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David Copperfield
“Joshua Jay is a superb, innovative conjurer with an unrelenting love of the art. This captivating book is proof of that passion.”
David Copperfield
Neil Patrick Harris
“There are a myriad of books that explain how to perform magic. But there are very few that explain how to watch magic. A smart take, and an excellent read.”
Neil Patrick Harris
How Magicians Think

How Magicians Think

The door to magic is closed, but it’s not locked. And now Joshua Jay opens that door to reveal the artistry and obsessiveness, esoteric history and long-whispered-about traditions of a subject shrouded in mystery. “This book is my love letter to magic,” says Jay, “and it answers the questions people ask me every night after the show.” Joshua Jay brings us right into the mind of a magician—how they develop their other-worldly skills, conjure up illusions, and leave the rest of us slack-jawed with delight.

Along the way Jay reveals another kind of secret, one all readers will find meaningful even if they never aspire to perform sleight-of-hand: What does it take to follow your heart and achieve excellence?

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And Why Magic Matters

In 52 short, compulsively readable essays, Jay describes how he does it, whether it’s through the making of illusions, the psychology behind them or how technology influences the world of magic. He considers the aesthetics of performance, and answers questions like: Can a magic trick be too good? How do you saw a person in half? Is there real magic in the universe? Was Houdini as good as everyone says?

The book takes you into the minds and work of contemporary masters, including David Copperfield, Penn & Teller, and David Blaine. Jay spent considerable time with each one to glean secret insights into how magicians hone their craft.

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How Magicians Think

How Magicians Think is for anyone who loves mystery. But it’s also a probe into why we follow our passions, and what becomes of a life spent in pursuit of excellence. Or, as Teller describes it, “Swift, funny, honest, and alive with enthusiasm.”

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More Praise for How Magicians Think
David Blaine
“Joshua Jay has proven to be an important voice in magic. How Magicians Think is a thoughtful, engaging look into the secretive world of magicians…[and] will excite anyone with a curiosity or love for magic.”
David Blaine
“A loving, behind-the-scenes map of the world of magic, by someone who knows and lives the art. Swift, funny, honest, and alive with enthusiasm. And he has the good sense to quote me a lot.”
Uri Geller
"How Magicians Think is fascinating, beautiful, and can't-put-down shocking. It will inspire awe in its depiction of the secretive world of magicians and is a must-read for anyone passionate about pursuing excellence.”
Uri Geller
Seth Godin
"This generous book is about becoming really, really good at something, and doing it for the right reasons. It's a message we all need to hear."
Seth Godin,
Author, The Practice
Pete Holmes
"In How Magicians Think, the great Joshua Jay reveals a magician's greatest secret — not a secret shuffle or how they kept a dove alive in their pants for four hours — but how they think. The answer? Differently, creatively, and beautifully. I mean, how can you not love someone who's devoted their life to making you feel wonder?"
Pete Holmes, Comedian,
Author of Comedy Sex God
How Magicians Think

How Magicians Think Podcast

How Magicians Think Podcast is a new, limited-series podcast that will explore the fascinating history, creativity, and psychology of magicians. This podcast is for anyone who loves magic, and it will feature the greatest magicians of our age, discussing their creative process. You'll love the behind-the-scenes chatter about magic, but this podcast is also aspirational: you'll gain insights on the creative process that you can apply to your own artistic pursuits.

This is not an audiobook for How Magicians Think. This podcast is released in tandem with Joshua Jay's book, but the contents are entirely different and will evolve as episodes are released.

The How Magicians Think podcast is produced by renowned podcasting company AudioUp and is available on all podcasting platforms. Susbcribe on Spotify or iTunes.

Joshua Jay, bestselling author of Magic: The Complete Course and other books, has performed on stages in over 100 countries, fooled Penn & Teller on their hit show, Fool Us, and was named the 2020 Magician of the Year by the Society of American Magicians. He holds a Guinness World Record for card tricks, has performed for US presidents, and appears regularly on TV shows like The Tonight Show and The Late Show with James Corden. He lives in New York City.


It’s trite to say that I’ve been working on this book “my whole life,” but I’m not sure how else to put it. How Magicians Think really is the culmination of my entire experience in magic. I’ve been outlining and developing the chapters in this book for a very long time, and my inspirations are too numerous to thank and list exhaustively.

Instead, I listed critical sources at the end of How Magicians Think and have reproduced that list here. In the event of any inadvertent oversight, I will do my best to update that list here.


