UCSB Reads has selected Joshua Foer’s Moonwalking with Einstein, a nonfiction book that follows the author’s efforts to improve his memory and chronicles his participation in the 2005 USA Memory Championship in New York.
Now in its seventh year, UCSB Reads began as a collaborative effort between Davidson Library and the Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor Gene Lucas. The award-winning program — which encourages discussion among students, faculty and local community members regarding a specially selected book each year — will officially begin this year’s cycle with a celebration tomorrow. Chancellor Henry Yang and his wife Dilling will join Executive Vice Chancellor Gene Lucas, University Librarian Denise Stephens and several others to distribute 2,000 free copies of the book at Davidson Library starting at 10 a.m.
A variety of other UCSB Reads events will take place throughout the quarter, beginning with radio-broadcasted readings of the book presented by KCSB on Jan. 14 at noon. On Jan. 30, the program will host a screening of the film “Rain Man,” which is based on the true story of an individual who is mentioned in the work, at Pollock Theater at 7 p.m. with tickets priced at $5. The screening will be followed by a Q&A session with the screenwriter of the film, Barry Morrow. Events will continue into later months, as librarian Eunice Schroeder will lead a book discussion on Feb. 6 at noon in the Mary Cheadle Room of Davidson Library and a faculty panel will speak on Feb. 26 at 4:30 p.m. at Davidson Library. The program’s final event will be a lecture presented by Foer himself at Campbell Hall on March 4.
In Moonwalking with Einstein, Foer explains that individuals who are not equipped with innately strong memories can learn to rely on a collection of long-used methods — including activities like playing cards and presenting and memorizing long speeches — to improve their memorization skills.
Selected books often present relatable topics that students and faculty alike can appreciate and discuss, according to Rebecca Metzger, the assistant university librarian for outreach and academic collaboration.
“We always have a long line of students who want to get a free book and we usually fill the house at the [author’s] talk,” Metzger said. “This book probably has even broader appeal than in previous years because everyone has a connection with memory.”
A committee of faculty and staff members picked Moonwalking with Einstein as this year’s UCSB Reads book since many believed it would be engaging to a wide range of audiences and is likely to initiate renewed discussion regarding human memory. Metzger also said professors oftentimes integrate selected works into their courses.
“Traditionally, the book is a nonfiction title and has interdisciplinary appeals so we can get faculty, staff and students interested in thought-provoking conversations on a topic that has wide appeal, and this book met that criteria,” Metzger said. “People get involved reading the same book and having the same discussions. Students might meet other students at a panel they wouldn’t normally meet so it’s a chance to have these new conversations.”
The Santa Barbara Public Library has also selected Moonwalking with Einstein as its “Santa Barbara Reads” book; according to reference librarian Chris Gallery, the downtown facility currently holds 200 copies of the book.
According to Yang, the book will lend itself well to discussion both within and outside of the classroom setting.
“I encourage all of our students and our entire campus community to join us in reading this book and participating in the various classroom discussions and community conversations about the important issues it raises,” Yang said in an email.
A version of this article appeared on page 3 of January 9th, 2013’s print edition of the Nexus.