Recently I was talking with some friends about where they got their start in magic. Most of us had seen a magician on TV or in person and then ended up with a magic kit of some kind. One person said that he had never had a magic kit, but that he found magic at the library. He talked about reading The Royal Road to Card Magic, Bobo’s, and several other tomes of required reading. I could not remember seeing any magic book of that caliber at my local library. I remembered having read a few beginner books from the library, but nothing so in depth as The Royal Road, or Bobo’s. This stirred the pot for me and I wanted to see what I could find. Could I find quality magic books at the library?
I jumped into my car and headed down to the library a few days later to see what was available. Unfortunately I was not surprised with what I found. In the reference section, under games, nestled between a copy of Hoyle’s Rules of Games, and a how to win at poker book I found Mark Wilson’s Complete Course in Magic, The Blackstone Book of Magic & Illusion, and The Illustrated History of Magic.
I thought back to looking for magic books in the library as a kid, and this is pretty much what I remember seeing. I was happy that these books were there because they are fantastic books, and if you have not read them I recommend it.
Of the three, Mark Wilson’s Complete Course in Magic is the most well rounded as far as learning magic is concerned. The Blackstone book is good but contains more history than effect, but the effects sections are good. The Illustrated History of Magic is a fantastic book, but is all history, so if you were looking to learn magic it’s not the book you are looking for. I knew that I had copies of these on my shelves, so I headed home.
Later that day I was still thinking about finding classics of magic at the library so I decided I should look in the online catalogue to see what I could get from all the libraries in the county. I did a quick search and I found a few more; ending up with Magic for Dummies, and Mysterious Stranger: A Book of Magic by David Blaine. Magic for Dummies contains a good number of effects, and theory, and Mysterious Stranger: A Book of Magic is primarily about David Blaine. It’s an interesting read but does not teach you any effects.
These books were great too, but were still not what I was hoping to find. I wanted to find what my friend had been able to read at his library when he was starting out in magic.
I felt like I had answered my question and that you could only learn the general basics and moved on.
A week or so later I was taking back some books that my family had borrowed and I stopped to ask the librarian about what magic books were available. She searched the catalogue and ultimately told me the same thing I had already discovered, but she continued looking and said I don’t have much here but if you check the catalogue you can find quite a bit in the children’s section. She handed me a piece of paper with some search categories and I headed home to check the catalogue.
I got home and started looking through the catalogue again. This time I was finding much more. In the children’s sections, under games and hobbies I found another 20 plus books on magic. A few of them I was familiar with but most of them were new to me. Everything was beginner and involved very little sleight of hand but, at least there was something there. More tricks to learn, and not just biographies and history. Below are some examples of what I could find.
Big magic for little hands
by Jay, Joshua.
Street magic : great tricks and close-up secrets revealed by Paul Zenon
The art of magic and sleight of hand
by Einhorn, Nicholas.
The complete idiot's guide to street magic
by Ogden, Tom.
The everything magic book : everything you need to amaze, baffle, and entertain your friends
by Davidson, Greg.
After going through all kinds of children's books with magic in the title or description I did, to my surprise, find a copy of Modern Coin Magic by Bobo in the children’s section. You could spend a lifetime studying just that one book.
I started off trying to answer the question of can you find quality magic books at the library. Ultimately my answer is yes. The first three books I found are quality magic books! I really could have answered my question on my first visit, but I was searching for the books that I wish I had found at the library when I was starting out. Don’t expect to find classic treatise on card handling, or coin technique, but you never know. I did not think I would find a copy of Bobo's.
If you are just starting out in magic then you could really do well by going to the library and picking up a book or two to get your feet wet. Most of the books that I found contained core techniques that would give you a strong foundation in magic and all the magicians I know would tell you that building a strong foundation is key to learning magic. Don’t be afraid to read a book on magic history. I know you want to learn as many tricks as possible, but learning where the tricks come from is just as important. Obviously, your mileage may vary, and your library may have less than what I was able to find, but you never know what fantastic books you may be able to find.
Sooner or later if you are really enjoying magic then you are going to want to move on and learn some more heavy hitting stuff. More sleight of hand that will advance, and stretch your skills. When you are ready for that, then there is plenty of material out there, it’s just not as likely to be at your local library.
If you have decided you want to take it further or learn something more specific drop me a line and I would be happy to make some recommendations to you.