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Community questions about How Magicians Think

Have a question about this product? It's possible others do too. Ask here and other Vanishing Inc. Magic customers will be able to respond with assistance! Alternatively, email us and we can help too.

  • David asks: Some pictures show the book with and some without a dust cover. Also you mention the unique deck of cards. What is your methodology to dictate who can buy the ‘dust cover version’ with the possibility of the special Cards? I have been a ‘magic nut’ since I was eight years old and been a gold star M.I.M.C. member for over 50 years. I am always fascinated to read and listen to experts opinions on all aspects of our ‘art’ and I look forward to reading yours. Kind regards DAVID BECKLEY M.I.M.C

    • 1. Vanishing Inc. Magic responds: Every book comes with a dust cover but only the deck of cards comes with a slip case.
  • Ethan asks: Will this be released at Magifest? Also if so, will the cards be available with the book there or only from Vanishing Inc on the site?

    • 1. Jim answers: Stock depending, yes (for Magifest). The deck is only available if you place the pre-order on the site.
    Post an answer to this question
  • Jack asks: This might sound silly, but does 'How Magicians Think' get sent in a padded package to protect it?

    • 1. Vanishing Inc. Magic responds: Everything we send is packaged and sent protected :)
  • VICTOR asks: I just bought it! Can Joshua Jay autograph the book? Thank you!

    • 1. Vanishing Inc. Magic responds: All copies purchased from us will come with a signed bookplate.
  • David asks: Is there an ebook version available?

    • 1. Jim answers: Not yet, but one is planned.
    • 2. Richard answers: There is a Kindle version on Amazon now.
    Post an answer to this question
  • Robert asks: What is projected release date of book?

    • 1. Jim answers: It is scheduled for September 28, 2021.
    • 2. Jim answers: Just wondering when the books will ship ? Very anxiously awaiting its arrival !
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  • Tim asks: By “signed bookplate” do you mean the books are not hand signed by Josh on the usual page, but rather stickers are applied that have been machine signed with a Likeness (albeit a good one) of his actual signature? I’m familiar with this common practice of many publishers who use it instead of true hand signing by authors - it’s why I’d rather attend an actual book signing

    • 1. Jim answers: In this case (I can't speak to other book publishing practices), the bookplate is a designed sticker, that Joshua signs by hand. This sticker is then applied to one of the first pages in the book. If you want Joshua to inscribe your name, or write on the actual book (as opposed to a sticker) I would recommend meeting Josh in person at a magic convention, or on his book tour, where he will be honored to personally sign your book. I hope that helps!
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  • CHAD asks: Josh, I knew you when you were a tennis and we were both in the Akron area in the club. Would you please quit showing off by producing books that are not only affordable but also crucial to the development of magicians and also the art of magic. It’s sickening to see someone so contributive and successful.

    • 1. Jim answers: Josh was a tennis? Who knew?!? ??
    • 2. Hunter answers: Quit being jealous of someone else and get your own life.
    • 3. Daniel answers: Place nice all think Chad was just joking Hunter.
    • 4. Hunter answers: My bad. I apologize.
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  • minjun asks: How many pages long is this book?

    • 1. Jim answers: 320.
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  • Jason asks: Just pre-ordered... Just curious who printed the deck of cards? USPCC, Cartamundi, etc...

    • 1. Vanishing Inc. Magic responds: USPCC
  • Daniel asks: Amazon lists a Kindle eBook version available in late September. Will an eBook edition also be available from Vanishing Inc.?

    • 1. Jim answers: It is possible. The decision will be made closer to the time of the release.
    Post an answer to this question
  • Tod asks: Just noticed the question of an ebook possibility. I'd preorder an ebook in a heartbeat! Have so many bound books (of many topics) I can hardly give them away. Just thought I'd add a comment on that topic.

    • 1. Vanishing Inc. Magic responds: Thanks for your comment. We will update the webpage if and when we start selling the ebook!
  • Thomas asks: Will Joshua sign "How Magicians Think" if asked?

    • 1. Vanishing Inc. Magic responds: For our copies of How Magicians Think, Josh will sign custom bookplates, and those will be applied to each copy of the book that we sell during the pre-order. So you will have a hand signed bookplate in your copy. It will not be personalized. You will also get access to the brand new podcast episodes and a custom deck of How Magicians Think playing cards. Although the deck is not signed, it is amazing, and it will be in its own custom tuck slipcase.
  • Steven asks: I see Amazon has the CD version. Is it available here?

