There are many books for the beginner, but four classics which I recommend are as follows:

Scarne’s Magic Tricks by John Scarne


Before learning sleight of hand, it can help the beginner to learn some simple effects and perform them well. In so doing the student will learn the basics of effect, method, misdirection, presentation, and interaction. One book that contains a wealth of material, not just for the beginner but also the experienced magician, is Scarne’s Magic Tricks. For starters try:

  • Coin Through Handkerchief, p. 9
  • Chalk Penetration, p. 15
  • Is He Alive?, p. 23
  • The Magic Toothpick, p. 26
  • Solid through Solid, p. 35
  • Initial in Fire, p. 39
  • The Trick Spoon, p. 46
  • Three to One, p. 55
  • Mathematics Plus, p. 66
  • Spots Before the Eyes, p. 92
  • Classical Rope Trick, p. 104
  • Fourth-Dimensional Knot, p. 113
  • Finger Waves, p. 106
  • Coin Through Elbow, p. 157
  • Telepathy Par Excellence, p. 181
  • The Turnabout Bill. P. 185
  • Roping a Handkerchief, p. 205
  • Reproducing Sponges, p. 242

Many other classic effects are also described, but some lack the necessary details for the beginner to learn effectively. The companion volume, Scarne on Card Tricks by the same author, is also recommended.

Mark Wilson’s Complete Course in Magic by Mark Wilson


This is a big book and may be intimidating at first perusal. However, like Scarne, this book contains many of the classics. Again, for the complete beginner, the following tricks will be at once simple and yet challenging enough to learn and perform well:

  • The Fantastic Five, p. 32
  • Turn Over Card, p. 34
  • You Do as I Do, p. 44
  • Spell-a-Card – Outdone, p. 51
  • The Card Through the Handkerchief, p. 70
  • Magically Multiply Your Money, p. 181
  • The Pinch or Drop Vanish, p. 189
  • Coin Through Leg, p. 195
  • Coin-a-Go-Go, p. 197
  • Continuous Coins, p. 200
  • The Coin Roll, p. 219
  • Cut and Restored Rope – First Method, p. 237
  • The Knot Through the Arm, p. 273
  • The Penetrating Handkerchief, p. 275
  • The Broken and Restored Match, p. 285
  • Cords of Fantasia, p. 303
  • Glass Through the Table, p. 314
  • The Comedy Cut and Restored Paper, p. 353
  • Cups and Balls, p. 425

The reader could also try one or two phases of Sponge Sorcery, p. 393.

The Royal Road to Card Magic by Jean Hugard and Frederick Braue


This book is the classic textbook which, if all the chapters were studied in their entirety, could take a student from beginner to expert. To get started, try the effects below. Because of the multiple editions, I haven’t given page numbers in the list below, but the book is indexed:

  • Topsy-Turvy Cards
  • A Poker Player’s Picnic
  • Thought Stealer
  • Mirror of the Mind
  • Design for Laughter
  • Gray’s Spelling Trick
  • Do As I Do
  • The Twenty-Sixth Card
  • The Tantaliser
  • The Sevens
  • Obliging Aces
  • A Poker Puzzle
  • Circus Card Trick
  • Pulse Trick
  • The Selective Touch

Modern Coin Magic by J.B. Bobo


There are few tricks in this book for the total beginner, but if you work your way slowly through the chapters you can master a few techniques and also study the following tricks along the way:

  • Through the Hand (b), p. 67
  • Through a Handkerchief (a), p. 68
  • Coin Production from Two Cards, p. 88
  • Two Pennies on the Leg, p. 143
  • Variation, p. 153
  • Coin Through a Ring, new method, p. 172

Would I recommend The New Modern Coin Magic by J.B. Bobo? This is the expanded edition with several new chapters. While I highly recommend this for the intermediate student, for the beginner the smaller, softback edition will suffice.