When one sets sail on the journey of magic, books quickly become oars. Without them, you’re stranded. With them and if you put enough work in, you’ll glide. But where do you begin? Maybe you’re on the shore, or maybe you’re ten years out--stuck in the middle of a lake at the mercy of wherever the wind takes you. To remedy the situation, and further your pursuit of the craft, Art of Magic is pleased to introduce the Library of Wonder. Each month a distinguished member of the community will offer a glimpse into their personal selection of reading material. You’ll be introduced to five curated works; three from the canon of magic, two from a wider array of literature.
This month, New York based magician and author Adam Rubin has generously provided a collection of books that are without a doubt required reading. Ranging from the rare to those still on sale, Rubin’s selections belong on your shelves. So whether you’re dusting off a cover, or preparing to track down an edition, don’t waste any time--the best secrets are in print.
Greater Magic by John Northern Hilliard.
I know this is kind of a no-brainer and others will have it on their short lists but the tricks in it are so damn good. Pet effects from Hofzinser, Anneman, Leipzig, Chung Ling Soo, Cardini, Malini, Vernon, Houdini... Pretty much every magic trick out there has a methodological pedigree that can be traced back to this unparalleled collection. There are so many powerful routines of such wide variety that you could make an entire career in magic solely based on performing the classics in this tome.
The Secret Ways and Means of Al Baker compiled by Todd Karr.
Baker was a genius performer. The impact and humor of his effects were matched only by the streamlined simplicity of his devious methodology. Super strong tricks with really clever methods. Few magicians in history have been as prolific and maintained such an impressive level of quality throughout their work but as Baker himself put it, "The usual trouble is that we don't bother to think long enough or hard enough."
Penn and Teller's Cruel Tricks for Dear Friends by Penn and Teller.
This was the first book that convinced me magic could be cool; smart, edgy, marvelously creative and funny too. Before "the bad boys of magic" were hosting game shows, they were legitimately freaking people out on national television and infuriating more conservative magicians in the process. This book was published in their heyday and it's full of subversive swagger. I relished the behind-the-scenes showbiz stories and poured over the lovely collection of short fiction that came tucked in the back. Plus, the whole thing is a blow book. If you can find a copy that still has all the pieces, consider yourself lucky.
Illusion Show by David Bamberg.
I'm including this as one of my two "non-magic" picks because there are no tricks explained and it's a story so few magicians seem to have had the pleasure of reading. Here is a rare first-person account of the romantic grandeur of performing a large-scale, traveling illusion show in the early part of the 20th century. Written with great candor and self-effacing humor, Bamberg shares personal stories from a lifetime in show business. He pals around with Kellar, Houdini and Orson Welles and shares invaluable insights from his own legendary career touring throughout South America as Fu Manchu. Dai Vernon reportedly said it was the most beautiful show of magic he had ever seen. Certainly this book is one of the best historical works on magic ever written.
Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.
This book will change the way you think about thinking. Kahneman and his colleague Amos Tversky accidentally invented the field of behavioral economics back in the 1970's by challenging the long held belief that human beings always act according to their own best interests. Packed with profound psychological insights, this hearty read is the result of nearly 50 years of scientific study. Professor Kahneman's work with cognitive bias has been capitalized upon by many a pop-psych author but the theories detailed in his book are original, rigorously tested and hugely illuminating for anyone who wishes to shine a little light on the mysteries of human behavior.