Card magic is the most popular genre of magic. Magicians love it because you need just a deck of cards to perform thousands of miracles. Also, there are countless tricks you can perform on the spot.
If you’re getting into card magic, you want to create a great foundation to build on. If you’re a more experienced card magician who knows their way around a deck of cards, you might be looking for routines or sleights to broaden your well-known repertoire.
We compiled here what we consider the best books for beginner and advanced card magicians. We also added one more category - specialty books. These are focused on a specific topic. We discuss that in the last chapter of this post. But now, let’s start from the beginning.
Best Card Magic Books for Beginners
The Royal Road to Card Magic
This is the book we recommend the most to anyone interested in card magic. It is a classic book written by Jean Hugard and Frederick Braue. It provides a brilliant foundation for any student as it takes them from the basics to intermediate tricks and sleights.
We have already mentioned this in our list of best books for beginner magicians, but we have to repeat it here. The biggest advantage of The Royal Road to Card Magic is that every explanation of a technique is followed by a chapter with several tricks using that technique. That means you can learn a card control, for example, and then immediately put it into practice.
Card College Vol. 1 and 2
Roberto Giobbi, one of the best current teachers and magic book authors, created Card College. Card College is a five-book series covering hundreds of techniques and tricks with a deck of cards. It can be considered a modern and more extensive version of The Royal Road to Card Magic.
The first two volumes are directed straight at beginners as they help them learn the basics properly and slowly build on them with more advanced content.
Card College takes advantage of being released in the modern era, using modern English and including hundreds of detailed illustrations to help students understand the material.
Card College Light Series
Besides the classic Card College pentalogy, Roberto Giobbi released the Card College Light series. It is a collection of three books - Light, Lighter, and Lightest.
This is a collection of easy and self-working effects. On top of teaching excellent card tricks, this series helps with understanding the importance of routining and trick selection.
The first book is divided into seven routines, each with three effects - an opener, a middle, and a closer. The tricks flow seamlessly into each other, and you can see which effects are excellent for opening and which are best for closing the show.
The second book is only divided into the three types of effects mentioned, giving you the freedom to compile them however you want. The third book is a collection of tricks, which you should be able to divide into openers, middles, and closers with the knowledge gained from the two previous books.
Best Card Magic Books for Advanced Magicians
Expert Card Technique
Although released before The Royal Road to Card Magic, Expert Card Technique is its perfect follow-up. That might not make sense to you, so let us explain.
We already mentioned The Royal Road to Card Magic as one of the best books for beginner card magicians. After you learn the basics, you want to move on to the more advanced material. And that’s where the Expert Card Technique comes into play.
This book will help you improve your sleight-of-hand skills. It includes a lot of gambling sleights, including false shuffles and deals. This could be the next step after you’ve studied The Royal Road.
Card College Vol. 3 to 5
These three books follow up on the first two volumes we mentioned in the beginner chapter. Volumes 3 and 4 are tightly bonded together, and Volume 5 is a standalone book in the series.
Volumes 3 and 4 directly follow up on the first two Volumes and pick up where Volume 2 ended. They let you dive even deeper into the world of card magic. They include card controls (including the Diagonal Palm Shift), false shuffles, multiple forcing and palming techniques, and more. Volume 5 focuses on more difficult and complex routines and sleights, such as signature duplication.
Ed Marlo Books
Every avid card magic student has heard about Ed Marlo. He is one of the giants of card magic, as he helped build it into its modern form. Ed Marlo created hundreds of tricks and sleights during his life. Magic Inc. recently completed its Marlo trilogy, making many of Marlo’s creations available to current magicians.
The trilogy consists of Revolutionary Card Technique, Cardially Yours, and finally, Marlo The Final Cut. Collectively, it offers more than one thousand pages filled with Marlo’s routines, techniques, subtleties, and tips for improving your card magic.
Murphy's Magic reprinted two more Ed Marlo books in 2023 - M.I.N.T. #1 and M.I.N.T. #2. M.I.N.T. stands for Marlo In New Tops. New Tops Magazine was a magic magazine published between 1961 and 1994, and Marlo was a regular contributor between 1963 and 1979. Both books compile over 100 of Marlo's contributions, covering various sleight of hand techniques, tricks, subtleties, and other tips.
By Forces Unseen
Ernest Earick was known for his effortless but knuckle-busting, sleight-of-hand skills. His visual but challenging effects are not for the faint of heart.
