How do you learn Mentalism?
If Mentalism is such a secret art, how then do Mentalists learn to do their amazing feats?
Which Mentalism Books should I read?
The answers are simple. Mentalists learn their secrets from books and other media or directly from other performers! Secrets and skills are passed on from performer to performer either through the written word, DVD’s or via tutorials, training, mentorship and association. Read on and I will give you my recommended books!
I’ve been performing Mentalism for the last 40 years all over the world, from Casinos and Luxury Cruise Ships to Corporate Events and Private Parties. (You can read my full Bio here.) During this time, I’ve seen the Art of Mentalism evolve from a tiny niche pursuit, to where it is now, one of the most popular forms of the Mystery Arts. I’ve also been fortunate to meet and spend time with most of the top level mentalists of our time.
But one thing hasn’t changed much. Despite the proliferation of DVD’s and Online Videos, the most popular way to learn mentalism is still through the study of books. I personally own many hundreds of titles, and yes, I’ve written a couple of mentalism books myself. ( Details.)
In a previous article I explored some of the highly sought after rare Limited Edition books available in the field, but in this article I going to recommend some of the most popular easily obtainable titles and give my advice on which ones you should tackle first. These are all highly recommended, I own them all, and have read them multiple times.
When it comes to performing Mentalism, we stand on the shoulders of giants. By this I mean those great performers before us who forged a career in the field and then shared their knowledge and insights. These are the books I will mainly focus on.
Unfortunately, one of the downsides to the surge in popularity of Mentalism in the last 10 years, is that there is suddenly a raft of new effects and mentalism books coming out that are at best “pipe dreams” or minor variations on some the classics. Worse, the authors often have only minor experience in the field or just a few years performing in the real world.
I know all the books I’m going to talk about have great advice and great effects developed through the authors years of experience. I still use much of this material in my work on luxury cruise ships like the Queen Mary 2 and in my Corporate performances.
One of the great things about the time in which we now live, is that many of these books are now available as eBooks or Kindle editions, meaning that they are not only affordable but are also easily accessed when you have few minutes spare to study them.
So, lets look at some of them.
I’ve divided my recommendations here into –
Quick Start – A few ideal titles for beginners
Classics – The “Must Have” foundations
The Reader – A beginner and an advanced volume
Body Language – A couple of my favourite books
Insights from Performers – Insights from a superstar Mentalist
Memory Skills – Essential Training for any Performer
Check back on this page at a later date as I will be adding to the selections.
Mentalism Books – Quick Start
If you are just starting out in Mentalism and want to explore a few easy effects in a bargain volume, I always recommend a beginner starts with Karl Fulves “Self-Working Mental Magic.” The by line says “67 Foolproof Mind-Reading Tricks.”
The title is only partly true. You do have to put in a bit of work, but what I like about this as a starting book, is that it covers a lot of different areas. You’ll get a taste of many different ideas, themes and techniques. The downside is that because of the size of the volume, Fulves speeds through the effects a bit, only giving you the basic routine, explanation or principle. Mentalism needs many subtle nuances to make it really effective, something our other authors will provide, but as a great place to start and test the water, this is a bargain.
Mentalism Books – Two Classics
Practical Mental Magic by Annemann
This is the oldest book of the ones I’m recommending here, published back in 1944.
Ted Annemann was a brilliant American performer and a giant in the field of Mentalism. A prolific inventor and writer as well, publishing many great books plus his acclaimed Jinx magazine. He was also a very troubled man, eventually taking his life.
When you first look through the book you’re probably going to think, “oh, this is a bit old!” Strange illustrations, props and concepts. But dig a little deeper and you will see the inspiration of most themes & effects you will still see performed today. In fact, in the last few series of “America’s Got Talent” you would have seen several routines based on Annemanns work!
This book is very big and covers a huge range of performance effects from both Annemann and his friends. It’s also fascinating as a link back to the performers of a generation before him, as he studied and brought their work into a more modern fast paced world.
There are effects with paper and pencils, a chapter on publicity effects, books, codes, envelopes, money, cards, blindfolds and more.
As I mentioned, you may at first glance think that these effects are a bit “old school” but the lessons you will learn in studying this book are priceless and it’s no wonder most mentalists give it as their top recommendation.
Tony Corinda – 13 Steps to Mentalism
What a great book this is and I could guarantee that you would find a well thumbed copy on the bookshelf of every well known mentalist in the world!
Corinda was an English performer, inventor, dealer and writer who took it on himself to write what became an encyclopedia of Mentalism! Published nearly 20 years after the Annemann title, things have moved on a bit, concepts refined and new approaches developed.
His original concept was to publish each step as an individual volume, the course building “step by step.” I still remember seeing individual volumes for sale when I first started frequenting magic shops. It’s success led to it then being published in one big volume, the form you see it in now.
And what a great volume it is. One thing that’s fascinating is to see the slightly different approach of the United Kingdom Mentalists as compared to the approach in the Annemann volume discussed above, though both books do have plenty of contributions from both sides of the Atlantic.
So what’s inside? Every performer will have their own favourite chapter!
I love Step Three – “Mnemonics and Mental Systems” and I used several of these routines in my performances on cruise ships.
I also love Step Seven where he explores effects with Books and Directories, both of which were also in my Corporate Mentalism act.
Do you detect a theme here? This book has solid, practical and commercial material that is still workable today!
If you are keen on Two Person Telepathy, which seems to be going through a revival at the moment you will love Step Eight. Elsewhere in the book, you can learn – Predictions, about Blindfolds, Q&A and quite a good section on Séance work.
