What are the BEST magic books ever written?
That’s an intimidating question to ask any magician, but in this post, I do my best to answer it…
In a digital age, it can be all too easy to only learn magic through video after video.
But what about doing it the old fashioned way? Because certainly, Houdini wasn’t using YouTube to learn his magic routines.
Books are where some of the GREATEST magicians alive discovered their secrets, and they are an often overlooked but priceless resource for the amateur magician. There are magic books that cater to all abilities, and today I will be counting down the top 29 books for learning magic.
Don’t be ‘put off’ by the age of some of these. Many of these books are STILL some of the best resources ever written on magic, full of top-tier material used by professional magicians to this day! Some of them also contain overlooked gems and routines that you won’t see many other magicians performing.
I’ll also show you how to get over TWENTY of these books FREE, so stick around to find out how…
*NOTE* These books are not in any specific order, they’re simply the best ones we could assemble.
- Howard Thurston’s Card Tricks
- The Art of Magic by T. Nelson Downs
- Fools of Fortune, or Gambling and Gamblers, by John Philip Quinn
- Card-sharpers, their tricks exposed, or, The art of always winning by Robert Houdin
- Magic in Mind by Bill Severn
- Our Magic by David Devant and Nevil Maskelyne
- Shhh it’s a Secret by Theodore Annemann
- The Unmasking of Robert Houdin by Harry Houdini
- Practical Mental Magic by Theodore Anneman
- The Memoirs of Robert Houdin
- Card Tricks and the Way They Are Performed by Si Stebbins
- Great Tricks Revealed by Horace Goldin
- Tricks that Work by Tom Sellers
- The Magic Art by David Holmes
- Al Baker’s Book One
- Al Baker’s Book Two
- Theodore Annemann’s Complete One Man Mental And Psychic Routine
- 50 Tricks With A Thumb Tip by Milbourne Christopher
- Modern Magic by Professor Hoffman
- Modern Magic Manual by Jean Hugard
- Alexander Hermann’s Wizard Manual
- Modern Coin Manipulation by T. Nelson Downs
- The Expert at The Card Table by S.W Erdnase
- ‘Sharps and Flats’: a complete revelation of the secrets of cheating at games of chance and skill, by John Maskelyne
- Expert Card Technique by Jean Hugard
- Royal Road to Card Magic by Frederick Beaue
- 13 Steps to Mentalism by Corinda
- Stars of Magic by Various Authors
- Strong Magic by Darwin Ortiz
1: Howard Thurston’s Card Tricks
Howard Thurston was almost incomparable to those of his times, producing magical illusions that baffled not only his audiences but his peers as well. If you want to learn great magic it’s hard to do better than this.
Here’s an interesting story that should help you get an idea of why Thurston was such a legend…
Dale Carnegie’s self-help classic ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ has a chapter titled:
‘Do this and you’ll be welcome anywhere’.
In this section, Dale recounts the fascinating story of meeting magician Howard Thurston backstage at Broadway.
At this time, Thurston was perhaps THE most successful magician alive, with 40 years of experience traveling the world and performing for packed out theatres (netting him a whopping $2 million in profit.)
Carnegie wanted to know the secrets to his success…
…and the answer was stunningly simple.
Thurston didn’t know the most about magic, he certainly wasn’t the most technically skilled, but what he DID have going for him was a genuine interest in his audience.
He said that every time he walked onto the stage he reminded himself:
“I am grateful because these people come to see me. They make it possible for me to make my living in a very agreeable way. I’m going to give them the very best I possibly can.”
In fact, he said he NEVER opened a show without saying to himself, over and over again:
“I love my audience.”
That’s a powerful lesson from one of the most successful magicians of all time (good luck finding this kind of advice on YouTube).
If you’re interested in discovering more of the secrets that made Howard Thurston the greatest magician of his time, check out his book, simply titled ‘Card Tricks.’
2: The Art of Magic by T. Nelson Downs
Thomas Nelson Downs was one of the greatest magicians of all time, credited with astonishing sleights and routines that have inspired professional magicians for over 100 years. You’ll find a wealth of his best material inside this classic book.
