The best books on Magic (illusion)

Many authors have picked their favorite books about Magic (illusion) and why they recommend each book.

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The Glorious Deception

By Jim Steinmeyer,

Book cover of The Glorious Deception: The Double Life of William Robinson, aka Chung Ling Soo, the Marvelous Chinese Conjurer

I instinctively gravitate toward characters stricken with identity issues. It's one of the reasons I've spent years specialising in writing comics, where alternate personae and false realities are fundamental storytelling tools. Growing up, I first read the story of Robinson in a conjuring book, and it caught my imagination fiercely. Like Houdini, Robinson's commitment to maintaining his performance identity was full-blooded—to the point that the myths surrounding his death have virtually swallowed the story of his life. Steinmeyer navigates a complex tale of dual identities with the ease of a seasoned magician. Chung Ling Soo, one of the world's greatest vaudeville stars, died on stage in 1918 when a bullet catch trick went tragically wrong. William Robinson, however, had been fading away for many years by then.

The Glorious Deception

By Jim Steinmeyer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Glorious Deception as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In a biography woven from equal parts enchantment and mystery, master illusion designer and today's foremost magic historian, Jim Steinmeyer, unveils the astonishing secrets behind the enigmatic performer Chung Ling Soo, the "marvellous Chinese Conjurer" , a magician whose life of intrigue and daring remains unparalleled to this day. He learned his art during a revolutionary era in show business, just as minstrel, circus, and variety saloons were being stirred together and distilled into a heady new concoction: vaudeville. Soo's infamous death in 1918 astonished the world: he was killed during a performance of "Defying the Bullets," his popular act…

Who am I?

Robert-Houdin, Houdini's first and greatest inspiration, famously said that a magician is an actor playing the role of a sorcerer. When I started out writing professionally, I quickly found myself drawn to characters who are at odds with themselves, living in their own shadows. There's a core tension in the stories these people inhabit that, for me, reflects the structure of a magic trick, with its misdirection and layered realities. I always try to incorporate the principles of magic into my writing, and the figurative masks my characters wear to function in worlds that alienate them are a major part of that.


I wrote...

Indifference Engine

By Cy Dethan, Rob Carey (illustrator),

Book cover of Indifference Engine

What is my book about?

Responding to a strangely specific job advertisement, underachieving suburban slacker Alan Blake suddenly finds himself the newest recruit of an interdimensional task force staffed entirely by superhuman alternate-reality versions of himself. Blackmailed by an insane supercomputer, Alan is forced to kill in order to live. With every murder he commits, another world ends—but, inevitably, the only person he ever hurts is himself.

Angel Killer

By Andrew Mayne,

Book cover of Angel Killer: A Jessica Blackwood Novel

Multiple ingenious impossible crimes feature into the first Jessica Blackwood thriller by magician Andrew Mayne. A killer calling himself the Warlock claims to be using supernatural powers to perform deadly miracles, and only former stage magician Jessica Blackwood, now an FBI agent, can see through his tricks. Because magicians create misdirection for a living, they’re perfect characters to unravel seemingly impossible crimes. As a bonus, Jessica Blackwood is a terrific character you’ll root for. 

Angel Killer

By Andrew Mayne,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Angel Killer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Meet Jessica Blackwood, FBI Agent and ex-illusionist.

Called in because of her past to offer expertise on the mysterious 'Warlock' case, Jessica must put all her unique knowledge to the test as the FBI try to catch a ruthless killer.

Needing to solve the unsolvable, and with the clock ticking, they're banking on her being the only one able to see beyond the Warlock's illusions.

The first in a brilliant new series, Angel Killer will have you feverishly turning the pages, and in Jessica Blackwood, Mayne has created a complex, sassy and unforgettable new heroine.

'Professional illusionist Mayne introduces a…

Who am I?

I’ve always been drawn to locked-room mysteries, the baffling mysteries where the crime looks truly impossible. The mystery becomes not only who did it, but also how. It’s the ultimate puzzle. The best locked-room mysteries include gothic elements that make you wonder if something supernatural is responsible, but then are resolved with a satisfying rational explanation—like Scooby-Doo for adults. I’ve written more than a dozen mystery novels, but until now, I’ve only focused on locked-room mysteries in my short fiction. In my new Secret Staircase mystery series, I’m focusing on these puzzles in my novels. Here, I’m sharing some of my favorite locked-room mysteries that feature truly ingenious puzzles. 