He also goes into Presentation, Patter and Publicity in great detail, things not really covered as well in the Annemann book. The interview with the great Maurice Fogel is also brilliant and well worth a study. I also love the publicity photos of many great working performers of the time.
If you were allowed to buy just two Mentalism Books in your life, you have just read about them. There is enough material here for many lifetimes of study and enough great commercial material to build a career if that was your desire.
Mentalism Books – Reading People
The art of “Reading People” is a fascinating advanced skill that stands by itself as an art form or as an essential addition to the Mentalists Toolkit to be added and employed in other routines.
I’ve met many excellent practitioners of the Art over the years including the legendary Herb Dewey and of course my countryman, the prolific author Richard Webster. All of their books are excellent.
In many ways I believe “Reading People” is a matter of holding a metaphorical mirror up, so that people see themselves in different ways and to paraphrase Shakespeare … see that they are not alone in the world.
A nice way to get into the field is a small book by Julian Moore titled The James Bond Cold Reading. Julian has written a number of books and I think I have them all. There are plenty of other more comprehensive works but this is a good place to start as it will get you doing readings very quickly and he has developed an excellent method to teach all of his material.
The actual concept of these readings is based on the 1940’s work of an American psychologist Bertram Forer who developed several stock lines that could be used with any person to great effect. What Julian has done is … updated the lines to more modern language, added variations so you can use them with different people and developed a great way to teach you how to learn them.
A much more comprehensive book on Cold Reading is The Full facts Book of Cold Reading by Ian Rowland. Surprisingly, this volume was written from more of a sceptics point of view, however he goes into such detail about Cold Reading and it’s subtle variations that it has become a classic for people wanting to learn how to do it.
It’s very detailed and that is why I suggest the Julian Moore book as a better place to start, but once you are keen to dive in deep, this is the place to go. Another criticism of the book is that it has more of a focus on the “science” of Cold Reading rather than the “art” of Cold Reading. In a follow up article to this I’ll give my recommendations in that field.
Mentalism Books – Body Language
Another popular premise for a lot of mentalists is Body Language and it’s used as a theme in many strong mentalism effects like – Lie Detector routines, Gambling “tells”, Hidden Objects etc.
So, if you are either using the actual skills of Reading Body Language or just using the theme as a premise in how you are achieving the effects, having a good grounding in Body Language is essential. You need to be using the correct language to be convincing.
Joe Navarro is a former FBI Agent and his book What every Body is Saying is highly regarded in the field. He not only covers how to “speed-read” people, you’ll also learn how your body language can influence what your boss, family, friends, and strangers think of you.
So, it’s a book that can help you both onstage and offstage as well!
An alternative book that I really like is The Definitive Book of Body Language by Allan and Barbara Pease. I’ve met Allan on a number of occasions, he’s an excellent speaker, both funny and informative with a wealth of knowledge.
In the 1980’s he wrote a book Body Language that became a best seller. It was aimed mainly at Sales People, which was a field he knew extremely well. This new volume has a broader focus and is a perfect way to learn about the Art of Body Language.
Mentalism Books – A Modern star of Mentalism
Derren Brown is a phenomena in the world of Mentalism. His stage shows sell out every year and his Television specials create controversy and consistently high ratings. So anything he writes should be of interest to fellow performers.
While he has written several books for mentalists, this book, Tricks of the Mind, is written for the general public, but it covers a wide range of interesting topics. Memory skills, Body Language and Susceptibility amongst others.
Don’t buy this book thinking you will learn a huge number of great mentalism effects, I’ve already told you where to do that. Rather read it to find out more about topics that the public are interested in, a field that Derren understands extremely well. Some great anecdotes from his performing life and of course a little controversy to spice things up.
Mentalism Books – Memory Skills
I think every performer in every field benefits from having more powerful Memory skills! You learn things quicker and you have more confidence onstage.
I have a huge library of books on Memory Skills and have performed many Memory based effects over the years. Having a strong memory opens up a huge range of blockbuster effects that a lot of magicians will never attempt as they perceive they are too difficult!
A little work in developing a grounding in the skills and you are way ahead of the rest. Effects like – Memorised Deck, Super Memory, Knights Tour, Magazine Memory to name but a few. But you will also remember scripts and move sequences better.
A great book to learn a solid foundation in skills is from Mr Memory himself Harry Lorayne. Harry has written many books on the topic, The Memory Book is a classic and can be picked up as a well priced Kindle edition right here.
A more modern book is from Dominic O’Brian – How to Develop a Brilliant Memory Week by Week. I like this approach a lot. It’s also available as a Kindle edition at just a couple of dollars
Finally it would be remiss of me not to mention my own book Magazine Memory and Online Memory Course, Motivate Your Memory.
If you are looking for a killer closer routine, Magazine Memory is seldom performed these days and in fact our book was the first written exclusively on the topic since 1940! I performed this exact effect for many years as my closing routine on cruise ships around the world and fully explain everything I learnt over that time.
We also include a large section on Memory Skills, giving you my tips and techniques, so you get both training in in Memory Skills and a dynamite routine.
Lastly, if you are more of a visual learner, we also have an online Memory Training Course available on the giant Udemy Platform. You get lifetime access, you learn at you own pace and you do it on any device.
We’ve had nearly 500 students, from 60 different countries and it’s still rating a whopping 4.5 Stars out of 5! Full information via the link below. (Currently 50% Off)
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