There are a lot of ways that people can learn, but chief among them is through books.
While it sounds a bit archaic given all the technology that we have at our disposal, we’re going to break down why books are still so relevant when you want to learn a new skill.
With sleight of hand, illusion, or however you want to word it, you need to know everything behind what you’re doing.
You can learn from videos, but it’s much easier to explain the methodology by reading the best magic books.
With books on magic, you’re getting concise, clear-cut thoughts on the craft that have been overlooked by editors, publishers, and compressed into compact, solid pieces of information.
It’s the best way to not only learn what you’re doing, but to comprehend it properly.
These magic books show you everything from tricks to hand placement, how to use the crowd to your advantage, and what environment you should be performing in.
Best Cards for Magic Tricks – Reviews & Buying guide for 2020
Mark Wilson’s Complete Course in Magic
Hands down, the best book on this list is Mark Wilson’s beginner’s guide.
It’s a full course in magic and sleight of hand, but without all the boring elements that people often discuss because they don’t have enough actual content to fill the pages.
Another reason this is one of the best magician books is simply that it touches base on everything you need to know, and works upward from there.
You get a glance at the fundamentals at the beginning of the book, but without boring you, Mark Wilson builds on those ideas to explain the way this all works.
While he doesn’t use overly complex language, there are 512 pages here. Yes, 512 pages.
That’s extremely dense and over time, it starts to get a little more intricate without losing the simplistic ways in which Mark describes the methodologies and tricks to the reader.
When you simply match the amount of core information in this book against the others, nobody’s even close to the top spot like Mark.
I will say this, though; it was last updated in 2003, and at the time of writing this guide, that was 17 years ago. A lot can change in that time.
Mark doesn’t use a ton of pop culture references or anything, so it ages well and works for just about all of us.
Not designed for kids, but a middle schooler that’s really interested in learning could pick this up and figure it out. You owe it to yourself to get this full course.
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Magic Tricks
Magic trick books used to come to a dime a dozen, but with authors like Tom Ogden out there, you have all the little tidbits of information compiled together in the same space.
You get 352 pages here, and while it seems like less information than Wilson’s book, these are strictly tricks (with a bit of magic methodology thrown into the mix).
So basically you get compressed, compact information without having to wait as the author explains some other aspect of magic.
Magic is complicated enough, which is why there are high praises for Tom Ogden’s simplistic wording and easy-to-follow instructions.
You’ll find that there are plenty of middle schoolers who have enjoyed his book, but that there are also plenty of adults who picked this up to begin their career.
Much like Wilson’s book, Ogden’s is a bit outdated, but still works to get the fundamentals of trickery down.
Solid info, simple instructions, and a few anecdotes thrown in here and there to remind you that a real magician actually wrote this book.
Magic for Dummies
Remember when the Dummies books were practical and helpful, and then people started hating on them for no reason?
Magic for Dummies is basically a perfect blueprint of understanding every angle of magic, without overcomplicating the subject.
As one of the best books on magic that I’ve personally read, it does a fantastic job of outlining everything you’re going to need, without giving you a huge shopping list or unattainable goals to set your sights on.
Like most Dummies books, this only comes in paperback, and it’s a fairly large book. But just like Mark Wilson’s book that we just reviewed, Magic for Dummies is a full course.
You get more simplified learning here without as much personal involvement, so while it sits at 416 pages, you still get a solid chunk of information.
While you get all the necessary information on the basics of magic, there’s also a fair amount of tricks outlined in this book, so you can take your beginner’s game to the next level.
Right from the start, Magic for Dummies jumps right in. Author David Pogue does a fantastic job of explaining everything that you need to know without adding in expert terms or mumbo jumbo.
Now You See It, Now You Don’t!: Lessons in Sleight of Hand
People don’t make magic books like they used to. If you’ve been reading each individual guide so far, then you’ve seen a common thread: a lot of these books were updated over a decade ago.
It doesn’t discredit the experience of techniques, but society changes, and the things that impress them change.
This was last updated in the 80s, and it’s just been in print since.
Now that doesn’t mean this isn’t good—author Bill Tarr breaks down the fundamentals that you absolutely can’t avoid, but don’t expect to see any new tricks from this old dog.
This made the list because it focuses on the building blocks of prestidigitation through sleight of hand. Card maneuvering, drawing attention, distractions; the whole nine yards.