3: Fools of Fortune, or Gambling and Gamblers, by John Philip Quinn
4: Card-sharpers, their tricks exposed, or, The art of always winning by Robert Houdin
This book has been considered of great significance and value to literature. This forms a part of the knowledge base for future generations. One of the most famous names of his time, this book is a window into history you do not want to miss.
5: Magic in Mind by Bill Severn
6: Our Magic by David Devant and Nevil Maskelyne
7: Shhh it’s a Secret by Theodore Annemann
8: The Unmasking of Robert Houdin by Harry Houdini
9: Practical Mental Magic by Theodore Anneman
10: The Memoirs of Robert Houdin
The memoirs of the man that practically invented modern magic: Robert Houdin, the fascinating tale of the watchmaker turned theatre owner. His life took him places you’ll never expect even all the way to the tribes of Algeria where he won them over for France with his ‘stronger’ magic.
11: Card Tricks and the Way They Are Performed by Si Stebbins
Si Stebbins shows off his various tricks that can be performed using the now famous ‘Si Stebbins’ stack, want to know the secret behind it? Well, I think you know what to do, just click the link right below.
12: Great Tricks Revealed by Horace Goldin
13: Tricks that Work by Tom Sellers
14: The Magic Art by David Holmes
15 & 16: Al Baker’s Book One and Two
I combined the two of these for you because they basically do the same thing. They are an extensive guide to a whole world of tricks, accompanied by detailed diagrams and practical advice applicable to magicians whatever era you live in.
17: Theodore Annemann’s Complete One Man Mental And Psychic Routine
You might be noticing a little bit of repetition here because you might see Theodore Annemann’s name a lot on this list of timeless classics, there’s a reason for that, he truly has stood the test of time. This book perfectly optimizes the idea of packing small and playing big.
18: 50 Tricks With A Thumb Tip by Milbourne Christopher
19: Modern Magic by Professor Hoffman
Modern Magic was written by Professor Hoffman in the 1920’s. At the time it was state of the art and a leading book in the magic world. Of course, many of its effects and tricks are still mind-boggling today.
20: Modern Magic Manual by Jean Hugard
Remember, this is the guy that launched the careers of hundreds of working pros today…so if I were you I’d be eagerly consuming every piece of his work you can get your hands on.
21: Alexander Hermann’s Wizard Manual
Alexander Hermann one of the world’s most successful magicians ever explores over 100 tricks and illusions in his book Wizard Manual! Better known as Hermann the great, he sold-out stage shows all over the world, so don’t miss the chance to get inside his head or you will regret it.
22: Modern Coin Manipulation by T. Nelson Downs
23: The Expert at The Card Table by S.W Erdnase
“The Expert at the Card Table is the most famous, the most carefully studied book ever published on the art of manipulating cards at gaming tables.” —from the Foreword by Martin Gardner. For years this book has been entirely indispensable to anybody looking to master the world of card manipulation, another one to add to your growing free library.
This little book is one of the greatest magic books ever written. Almost every professional card magician I know has studied this book inside and out MANY times, discovering new ideas and powerful secrets each time. It’s essential reading for anyone that really wants to understand and hone their craft, and unlock the same techniques used by masters around the world.
24: ‘Sharps and Flats’: a complete revelation of the secrets of cheating at games of chance and skill, by John Maskelyne
Old but still entirely valid when it comes to ways of cheating in a gambling game, if you want to steal from others then this book is an indispensable primer. And I guess it’s equally valuable to those who want to catch out the cheats at their table as well!
Want to get all the above books for FREE?
I think magic books (and books in general) are pound-for-pound some of the BEST investments you can make with your money.
when I see magicians racking up hundreds of dollars on their credit cards grabbing each and every shiny new magic book released—only to never actually, y’know, READ them…
…that’s where i draw the line.
We’re all guilty of this to a degree (heck, I know I am).
