Updated: Sep 26
Suggestions and recommendations for the best start to learning magic!
I regularly get asked by beginner magicians on what are the best books for magicians when starting to learn magic. Where do you start when there are quite literally thousands of books to choose from. Some say there are more books on the subject of magic written than any other subject. Now I’m not quite sure of the truth behind this but I do honestly believe that it could quite possibly be true that there would be more written on the subject of magic than any other performing art! So it’s easy to see how a beginner could get overwhelmed and confused as to where to start, and also easily get discouraged if buying books that are far to complex for their skill set and level.
The art of magic is so diverse and there is just so many categories of magic to consider, but just like anything when starting out, it’s always good to get a solid foundation of the general principles before deciding to focus on one or two specific niches or genres of magic.
Below is just a small list of some of the categories of magic you could find when looking for a book on the subject so its easy to see why there is just so many out there to choose from.
General Magic tricks
Bizarre and Shock magic
Quick change magic
Card Magic and cardology
Although there are loads to choose from, it’s always good to go by suggestions and recommendations when starting out so I have decided to add a list of some of my favourite books I feel would be perfect for the beginner magician...Or in fact anyone interested in the art of magic! These books will become an important part of your magic library.
General and Impromptu Magic
Mark Wilsons Complete Course in Magic
An extremely popular book in the magic world and one most magicians will be familiar with. Master illusionist Mark Wilson compiled the most comprehensive magic "teach-in" ever assembled. The book reveals the secrets to more than 300 classic tricks-from sleights of hand to levitation which is all clearly and carefully explained in this 500 plus page book.
It's all here: Card Magic, Coin Magic, Rope Magic, Mental Magic, Make-at-Home Magic, Sponge Ball Magic, Billiard Ball Magic, Cups and Balls Magic, and Magical Illusions. Mark Wilson devoted more than two years of research, writing, and technical preparation to this book. More than 50,000 still photographs were taken of the detailed execution of the tricks considered worthy to include in this course, and these photographs were edited and converted into hundreds of simplified line drawings.
Its thoroughness makes Mark Wilson's Complete Course In Magic especially recommended for the beginner with absolutely no experience in magic. At the same time, its scope and depth has earned this book a place in the libraries of many of today's most accomplished magicians, professional and amateur alike!
The Practical Encyclopedia of Magic by Nicholas Einhorn
Possibly a modern simplified version of the Mark Wilson Course in Magic in colour from a tremendously nice guy (Nicholas Einhorn) in our Magic community too!
This book shows you how to perform amazing close-up tricks, baffling optical illusions and incredible mental magic. It reveals the secrets of over 120 magic tricks, with over 1000 photographs. A wide variety of tricks are covered, including magic with cards, matches, rope, silk, thimbles and money. It also includes an intro section on the all-important illustrated history of magic and magicians, from the origins of the art in Egypt through to the magic of today, featuring magicians such as David Copperfield and David Blaine.
This book reveals the secrets of a wide range of tricks and explains how to achieve a polished performance. It explains how to grip, shuffle and control cards, do tricks with glasses, napkins, cutlery, straws, cups, sugar cubes, matches, string and rope, and how to create the impression of mind-reading and thought transference. Once you have learnt the basic techniques, there are also many tricks to perform with coins and banknotes. With over 120 incredible magic tricks and more than 1000 step-by-step photographs, this book will enable you to amaze all your friends and family.
Magic with Everyday objects by George Shindler
I have to mention this as George is not only a wonderful family friend ours but a extremely talented and entertaining magician too! He always taught me that its all about the entertainment factor, to be nice and they will like you and your magic!
Magic with Everyday Objects is an easy to follow how-to manual for novice magicians or those interested in picking up a few easy tricks to entertain at a moment's notice. Although Old school, the magic and patter are still relevant today and so much fun to perform. If what your after is to learn some fun, easy tricks that you can do any time and anywhere then this book is well worth having for reference in your library.
The Magic Book by Harry Lorayne
In addition to the practical instruction, Lorayne provides the philosophy of magic as it has never been taught before. "The Magic Book" reveals the secrets of magicians―the simple techniques that will enable anyone to perform seemingly complicated magic tricks with relative ease. Clearly written and heavily illustrated―there are over 200 illustrations in all―this book guides you through the basic principles of magic-using only common household items: a deck of cards, coins, rubber bands, and even a potato. The author then provides simple step-by-step instructions for hundreds of amazing tricks which he has perfected after forty years of painful trial and error.
