012
gotta throw in something empirical every now and then to keep things interesting.
Profile Image for Jody.
63 reviews1 follower
November 17, 2012

Mildly interesting facts about people with amazing memory skills but I couldn't get into the heart of it.
Profile Image for Kim.
172 reviews5 followers
October 15, 2012

Boring. I couldn't even remember the name of her book.
Profile Image for Marcus Clark.
Author 15 books11 followers
October 25, 2013
Uncover Your Past, Take Charge of Your Future
Marilu Henner with Lorin Henner

13 October, 2013

A fascinating book, that will easily teach you to remember details of your life that you thought you had forgotten. This is like discovering a video of yourself taken 30 years ago! The purpose, is to learn to see your life from a new perspective. When you examine what happened in your early years, from a more mature viewpoint, you will see what was important, what was trivial, and what was for the best. No therapist needed!

Marilu Henner is one of only twelve documented cases of Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory (HSAM). She does not have a photographic memory, her memories are more personal. A person with HSAM can remember everything, in great detail, that took place on every day of every year of their life (from about 5 years old). Everything means what they wore, what others wore, who said what, what seat they sat in, the number of the seat or table, how much each item bought that day cost, right down to the weather and what was on TV. Each day of their life is recorded as if it were a full-time video. That part is interesting, astounding, but not very useful. The book becomes useful, in that she teaches, ways to vastly improve, and re-consider your own life.

This book is unlike any other memory book I've read. It does not teach "the peg system". That's a relief, I for one never had much luck with that. It might be ideal for remembering shopping lists, but it's slower and harder than writing things down. And not very practical if you need to learn a subject, like medicine, electronics, or modern history. This book is not about that sort of memory, but about your own personal memories, which are the most interesting memories.

Most people start forgetting their school years when they start working, then they start forgetting the first years of work when they have a family. New memories come in, old ones are forgotten. But they are not forgotten. Marilu shows simple techniques for remembering the most important events in your life. Once you start with them, you will find (as I did) old memories start to come back to you. Your school years, who sat next to you in class, what marks you got for exams, and even what subjects you had on which days.

If you follow the instructions you'll find yourself building a vast auto-biography. One of the ways she suggests is "tracks". A track is a particular interest or obsession you might have. For example movies. Assuming that was one of your major passions, by going back over the movies you have seen, you could start assembling and linking to other events. Where did you see One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest ? Which theatre, who were you with, what did you do afterwards? At first these questions seem impossible, but with a little prying, facts start popping into your mind. Things you believed you had forgotten completely.

The techniques she suggests do work, and if you follow them, you will build enough info to take you into the next section, a journal. You then begin to follow different tracks: employment, hobbies, holidays, children, all the major events in your life.

As you reassemble your memories, you will see certain patterns emerging, you will be able to look at the Big Picture of your life history. Life is lived forwards, with little time to see where you are going. But by looking back on your life you can start to see what mistakes you made, particularly the ones you made again and again, forgetting you ever made them.

"But I don't want to remember the painful episodes!" Nevertheless, they are lurking in your subconscious mind, waiting to express themselves. Maybe not waiting, maybe they are influencing your life without you knowing it. They are part of you, but being suppressed, you are not aware of how they are influencing your life. Suppressing memories is like lying to your therapist.

Following the methods of Marilu Henner will allow you to build a clearer image of who you are. It will probably also enhance your working memory as a side benefit. You will find it quite interesting as old memories are brought into the daylight. Before long, you will find them popping out of their burrows like rabbits! Your rabbits! For these memories are your life.

The construction of your journal is the major goal. But you will need to decide how much time and effort to put into it. How much detail, what is important, and what is not important. This makeover is not an all or nothing affair, it can done partially. It depends on your available time, but like all useful things in life, it does require some time and effort.

Total Memory Makeover results in putting the events of your life into perspective. That's what her method does best, arranging your whole life in perspective instead of fragments.

If you were to look at a jigsaw— the pieces scattered through your house— it would be difficult to make any sense of the jigsaw: your life! But assemble them into a big picture on the dining room table, and what was obscure is now obvious.

Once you get to this point, you are now able to analyse your life patterns— your strengths and pitfalls. You are able to chart a new path, a clear path forward. You will simultaneously be living and guiding your life. You will see events in a different light to how they looked when they happened. You now have the big picture, so that when you look at your earlier life, you will see it from a more mature perspective.

I'm sure you'll find this book interesting and useful. How useful depends on how far you follow her method of reconnecting with your past.

Marcus Clark
20 October, 2013
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16 reviews8 followers
July 4, 2017
put it down, then picked it back up. Interesting story of these very rare individuals, but not what I was looking for. I'm worried about my own memory and thought I could glean a little bit from her, but like I said. Interesting story, but I didn't get any nuggets of help.
Profile Image for Dhaverma.
1,179 reviews
August 15, 2017
Self help book on memory. Well written, good description of how to, seems like it will work.
Profile Image for Rajiv Bais.
171 reviews
June 13, 2020
It was better than what the reviewers are giving it.

The questionnaires around events such as birthdays might be silly (and even depressing), but content about the diet, writing stuff down, and organization are good. It’s more of a complement to other memory books than a figurative Bible and its tips are worth keeping in mind.
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