I bought the book and was enthused and entertained about human memory and how from having an ordinary memory, Joshua learned techniques that would enable him to do previously impossible tasks, such as remembering the order of a shuffled deck in less than 3 minutes. Along the way, you'll meet a man who remembered everything but could not forget, a man who remembers nothing after a few seconds but can remember everything from 50 years ago.
This lead me to read Remember, Remember: Learn the Stuff You Thought You Never Could
by Ed Cooke and you can read my review of it there. Suffice it to say that that book filled in some of the gaps left by this book as to how powerful our memories really are. There are others by Dominic O'Brien and Tony Buzan that I'm studying.
From "Remember, Remember", I can now recite from memory all of the kings and queens of England from Offa to Elizabeth II, all of the US presidents from Washington to Obama and all of the British Prime Ministers from Walpole to Cameron. And I'm 47 years old.
My wife and my 9-year old daughter can do all of the Kings & Queens and the US Presidents. My 4-year-old son can recite the first six kings - so far.
Can anyone do it? I don't see why not. But it requires a willingness to practice because like anything else worth having, practice is the key. Its not instant, but you'll surprise yourself if you persist just a little bit.
Both Joshua and Ed are insistent that photographic memories do not exist, that there are well-practised minds and unpractised minds. Some have more help from their neurophysiology such as people who have synaesthesia, the rest of us do not and its not critical.
There have been a few reviews which gave 1-star because the book does not cover in detail *how* Joshua Foer became American Memory Champion. That's because those people didn't read the book's description nor read the reviews. And probably won't read this one.