Here are some of the secrets you will learn: controlling the order of cards throughout any number of shuffles, pushing a straw through a potato, making knots evaporate, making coins pass through a handkerchief, predicting numbers that any spectator will give you, adding any 5-digit numbers instantly, finding any card in a deck, shuffling the deck and finding the card again ... and much, much more! To help new magicians develop their techniques, Harry Lorayne provides a special “afterthought” section at the end of each magic trick where he discusses possible problems that most beginners have with the trick he has just explained. In addition to the practical instruction, Lorayne provides the philosophy of magic as it has never been taught before.
Magic with Cards
All magicians should be comfortable with cards and card magic. So i have separated these from the general magic books to help you identify the right book for you.
I would suggest the best books for a beginner magician to buy for card magic would have to be
Roberto Giobbi’s Card College 1-5
If asked to recommend what books to get for learning card magic I almost aways start with suggesting the Card College series. It’s an incredible course in card magic from the start to the finish...and will last a lifetime of magic. And its not just for beginners but for anyone serious about learning card magic. It’s an incredible investment as it is not just a course in handling a deck of cards, but becomes a wonderful resource for your future reference.
Roberto Giobbi’s Card College is a complete set of the world’s most influential course in sleight-of-hand card magic. With a total of 1’420 pages of everything from a basic shuffle to sophisticated and advanced techniques, tricks, presentations and theories you could say this could be the only set of books on card magic you will ever need!
What is wonderful about this set is An absolute newbie can pick up Volume 1 and get started immediately. The instruction is that good. If they spend time practising, rehearsing and immersing into the instruction, you will be an amazing card magician by the end of Volume 2! Roberto notes that after going through the first two Volumes you will know and be able to perform at a level greater than 80% of most current magicians! Wouldn't that be great!
It is a true classic of magic and magic writing. And if you are serious about card magic -- or if you want to learn how to be a card magician -- do not hesitate!
Roberto Giobbi’s Card college light, lighter, and lightest
An alternative to the full card college would be getting Roberto Giobbi’s card college light, lighter and card college lightest!
These are brilliant books with full tricks and routines that require absolutely no sleight of hand at all but rather rely on the structure of the trick, it’s subtleties and the routineing. Offering a full routine with effect, method and pattern allowing you to concentrate on the performance rather than the technical sleights when you start.
The royal road to card magic by Jean Hugard
The Royal Road to Card Magic is Often the go-to recommendation from magicians when asked for a book suggestion for card magic.
This classic guide to card magic will help you develop a fantastic repertoire of card tricks to wow others with your sleight of hand. It covers a wealth of information with easy to understand instructions accompanied by illustrations to make them easy to follow Confound your friends, amaze your acquaintances, amuse and dazzle crowds at parties and gatherings using just a simple pack of cards. With the help of this book, you can develop a versatile repertoire of first-rate card tricks. From classic principles and practice to the art of presentation and a collection of astonishing tricks, everything you need is here. Learn how to do The Overhand Shuffle, The Riffle Shuffle, The Glide, The Glimpse, The Key Card, The Palm, The Back slip, False Shuffles and Cuts, The Double Lift and Turnover, The Hindu Shuffle, Top and Bottom Changes.
Jean Hugard and Frederick Braue have inspired a generation of magicians with this classic card magic book.
For those of you who struggle to follow the written instruction, there is also a “The Royal Road to Card Magic videobook:” which includes QR codes for 110 video downloads that demonstrate the techniques that underpin the tricks
The encyclopaedia of card tricks - Jean Hugard
Now, this is a huge paperback book full of complete gold! Possibly the finest single compendium of classic card tricks available with such a clear and easy to follow style makes this book great for beginners and professionals alike! I wouldn’t say its a course in magic or a book I would want to read from cover to cover but it makes for an amazing ‘take anywhere book’ or reference book to ensure you have the right trick for the right performance! You will always learn something new and fun! This book truly is an Encyclopedia of Card Tricks! This giant-sized collection explains how to perform over 600 professional card tricks, devised by the world's greatest magicians. The finest single compendium available, the book features a clear style that makes the instructions easy to follow.
Having a reference book like this that you can keep by your bed, take on holiday or with you to read on your commute is brilliant as there is always something new and exciting to discover and learn.
Self-working Card Tricks: 72 Foolproof Card Miracles for the Amateur Magician By Karl Fulves
What is a self-working card trick? A trick that does not depend upon complicated sleights or special abilities on the part of the magician, but a trick that works automatically because of the mathematics inherent in the card deck itself.
