In relation to magic? That's easy.
I'd tell myself to stop buying gimmicks and one hit wonders and to purchase books. Just like you should probably save for your retirement right now, you should also be buying magic books.
As a reviewer I get asked every week - should I buy "this" or "this" (and easily that's a different blog post about knowing your character) but what I really want to say is NEITHER! Begin to build your magic library.
Can I say it a different way? A louder way? Stop buying expensive garbage and start educating yourself with books.
A single expensive trick will only go so far in your world, especially if your audience is limited to Mom and Dad, your family members and the kids at school. That's a couple days of performance and then.... bam... over.
Expensive tricks go further for working professionals who have the opportunity to perform them over and over, but only if they're real world friendly and only if they fit into their built routines.
Do you know who likes the expensive tricks and can afford them? Collectors like me. Yes, that's right - before being a magician I am first and foremost a collector. I buy tricks solely for the opportunity to learn the puzzle. 90% of the tricks I buy, I never perform.
The tricks I do perform are the ones I learn from books.
Why books? Well, first it's education - most books contain MORE than tricks. They also contain insight, theory and ideas that typically are not included in DVDs. Books have thought and intentionality placed into them that usually reach further than the one night stand that some DVDs leave you feeling with.
Second, books are more accessible. A book can go anywhere with you. I've read magic books at the beach, camping, in hotels and at Grandma's house on Thanksgiving. Plus, when you have an idea or a thought - your book shelf is so much easier to visit than mindlessly placing DVD after DVD into your player.
Insert.... skip... menu.... scroll.....
"Nope that card trick isn't on that DVD either... ugh"
Third, books give you hundreds of tricks. Yes, that's right HUNDREDS! "Yea, but that's mostly filler or age old tricks that are easy to figure out."
Yes, you're right. But guess what? I've bought quite a few DVDs that are filled with filler or age old tricks that were easy to figure out as well - and the times I didn't feel ripped off were the times those tricks came in books.
DVDs might give you 12-15 tricks, but most of them time it's only 1. Of course there are the DVD box sets, but those start costing hundreds of dollars.
Ok, so you've got an empty book shelf - what should you purchase? My advice? Classic building blocks mixed with your special interest.
What does that mean? Well, just like any musician has to lean to play scales, the magician must also build a foundation on a common bedrock. That means getting some books that we all have in our libraries.
Tarbell Course in Magic - 8 volumes - this is the most respected course in magic! The classic volumes cover every aspect and interest in the art of magic performance. A must have for every magic library! Each book is about $25-30
Art of Astonishment from Paul Harris - 3 volumes - true, Paul's style is not for everyone and it's certainly not "entry level" but his creativity is off the charts and will certainly push you to find the "magical moment" that we all chase. Each book is about $30
Mark Wilson's course in Magic - this book has it all - rope magic, cards and coins - has pictures and is great for those just starting out. This book is about $15 in paperback
Now You See It, Now You Don't!: Lessons in Sleight of Hand by Bill Tarr - this book flies under a lot of radar but is filled with those sleight of hand lessons we all need. This book is sleights with cards, sponge balls and rope and more and you can find it for about $20.
Definitive Sankey - 3 volumes - I might be alone on this, but I am determined to tell the world that Jay Sankey is one of the best and most prolific teachers we have alive in the magic industry. This man is the hardest working magician out there and certainly the kindest and the funniest. These 3 volumes have it all and I predict one day will be required reading at Hogwart's or the most relevant equivalent. Each book is about $65
And of course The Expert at the Card Table: The Classic Treatise on Card Manipulation by S.W. Erdnase. This is the card workers bible. Yes, it's kinda hard to read (like the Bible) and there are not a ton of pictues, but you'll come back to it time and time again to gain new insight as you grow (like the Bible). You can get a paperback for about $10
Of course everyone has their own foundational books and there are other "must read" lists out there - so do your homework and get some more opinions.
So you've got your foundational books - next you should pick up some books that have a specialized focus that you share. Personally I like cards
Books Like ....
Card College by Robert Giobbi - 5 volumes - this is your extensive, best, must-have collection on Card Magic - each book is about $40
Expert Card Technique - $15
Encyclopedia of Card Tricks - $12
Royal Road to Card Magic - $11
Anneman's Card Magic - $7
Self Working Card Tricks - $6
Mentalism - this library I have not built up as much. I know there are other more popular favorites, but I can only recommend the books I have and have read.
Psychological Subtleties by Banachek - 3 volumes - these are the best selling books in the magic and mentalism community and are considered a basic reference source for any complete library in the art. Each book is about $40
Practical Mental Magic - $12
3510 - Luke Jermay - Penguin Magic - $35
Coin Magic - granted I am not into coin magic, but I do have at least this book and it is recognized everywhere as the book you need in coin magic
Modern Coin Magic by Bobo - $9
Of course there are tons more, anything by Harry Lorraine or Diamond Jim Tyler, Totally Out of Control, Williams Wonders, Paper Engine, Destroyers, Strong Magic, Magic by Misdirection, 13 Steps to Mentalism, the list goes forever on.
What did I miss? What books do you think are must-haves or are flying under everyone else's radar? Join the conversation and comment below... oh and one more thing...
STOP BUYING GARBAGE AND BUY BOOKS!