Some people travel for escape and adventure, while others travel to eat exotic foods, practice a new language, or learn about other cultures. Whatever your reasons, if physical travel is not in your near future, there are still ways to expand your horizons, from the comfort or your own home (or library)!


Following this angle of “exploration,” one of my favorite books in the Library collection is Moonwalking with Einstein: the art and science of remembering everything by Joshua Foer. It is fascinating to travel along with Foer as he studies with top mental athletes (yes, that’s a thing) and successfully improves his memory to such a degree that he wins the top spot at the United States Memory Championship -- after only a year of practice. Although few of us are willing to spend an entire year training day and night to hone our memory skills, one of the things I appreciate about this book is how it shows that, with enough determination and focus, you CAN improve your mental abilities in a variety of immediately useful ways. 

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Before journeying down the road of self-improvement, it’s important to note the difference between what psychologist Carol S. Dweck termed “growth” and “fixed” mindsets, as outlined in her book Mindset: the new psychology of success. Essentially, a fixed mindset leads people to believe that their abilities are fixed (i.e. you’re either good at math or you aren’t) and unchangeable, whereas those with a growth mindset believe that their abilities can be developed and improved.

Many of the techniques Foer describes date back centuries, before people had ready access to computers, or paper, for that matter. However, since we live in the 21st century, we might as well take advantage of it! In addition to other memory improvement books in the Library collection, such as The memory workbook: breakthrough techniques to exercise your brain and improve your memory by Douglas J. Mason & Michael L. Kohn, Your memory: how it works and how to improve it by Kenneth L. Higbee, and The memory book by Harry Lorayne and Jerry Lucas (dated, but classic), here are three of my favorite brain training apps with free options for your phone or tablet, so you can improve your brain anytime, anywhere: 


Fit Brains, brought to you by the clever folks at Rosetta Stone, offers dozens of wide-ranging brain games backed by robust cognitive research. Lumosity and Elevate (recently selected by Apple as app of the year!) are also supported by research and provide similar bubbly interfaces to train cognitive abilities such as communication, analytical skills, and problem-solving. And even better, they’re all fun to use!

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So, the next time you find yourself hankering after far-off lands or that elusive flaky croissant, do yourself a favor and take a trip of discovery into your own mind… if you push your boundaries far enough, who knows what you might find?

Vanessa Velez, Collection Development Librarian

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