Let’s sort through the magic literature. What are the best books on mentalism and mindreading?
Absolute Magic by Derren Brown
Now out of print and going for $450+ on the secondhand market, Derren Brown’s second book is legendary. Despite publication more than twenty years ago, Absolute Magic is as relevant now as it was in 2002. Brown says: "The aim of this book is to set out, quite unapologetically, a model for performing magic in such a way that it feels real to the spectator—even though he may intellectually rationalize it later." The point–while the books below offer great tricks, Absolute Magic gives you the why and the emotion behind strong mentalism. Anyone can turn around a piece of poster board with a prediction on it. Very few can sell it as rich, vibrant magic. Reading this book will at least give you a shot. Good luck finding it.
13 Steps to Mentalism by Corinda
It’s hard not to include this admittedly obvious choice. However, 13 Steps truly is the foundation for mentalism. Pretty much all essential mentalism techniques are covered here (minus more modern techniques like anagrams). However, if you can get past the older language, you’re left with an unending source of strong techniques. You might and should have to modify the effects. But by reading 13 Steps, you’ll at least be able to do them.
Practical Mental Magic by Theo Anneman
Written by the man behind The Jinx, this is as much a compendium of solid mentalism methods as 13 Steps. You’ll find, for example, one of the earliest psychometry routines ever published. It’s also $20 at Tannen’s, and that is truly insane value.
Prism by Max Maven
A combination of five of Max Maven’s smaller books (the colour series), Prism gives you practical and hard-hitting mentalism routines. Unlike so many books on the market, these are routines that were actually performed by the book’s creator, and who is an authority on mentalism if not Max Maven? Importantly, this is not a beginner’s book, and Maven presumes that you have peeks and forces already in your arsenal. Assuming that you do, this is bound to be a useful book.
Psychological Subtleties Volumes 1-3 by Banachek
I feel like I can’t watch or read a modern mentalism publication without seeing a reference to Psychological Subtleties, and rightfully so. Banachek came out with three instant classics that are bound to elevate your mentalism. While what’s inside aren’t full routines in their own right, as the name implies, you will learn strong subtleties to really strengthen your routines, and they should be required reading for any magician or mentalist.
Before We Begin by Asi Wind
Why include such a modern book on this list? Because there’s really nothing like it in the magic literature. In pretty much every mentalism or magic book, you might read “pre-show your spectator using your favorite method,” without much description of how to make that deceptive. Considering that pre-show is such an essential technique for a mentalist (or magician, for that matter), it pays to know how to do it correctly. Asi achieves that in his book, and you should pick it up.
Honorable mention: The Memory Book by Harry Lorayne
Many magicians like to learn card sleights and then shy away at memorization, with dumb excuses like “my memory is bad.” Your memory isn’t bad, you just haven’t trained it. And if you want to take your mentalism to the next level, do yourself a favor and learn some basic memory techniques. The nice thing is that The Memory Book is available on Amazon for $10.