The Five-Foot-Shelf of Magic: Foot Four

It’s been quite a while since the three prior installments of this series (which you can see here, here and here) but perhaps the time off has been a good thing. In the previous installment, I limited myself to books that were generally in print–this time I went a bit more afield, though most of these books below are still pretty obtainable, though not necessarily in print anymore. I’ve also included books that I had either overlooked, or had already written about in other contexts, or simply had not owned or read before.

Switch by John Lovick: This is the last word in what has come to be known as the Hundred Dollar Bill Switch. There are dozens of variations and techniques taught in close detail, both tip and tipless, worth getting under your belt.

Act Two by Barrie Richardson: Richardson is one of my favorite magic writers and his books are overflowing with excellent mental magic plots, scripts, and methods. This book contains my favorite—and possibly easiest–parlor ACAAN effect.

Before We Begin by Asi Wind: This is a brilliant book that fills a neglected but important technique of mentalism. After reading this book with its very detailed scripts you might change your mind as I did, and consider the usefulness and effectiveness of this technique.

The Devil’s Staircase by Greg Chapman and Details of Deception by Greg Chapman: I’ve written about these two books on this blog before, so see those essays for more details, but in brief, these two books of Greg’s are filled with unique gambling type card routines, sleights and tools that will leave audiences with no possible explanation.

Approaching Magic by David Regal: all of Regal’s material is great, and in this big book there is a wealth of card, coin and parlor effects. Regal’s magic always has a strong premise and script, and his methods are often ingenious. This book also has some wonderful essays and will keep you busy for a long time. A desert island kind of book.

Smoke and Mirrors by John Bannon: Like David Regal, Bannon’s close-up card and coin effects are fun and ingenious, and any of his books are worth picking up. I like this early book best as I think it has some of his strongest magic in it for casual tabletop performance.

Magic For Young Lovers by Andy of the Jerx: this book is probably the hardest book on the list to find now–it was offered a few years ago to subscribers to Andy’s blog. When I read it, I thought it was one of the best magic books I’d ever read, outlining an approach to magic that really resonated with me. It conveyed what a true magic experience should encompass. This may sound strange, but I’ve never opened it since my first reading of it, because I’ve been reluctant to disturb the memory of what a great experience it was to read it that first time.

Outs, Precautions and Challenges by Charles H. Hopkins: I’ve written about this before on my blog, and it’s a fun little booklet to read. It’s kind of old-fashioned and maybe promises more than it delivers, but it presents a good outline of the problems a performer can face and some possible solutions.

In Order To Amaze by Pit Hartling: This is a must for memdeck workers. As powerful a tool that a memdeck is, the most difficult part of devising magic for it in my opinion has always been in creating entertaining plots and presentations for those effects. Pit Hartling’s ideas and scripts are superb and set this book apart from many others using the same tool.

The Magic of Alan Wakeling by Jim Steinmeyer: I don’t do much stage magic so I can’t say this is a book that I go back to many times, but it is a fascinating look at the mind of an incredibly ingenious designer and performer of stage illusions. The section alone on the Think-a-Drink plot and apparatus is inspiring.

The Annotated Erdnase by S. W. Erdnase and Darwin Ortiz: Eventually if you’re into cards you know one day you are going to have to eat your spinach, and Ortiz’s annotated version of Erdnase is a delightful way to do it. In this large hard bound book, Erdnase’s text is on the inside portion of the double page, while Ortiz’s commentary is in the outer margins. The commentary covers much historical and technical information that makes the journey even more tasty.

Routined Manipulation Finale by Lewis Ganson: I included this book because I think poor Lewis Ganson generally gets a raw deal as a magic writer. He tends to be dismissed because he is generally describing the work of other great magicians such as Dai Vernon, but his books are generally full of wonderful material. For the life of me, I can’t understand why this book, available in paperback, is not referenced more often. I think the contents rival the material in the Stars of Magic book. There are effects in here from Fred Kaps, Pat Page, Ali Bongo, Al Koran, Alex Elmsley, and more.

