Book Review: Unlimited Memory by Kevin Horsley

This review has been sponsored by TCK Publishing, who graciously provided me with a free copy.

The last couple years, I’ve been studying Japanese on and off. I’ve been having trouble with learning the kanji though. An adult needs roughly 2000 for basic reading comprehension. The last few weeks I’ve been trying to go through James W. Heisig’s classic Remembering the Kanji 1 and while I’ll feel moderately confident after completing a chapter, I find that I’ll lose upwards of 50% if I don’t rigorously practice spaced repetition. Of course the sensible answer is, “Just rigorously practice using spaced repetion!” But the problem is I’m lazy…. soooooo lazy.

So I was curious if there was a better way to utilize my noggin for remembering. And there is!

Enter Unlimited Memory by Kevin Horsley. His biography describes him as a World Memory Championship medalist and a two time world record holder for “The Everest of Memory Tests”, a timed challenge for recalling five digit groupings of π.

Utilizing a variety of different techniques, you can vastly and quickly improve your recall for arbitrary bits information.

Part 1 of the book starts off with a bit of a pep talk and discusses reasons you should want to improve your memory.

Part 2 is the meat of the book. He goes into ibid techniques in detail using great engaging examples.

Ch. 4 “Bring Information to Life” was one of the most memorable chapters for me. Basically, we can massively boost our recall by creating vivid imagery and hanging it together in a narrative. He starts off by describing the SEE principle which applies to all the other techniques we learn later.

S – Senses – Make your pictures engage as many senses as possible

E – Exaggeration – Your images should be as ridiculous and exaggerated as possible. The more nonsensical it is, the more likely you are to remember.

E – Energize – By adding dynamic action to the image your recall is boosted even further. Your brain is optimized for video content, not still imagery if you’re like most people.

Ch. 5 is the Car technique. This is essentially using your car as a memory palace. You probably know the concept already. By attaching information to different locations in a spatial frame you’re familiar with, you can supercharge your recall.

Ch. 6 is the Body technique. Same principle. Use your body when visualizing and attach imagery to various parts.

Ch. 7 is the Peg technique. This is a mnemoic technique. Using a rhyme sequence make a “peg” that creates durable memories quickly. It’s a bit of a two step process. First you memorize a set of pegs (rhymes are well suited as are number sequences. For example, 1 nun 2 goo 3 bee 4 boar, ect). After they’re memorized, you use the peg by make a visualization out of the rhyming word. Skew towards nouns as verbs can be too abstract.

Ch. 8 is the Memory Palace. No explanation necessary, google it if you’re unfamiliar.

Ch. 9 is super fun! Basically it describes using narrative to link images together. Your brain is highly optimized to form memory around narrative. By creating absurd images then linking them together, you build a story that you’ll be able to quickly recall start to finish or random access middle pieces quickly. The example he uses lets you memorize the first twelve presidents of the United States in short order.

From there he goes into tips for remember names – super useful. Then remembering numbers – a worthwhile excercise that probably boosts verbal recall as well.

Part 3 of the book is basically Steve Covey’s Habit 7, sharpening the saw, which he mentions earlier. Like anything in life, if you don’t use it you lose it. Building your memory up is a skill that requires dedicated practice. There are certainly quick wins to be had (like improving my kanji practice), but repeated daily effort will be necessary to maximize your gains.

The Book: Unlimited Memory – Kevin Horsley

The Publisher:

Kevin Horsley’s Website:

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