Here’s a question I get a lot: What are your favorite books? Well, I have about 1000 books in my card magic library, so I can’t go over all my favorites. However, I’ll share with you a few books that I enjoy reading over and over.
Darwin Ortiz is my biggest influence. I highly recommend anything written by him. What’s unique about Darwin’s books is that all his material is polished card magic that’s audience tested and ready to perform. The effects super strong and they get great reactions. It will take a lot of technical mastery to be able to pull off all the material though. Even if you can’t do the effects yet, his material is worth studying because of how he constructs his effects. The way he builds the effects is brilliant. Definitely do yourself a favor and pick up everything and/or anything by Darwin Ortiz.
It’s worth noting that Strong Magic is my favorite Ortiz book. There are no card tricks taught in the book. In my opinion, it’s the best book on magic theory. He talks about everything you need to know to make the magic you’re doing now get the best reactions. (And, so much more.) I’ve read Strong Magic at least 10-15 times and each time I reread it I learn something new. (I’ve read this book so many times I broke the binding!) Other notable titles are Cardshark, Scams and Fantasies, and Lessons in Card Mastery. (I had the pleasure of editing Lessons in Card Mastery while Darwin was writing it.)
Another must-have book is, Expert at the Card Table by S.W. Erdnase. This book is truly fascinating. Erdnase was so far ahead of his time. Everything in this book is still relevant today. This man had it all figured out in 1902. His analysis of moves, his thoughts on what the spectators think and see, his brilliant methods, ingenious technical ideas, his insights… it’s all there. This isn’t a book you can read in a weekend. You’ll need to break it up and work on things at your own pace. But it’s where you can learn how to run up poker hands, bottom deal, palm cards, switch cards, learn shifts, and just about everything related to cheating at cards. And, these are simply the best moves out there.
Another great set of books I own is the Card College series. At least once a week I find myself grabbing a volume or two off the shelf. This set will teach you pretty much everything you need to know about cards. What’s nice is that every sleight is taught very clearly. Roberto Giobbi teaches subtleties about the sleights and often teaches very strong tricks using the sleights. In my book, Confident Deceptions, I constantly reference this series. If you’re new to card magic, I think you’ll get the most out of this collection of books. It’s everything you need in one place.
Royal Road to Card Magic, Encyclopedia of Card Tricks, The Card Magic of LePaul, Expert Card Technique, and Stars of Magic are a few other great titles as well. These books I use for inspiration and ideas. I may read an effect from one of these books and think, well I’d never do that, but I like this idea, or I liked how the misdirection was applied. Usually I’ll find a good method or some deceptive moment in these books. Then, I’ll try to create a fitting presentation. Or, sometimes I keep the plot and completely change the method. I always come up with something when I revisit these books.
The last point I’ll make is that I’m always fascinated by how much more I find in a book when I reread it. About once a year I’ll go through some of my favorite books and discover even more killer material. It’s not that I missed it the first time. It’s that I’ve changed. I have learned new things since the last read. Therefore, the idea or the effect may have a new meaning. So, go out and buy these books if you don’t have them. Or reread them and discover them again.