Magic isn't just about pulling rabbits from hats! Becoming a magician is a multifaceted hobby-come-career that encompasses everything from undetectable sleight of hand, to card tricks and even plucking coins from thin air. Whether you're hoping to create illusions using magic props or learn mentalism to control your audience's minds, a magic book is a good place to start.
The more you read, the more you'll learn and the better your skills will become. In this guide, we'll walk you through how to pick the best magic book for you, whether you're a beginner or a master magician. We've even ranked the top 10 best in the UK on Amazon so you can learn all the magic tricks of your dreams. Wands to the ready!
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Table of Contents
Now that we've convinced you of the joys of learning magic by book, this section will show you how to find the right one. We'll cover levels of study, different topics, publication dates and preferred methods of reading when choosing the best book for you.
The first step in choosing the right book for you is to find one suited to your level. Getting this wrong is possibly the quickest route to giving up - too complicated, and you'll quickly get frustrated. Too easy? You'll get bored and move on.
There's nothing worse than starting a new book, only for it to be way too complicated for your level, especially when you're a beginner! You'll probably begin to feel confused by the overwhelming array of information, which can put you off rather than spur you on.
If you're new to magic tricks and performing, choose a Magic 101 book that will act as an introduction to the magician's path. These will cover a brief overview of a wide range of subjects that you can delve deeper into once you grasp the basics and find out which form of magic appeals to you the most.
If you've already sunk your teeth into a few Magic 101 books, you've probably got a decent idea of the broad theories of magic and various styles of performance, tricks and moves. However, there's only so much that you can glean from these once you've taken it all in.
Throughout your beginner reading, you probably came across a few topics that piqued your interest. Perhaps it was card tricks, sleight of hand, illusion, or mentalism? The next stage in your magician's journey is to dive deep into your personal areas of interest by choosing books with a specific focus in mind.
Aside from magic 101 books, there are countless topics to discover. From shock illusionists performing to large audiences, to close up sleight of hand card tricks, pick a niche that you'd like to specialise in, then go from there.
If you're yearning for the power of having an audience eating out of the palm of your hand, inducing perfectly timed shocks and ahhhs of wonder, leaving the stage in a flourish of a standing ovation, perhaps performance magic is for you.
Performance magic covers an array of different niches. Although, some of the most common ones will focus on stage illusions, teaching you routines using large-scale props suitable for a theatre performance.
There are also books specifically on escapology, or shock magic, where the magician intends to shock their audience - think swallowing knives! These types of books contain tips on stage presence, timing and patter that will have an entire theatre in deadly silence, hanging on your every word.
Although it requires less flashy glitz and glamour, there's a certain intimacy with close-up magic that, when done well, can spark even more of a response from an audience. An audience knows that large productions have a multitude of ways to deceive, misdirect and distract, but close up magic that's happening inches away from your eyes is something else entirely.
Card tricks are the most popular form of close up magic, but there's also coin magic which follows a similar theory, and, of course, there's street magic. Street magic is any form of magic performed for small unsuspecting crowds on the street - think David Blaine - but even this almost always includes some element of card magic.
The above two categories cover the primary forms of magic. However, there are some niches which fit into both, or neither. For example, pickpocketing magic, where a magician 'steals' an object from an audience member without their knowing, can incorporate both close-up and performance magic.
There is also mentalism, where a magician creates the illusion that they are reading the minds of their audience. You might even fancy trying your hand at children's magic, comedy magic or the many other forms that are too numerous to list.
Look for the original publication date of your book to get an idea of how modern the tricks inside will be. Whether you're choosing a current book, or an old classic, they both have their benefits.
A modern book will be more up-to-date, and in the world of magic, that means a few things. Firstly, the language used might be more accessible to this day and age, especially if you're a young magician. Secondly, you'll likely be able to discover some new tricks and new interpretations that challenge the original thoughts behind magic.
Yet, there is much to be said for the old classics. These books reveal the secrets of some of the greatest magicians that ever graced this earth. They provide a certain nostalgia, taking you back to the times when magic was first brought to the public, and it never hurts to revisit the golden years to understand what truly makes a magician great.
Think about what format you prefer to read. For example, paperbacks are light enough to throw into your bag to read on a commute, but their flimsy covers are easy to damage. In contrast, hardbacks are more durable, but much more difficult to carry, and often pricier too.
Regardless of which you choose, you'll need to consider how many pages are contained within the cover. Whilst this might not sound like an important aspect, getting the length of your chosen book wrong can easily deter you from your studies. If you're not an avid reader, a hefty tome may overwhelm you, whereas a voracious reader might welcome the challenge.
Of course, Kindles and other eBook readers are excellent for saving space as they can store thousands of books on one device, taking up less room in your bag than a notebook. You can also quickly scroll between chapters to break up the contents into more manageable chunks.
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Jean Hugard & Frederick Braue
The Royal Road to Card Magic
The No.1 Magic Book Magicians Can't Live Without
Expert Card Technique: Close-Up Table Magic
A Beginners Guide to Close-Up Card Magic
Magic by Misdirection
Learn the Art of Misdirection
Complete Course in Magic
A Comprehensive Guide from Card Magic to Illusions
Modern Coin Magic: 116 Coin Sleights and 236 Coin Tricks
Everything You Need To Know About Coin Magic
The Expert at the Card Table: Classic Treatise on Card Manipulation
Learn To Manipulate the Deck to Your Advantage
Tarbell Course in Magic Vol. 1
Detailed Lessons on Every Trick up a Magician's Sleeve
Uncover the Secrets of Close-up Showmanship
Magic: The Complete Course
A Complete Introduction to Everything Magic
Practical Mental Magic
Freak Your Audience Out With World-Class Mentalism
Whilst all of the books on this list are worthy of a read, The Royal Road to Card Magic is a must-read for anyone delving into the world of card magic. The go-to source for both beginners and experts alike, almost every prominent magician owns a copy of this book.
