This is a part of a series that I will begin writing about various books and materials. There are a lot of materials and videos that are available on the internet, bookstores, and from performers about being a better performer. So I wanted to start by writing a couple of quick reviews of some of the books that I have read that have helped me out a lot.
There are a lot of paid webinars and pdf files that cover being a better entertainer that are essentially rehashes of other people’s books and materials. There are also a lot of books that have promises of making you a better entertainer that are collections of tricks and material. So here are six books that have helped me be a better magician.
Creative Magic:Ellusionist (http://www.ellusionist.com/creative-magic-book-by-adam-wilber.html)
To be honest, this book is one that I had to seriously think about adding to this list and it it is sort of like “Mentalism Incorporated”. It is primarily a collection of magical effects with a small selection of essays. The essays are a group of magicians personal thoughts on how to be thoughtful and creative when creating new magical effects and routines. To go beyond simply recreating the “Ambitious Card Routine” or the “Misers Dream Routine”. The thoughts range from how to brain storm new routines to thoughts on using meditation as a regular practice to encourage “thinking outside the boss”.
Rating: 3 Out Of 5
Absolute Magic: Derren Brown
Out of all the books on the list, this is one of the books that I consider a requirement for any performer. Sadly though this book is currently out of print as well (with no intention of the author to make a reprint as he never intended it to see use on a massive scale) but it is definitely worth it’s weight in gold. If you ever find a copy of it for sale or that you can borrow it is highly recommended that you do so.
The big reason why this book has made the list is because it goes into developing a stage persona and how one sells a performance or magical effect. When you use an effect that was created by someone else there has to be something that justifies how or why you are creating that particular form of magic. It justifies it in the mind of the audience and connects you to your audience..
But how you sell an effect is also dependent on your persona. And this question, is one of the ones that this book answers along with others. So when you are developing your persona and the types of effects that you use this would be my first resource to study from.
Rating: 5 Out Of 5
This is probably the hardest book to talk about. Comedy is something that we all talk about and we experience. We an entire channel devoted to it on standard cable. But it is difficult to learn how to create it. Even the most serious shows need moments of levity in order to keep the energy of the show going. There are classes available for people who want to learn how to develop improv skills and there are open mic nights where you can practice.
The Comedy Bible is a sort of lesson book and guide to creating and developing comedy on your own. Out of the three different books that I have read on the topic, this one is the easiest and most comprehensive on developing and creating your own humor. Definitely a must-read.
Rating: 5 Out Of 5
Mentalism Incorporated: Chuck Hickok
This book was purchased after having a conversation that I had with a magician at Tannens Magic Shop in New York City. I asked for a book on mentalism for a larger audience and I was handed this. I have not regretted this decision at all since then (you know this because the dust cover is well torn).
While the book is mostly a collection of effects and script for a large corporate audience it does go into how to develop an impactful show for a corporate audience. If you can develop a show for a large audience it becomes easier to develop one for a smaller one as well. By taking the lessons to heart and seeing how the effects in the rest of the book are developed we change the presentation of our own effects so that they play to a larger audience.
The book also goes into the business side of things (such as invoices, when to show up, how to handle your business relationship).
Rating: 3 Out Of 5
Sleight of Mind:Stephen Macknik & Susana Martinez-Conde
Understanding how magic interacts with the our brain works goes a long way towards developing the presentation that takes advantage of our brain functionality. This book itself is the journey of a neurologist as they learn about both the performance of magic and how our magic interprets magic to create the experience of a coin disappearing in a retention vanish.
For us understanding how magic interacts with our mind goes a long way to creating more effective visual magic.
Rating:4 Out Of 5
Confidence Game: Maria Konnikova
Regardless of what you say or how you present yourself on a stage; you are challenging/interacting with other people’s beliefs. While you are not a con artist, understanding how a con artist gets others to act against their normal self interest is in your benefit to understanding how to bring to bring the audience onto the stage and into the act.
It also useful for when we create and develop personas such a mentalist or hypnotist when we need to convince an audience of a reality that might not actually be the case. While it is not as necessary depending on your persona this is still a solid read.
Rating:2 Out Of 5 (4 Out Of 5 For Mentalists)