A bit of a topical read this one, as Mr Brown’s new television series is currently airing on Channel 4. For those not familiar with Brown, he is a magician who uses suggestion and misdirection to produce spectacular and seemingly impossible tricks. His apparent ability to read the minds of total strangers has caused massive debate. Is he really psychic or just a very, very good cold reader? Well, Derren himself has stated that he is not psychic and does not believe in such abilities. I will admit to being a fan, his brand of magic intrigues me and I love the idea that most people will believe pretty much anything and are highly suggestible. It always makes me wonder whether I would fall into his traps. Of course I like to think I am totally unreadable, but I know that he could probably see straight through me.
In the book Brown talks about some of the tools he uses to execute his tricks. If you are looking for detailed accounts of how his magic is done, then you will be disappointed, did you really expect him to reveal his trade secrets? What you will learn however, is very interesting. It’s part history lesson on Victorian magic and spiritualism, part tutorial on various aspects of magic and memory and part memoir on how Derren developed his skills.
One very useful chapter is about memory. The reader is shown how to develop methods for improving memory and how to memorise seemingly random and unrelated information. The techniques are well explained and extremely practical, it takes a little practise, but it’s amazing how much improvement you can get in just a few days.
Other chapters include debunking dodgy science, hypnosis and learning to read people. The writing style is witty and feels very personal, and does well to explain some complex ideas in a straight forward manner. The reading list provided is excellent and I have enjoyed following up on some of the topics presented in this book. I now have a basic understanding of how to know if people are lying, which has proved to be very useful!
This is not a “celebrity” book that we have seen a lot of recently, it’s entertaining and practical and will make you wonder just how much of yourself you give away each day without even knowing it.