If there is one book to be recommended on card magic - it would be this.
Many paid professional magicians use self-working card tricks in their repertoire. Some use the very same tricks found in this very book.
No sleight of hand, no difficult handling. These are 72 wonderfully simple yet utterly baffling card tricks that any beginner can perform. And in our opinion not only is this Karl Fulves best book on the subject - but also the best book on self-working card tricks.
Long practice and supernormal dexterity are not needed to perform these tricks, yet they are often among the most entertaining and most spectacular of all card tricks.
72 spectacular and entertaining tricks: card locations, coincidence tricks, mental magic with cards, tricks with double endings, tricks with two decks, predictions, tricks with borrowed decks, trick poker deals. Easy-to-learn, clearly illustrated, these tricks produce spectacular effects with a minimum of practice. 42 illustrations.
By learning these tricks you are also learning key principles and methods of card magic. You will learn how to: use the key card principle, glimpse a card, force a card using easy but ingenious methods, reveal a card in different and entertaining ways, do impromptu cards tricks with a borrowed deck, set up a deck to create impossible effects, create entertaining presentations.
Children’s show Magic
Kids Show Masterplan - Creating incredible magic for Children
By Danny Orleans
Now as I also perform regularly for Children's shows I felt it was worth recommending my favourite book in the subject here too. And not just because I have seen Danny Lecture on the subject but because it is full of invaluable insight into performing amazing shows for children of all ages.
Danny Orleans' book is destined to become the modern-day guide to performing magic for children. Combining his classroom experience as a preschool and kindergarten teacher with over 40 years of performing magic for children in schools, museums, libraries, private parties and theatres, Danny Orleans reveals his "Masterplan" on how to create and present a magic show for children. And its brilliant!
Whether you're just starting out, or you're an experienced kid show pro, you'll benefit from Danny's extensive use of child-psychology, his approach to trick selection and his multiple examples on how to deal with any room setting to maximize the impact of your show.
In Kids Show Masterplan, Danny teaches you the psychological techniques he uses every time he does a kids show so you can effortlessly manage young children's behaviour. You'll get practical solutions for your real-world challenges including...
Keeping kids seated
Getting and holding kids' attention
Dealing with crying children
Managing kids' disappointment
Controlling onstage helpers
Preventing kids from rushing the stage
Contact with children appropriately
In addition, an entire chapter is dedicated to Danny's Onsite Marketing Plan. It's filled with low-cost and no-cost non-traditional ideas, many of which you can begin using immediately -- all designed to increase your bookings.
Danny Orleans' credentials as an expert on performing magic for children are unrivalled: If your interested in entertainment for children then this is the book for you!
A Complete course in Magic
The Tarbell Course in Magic (volumes 1-8) By Harlan Tarbell
The most respected course in magic! The classic volumes cover every aspect and interest in the art of magic performance. The Tarbell Course in Magic (volumes 1-8) covers almost every aspect of magic from close up to parlour to stage effects. Even though some of the effects seem a bit dated, the principles you will learn are absolutely foundational to magic. Also, it should be noted that many of the routines still hold their own today.
I remember growing up as a kid sneaking into my dads ‘magic room’ to secretly take one of the many volumes up to my room for some late night magic discoveries. The Tarbell style provides almost all the details: drawings, patter, tips, and suggestions for so many tricks, its a real must have for every magic library.
The Tarbell Course in Magic is a notable encyclopedia of magic amongst professional and amateur magicians. It has eight volumes; the first five were part of the original home-study correspondence course compiled in 1928 by Dr. Harlan Tarbell, the remaining three volumes being added on later.
8 hardcover volumes in all. More than 100 detailed lessons in all aspects of magic and magic performance. Totalling more than 3370 pages!
What more is there to say except that you should start to buy, invest and collect these books! They are an invaluable resource for any magician looking to learn and develop their magic skills.
Of course, there are so many other amazing books out there, however, these books will most defiantly get you on the right path to becoming a confident and entertaining magician.
Hope this helps and you get as much enjoyment out of these books as i have and still do!
To your future success as a magician!
Learning Magic? Want that extra support?
Sometimes reading a book on magic, or watching a tutorial on you tube is just not enough to learn and improve your skills as a magician and it is most helpful to have the support of other magicians and mentors who can support you with your learning, offer feedback, critique your progress and performance and offer the support and encouragement you need to improve and develop.