Bill Tarr offers a lot of beginner or introductory tips and tricks, which isn’t bad, but it doesn’t include as many higher-tier tricks as I would have liked to see.
Tarr’s book is an excellent primer, and it’s definitely a lighter read than the other books we’ve reviewed, it’s just not an end-all book.
I wouldn’t get this as your only resource for learning sleight of hand, but to get your foot in the door, it’ll do nicely.
101 Magic Tricks: Any Time. Any Place.
101 Magic Tricks may not be in the ranks of the best magic books of all time, but it’s ultimately useful, and worthy of being on this list. Magic tricks aren’t easy.
Then again, neither was writing this title, because the book is actually called 101 Magic Tricks:
Any Time. Any Place. – Step by Step Instructions to Engage, Challenge, and Entertain at Home, in the Street, at School, in the Office, at a Party.
That’s the whole title. Bryan Miles is crafty at pulling you into his narrative, but in all 208 pages, while covering 101 magic tricks, he could have toned it down a bit.
It gets overly wordy at some points (if that wasn’t already obvious), so don’t expect clear-cut instructions on every individual magic trick.
That being said, it’s still a solid book with actionable intel on all these tricks, even if it takes a while to get there.
I would also like to point out that it’s the one major noteworthy magic book that’s actually been produced in the last decade, so there are some relevant speech and situations that you’ll learn about that bring this into the current day and age.
Magic Book Buying Guide and FAQ
What to Look for in Magic Books
Are you able to devour big books without so much as blinking?
Some readers (you lucky people, you know who you are) read as easily as they breathe, so the page count isn’t an issue. It’s actually more fun if you see a high page count.
For standard readers or those who don’t take a shine to read for leisure, the length of your magic book might actually be off-putting.
Weigh how much you want to learn this against how much you can tolerate reading. While I always believe it’s worth it, you don’t want to get a book on magic just to let it collect dust.
Ebooks may have seen a good few years, but now it’s leveling off with paperback and hardcover books for about a 50/50 race (depending on where you get that info from).
We’re already looking at screens all day for work and for play, so ebooks aren’t really that easy to zone in on and apply your focus to.
A physical book lets you bring it with you when you go out, without providing the distractions that tablets and phones do.
If you have trouble focusing or find yourself easily distracted, it’s worth it to check out a physical copy instead of purchasing an ebook or audiobook.
If you have a long commute each day and it’s sapping away your time, an audiobook in the car could be a game-changer.
The price will always dictate purchases, but I’m happy to say that every book on this list is wildly affordable.
It’s always worthwhile to invest in your hobbies and education materials, but the low price tag helps you justify it on an individual level as well.
Are you looking for a full course, or just something that you can pick up a few tricks from?
You’ll find that which type you pick will greatly influence the length and cost of the book.
If you’re new to the world of magic, I recommend getting a full course to start and augmenting with trick-only books later (or if you know you are already invested in learning this, get them all at once).
Can You Learn Tricks from the Books?
The best magic trick books do a wonderful job of explaining the intricacies of the tricks they talk about with smooth wording and easy-to-understand terminology.
That’s because books go through a process that most other things do not go through: rewriting and editing.
One of the main benefits of books, and why I personally gravitate towards them, is because a well-written book can make complicated topics sound completely reasonable and simple to learn.
Books go through a writing process, then rewriting, then editing, then another rewrite, and a second round of editing before it’s published. That’s a lot of check and balance systems in place.
That’s a ton of checkpoints where publishers and writers are asking themselves, “Is this coming across clearly enough for our readers to find value?”.
If the answer is yes, then it hits the printing presses, and ends up in your hands.
You get concise information in a condensed hunk of paper, versus videos that can sometimes drag on for fifteen minutes to explain a two-minute concept.
Online videos are earning their money from ads and longer videos with more chances to talk about sponsors, but with a book, the publisher already has your money—you’re just going to get information with nothing blocking you.
My recommendation is to learn from books, and then test out the tricks as you end a chapter or a section about one specific trick.
It’s like a way to gauge your skill as you go so that you can end the book by saying “This is where I am, and this is where I need to be,” and then putting everything you learned into an action plan.
Learning from the Book vs Videos
In our current day and age, people like to throw out the excuse “Why read a book when you can just watch a video of the very same thing?”.
There’s a distinct difference between the two, especially when it comes to magic.