Here’s why I bring this up:
All the books above this point are just sitting on the internet archive. These books are fair game as there is no set copyright on them (to the best of my knowledge), which means that magicians like you and me can freely enjoy the ideas of some of the greatest magicians in history…without destroying our bank balance!
NOTE: Just because these are ‘free’ doesn’t mean they don’t hold some of the most ‘cutting edge’ magic you’ll ever see. The principles and effects you’ll find in these books are the basis for a huge amount of the magic you see to this day. Your favorite magicians likely got their start reading some of this exact material.
CLICK HERE to get access.
With that out of the way, let’s continue. Here are 5 more incredible magic books…
Number 25: Expert Card Technique by Jean Hugard
This book is an iconic one within the magic community- and for good reason. It has helped countless magicians make the leap from beginner to advanced in their sleight of hand ability.
However, you should bear in mind that it was written in 1940, so some of the terminology and writing may be a little difficult to understand, especially for a younger audience. This book is an absolute gem of information, but it can be hard to read and understand simply because there is so much material in it.
I would recommend waiting until you understand the basics of card magic comfortably before you consider investing in this book. Once you do so, however, you will be blown away with the sheer amount of techniques and tricks packed into this little book.
Number 26: Royal Road to Card Magic by Frederick Beaue
This book also just happens to be an older one, but it has definitely stood the test of time in terms of its usefulness and practical knowledge that it offers to amateurs.
The book contains 76 different card tricks overall, with each chapter focusing on a different sleight of hand technique that is then applied to a few of these tricks.
The author, Jean Hugard, happens to be the same man that wrote Expert Card Technique, and was a professional Australian magician who was one of the first to perform the ‘Bullet Catch’ using modern guns. He really knows his stuff, and this is evident in Royal Road, where he covers all the important sleights and tricks that a beginner magician should know in an informative yet entertaining way!
Number 27: 13 Steps to Mentalism by Corinda
This book is for those of you that perhaps are more partial to mind reading or clairvoyance than you are to card magic. Often regarded as ‘the Bible of mentalism’, 13 Steps is the best book on the market for amateur mind readers.
Originally published as 13 individual booklets on different topics of mentalism, they were eventually combined to form this book. The techniques included range from ESP to telepathy, covering the secrets that magicians like Derren Brown still use today!
Number 28: Stars of Magic by Various Authors
All of the above are great card magic books (and i’ll likely be writing emails about them too in due course.)
But there’s one book that does something none of the others do.
It’s called ‘Stars of Magic’ and it’s a collection of the ‘greatest hits’ from many of the greatest magicians of the 20th century. The contents read like a ‘who’s who’ of magic—featuring contributions from Dai Vernon, Slydini, Scarne, Betram, Malini, and more.
You’ll discover over 40 of their most fooling routines and secrets, from a mind-melting slow-motion Ace Assembly to Vernon’s legendary Ambitious Card.
Many of the best magicians I know (the modern-day masters) credit their success to this book. In fact, the official dealer copy says “If you have not read and learned the magic contained in this book you have no business calling yourself a close-up magician.”
Ouch. But not far from the truth.
Why it’s better than Erdanase:
Before I alienate half of the good folks on this list, let me clarify a couple of things:
The material in S.W Erdnase’s ‘Expert at The Card Table’ is possibly the most important and influential card magic ever published.
But (and boy, I hope i don’t sound too crazy when I say this)…
…it’s not the most riveting read. If you aren’t passionate about this stuff, you could be forgiven for finding some of the material a little stuffy or ‘dry.’
I know, I know—it’s all OUR fault.
Our minuscule modern-day attention spans and chronic need for entertainment has ruined our ability to enjoy Erdnase for hours on end like the masters of old did.
But for all you juiced up dopamine-junkies, there’s a spot of hope:
Not all ‘classic’ magic books have to be hard to digest.
Stars of Magic is a prime example of this.
Every chapter features showstoppers from ‘rock stars’ of magic like John Scarne, Dai Vernon, Max Malini, and many more. You’ll discover over 40 of their most fooling routines and secrets, from Vernon’s slow-motion Ace Assembly to the diabolically devious Triple Coincidence by Scarne.
