Fooling Houdini: Adventures in the World of Magic
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Fooling Houdini: Adventures in the World of Magic

3.59 of 5 stars 3.59  ·  rating details  ·  1,129 ratings  ·  268 reviews
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ebook, 320 pages
Published June 19th 2012 by HarperCollins (first published October 4th 2011)
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David
What entertainment! This is the autobiographical story of a graduate student in physics, who decided to take a detour into magic. Alex Stone starts the book with a giant flub; he competed in the "Magic Olympics" in Stockholm--and was disqualified because he hid his hands behind a table. That was, for him, "rock bottom". He decided to study, practice, attend magic workshops, and practice, practice, and practice. The book has some interesting digressions about neuroscience, and the psychology of i...more
Harold
I enjoyed every moment reading this book this book! If nothing in the title piques your interest then this book is not for you. But for me? Right up my alley! There is so much of interest in this book - so much knowledge - so much touching on the arcane that I found myself highlighting much of the text for future reference. That Stone can make the mathematics of shuffling a deck of cards interesting speaks to remarkable writing skills. When he explains the universe reflected in 52 cards I am rap...more
Bandit
According to Alex Stone, the world as magicians see it has only two kinds of persons...magicians and laymen. Any of the latter kind who happens to be fascinated with the world of the former kind (as I am) should read this book. Through a personal quest to become a better magician, the author takes the readers on the incredible journey into an equally incredible world. We meet amazing characters (like a blind card expert/martial artist) and get to hear their stories. You really get to understand...more
Janis Ian
An absolute must for anyone interested in magic - but even more so, anyone interested in the cognitive sciences, particularly as applied to vision and cortex. For instance: "Studies have found that visual deprivation causes almost immediate changes in the brain. In one study, blindfolded adults picked up tactile cues in their visual cortex after just five days. Another group of researchers has shown that people become more touch-sensitive after ninety minutes of sitting in a pitch-black room.......more
Tori
I LOVED this book!!!!!!

I loved the author's self-deprecating humor, his anecdotes, and his nerdiness. I loved the subject matter. What a great read!!!!!

Stone was a physics guy- working on a PhD at Columbia - and thought that magic would make him less nerdy. He learns, buys, and creates magic tricks, and eventually competes in the Magic Olympics. Who would have thought such a forum existed??? Or that there are over 100 magic conventions each year? The reader doesn't exactly learn the "secrets" of...more
Tony
FOOLING HOUDINI: Magicians, Mentalists, Math Geeks, & the Hidden Powers of the Mind. (2012). Alex Stone. **.
It may well be that the second half of this book was much better than the first half, but I’ll never know. The first half was a rambling exposition about how and why the author wanted to be a magician and turned up short on his first few attempts, including being booed off the stage at an international competition. Then we follow his path through a series of mentors that helped him ho...more
Jim Aker
Arthur C. Clarke has told us that , "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." What if someone with a scientific mind went about designing a magic routine around science? That is exactly what Alex Stone the author, Physics student and amateur magician does. This was an a excellent read for those with an interest in science and magic. A very entertaining read with a little something for everyone. I recommend it.
peaseblossom
Well, it's an okay anecdotal history of magic, but the author is kind of a defensive douchebag, and the book never achieves any real depth.

Love to read a book about women in magic (and why there are so few), anyone know of one?
Anne Shirako
Why would a physics PhD student leave Columbia University to study magic? Why do we enjoy being fooled? What does math have to do with it? Answers to these questions and more can be found in Fooling Houdini: Magicians, Mentalists, Math Geeks, and the Hidden Powers of the Mind, by Alex Stone.

Stone was enchanted at age six when he received a magic kit. Enthralled, he immediately began showing off his magic “skills” to everyone he could wheedle into watching. It wasn’t until after he was hauled off...more
Megan Jones
I knew this must be a great book when my brother (who barely reads anything and is the most critical magic enthusiast in the world) finished this book in less than a week AND loved it!!! Although I don't share his passion for magic, since we are best friends, I wanted to better understand the world he has immersed himself in. Well, this book did just that. Without "giving away secrets" the author brought the reader into his world, and made it feel as if the reader was on this rollercoaster ride...more
K. Bird
I was hoping for some interesting tricks and connections between card-sharking and Math when I first picked up this book.

