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The Mind of a Mnemonist: A Little Book about a Vast Memory, with a New Foreword by Jerome S. Bruner
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The Mind of a Mnemonist: A Little Book about a Vast Memory, with a New Foreword by Jerome S. Bruner

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  1,507 ratings  ·  101 reviews
The Mind of a Mnemonist is a rare phenomenon - a scientific study that transcends its data and, in the manner of the best fictional literature, fashions a portrait of an unforgettable human being."
Paperback, 192 pages
Published April 28th 1987 by Harvard University Press (first published 1965)
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Start your review of The Mind of a Mnemonist: A Little Book about a Vast Memory, with a New Foreword by Jerome S. Bruner
♥ Ibrahim ♥
Yes, it’s a solid academic work, yes, it’s purely scientific. But the amazing thing is it reads like a bedtime story. Many scientists look up to the author of this book like Oliver Sacks. You just say “Luria” and their faces will be lit up. The book is a case study of, a story of somebody referred to as “s” who could remember everything he’s told without effort or straining. Interestingly, words can have smells, tastes, etc. each word had the effect of summoning up in his mind a graphic image, a ...more
Richard Cytowic
Dec 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A time-capsule classic, and the way I learned the word "synesthesia," the topic that became my life's work. It's interesting that Luria focused on S's vast memory and made S"s synesthesia almost an afterthought.
The book is good reading whether one is interested in memory per se or not. It gives the flavor of early neuroscience by one of its pioneers.
Andreas Asimakopoulos
Jan 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mind-memory
Some useful tips

Never connect same colors of objects with places. No in dark places. Bigger objects are efficient in dark places.

Music in Restaurants because it changes the taste of everything.

You cannot eat while reading because you focus on reading.
Alok Sharma
Aug 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
loved this book.

Though the book is purely based on the subjective experience of a mnemonist. Hence it would be impossible to comprehend the subjectivity of the protagonist(Writer made great efforts to make him as lively as possible).
But this book can push you to expand your horizon to problem-solving. It will push you to see problems in a very different light. How you can practice visual memory to see the world differently. To synthesis synesthesia in you.

more importantly, the great product th
...more
Mari
Jun 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: psychology
I loved this book. Quite a fast read. It not only discusses S.'s memory capabilities, but the synesthesia that plays such a big part in how S. remembers. Luria also discusses, with great sensitivity, the effect such a gifted memory has on S.'s personality, and explores the limitations that S. experiences as a result of the way his mind works. A fantastic read for those interested in memory, as well as in synesthesia.
CM
May 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: psychology
This short book is Soviet psychologist A.R. Luria's case study of Mr S whose memory is so vast that he can perfectly recall long lists of items YEARS after he first remembered them. His secret is synaesthesia:

To this day, I can't escape from seeing colors when I hear sounds. What first strikes me is the color of someone's voice. Then it fades off...for it does interfere. If , say, a person says something, I see the word; but should another person's voice break in, blurs appear. These creep into
...more
Tim
Jul 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memory
Starting in the 1920's Luria began to study "S." a subject who had a seemingly limitless capacity to memorize numbers, words, nonsense sounds, etc. Once memorized, S can recall a list after years. Luria worked with S through the 20's and 30's to unlock the secrets of his remarkable ability, and also to understand the impact this talent had on his perception and understanding of the world and his personality and self-control. S has the rare condition of synesthesia by which experience is encoded ...more
Annie Feng
Dec 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
First of all, props to the translator for a wonderful job sticking to all the complex wordplay, synonyms, entendres, poetry, and phonetic explanations. Between Hebrew, Yiddish, and Russian, the translation and footnotes were very well done. This book has been on my to-read list since 2008 and I've FINALLY managed to find a copy earlier this year (seriously, uoft robarts didnt have it, i checked). A lot of the information was redundant since I've read a lot about synesthetic savants over the year ...more
Amanda
Jun 14, 2017 rated it it was ok
Having previously read and thoroughly enjoyed Moonwalking with Einstein, the Mind of a Mnemonist fell very short. It delves into painstaking granular detail of one individual case study. If readers wish to learn every single aspect of one man's perspective in the early 20th century, by all means, but if readers were hoping to gain insight on people with exceptional memory skills live and perceive the world around them, read Joshua Foer instead.
Naresh
Sep 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most thought provoking book I have ever read.
Francisca
Jul 01, 2018 rated it it was ok
DNF-ed at 40%

which considering this is less than 200-hundred pages, it's not really saying much

well, to put it bluntly, this was not the type of read i was expecting. i could tell from the synopsis that this little book dealt with a medical case from the perspective of its actual researcher. i thought "ok." then i read (scrolled through, to be more precise) the top reviews, trying to get a sense of what other people thought about it. and most people said that, although it wasn't the most enterta
...more
Kjpout
Aug 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
What a fascinating read! The over 90-year old story of the mnemonist Solomon Shereshevsky is both gripping and sad. A man that on the other hand can at any time go back to his childhood and remember his mother as he saw her as a baby ("good" and "safe"), but on the other hand cannot read or listen to anything without being assaulted by a tide of images due to his synesthesia. Ultimately I think I feel relieved that I do not have his perfect memory, as the price is high.

The book is structured mo
...more
Tariq Mir
Aug 16, 2019 rated it liked it
This little book is an unusual resource in that it documents a prodigious mnemonist from the early 20th Century throughout his life. While it is not a comprehensive book on the how, it is nonetheless a deals with the day to day details of having such an ability.