Some tricks will be perceived better through video because they’re just complex enough that you have to be walked through it to know what you’re doing.
However, that’s the minority of tricks. You can learn a lot of tricks just from reading books and attempting them while you’re in the middle of your chapter.
You have four main types of learning methods that we all fall into (there are more subcategories, but these four dominante). You have:
- Auditory Learners: Why read something when you can listen to it? Auditory learners get more out of audiobooks than standard reading or hands-on practice.
- Reading/Writing Learners: Reading books does more for you than anything else, and you frequently read books or journal your thoughts to help grow.
- Kinesthetic Learners: You strictly learn from hands-on experience. Other avenues of learning don’t do enough; you have to get in the role to understand it.
- Visual Learners: Videos and television shows are going to retain your focus, and therefore teach you more than other methods can.
Now, why are these so important?
Because two of the four can be best practiced through card magic books or books on magic methods.
You can read about them to gain the knowledge, or if you’re also a kinesthetic learner, then you can do them at the same time as you’re reading about them to really get the most out of your book.
You can learn from books, and you can learn from videos; you don’t have to be a hardcore kinesthetic learner or a hardcore visual learner, you just tend to lean to one side more than the other.
Should You Buy an Audiobook or a Physical Copy?
I would take this as an opportunity to reference the previous section about learning styles, but not without mentioning the fact that there are fewer auditory learners out there than there are reading/writing learners.
Learning strictly or primarily through audio is pretty rare, so I would always opt for a physical book.
Card trick books are fairly immersive, so if you end up trailing off, you can find right where you are.
It’s difficult with audio. It’s like, “Did I miss the last four minutes, or the last ten minutes?”—it gets complicated.
If you have ADHD or ADD, especially as an adult, you might find yourself reading the same line about three or four times until it sticks.
In that instance, it’s going to take you a lot longer to finish the physical copy of the book. If that sounds like you, I would recommend an audiobook.
If you’re going to go with an audiobook, then you’re going to want a dedicated pair of headphones and a quiet space with no distractions.
You don’t want to find yourself missing out on important information just because of visual distractions (it would be kind of ironic).
One other thing to consider is that a lot of these magic books were made 15+ years ago before we really saw an audiobook-crazed nation, so there might not even be audiobooks available for the specific ones you want. It really limits your options in this sense.
What are the Best Books for Beginners?
We’ve covered some magic books for beginners, and then some all-around courses like Mark Wilson’s book. However, it’s going to have to be Magic for Dummies.
They simply cover a broad range of information in the most simplistic way possible.
The title is ironic, because it’s designed for beginners, so don’t feel odd about opting for it if the material looks useful. It’s all in good fun.
I would recommend it whether you’re getting it for you or a young learner. While you’re going to get less pages than Wilson’s book, you get more compact and concise info.
You don’t really have a personality trying to win you over while telling you about tricks; you’re just going to have condensed info to teach you what you want.
How to Get the Most Out of Each Book?
First of all, I recommend reading more than one book. Even though some of these are listed as full courses, it doesn’t mean that it’s a one-stop-shop for every magical thing you need.
You’re going to get so much information from different perspectives and authors, so it’s advised to diversify your reading list with different magic books.
Secondly, you need to understand that these books are meant to be reread.
There’s a structure to them that will help you on your first read, but once you’ve practiced everything in the book and you proceed, rereading them is going to provide so much more insight.
You look at it with a fresh set of eyes after garnering some experience.
To get the most out of each book, read them part by part, chapter by chapter until you reach a point where you feel like a trick has been fully discussed.
Stop. Leave the book open, and attempt that trick. Try it a few times so you can grasp the gravity of everything the author just said.
Maybe it’ll provide a breakthrough, maybe it will show you “Oh, so that’s what they mean” while attempting the trick. Either way, it helps to take it piece by piece here,
Time to Hit the Books
You can learn a lot from books (there’s a reason they haven’t been outdated even with the introduction of online learning and courses).
Bring a paperback with you and read it while you’re on break at work, in the passenger’s side on your way to your in-laws house, or whatever it is that you’re doing.
Maximize your time.
They say that you need to spend 10,000 hours to be truly good at something.
Well, you can start now and sink some of those hours into learning through books, finding out about the philosophy behind sleight of hand and illusion, and just spending your time doing something you love.
The more often you do what you love, the more relevant it becomes.