What I got instead was Alex Stone's journey from dabbler in sleight of hand to his transformation into a true magician with his own style of math-derived card routine.

And a fascinating journey it was. Did you know there was a Magic Olympics? Did you know many of the slight of hand masters are in danger of "recruitment" by the mafia? Did you know the masked magician on TV's Mag...more
Joanne
This book entertained and fascinated me. It is well-written and the author, besides being a extremely skilled close-up magician who excels at card and coin tricks, also has a master's degree in physics from Columbia University deciding to quit his PhD work in order to hone his magic skills and travel the country getting to know the master magicians and learn from them.

Many of the magic tricks described in this book are amazing just to read about and the mental acuity combined with the physical d...more
Mark Stevens
I've been to the Magic Castle in Los Angeles, love the magic segments on the variety shows when I was a kid (still do) and have perfected one jaw-dropping card trick that works on about 30 percent of the four-year-old population. I liked to be amazed and amused.

In "Fooling Houdini," Alex Stone lifts the curtain on the world of magic. It's not a full-scale exposure. It's not a how-to or tell-all. It's a peek inside the relationship between magician and audience, between the duper and dupee, those...more
Stefanie
I wish I could give this one a 2.5. The subject is interesting, the approach is varied, and it certainly held my interest. I was surprised by the lack of documentation and footnoting, especially with the numerous references to psychological studies. I copy edit psychological publications and was passingly familiar with some of the studies, but by and large he doesn't provide enough information for interested readers to track down the studies themselves to confirm what he's saying or read further...more
Mendocino County Library
Fooling Houdini: Magicians, Mentalists, Math Geeks, and the Hidden Powers of the Mind, by Alex Stone

Why would a physics PhD student leave Columbia University to study magic? Why do we enjoy being fooled? What does math have to do with it? Answers to these questions and more can be found in Fooling Houdini: Magicians, Mentalists, Math Geeks, and the Hidden Powers of the Mind, by Alex Stone.

Stone was enchanted at age six when he received a magic kit. Enthralled, he immediately began showing off hi...more
Donald Plugge

I was back and forth on "Fooling Houdini" by Alex Stone, then ended up satisfied. The book was definitely a hodgepodge, part autobiography, part psychology, part history of magic, part "how to" and part brain science. Sometimes this type of book can end up being a "wiki" read, all the info from various wiki pages strung together. Alex was mostly able to avoid that tedium and weave together a unique blend of magic tales.

Alex Stone explores himself in this book. Anyone can write a book about them...more
Hal
I got wind of this book from the CBS "Face the Nation" presentation of authors singled out for there work. Bob Scheiffer the host went on and on praising Alex Stone and how funny and entertaining his book was. It sounded interesting but I did not quite connect in the same way.

Essentially the book is about how Alex a then student working on an advanced degree in physics decided to put his schooling on hold to further his first love performing magic acts and card tricks. He started out by getting...more
J.R.
So... I hear this book is catching a lot of crap in the magic community. I can see why but I'm not going to pile on. I don't think it's much of an exposé at all. There are things I didn't like though. First off the writing isn't superb. I would expect this from a non writer memoir but the author writes and has for a while regularly for discover. The book could have been shorter. There were sections when it felt like padding. Another complaint was that he wasn't clear how major aspects of the sto...more
Michelle
Some unnecessary digressions, but otherwise highly charming and well-written.

The first 3/4 of this book read like a real-life version of The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar (Roald Dahl). Ordinary guy begins to gain very unusual, nearly superhuman abilities that help him to cheat at cards through lots of practice and the help of a mysterious book various mentors.

Stone summarizes a bunch of interesting psychological phenomenon that, unfortunately, I was already familiar with. Ultimately, Stone is...more
Darrenglass
Alex Stone is a magician. And a physicist. And a science writer. But at heart he is a magician.He competed in the Magic Olympics in Stockholm in 2006 and...well, as one reads about in the opening pages of his book the outcome was not quite what he had hoped. So he decided to dive deeper into the world of magicians, and FOOLING HOUDINI takes the reader on this dive with him.