I wrote...

Book cover of Under Lock & Skeleton Key: A Secret Staircase Mystery

What is my book about?

An impossible crime, a family curse, and the intrigue of hidden rooms and secret staircases…. Stage illusionist Tempest Raj has had her career sabotaged and has moved back home to work for the family business, Secret Staircase Construction, a company that builds magical elements like sliding bookcases and hidden libraries into peoples’ homes.

But trouble follows Tempest home, and her former stage double is found dead inside a wall that’s been sealed for nearly a century, which is impossible. Tempest must figure out not only who’s guilty, but how they did it—while proving that the Raj family curse that’s plagued her family for generations, from India to Scotland to California, doesn’t exist.

Magician

By Raymond E. Feist,

Book cover of Magician

While I grew up on Narnia, The Lord of the Rings, and His Dark Materials, I still credit Feist’s Riftwar Saga for sparking my true love of fantasy. This epic spans a total of 31 books, crafting a multigenerational tale of a world of magic, cataclysm, monsters, and continuously rising stakes that never feel trite.

Through all my years reading, nothing has topped it. It’s high time I start a re-read.

Magician

By Raymond E. Feist,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Magician as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the westernmost province of the Kingdom of the Isles, upon the world of Midkemia, an orphan kitchen boy named Pug was made apprentice to the magician Kulgan.

Here starts an adventure that will span lifetimes and worlds. Discover where the story begins.

The world had changed even before I discovered the foreign ship wrecked on the shore below Crydee Castle, but it was the harbinger of the chaos and death that was coming to our door.

War had come to the Kingdom of the Isles, and in the years that followed it would scatter my friends across the world.…


Who am I?

I’m a South African fantasy and sci-fi author. I’ve been reading, watching, and playing fantasy since the gods deigned to send me to this world. Since school, I’ve been crafting fantasy realms for my friends to play in for D&D. Fantastical worlds, wondrous magic and brutal monsters fill all my books. I also adore history and philosophy, and let both permeate my fantasy and sci-fi novels.


I wrote...

Part-Time Monster Hunter

By Nicholas Woode-Smith,

Book cover of Part-Time Monster Hunter

What is my book about?

When a ghost from another world possesses Kat Drummond, she could be forgiven for being upset. But instead, she takes the chance to become a monster hunter in the darkness-infested Hope City.

With the help of her ghostly companion, and a pair of swords she bought on the internet, Kat will stop at nothing to become the greatest hunter in the city. Those bills aren’t going to pay themselves after all…

Lotus

By Jennifer Hartmann,

Book cover of Lotus

This story consumed me and I could not put the book down. I would wake up in the middle of the night to read more of it. As an avid reader, I have books that I liked, books that I loved, and then I have a list of books that are riveting and that speak to my soul. Those are the books I reread and think about often. This book was saved under that last list. Watching Oliver interact with everyone after the ordeal he went through was soul-shattering. Seeing Sydney be a source of comfort, patience and a well of overflowing love to him was just beautiful. Hartmann even made me feel emotions for someone I thought I would initially hate, but ended up feeling bad for at the end of the book. She is a magician with words. That’s why it is a top pick for me for…

Lotus

By Jennifer Hartmann,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lotus as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Who am I?

Seeing couples that are still in love after being with one another for 50+ years has always warmed my heart. Seeing my grandparents hold one another’s hands and look at each other with love always made me hopeful to find such a love. I have not been blessed to have that kind of love in my life (yet) but that does not stop me from looking for it and finding it in books. The characters in my favorite books are ones I identify with on some level. They are loyal, do not give up and they love wholeheartedly, even if they make some missteps along the way, the end destination always ends up being deeply in love. And I love cheering on characters when they deal with everyday issues and roadblocks on this journey of love. 


I wrote...

The Truth About Adira

By Anna Paulsen,

Book cover of The Truth About Adira

What is my book about?

The Truth About Adira is a story about second chances as well as a story of finding a type of love that shines a light into places that were once encompassed by utter darkness. This type of light is a guiding beacon that warms a heart that has learned to protect itself by isolating itself.

The Truth About Adira takes you on a journey of exploring the past while building a solid foundation in the present for the future. 