Ernest’s tricks, sleights, and style of magic are explored in his book By Forces Unseen, which has been widely regarded as one of the most challenging books in card magic.
In this book, you will find Claptrap, a visual production of three selected cards; House Guest, a fast and visual card-to-box routine; Longitudinal Swivel Steal, and tips on the elusive One-Handed Bottom Palm.
Brilliant Card Magic Books About a Unique Topic
Push Your Memory
Memorized deck magic has massively grown in popularity since the release of Juan Tamariz’s book Mnemonica. Being able to take out a deck and immediately perform miracles, in many cases without using sleight of hand, is attractive to many magicians.
Mnemonica is the bible of memorized deck magic. It teaches Tamariz’s stack in great detail and gives you tips and tools to learn it in the shortest time possible. More importantly, this giant book includes dozens of routines you can perform with a deck stacked in the Mnemonica order, some of which are built into the stack and require minimum sleight of hand.
If you know your way around Mnemonica, Aronson, or any other stack, you might want to explore ideas from people working with a stacked deck. Pit Hartling’s In Order to Amaze is one of those books.
Pit shares more than twenty stacked deck routines in his book, with most being stack-independent. This means you can perform the tricks with the stack you use and know and don’t have to learn a new one.
Woody Aragón’s Memorandum has to be mentioned when talking about memorized deck magic. Memorandum is Woody’s original stack with many features built into it, and also a book covering everything there is to know about the stack. The interesting thing about the stack is that, in many effects, Woody uses only half of the stack.
It’s Been There The Whole Time
Switching a deck for another one is fantastic for a trick itself, but it is even more powerful when working with a trick or stacked deck.
Imagine letting your spectator shuffle the deck, immediately switching it out for a stacked one, and continuing with your memorized/stacked deck magic. Or you can do it the opposite way. Perform a trick with, for example, a Svengali Deck, and then switch it out for a standard one your spectators can inspect.
Deck switches are an underused tool in magicians’ arsenals. If you’re working with trick or stacked decks, we highly recommend exploring at least a few deck switch ideas. The Art of Switching Decks book by Roberto Giobbi is possibly the best source for that.
Roberto shares and explains more than thirty deck switches in great detail and includes additional tips and ideas for even more switches. All of the switches are gimmickless. All you need is pockets. The book comes with a DVD with Roberto’s lecture, where you can see him perform some of the switches included in the book.
New Ways to Perform With a Well-Known Trick Deck(s)
Every beginner or advanced magician has tried a stripper deck at least once. Maybe you found it in your first magic set or grabbed a standard Bicycle one. Or perhaps you have one of our Butterfly Stripper decks that combines the classic features of a stripper deck with our unique markings. Everybody knows that classic effect where the magician strips out the selected card from the deck. How could you use the stripper deck differently?
That’s where Michael Feldman and Ryan Plunkett step in with their book, A New Angle. This publication is devoted solely to magic with a tapered deck, which is the correct term for the stripper deck.
They teach several effects with the tapered deck, all unique in their use of the deck. They also show you a few ways to make the tapered deck at home.
Oh, I almost forgot. Another staple of magic shops all over the world is the Svengali deck. This is one of the most popular and best-selling decks. It is an excellent tool for beginner magicians, but skilled magicians can perform absolute miracles with it.
Ben Harris took the concept behind the Svengali deck and elevated it to a new level. His project Symmetry, Parity and the Chimera Deck brings new twists to the timeless classic. The set includes a book with numerous routines and three trick decks. Yes, three.
They enable you to perform a two-phase color-changing deck routine, a routine in which the faces and backs are printed on the cards, or a plethora of routines with the last deck, which can even be given to the spectator!
A Sleight Torture
If you’re looking to stretch your fingers to their absolute limit If An Octopus Could Palm by Dan & Dave might be the weapon of choice for you. This collection of experimental palming techniques was first invented for practice purposes but later developed into sleights that can be used in performance.
The most practical sleight in this book might be the Cascade Control, which is used to control a selected card to the top of the deck during a Waterfall flourish. It also includes Threading, a card replacement in Bottom Palm.
Possibly the most discussed item from this collection is Undertow. It is widely regarded as one of the most challenging moves in card magic. Will you be able to master it?
We hope this guide gave you a better idea of which book to choose. If you’re still on the fence and can’t decide which book might be the best for you, don't hesitate to get in touch with us. We’ll be more than happy to help.