It's a comprehensive study of the most important tricks involving a deck of cards, containing in-depth explanations of the sleight of hand needed to achieve them. If you can master the key techniques explained within these pages, your dream of being a master magician will be well in toe!
One of the top books for beginner magicians, Expert Card Technique: Close-Up Table Magic, teaches you everything you need to know about cards. It goes above and beyond the usual tips and tricks, delving deep into methods previously only known by expert magicians.
As well as over 300 tricks, you'll learn palming, reverses, rear palms, false cuts and shuffles. It also includes detailed illustrations which show you exactly where your hands need to be at all times, making it that much easier for beginners to learn.
Written by one of the most famous authors in the industry, Dariel Fitzkee is a master magician that anyone could stand to learn a thing or two from. This is not a book containing a multitude of tricks, but a detailed look into one of the fundamental theories of magic - misdirection.
To trick your audience beyond measure and produce that sense of awe that every magician seeks, you need to master misdirection. This guide really breaks down the fundamentals into their most basic form, teaching you exactly why and how it works.
Totalling 500 pages, this is quite an intense read! That's because The Complete Course in Magic is a comprehensive guide covering all aspects of magic.Whether you're interested in sleight of hand or parlour magic, it includes overviews, secrets, and step by step explanations of each discipline, from simple card tricks to levitation.
Many professional magicians have Mark Wilson's book in a prime spot on their bookshelf as it covers the basis of practically everything and can be dipped in and out of as and when is needed. It even includes illusions and mentalist magic.
If you're interested in coin magic, this is the one book you need. The key to all things coin, this is an excellent resource for learning sleight of hand, palm plays and vanishing techniques.
Even though Modern Coin Magic is an in-depth look at one particular area, it's still a top pick for beginners. That's because it will familiarise you with all the basic foundations and techniques to succeed, including other tools and props that you can use to add to your performance.
If your dream is to become the master card manipulator, this is the book for you. Many magicians worldwide swear hands down to this being the best book for learning card tricks, but more than that, it teaches you how to be the master of your deck.
Including everything from false shuffling, cutting from the bottom, palming cards and a wealth of tricks, this is an essential read for truly understanding the craft and honing your skills and techniques. That said, it is a little outdated, so you may want to supplement it with a more contemporary read.
The Tarbell Course in Magic is another one of the classics. Even though it may have a few outdated suggestions, such as borrowing a hat or a handkerchief from the audience (items that you can no longer guarantee your audience will have), it does explain some very important topics and theories regarding magic performance.
Inside are over 100 detailed lessons on all aspects, including parlour magic, close-up and stage magic. Just be aware that this is only book one of an 8-volume set. Highly respected, this series forms the basis of nearly all modern-day magic tricks.
The world-renowned Strong Magic is like a bible for close-up showmanship. Written by a highly successful magician who worked in the industry for over two decades, Darwin Ortiz knows his stuff! The book lets you in on the secrets behind what really moves an audience, but as we know, secrets come with a price!
Rather than a compilation of tricks, this is a book about the theory of magic and what makes an audience tick, gasp, and be in utter awe. This might not be the best for beginners, but once you've got a few tricks up your sleeve, this book will teach you how to present to an audience in the best way possible.
Magic the Complete Course is one of the most comprehensive introductions to magic. It assumes you are a complete beginner, detailing everything from stage performances to close up magic, including tricks, tips and theories on how to perform.
If you still like a little video practice to see just how things are done, this is an excellent choice as this book includes a DVD. There are also numerous routines that combine the multiple tricks that you've learned throughout the book to get you going. That said, if you're already a little knowledgeable in this field, it's probably not one for you.
If you're interested in mental magic, or the illusion of controlling and reading your audience's minds, then Practical Mental Magic is the book for you. When it comes to mentalism, this is one of the best resources out there, even if it is a little outdated.
Initially published in 1944, this book is a collection of all the classic mentalist tricks that many magicians base their routines on today. It contains over 200 mental effects, including illustrations and instructions for each, covering the 12 main categories within this field, including psychic codes, book tests and blindfold reading.
In the age of YouTube, Instagram and TikTok, you can learn magic by watching video tutorials and performances. However, there's definitely something to be said for learning from books. Watching videos of magicians is an excellent place to start, but it can be detrimental when learning a new trick.
When watching a video, your subconscious is searching for all the little nuances - the sleight of hand, the flick of the wrist, the patter, the posture - everything! You can easily end up copying the video exactly, or at least coming very close to it. Reading from a book, lets you interpret how to fill in the blanks for a more individual performance.
Have you ever read a book and built a picture of a character in your head, then watched the movie and they're nothing like how you imagined? The movie's interpretation is often what sticks in your mind, not what you initially thought. Video blocks a certain part of your imagination, and as a magician, your interpretation is what will distinguish you from the rest.
Author: Roxy Pratley
No. 1: Jean Hugard & Frederick Braue｜The Royal Road to Card Magic
No. 2: Jean Hugard｜Expert Card Technique: Close-Up Table Magic
No. 3: Dariel Fitzkee ｜Magic by Misdirection
No. 4: Mark Wilson｜Complete Course in Magic
No. 5: J.B. Bobo｜Modern Coin Magic: 116 Coin Sleights and 236 Coin Tricks
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