Book cover of The Old Forest and Other Stories

Taylor is one of the authors who made me want to be a writer. He’s a magician of the short story, compressing events and characters from the upper South into luminous stories that can seem more real than life. He wrote longhand in poetic lines, usually drafting about a hundred pages for every ten he kept. The result is a rich reduction of scenes that move us to laughter and tears. Taylor holds the mirror up to life, and you can’t help but be drawn in.

The Old Forest and Other Stories

By Peter Taylor,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Old Forest and Other Stories as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Who am I?

I grew up in North Carolina and Washington, D.C., and have since lived in Arkansas and Virginia. My two novels are historical, set in the late 1800s and early 1900s in Virginia and North Carolina, and are heavily influenced by the great Southern writers. My books feature family dramas, how the land interacts with characters, questions of fate and personal action, and the decisions that change people’s lives. I love Faulkner, but you’ll find him on every list. He influenced every writer who came later, but there are plenty of other heavy hitters to choose from. Here are a few favorites.


I wrote...

The Reservoir: A Novel

By John Milliken Thompson,

Book cover of The Reservoir: A Novel

What is my book about?

In 1885 in Richmond, Virginia a young pregnant woman is found floating in the city reservoir. It appears she has committed suicide, but there are curious clues at the scene that suggest foul play. The case attracts local attention, and an eccentric group of men collaborate to solve the crime. As the identity of the girl, Lillie, is revealed, her dark family history comes to light, and the investigation focuses on her tumultuous affair with Tommie Cluverius.

Tommie, an ambitious young lawyer, is the pride and joy of his family and the polar opposite of his brother Willie, a quiet, humble farmer. Though both men loved Lillie, it’s Tommie’s reckless affair that thrusts his family into the spotlight. Told through accumulating revelations, Tommie’s story finally ends in a riveting courtroom climax.

The Magician's Nephew

By C.S. Lewis, Pauline Baynes (illustrator),

Book cover of The Magician's Nephew

Queens can be good, or evil, or anywhere between. The Magician’s Nephew introduced me (many years ago now) to one of my favourite evil queens – Jadis, later known as the White Witch who plunges Narnia into eternal winter. Unlike some other fictional queens, Jadis is not someone I would either aspire to be or want to hang out with, but her bloody-minded determination is not something any reader is going to forget in a hurry. Unable to defeat her sister, she casts a spell that destroys her entire world rather than lose. The kind of behaviour that definitely ought to be confined to the pages of a fantasy novel.

The Magician's Nephew

By C.S. Lewis, Pauline Baynes (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Magician's Nephew as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A beautiful paperback edition of The Magician's Nephew, book one in the classic fantasy series, The Chronicles of Narnia. This edition is complete with cover and interior art by the original illustrator, Pauline Baynes.

On a daring quest to save a life, two friends are hurled into another world, where an evil sorceress seeks to enslave them. But then the lion Aslan's song weaves itself into the fabric of a new land, a land that will be known as Narnia. And in Narnia, all things are possible.

The Magician's Nephew is the first book in C. S. Lewis's classic fantasy…


Who am I?

I write YA fantasy novels with my sister, Liz. A Throne of Swans (our fourth book) is the first in a duology which features two fierce, shape-shifting queens. Since we both studied history at university, we’re particularly drawn to fantasy settings with a historical element, whether that’s a royal court or tall ships from the age of sail. In real history, queens wielding power tend to be rare or at least overlooked; Catherine of Aragon’s divorce is common knowledge, her wartime regency of England less so. Writing about and reading about powerful queens in fantasy novels is, I think, one small way of redressing the balance.  


I wrote...

A Throne Of Swans

By Katharine Corr,

Book cover of A Throne Of Swans

What is my book about?

When her father dies just before her birthday, seventeen-year-old Aderyn inherits the role of Protector of Atratys, a dominion in a kingdom where nobles are able to transform at will into the bird that represents their family bloodline. Aderyn's ancestral bird is a swan. But she has not transformed for years, not since witnessing the death of her mother - ripped apart by hawks that have supposedly been extinct since the long-ago War of the Raptors.

Aderyn is at the mercy of her brutal uncle, the King, and his royal court. She must venture into the malevolent heart of the Citadel in order to seek the truth about the attack that nearly destroyed her, to fight for the only home she has ever known and for the land she has vowed to protect.

