What are popular sleight of hand magic books?

We're often asked for the best way to learn magic tricks and our answer is always the same: in magic books. Our cofounders, Andi Gladwin and Joshua Jay, are prominent writers of sleight-of-hand books, and so you've come to the perfect place to find out the most popular books on the subject.

We have listed a few of our favorite magic books on the subject below:

1. Card College by Roberto Giobbi

If you are serious about a study of sleight of hand card magic, then Card College must be your first choice. It was written by Swiss card magic expert, Roberto Giobbi and he takes you through the very basics (including how to hold a deck of cards) and then teaches some simple introductory moves (such as a false shuffle and a palm) and card tricks using those moves.

Once you learn a move, you'll immediately learn a magic trick with it so that you can then go out and practice that sleight of hand move in the context of a trick.

Roberto Giobbi doing a card trick

There are five volumes in Card College, but we recommend reading them in order. Even if you are experienced with sleight of hand magic, start with the first volume and you'll be amazed at all the details Roberto adds to sleights that you already know. It's our favorite resource to learn-card-tricks

Many of the books (especially for card magic) that are often recommended for beginners were written several decades ago and can be a little outdated. Card College is not that; it's a modern series of books that will help any sleight of hand performer.

Expert Card Tehnique hardback

2. Expert Card Technique by Hugard and Braue

As it was published in the 1940s, you might wonder what this book can add to the conversation of modern sleight of hand. The answer is a lot! This book is considered by many as one of the first detailed books on the subject, containing sections on false deals, the pass, palming, false shuffle and cuts, glimpses, reverses, and many more. It also contains the work of many of the finest magicians of that era including Dai Vernon, Luis Zingone, and Charlie Miller.

If that doesn't convince you to check out the book, perhaps you'll be interested in what the publisher had to say when they first advertised the book in the 40s: "This is the card book that is now standard practice with the magicians who are getting the dates. From New York to San Francisco, look them over. The big shots are all using the Hugard and Braue technique. If they are pulling a new one on you, it's 10 to 1 they got it in Expert Card Technique!"

Interestingly, the book also has a bit of a tricky history. It turns out that many of the tricks and sleights in the book are uncredited Dai Vernon and Charlie Miller items. Dai Vernon reported in his "Vernon Touch" column in Genii magazine that Charlie Miller would tell the author, Fred Braue, about how the tricks looked (but never how they worked) and he would then secretly work on a method and publish it in the book. Vernon believed that over twenty tricks in the book were actually his creation.

3. Less is More by Ben Earl

Ben Earl's philosophy on sleight of hand is quite simple: that less technique is better. It's an idea that intrigued us so much that we asked him to write a book on the very subject and it received attention and praise from some of the best sleight of hand magicians in the industry.

When we first published this book, world-famous gambling and sleight of hand researcher Steve Forte claimed that "Benjamin Earl is one of the best cardmen around today. Less is More, is a bona fide winner! It gets my highest recommendation."

Ben Earl doing sleight of hand

One of the highlights of the book is Ben's Real Optical Shuffle, which is a false shuffle where it appears that the cards are overhand shuffled, but the exact order of the cards is maintained. It works with any number of cards, and unlike some slights, works whether you shuffle into your left hand or right hand.

Less is More is a gorgeous hardback book, full of high-quality photographs. Of all the books that we have published on sleight of hand, this is one of those that we receive constant praise about. It teaches a style of sleight of hand card magic that is clean, efficient and very effective.

4. Expert at the Card Table by S.W. Erdnase

This book is perhaps the most fettishised book on sleight of hand. It was apparently written by a card cheat who needed the money, but the anonymous nature of the book has started a century of debate on who he actually was.

Dai Vernon

Some believe that Erdnase's name was E.S. Andrews (the astute amongst you will notice that's S.W. Erdnase backwards), some think it was a card cheat called Milton Andrews, recent research suggests he might be a writer called Edward Gallaway, and others believe that he was actually a well-known sleight of hand magician. Gambling expert, Steve Forte has recently commented that Erdnase was almost certainly not a good card cheat, which brings about further queries of the man's identity.

But while we may never know the true identity of S.W. Erdnase, it's clear that magicians and sleight of hand experts have studied this book more than any other.

It seems that the obsession started with sleight of hand expert Dai Vernon (The Professor) who was gifted the book as a seven year old boy. By the time he was thirteen years old, he had already memorized its contents and could perform many of the items in it. This is especially impressive given the technical nature of the items in the book.

Vernon spent a lifetime studying the work of gamblers and traveled the country trying to find card cheats who could perform the sleight of hand in the book.

Those who want to make a serious study of the book should also consider reading the annotated versions: Annotated Erdnase by Darwin Ortiz and Revelation by Dai Vernon.

5. Expert Coin Magic by Richard Kaufman and David Roth

So far, all of the books we have recommended cover card magic, but this one is solely dedicated to coin magic. David Roth is considered by many as the father of modern coin magic. Before him, coin tricks were typically quick "watch the coin ... it has vanished!" affairs.

David Roth modernized the coin trick and added structure, presentation and routining to it. Expert Coin Magic is the end result of that lifetime of study, experimentation and passion.

David Roth doing coin sleights

If you are new to coin magic, Roth's material offers the perfect starting point. His Shuttle Pass is a requirement for many sleight of hand coin routines, and his work on the Retention Vanish is still vital study for every single magician. Even if you never plan on performing a coin routine, we recommend that you learn how to vanish a coin perfectly as it will allow you to perform an impromptu effect with a borrowed coin.

Sadly, the book is now quite hard to get hold of outside of the second-hand market. But, luckily for us, David Roth also made his coin magic sleight of hand available in other outlets, including a whole series of coin magic lectures at the New York Magic Seminar and through video tutorials such as Expert Coin Magic Made Easy.

Still looking for other sleight of hand magic books? We have a whole section of the site on them!