Faro Fundamentals by Greg Chapman: I’ve written about this book on the blog before so see that essay for more detail. This 52-page booklet would be my go-to recommendation to learn not only how to faro but some excellent uses of it. Even if you already do a faro, you’ll find information in here that you may not have seen before that will help you get the most out of it.

The Five Foot Shelf of Magic: Foot Three

Here are my suggestions for foot three of the five foot shelf of magic books. You can find my suggestions for the first foot here, and the second foot here.

In this installment, we’ll be getting into more specialized and advanced books, yet I think the information in each of them is valuable no matter what area of magic most intrigues you.

The Dai Vernon Book of Magic by Lewis Ganson: Some of the classic close-up routines of magic, including The Chinese Coins, that should be in every magician’s repertoire.

Restaurant and Bar Magic by Jonathan Kamm: Kamm is a bar magician, and in this slim book of effects he explains some wonderful mainstays of the bar magician. If you’re not a drinker, don’t let the appellation of bar magic worry you. Bar magic is close-up magic that requires little in the way of props, but it has a very clear plot, is visual, often modular, and has high impact. There’s a great repeat card under deck routine here as well as seven other routines which, as they say, are workers.

Marked for Life by Kirk Charles: This is a slim paperback on how to create your own deck of marked cards and tricks to do with same. There’s a hilarious trick done with a rubber stamp imprint of a cat’s paw that I used to have a lot of fun with. But the real winner here is the system for marking cards that Bob Farmer came up with that requires only a red Sharpie on a red Bicycle deck which produces marks that can be seen from a good distance.

Expert Card Technique by Jean Hugard and Frederick Braue: This one may sit on the shelf until you’re ready for it, but once you are, you will be amazed at the gems of advanced card magic sleights and effects it contains: passes, glimpses, transpositions. Though written before Royal Road to Magic and Card College, this is the post-graduate course.

Taschen Magic Posters: I’ve written about this book before, and I continue to feel that it’s one of my favorite magic books of all time. This multi-lingual large-size edition pictured above is out of print and hard to find now, but there’s a smaller sized abridged version available at very reasonable cost, which is still quite wonderful. It’s beautifully put together with glorious reproductions of hundreds of years of magic posters interspersed with essays from the likes of Jim Steinmeyer. It’s big, heavy, and an absolute pleasure to pull out on a rainy day.

An Actor Prepares by Konstantin Stanislavski: while this volume was meant for theater actors performing in a scripted play, there is much here to be learned here about communicating with an audience. The Spanish magician Juan Tamariz summarized some of this information in The Five Ways of Magic, but An Actor Prepares goes more deeply into some important aspects of performing and getting ready to perform. Pay special attention to the sections on Relaxation, Concentration, Units and Objectives, Faith and a Sense of Truth, The Super-Objective, and Communion.

Act Two by Barrie Richardson: There’s more great mental magic in this sequel to Theater of the Mind. If you’ve always wanted to learn a memdeck, but don’t think you’re quite up to it now, there’s an easy to memorize half memdeck here that’s very useful. In particular, it’s used in a easy-to-do stage ACAAN that plays big. There are many other mental effects and techniques here that are worth exploring as well.

Card College, Volumes 2, 3, and 4: by Roberto Giobbi: Card College is a massive achievement but I think Royal Road substitutes well for Volume 1 and has better tricks, and Volume 5 is largely a book of pleasant but unessential card tricks. For me, the real stars of the CC series are Volumes 2, 3 and 4, which form an excellent detailed reference for learning and executing the most common card sleights one might come across in other sources.

Magic is My Weed and How to Make Love the Steve Spill Way both by Steve Spill. I put these two books together because frankly it is hard to decide between them. Simply, read them both. They are not cheap, but if you are planning to set foot onstage before a large audience in a regular professional capacity, these books would be a very wise investment. I did detailed reviews of the two books here (Weed) and here (Love). If you want to be a performer and not just a guy or gal doing tricks, these books are a goldmine of information. Wonderful effects, jokes, scripts, but even more wonderful advice about how to construct an act and entertain an audience.