Magician

By Raymond E. Feist,

Book cover of Magician: Apprentice

Magician: Apprentice is the gateway to Feist’s fantastic Midkemia, a world of heroes, magic, monsters, and political intrigue. In a remote corner of the Kingdom, orphan Pug struggles to learn magic. After saving the duke’s daughter, Pug joins the court, which is where the story takes an unexpected twist. The Kingdom comes under attack by invaders from another world. Pug and his friend Tomas become embroiled in the struggle, which pushes each to become more than they ever dreamed possible. The arc of the story continues through three more surprise-filled books. Impressively, Feist continues to spin out new tales exploring every corner of Midkemia, but it all starts with Pug. Midkemia is my favorite fantasy world.

Magician

By Raymond E. Feist,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Magician as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Who am I?

As a child, my parents and teachers struggled to turn me into a reader. Summer reading assignments only compounded the problem. That changed when I discovered classic fantasy stories built around worlds filled with questing heroes, sorcerous villains, and dragons. The combination of fantastic worlds and wonderful characters creates a magical experience enjoyable for readers of any age. My nine published books follow this recipe—characters readers care about in worlds they want to live in. My recommended books engage readers of any age without resorting to foul language, overt sex, or graphic violence.


I wrote...

The Poisoned Princess: Warders Book 1

By Armen Pogharian,

Book cover of The Poisoned Princess: Warders Book 1

What is my book about?

Falsely convicted and exiled for attacking his friend, half-elven half-barbarian Toran flees to neighboring Eridan. Following his uncle’s advice, he finds work in the seedy Knife & Cat tavern. During the princess’s welcoming parade, Toran uses elven skills and barbarian battle rage to thwart her assassination. His actions earn him an invitation to join the secret protectors of Eridan, the Warders.

A second attempt succeeds in poisoning the princess but fails to kill her. Toran, a veteran dwarf agent, and the princess's lady in waiting embark on a mission to retrieve the antidote's key ingredient. Other Warder agents work with the thieves' guild to protect the comatose princess from the assassin, the sorceress Skade, and an unknown traitor within the royal household.

The Magic of Math

By Arthur Benjamin,

Book cover of The Magic of Math: Solving for X and Figuring Out Why

Have you ever been to a mathematics lecture where the speaker wore a tuxedo and baffled the audience with his mystifying knowledge of numbers? Well, I have and the speaker was Arthur Benjamin, who combined mathematics and magic. He even displayed this knowledge with Stephen Colbert on his earlier show The Colbert Report. It is our good fortune that he describes much of this mathematical wizardry in this fascinating book. 

The Magic of Math

By Arthur Benjamin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Magic of Math as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A New York Times Bestseller Arthur Benjamin . . . joyfully shows you how to make nature's numbers dance." ,Bill Nye The Magic of Math is the math book you wish you had in school. Using a delightful assortment of examples,from ice-cream scoops and poker hands to measuring mountains and making magic squares,this book revels in key mathematical fields including arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and calculus, plus Fibonacci numbers, infinity, and, of course, mathematical magic tricks. Known throughout the world as the mathemagician," Arthur Benjamin mixes mathematics and magic to make the subject fun, attractive, and easy to understand for math…

Who am I?

I have enjoyed mathematics and writing since I’ve been a kid, not only enjoying doing research in mathematics but assisting others to appreciate and enjoy mathematics. Along the way, I’ve gained an interest in the history of mathematics and the mathematicians who created mathematics. Perhaps most important, my primary goal has been to show others how enjoyable mathematics can be. Mathematics has given me the marvelous opportunity to meet and work with other mathematicians who have a similar passion for mathematics.


I wrote...

Mathematical Proofs: A Transition to Advanced Mathematics

By Gary Chartrand, Albert Polimeni, Ping Zhang

Book cover of Mathematical Proofs: A Transition to Advanced Mathematics

What is my book about?

Why was this book written? This is the book its three authors wish we had when we were students. If you have encountered calculus already, then what lies beyond it? This is what this book is all about. What exactly does a mathematician do? Some mathematicians simply enjoy mathematics – others also create new mathematics. They look for or observe patterns that suggest something appears to be true. If they guess correctly, then they need to convince others why it’s true, beyond any doubt. This is where proofs enter.

