Week 4: (Nov 21 – 25) – (Julz) – Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert: Three ways to join in this week! You can either share 3 or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).
I’m going to preface this post by saying that, to me, knowing about something “magical” doesn’t take away from my appreciation of it. Knowing about refraction doesn’t ruin a rainbow for me. Learning about how magic tricks are done has only increased my appreciation for the effort and ingenuity that go into them. I know that isn’t the case for everyone.* These books are all very history-oriented. None of them contain the secret to anything you might have seen on David Blaine’s recent special. At least not directly. 😉
The thing I find important, though, is that learning about magic has also strengthened my critical thinking muscles. Magicians are some of the biggest skeptics out there. A little skepticism can go a long way.
The following books are in reverse order of their amount of magic trick exposure.
The Rise Of The Indian Rope Trick: How A Spectacular Hoax Became History by Peter Lamont – Fake news is not a news thing. Part history, part psychology, Lamont takes a look at this legendary trick—how it came to be, how people “witnessed” it, and how the story became impossible to kill. This is the most meticulously and amusingly annotated books I’ve read.
The Turk: The Life and Times of the Famous 19th Century Chess-Playing Machine by Tom Standage – The mechanical turk is another story that has unkillable falsehoods connected to it. The Turk is also about the popularity of some automata since the 18th century, how patronage doesn’t always work out for the best, and how anxious people can be about technology. Seriously, what’s a better use of tech: automated silk weaving or a mechanical duck?
Hiding the Elephant: How Magicians Invented the Impossible and Learned to Disappear by Jim Steinmeyer – Steinmeyer presents the early history of magic via his efforts to learn the secret of a stage illusion done by Houdini in 1917: making an elephant disappear. One of the first books on magic history that I read, Hiding the Elephant showed me the value in delving deeply and not being afraid to look at a subject from a different point of view.
* But if you are interested in reading about a lot more about magic, I have an ever-expanding list for that!