(I know a lot of magicians that have been crossing their fingers for this to go ‘out of print’ ASAP so they can keep the secrets inside tightly clutched to their chest.)
But more importantly than just methods, this book will inspire and entertain you.
And sure, some of it won’t measure up to the fast-paced, high-stakes world of Reality TV, but that’s okay. You’ll have to roll up your sleeves and apply some good old-fashioned elbow grease in places.
But when you have the ‘greatest hits’ of the best magicians of the 20th Century waiting for you to master, that’s a welcome task.
NOTE: All of the routines in this book were originally sold as separate manuscripts. Purchased separately they would have cost you $98.00.
If you want to pick it up for less than half that price AND get it shipped to you ‘mucho rapido’, I’d pick it up from Amazon using the affiliate link below:
Number 29: Strong Magic by Darwin Ortiz
The best book for advanced magicians who want to break out onto the professional scene has got to be Strong Magic, by Darwin Ortiz. It doesn’t contain any teaching on card control, but what it does teach you is AUDIENCE CONTROL.
Often, the difference between a good magician, and a professional magician, is not their technical ability. Many magicians have an incredible mastery of the cards, but struggle to make it, whilst some professionals rely solely on basic, beginner moves to achieve their effects. This is because they know how to work an audience; perhaps THE most useful skill a magician of any kind can have. Strong Magic teaches you exactly how to win over the audience, and why it is so necessary that you do.
It is a great read, full of humorous anecdotes and gems of genuine wisdom. If you want to really make it as a magician, BUY IT.
In Strong Magic, for example, you’ll discover how Slydini destroyed other magicians despite breaking a VERY important rule in magic.
Darwin Ortiz says something VERY interesting about the legendary magician Slydini…
Some context: Slydini was famous for both his masterful use of misdirection, sleight of hand, and the way he ‘called out’ his spectators.
He would make them feel foolish for not figuring out the method, and challenge them to catch him—but of course, they never could.
Which is why Darwin Ortiz says:
“One of the most harmful aspects of the challenge approach is that it undermines the illusion of magic. Every time Slydini chided a spectator for not catching him, he reminded the audience that there was something to catch—that it wasn’t really magic. […] Puzzles have solutions. We may not know what the solution is, but we know there is one. Magic, on the other hand, is, by definition, an eternal mystery for which there is no possible solution. Therefore, it doesn’t make any sense to challenge the audience to find a solution.”
Folks, this is a priceless piece of advice from one of the most respected close-up magicians of all time…and it’s just part of the INTRODUCTION to this incredible book.
In Strong Magic’s introduction alone, you’ll also discover:
* The single most important aim you should have when performing magic (the answer is ‘obvious’, but SO many magicians completely miss it)
* The simple but problematic reason certain magicians approach magic with the mindset of a Vegas stripper (and how to know if that’s you)
* How to avoid the common mistake most magicians (especially cardmen) make when describing and constructing their effects
* Why watching a good magician is NOT like watching theatre (contrary to popular belief)
* The ‘impossible paradox’ that drives every piece of powerful magic
* Why magicians are actually EASIER to fool than regular audiences (and how to use this unusually but effective principle to your advantage)
And that’s barely scratching the surface of the rest of the book…
To access ALL of these secrets, take a gander at this:
For the next little while, you can get Strong Magic AND three more classic card magic books for a fraction of their normal price (i did the maths and this offer beats out everyone else, including the behemoth that is Amazon, by a wide margin)
Click the link below to see this offer:
Of course, if you don’t have the necessary funds to invest in any of these, my advice would be to stick with YouTube until you are confident that you definitely want to take your magic further.
You wouldn’t want to spend loads on a few books, then leave them to collect dust for a few years. Once you are sure that magic is for you, and you want to move beyond the types of tricks you will generally see offered online, these books are for you.
If you have any questions about any of the best magic books mentioned in this post, feel free to leave a comment below and I will get back to you!