Fooling Houdini reveals as much about how the brain works and how weakness in perception and attention can be exploited as it does about magic, and while reading it I kept annoying and then intriguing the people around me by interrupting their activities with fascinating bits of information. Like it takes a full seven shuffles to truly randomize a regular deck of cards, any less than that will give a shrewd magician, gambler or con-artist inside information that can make them look like they have supernatural powers. And research subjects intent on counting the number of times a basketball is passed back and forth won’t notice when a women in a gorilla suit beating her chest runs past. To pull off their illusions magicians need to learn a lot about the mind and the physical world, which is why magic has always appealed to scientists and mathematicians, including Newton though the Royal Society tried to hush it up. After a humiliating loss at the Magic Olympics, author Alex Stone decides to stage a comeback by consulting legendary illusionists, along with physicists, psychologists, mathematicians, street swindlers and memory expert Joshua Foer, author of Moonwalking With Einstein, in order to develop a grand set of tricks, all good enough to fool other magicians. His graduate degree in physics at Columbia is put on hold as Stone follows his dream, and his all-consuming obsession causes his original girlfriend to dump him. Fortunately, his next girlfriend is an actress who can help him with the timing and delivery of his newly developed act, now ready for its big competition debut. Fooling Houdini is a worthy addition to the nerdy subculture genre, sitting on that shelf alongside Word Freak, Countdown, Spellbound, Word Play and Moonwalking with Einstein.