It is a fair thing to say that most people would like to have better memories, but S. (a mnemonic for the actual person!) felt like it was more of a curse than a blessing. He found it impossible to "turn it off" and therefore was cast und
...more
Brandon Barton
Aug 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I'm glad I finally got around to reading this pioneering classic of neuropsychology, which dovetailed nicely after reading "Born on a Blue Day." While these two books are very similar patient cases, this book is written in more objective manner, while "Blue" is written by the subject himself. I can see how Dr. Sacks got his inspiration from this type of approach, combining descriptions of not only the quality of the mind but also the personality, behavior, and inner world of the patient (deduced ...more
Dillon
May 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Regardless of the slight awkwardness that can come with translation from Russian to English, I found that this book read well and accessibly. That of course means accessible to myself, a High Schooler with limited knowledge of the subject matter.

This book didn't lose me as a reader by using the Academic English Vernacular. Rather, it presents images that are relatively complex in terms which allow someone of my relatively low standing to understand the message.

Not only did the author present c
...more
Chaitalee Ghosalkar
Apr 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Alberto
Oct 10, 2017 rated it liked it
A very detailed account of how synesthesia works, with long extracts from conversations with the patient and mnemonist.
Even with insight, it's hard to imagine how someone can function without being capable of higher level (abstract) thinking.
Proof that an exceptional intellect - though in this case balanced out by other serious shortcomings- with almost superhuman memory, does not ensure success in life at large.
Adora
Jan 17, 2020 rated it liked it
A study of a guy with perfect memory. The devices he uses resemble that of vivid movie scenes. The upside of this gift seems great until you realize it's actually a liability. Because he couldn't forget all the tiny details, his mind was drowning in things that didn't matter. So he could repeat back every word in a novel but the meaning of it would be lost on him. Which meant he couldn't really appreciate the arts, literature, etc.
Zach Benson
Jun 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, neuro
Such an interesting case study! Luria does a good job of trying to present how this guy thinks, a seemingly impossible task.
Carlin MacKenzie
Jul 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
A very easy read about a very interesting person. The examples got a bit tedious near the end and I would've liked a better description of his personality but overall pretty good.
Colle Owino
Dec 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed reading the bits about how S. described his thought processes. I honestly felt sorry for the guy, the end was quite sad as well.
Lindsay
i really just read this whole ass book to help a friend with a paper, i can't stand me.
Madhukara
Mar 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A neat book which shows various abilities of mind from various angles and make a complete assessment which is very rare in psychology books.
Fikriye Beyza
Aug 08, 2020 is currently reading it
Wow, I am already thrilled to see the rest of the book. Brain is such a secret ✌🏻
Alia S
Mar 05, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2017

I read this book because Oliver Sacks mentions it in On the Move, and everyone I know is sick of me mentioning Oliver Sacks. Now I can ruin dinner by reciting trivia from two neurologists; enjoy!

Anyway: I’ve got an average memory, minimal synthesia (limited, I swear, to “hearing” GIFs), and a substandard ability to think in images and not words—so much of the mind of the mnemonist of course seemed foreign. But I was surprised at how much else in Luria’s account of his subject’s life was recogniz

...more
Gloria
Mar 13, 2017 rated it liked it
A nerdy read and read for a nerdy reason.

Was a follow-up to the Oliver Sacks memoir; he wrote of Luria frequently, and I thought I should read one of Luria's cases.... a short famous one.....

Abeer Hoque
Jun 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: i-recommend
In this book, Dr. A. R. Luria writes about S, a man with a limitless memory, or at least one that couldn't be measured. S used a system of visual and geographic iconics to remember everything he came across. Everything. Synesthesia only deepened this ability of his, adding taste, smell, touch, and sound to his astoundingly detailed visual memories.

"Presented with a tone pitched at 30 cycles per second and having an amplitude of 100 decibels, S stated that at first he saw a strip 12-15cm in widt
...more
Derek Davis
Nov 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
A heartfelt study of an amazing man who could recall virtually anything he had experienced—without fading over time. "S.," the unnamed subject of psychologist Luria's multi-decade study, was a synesthete (a person who combines/confuses senses, as in tasting a sound) who could recall any sequence of numbers or sounds (words or nonsense syllables) and accurately recall them years later.

Luria was especially interested in how S. saw and interacted with the world—how his strange condition augmented a
...more
Amar Pai
Jul 06, 2007 rated it it was amazing
M, the patient described in this book, has unbelievable memory. He experiences synesthesia, seeing 5 as "red" and smelling/tasting/feeling 5 in every sensory way.

People tested M by giving him some random sequence of numbers
that they'd then put away. 5 or 10 years later, if asked he
could still recall the exact sequence of numbers!

It might seem like heaven to have a "photographic memory," more recently known as "eidetic memory." Think of how great it would be if you didn't forget stuff!

In fact, i
...more
Ramesh
Jul 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is a fascinating book about a Russian mnemonist (referred to only as "S."), as told by the famous psychologist who worked with him. In particular, it discusses his unique mental processes, how they help him remember things, and how they hindered other aspects of his life.

Warning: "spoilers" below this point.
The book begins with a description of his amazing memory, which seems to have been completely limitless. He could remember random strings of numbers, characters, syllables, etc., just by
...more
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Alexander Romanovich Luria (Russian: Алекса́ндр Рома́нович Лу́рия ) was a famous Soviet neuropsychologist and developmental psychologist. He was one of the founders of cultural-historical psychology and the leaders of the Vygotsky Circle. Apart from his work with Vygotsky, he is widely known for his later work with two extraordinary psychological case studies, his study of a man with a highly a ...more

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