    • 1. Jim answers: No, but that may change when the book is published.
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  • Andrew asks: When will the book tour be announced?

    • 1. Jim answers: Soon™
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  • Chi Han asks: The email mentioned access to an exclusive online event for the pre-order, will more details about this be released soon? Thanks

    • 1. Jim answers: Keep an eye on the newsletter and the blog for this.
    Post an answer to this question
  • Caleb asks: When will the audio book be available? Is it included with the book purchase?

    • 1. Jim answers: There is a professional audiobook version, narrated by Josh himself. It will be available as a separate purchase. The physical book does include a special podcast with multiple episodes, if you buy the book from Vanishing Inc Magic.
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  • Ethan asks: If we bought the book at MagiFest are we still able to get the deck?

    • 1. Jim answers: For questions of this nature, please contact customer service at:
    Post an answer to this question
  • Tony asks: Any chance this will be coming out in an audiobook?

    • 1. Jim answers: It is already out:
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Ask a question

Customer reviews for How Magicians Think



This book will make you think, and it will help you improve your thinking about magic. It is written with love, and it is well worth your time.



The best read since MAXIMUM ENTERTAINMENT. Bravo



Joshua writes with such captivating charm, I devoured this in a couple of days. It's aimed primarily at non-magicians, but there's oodles of deep magical wisdom for the rest of us to enjoy. The way each chapter is framed as an answer to a question frequently asked of magicians ("How do you saw someone in half", "Why do magicians pull rabbits out of hats") ensures no topic overstays its welcome. In fact, if I had one criticism, it's the exact opposite: some of the topics were so engrossing I really wanted more. For example, the chapter on technology and research into the cognitive processes involved in magic and deception, was absolutely fascinating. It could easily be a book in its own right. The joy of this work, however, is that it acts as a wonderful taster menu to pique your interests. There'll be things in here that will inspire further reading and research to satisfy your curiosity.

Writing about magic by magicians can, lets be honest, sometimes be a little smug and self-satisfied. Joshua, as a clearly very self-aware writer, studiously avoids that pitfall with often brutal honesty about our many hang-ups and strange eccentricities. It only very occasionally comes across as a little earnest and worthy (there was a point early on where I was worried it was going to be someone simply telling me how great and potentially life-changing magic is for 300 pages), but I suspect that is only a by-product of the uncynical, wide-eyed wonder and enthusiasm the author brings to the project.

Along with Jim Steinmeyer's books on the history of magic, this is my favourite magic book for non-magicians ever. All in all, a huge success that's guaranteed to bring many new converts to our art form. I only hope there's a sequel.



Ah man, I love books where you can jump around to what interests you. Since these are in essay format you can choose your own adventure as you please. Josh definitely gives you some insight into how his brain functions and it's very interesting. It's well thought out and researched. Josh isn't just a magician here, he is also a historian and a good one at that.



What a book! Truly a love letter to magicians. It gets you thinking and considering your own magic in a very practical way.
It is also a very special look into the mind of one of Magic’s best. Highly recommend.
Six out of five stars!



5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful
Reviewed in the United States on September 29, 2021
This is a wonderful book. It contains 52 essays answering common questions about magic. Mr. Jay is not only an esteemed performer, but a brilliant thinker about all matters magical. He also runs a terrific on line magic store. I learned a lot from reading the book. My hobby is magic, and there are tremendous insights found in the book. My favorite insight is the story that Mr. Jay tells about what is written on the crumpled piece of paper that he keeps in his pocket and reads right before he commences a show. This advice, which is found in another chapter, is invaluable and is a piece of advice that I have used throughout my life as a teacher/public speaker. There are also very interesting bits of history including one chapter which tells the story of a woman giving birth to rabbits. I did not know this chapter of history. There are chapters that deal with the famous magicians of today, and the discussion of Mr. Copperfield and Mr. Blaine have many revelations that are likely unknown to most of us. I read the book cover to cover and I suggest you do the same, although many chapters are free standing. What you walk away from after completing the book is that magic is a fantastic art form which can rise to the highest level of enhancing your life. On the base of my computer stand is a rock, with one word painted on it. That word is "wonder". Magic is full of wonder. And Mr. Jay's book helps illuminate the wonder to be found in magic. (I posted this in Amazon. I originally read a free, review copy. Then I purchased a copy direct from Vanishing, Inc because the book is THAT good.)