Stone seems to be an eclectic person, and the book is an eclectic book. Large parts of this book are simply a personal memoi...more
Celeste
I adored this book. While it helps that I have a predilection for weird nonfiction that sticks neuroscience and a bunch of other things in a blender, I think anyone with even the remotest interest in magic (and I mean, who doesn't like magic? dead people, that's who) will enjoy this book. Part memoir, part historical narrative, part shtick-lit, part science experiment, Stone doesn't stay still for a second. Like Foer's Moonwalking with Einstein (which is actually referenced in Fooling Houdini),...more
Matt
Not exactly what I was expecting but all the better for it. I came looking for a tour through the weird place where science, psychology, and magic intersect and I enjoyed my visit. I wasn't expecting so much of Stone's personal magic journey but found myself rooting for him nonetheless. He's sort of a charming cat, in an eager-to-please magic-nerd kind of way. The vinegary Ricky Jay tore Stone apart in the Wall Street Journal for small factual errors and supposed hubris (in my reading, Stone com...more
David
This engaging and often funny peek behind the magician's curtain comes with a twist of science. It features the superhuman sense of touch with which Richard Turner handles a deck of cards, and describes how the phenomenon of attention blindness makes a "close up" routine possible. Toward the end the author overreaches, Dawkins-like, finding magic at the root of every activity under the sun. His journey into the magician's craft is at first compulsive, and later begins to look like an immersion j...more
Brad Wojak
It's not something I like to talk about, in fact I try and not admit to it at all, but I earned a living for about a year as a magician. I was young and needed the money, and to this day the time fills me with shame.

I sucked.

That being said, I still get goose bumps when I read about magic. I am captivated at the thought of a well performed illusion, or a well-cut deck.

Mr. Stone's book is a fantastic blend of personal memoir and history of magic. It is a fun read for both non-magic people and p...more
Kevin
This was a fantastic book. I have always been a big fan of magic and this book was part memoir, part the art of performing magic, part science, part math, and he did a great job of tying them all together. I loved learning about the underground scene and all the different viewpoints on performing and revealing the secrets behind magic. It reminded me a lot of "Moonwalking with Einstein" and in fact he had to use some of that author's techniques to complete one of his main magic tricks. Highly re...more
Erin
First of all, there is a section in the back with magic terminology.

I never really thought about magic and magicians except in casual passing but this book is about how psychology and math factor into the craft of magic. While he does reveal some tricks, I don't feel any magic was ruined for me. In fact, I am more interested in magic because of this book. There is a chapter that describes in detail how to steal someone's watch!
Madhavi
The book starts with the author appearing for the Magic Olympics as a participant. Alex Houdini is still a novice in the magic domain.His infatuation with magic started when his father brought him a magic set for his birthday. Since then he has been regular at the magic shops looking out for new tricks and getting amazed at the magic.
At the start of the book he is still amazed and a novice. The book is about his journey from being a novice to re-inventing a magic routine of his own. He also man...more
Tania
A very interesting and enjoyable read. I never realized that magic was such hard work. Part biography, part how-to and part history of magic. I am hooked, and will be reading more books in this genre.
Michael Pryor
A fascinating insight into magic and perception, solidly grounded in a personal obsession. Excellent coverage of history and traditions of sleight of hand. Worth reading.
Amanda
I checked this book out from the library. I'm disappointed in the book, and it cost it a star because the inside flap states that:
In trying to understand how expert magicians manipulate our minds to create their astonishing illusions, Stone uncovers a wealth of insight into human nature and the nature of perception.


Stone may have found a wealth of insight and perception, but he didn't share. I didn't learn anything about psychology that I didn't already know. I did learn why the three card mon...more
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There is more than one author with this name

When Alex Stone was five years old, his father bought him a magic kit—a gift that would spark a lifelong love. Years later, while living in New York City, he discovered a vibrant underground magic scene exploding with creativity and innovation and populated by a fascinating cast of characters: from his gruff mentor, who holds court in the back of a rundo...more
More about Alex Stone...

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“Magicians court the spotlight while living in constant fear of exposure. They regard magic tricks as being like quantum states—destroyed by the very act of examining them up close. Magicians trumpet the secrecy of their art, almost daring the viewer to lift the veil, and yet they are furious when someone actually does.” 0 likes
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