When I first got into magic, I was just a kid - 8 or 9 at the most. There was a local magic shop about 20 minutes from my house and the first time I went in I wasn't in awe like you'd see in a movie, at least, not from the "magic" that the shop contained. Rather, there were shelves full of pranks and gizmos, noise makers and colorful trinkets. A few VHS tapes and about the same number of books.
The shop keeper didn't show off any tricks or routines, in fact as far as I recall he was a typical adult who was waiting for their shift to end. I was eager to learn, and just a kid, so none of it phased me. I asked him if he had any books that could help me learn card magic and that's when I received my first real card book: Magic With Cards. That, and a Chinese Finger Trap and a Whoopee Cushion.
Honestly, as a first book for card magic, Magic With Cards wasn't that bad. It doesn't dive into the art of the Double Lift or Second Dealing, and you're not going to find mention of a Faro Shuffle anywhere... but that's just it - it doesn't teach sleights. Just routines. But, they're easy! And, it leaves the theory by the wayside to let the reader figure it all out. For a kid just starting out, it was just right.
By the time I tossed my deck away and hung up my magic cape, I only had 3 magic books in all*. But Magic With Cards ended up (somehow) staying with me. I think it was lost somewhere at the bottom of a toybox and nobody bought it at a yard sale one year so my mom just kind of put it away as a memento. When I got back into magic in my 30s, guess what book found it's way back into my house! (and no, I don't live with my mom ... but, she did bring it back when I told her of my relapse into the mystic arts)
When this book eventually made it back into my collection, I was already chapters-deep into several other books that were verbose with sleights and theory. It was no longer the prized possession I once thought it was and so I tossed it aside and it sat on my shelf for over three years without ever being opened. Jumping forward a bit though, after learning many sleights and handlings, after learning theory and how to apply my own personality to tricks and routines, re-reading Magic With Cards is an entirely different experience. These basic tricks are fundamentally amazing - you just need to make them your own.
TO THE POINT
I know it sounds like I'm writing about this specific book a lot and I know I am - but I'm not. If you're reading this, there's a good chance you already have one or more books on magic and you're just curious what to look for next. You might even have a full library and aren't interested in buying any new books (lol, yeah right) but are curious if there's a suggestion about what to flip back through. Me personally, I'm in the middle of those two - I have a decent number of books and I've read through almost all of them, but what should I buy next... or, which book should I bring back off of the shelf?
In my limited experience so far, I've found that it's very dependent on your interests. Not just in the type of magic effects, but also the style of writing. There are textbook style volumes that cover everything and there are books that cover just routines (with possibly a sprinkling of new sleights here and there). There are theory-only books, or books just on table work. Heck, Drawing Room Deceptions even has a whole section devoted to work with a paperclip -- sadly, though they all say they've read it, the half-dozen people I've spoken to about the book didn't even know that 🤦♂️.
I can't tell you what to read next ... well, technically I can tell you what to read next but it's up to you to decide whether or not to do it ... but, I can offer suggestions based on my current level and experience.
If you're a beginner in magic, I hands-down recommend the following ASAP:
If you consider yourself a beginner / intermediate conjurer, try flipping through:
- Expert Card Technique
- Expert at the Card Table
- Alternatively: The Annotated Erdnase
- Bertram on Sleight of Hand
If you're adventurous, definitely give these a try:
- By Forces Unseen
- The Complete Walton, Vol. 1
Now, the above are all based on "your experience" and not really your interests. Also, it's not really a list that will change much over time given that there aren't a ton of brand-new books that are going to target the beginner and be better than the classics. They can be great, don't get me wrong - but chances are, they're just rehashing what's already written.
If you're interested in book suggestions by topics, check out some of these posts:
- Table Work
- Memorized Decks
- Sleights & Routines
The above posts might also include some video references -- no VHS tapes, but there will be some DVD suggestions and online content.
* the other two books I had when I was a kid were Royal Road to Card Magic and Modern Coin Magic.