I am writing this review, not as a magician, illusionist or similar professional. I am a designer, and my main interest is in designing playing cards, however I was pitched this book by Vanishing Inc and something about it caught my eye. It turns out to be an excellent decision to buy a copy as it not only gave me a broader understanding of the inner workings of magicians and illusionists but from that came several ideas that I'm planning to use in future products.
Not the usual list of tricks and how to do them, but a much deeper insight into the art and the performers, this treasure trove of inside information is in many ways far more useful. It left me feeling better prepared for making improvements to my future card designs and more informed as to how they might be used. Excellent buy!



This is a wonderful book Joshua has written Full of great stories and I must say wisdom from a great young magician the words In this book will you do make you think this book is Distance will be a must have for all magicians thank you again Joshua



How magicians think is a love letter to magic.

Within the pages of the book you will find history, stories, quotes, formulas and that is JUST in the first few chapters. Joshua is a storyteller and a great one at that! His writing is like a massage for your eyes. You will read through this book and then want to read it again. Highly recommend.



I don't write a lot of reviews, however, after receiving my copy of Joshua Jay's new book, How Magician's Think, I felt compelled to do so. To give some perspective, I am 72 years old and a former working, full-time professional magician who is retired. I began performing magic when I was 12 years old and have spent over 60 years involved with magic on some level. To say I enjoyed Joshua Jay's new book would be an understatement, it is absolutely wonderful! Reading How Magician's Think just left me smiling from ear to ear. I found myself being able to relate so closely to the thoughts, concepts and emotions so beautifully expressed in this book. All I can say is anyone who has any interest in magic, from the hobbyist to the working pro, must read this book! If you fail to read this book you will be missing out on a truly enjoyable and motivating experience.



Loved it! I believe that art performed well can inspire wonder and with it hope, and I believe this book provides a great foundation for better understanding how and why magic can bring that wonder and hope into our lives. The book is general in scope but with enough references and "rabbit holes" to encourage the reader to pursue their own research into the fascinating history, science, characters, performers, designers, and stories, etc should they find themselves getting hooked. Loved it and heartily recommend it to anyone interested in how magicians think!



Joshua Jay provides an experienced magician's point of view of the art we all love so much. Thank you Mr. Jay!!



I Absolutely love this book ! Being a part time magician I try to look for books that will help me improve my shows, I have the Volume 1 and 2 of Scripting magic to better my scripting and it states that when you write your scripts you do it from the audience point of view, Joshua Jay has hit the nail on the head with this with the book giving me a prospective to add to that to put myself in the audiences shoes and think differently as a magician which can only help me improve my magic performances. This is the best reading and learning in a long time, for the price this is a must buy!!



Ever since I found the Vanishing Inc. website I have been impressed with everything I've purchased from them. Every trick, pad and book I've purchased have been high quality. There huge selection of playing cards are awesome and its hard not to come to the site everyday to check out something new.
This is my second book from Vanishing inc. My first was "The boy who cried magic". Now I've purchased Joshua Jay's book "How magicians think". They have both been great reads. The biggest advantage to these books is learning about other books, periodicals, etc that are out there to continue to help open your mind to new ideas. Also learning more about other magicians heroes is always interesting. I haven't made it all the way through the book yet, but from the first couple of chapters I was pulled in. The book is also interesting in its study of social issues involved in the formation of magic over the last few centuries.

Definitely a Good read I highly suggest it for everyone.

As I mentioned before I also like collecting decks of cards Is/will there be a chance when we can get a second or third copy of the Playing Cards that came with some of the "How Magicians Think. I always try to buy more than one deck so I can keep one or two or three on Ice, just in case.




If i was to suggest a book to read for someone beginning in magic, before learning any tricks or sleights or illusions, read this book it is a must and would probably teach a beginner to become a great magician, a great read for all levels of magicians, once i opened the book i couldn't put it down



really interesting interview well worth a listen with the book in had

thanks Josh



How Magicians Think is a must read for all magicians, anybody who has ever watched “Fool Us” and everybody who has an interest in magic. Joshua brings the reader into the mind of a magician through his insights gained through a lifetime of magic. Joshua’s writing is thoughtful, clear and excellent. The graphics are clever and high quality. It is an excellent book that will make you think.



Wonderful chat about a wonderful book! Very honest and some great behind the scene Insights! How Magicians Think is a must-own for any magic lover!

How Magicians Think by Joshua Jay