For example, the famous mathematician Ron Graham felt that all numbers (positive integers) are interesting. Suppose not. Then there is a smallest number that’s not interesting – which makes this number interesting. That’s a proof! 

The Spirit World Unmasked

By Henry Ridgely Evans,

Book cover of The Spirit World Unmasked

Like Spirit Slate Writing and Kindred Phenomena, this 1897 book exposes the various ways that Spiritualist mediums manifest ghosts. Henry Ridgely Evans was a magician and historian who took on the Spiritualist movement, much like Harry Houdini would in the decades that followed. Filled with wondrous stories, secrets, and illustrations, this book is a must for any fan of Spiritualism and/or magic.

The Spirit World Unmasked

By Henry Ridgely Evans,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Spirit World Unmasked as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Who am I?

Though I’ve always found the idea of survival after death fascinating, it was my interest in Modern Spiritualism that really sparked the desire to write Chasing Ghosts. That era (mid-1800s to the early 1900s) was a time when millions confidently believed they could communicate with the dead. Of course, this was only the tip of the paranormal iceberg. So I continued the journey into the lore of haunted places, ancient cultural beliefs, and scientific endeavors to find evidence for paranormal experiences or to debunk it. As a historian of the weirder pages of the past, this topic endlessly fascinates me. I hope it will for you as well. 


I wrote...

Chasing Ghosts: A Tour of Our Fascination with Spirits and the Supernatural

By Marc Hartzman,

Book cover of Chasing Ghosts: A Tour of Our Fascination with Spirits and the Supernatural

What is my book about?

Ghosts are everywhere—whether you believe in them or not. Every town has its local legends, and countless books, movies, and TV shows are haunted by their presence. But our obsession with ghosts runs deeper than we know—and is embedded in the very fabric of American history.
 
Writer and historian Marc Hartzman dons the mantle of tour guide, taking readers on a fascinating journey through supernatural history, including: The Fox Sisters and the rise of Spiritualism; the supernatural obsessions of famous figures; famous haunted sites; and famous ghosts like the Bell Witch of Tennessee Deeply researched and highly entertaining, with archival images and black and white illustrations, Chasing Ghosts will satisfy believers and skeptics alike.

Book cover of Carter Beats the Devil

Carter Beats the Devil is a historical mystery thriller based on a real character, a magician named Carter who is under suspicion of killing the president of the United States. There are plenty of powerful figures after him, and yet, he must dig deep into his own bag of tricks to outwit and escape them. Carter is a supremely enjoyable character who also happens to have a really cool job! I have always been fascinated by magic and this book takes you behind the curtain to see all that goes into the stagecraft.

Carter Beats the Devil

By Glen Gold,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Carter Beats the Devil as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The mysterious death of President Harding in 1923 is only the curtain raiser to this extraordinary novel of magic and science. Charles Carter is Carter the Great, a name given to him by the supreme showman, Harry Houdini. Carter was born into privilege but became a magician out of need. Only at the moment of the performance, when an audience is brought together by a single experience, can Carter defeat his crippling fear of loneliness. But with every step into the twentieth Century, the stakes are growing higher. Science and the cinema are fast out-stripping even the master magician and…

Who am I?

I worked in television for 25 years so when I wrote my novel, Death Warrant, about a reality TV show that kills people, I had a wealth of experience to draw from (not the killing part, but the TV part). And one of my experiences in TV was promoting reality TV programs on the stations I worked for. What did I come away with from that? That I really hate reality TV. Why? Because there is virtually nothing real about it. The shows are produced to within an inch of their lives. So, anything I could do that takes a swipe at reality TV, that satirizes it a bit, I was all in.

I wrote...

Death Warrant

By Bryan Johnston,

Book cover of Death Warrant

What is my book about?

Frankie Percival is cashing in her chips. To save her brother from financial ruin, Frankie, a stage performer who never made it big, agrees to be assassinated on the most popular television show on the planet: Death Warrant. But once she signs her life away, her memory is wiped clean of the agreement, leaving her with no idea she will soon be killed in spectacular fashion for global entertainment. After years of working in low-rent theaters, Frankie prepares for the biggest performance of her life that could catapult her to the top, if only she lives that long.

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