Reviewers and Critics

Here is just a selection of the formal reviews of this book, mostly from the first and second editions. The current (fourth) edition is even larger and more comprehensive than the version that these reviewers had read.

See this page for comments by readers.

"Blatant Endorsement Section.... We've received many inquiries about how more detailed information on the art of "cold reading" can be obtained. Here is the definitive answer to that question. Our friend Ian Rowland, in the UK, is probably the world's leading authority on the subject, and now the 3rd edition of his book, "The Full Facts Book of Cold Reading," is available. This will be a rather expensive way to learn about the art, because this is a limited-edition sort of book, really only meant for those in the trade and for those curious about the subject. However, if you're willing to part with US$50 - in the U.K., £32 - the book is yours. Just go to www.ianrowland.com to look over the description, and decide. In the book, Ian says clearly that it is written for the interested person who wants to be able to decide whether or not a 'reading' was done by psychic means, or by 'cold reading'. No other book I know of will provide this information. Every aspect of this art that I can think of, is represented here in detail, and it provided me with additional information I simply did not have. Highly recommended!"
James Randi, review on the James Randi Educational Foundation website (www.randi.org) Aug 31 2001
"I recently bought this book (yes I bought it - this is not a free copy for a good review!) not because I wanted to learn how to be a cold reader. It was because I am a sceptic with little accurate knowledge of the subject and wanted more information - which I received in abundance. The book is clearly written and an enjoyable read with many examples of how the various techniques are used. I liked Ian's style and he has obviously worked long and hard to break the subject down into manageable chunks which are easy to understand and easy to learn as each chunk builds your skill base in the art of cold reading. Ian is obviously a good communicator and a capable teacher.

I think that any serious mentalist would gain a great deal from this book (as would sales reps and con men!). Cold reading can create miracles which defy explanation but this is not an area where you can read a book and perform the next day. Much thought and onward study would be needed to become proficient in this art. But I am sure that anyone who wants to work in this are would not get a better start than reading, studying and re-reading this book.

My only criticism lies in the production values as I have a personal dislike for wire bound books [Note: this referred to the 2nd edition. The current edition is perfect bound - IR]. I would not suggest that anyone lets this put them off. You are buying information and you get lots of it at a good price. Very little literature is available on the subject and Ian's work should be noted by psychiatrists, psychic investigators, and anyone who has more than a passing interest in the area. And that includes, of course, the many intelligent people who are believers! There are applications to a much broader audience than just magicians within these pages and it does not give away any magic secrets - you could (and probably should) give this book to anyone who spends (wastes!) money on Tarot readers, spiritualists and the like. To paraphrase the advert - it does exactly what it says on the cover - it gives you the Full Facts on Cold Reading."
Keith Fields, writing for Magic Week (www.magicweek.co.uk), August 2001
"Cold reading is a term generally used to indicate the so-called 'Art' or 'Psychologically based skill' of giving complete strangers very convincing 'psychic readings' without any prior knowledge of the 'client' or person receiving the reading. It can be used in Palmistry, Clairvoyance, Crystal Gazing, Astrology. and a whole variety of differing 'Fortune telling' techniques. (An industry said to be worth between 1.5 & 2 billion dollars in the USA.)

Several books on the subject grace my library shelves, ranging from Robert A. Nelson's ‘The Art of Cold Reading’ to Bascom Jones’s ‘King of the Cold Readers’. My interest in this fascinating subject began when my grandmother read my tea-leaves on learning of my interest in magic.

Ian Rowland's 'Full Facts Book of Cold Reading' ranks as one of the best books I have ever read on this subject. First it should be made clear that it is written as an exposé rather than a 'How to do it' book. Much along the lines chosen by Robert Nelson in his book ‘Secret Methods of Private Readers’ (Nelson would, no doubt, have claimed of lan's book, 'Not old tin-type information - BUT FACTS')

The contents of lan's' book are truly fascinating, both to the serious Psychic researcher and the magical entertainer/mentalist. Included are such sections as: Welcome to the Psychic Circus (10 pages). How Cold Reading Works (120 pages), Putting Theory to the Test (40 pages).Blocking Techniques (10 pages).Final Notes (7 pages).

Inside these five main sections will be found no less than 27 differing categories. Such as The Greatest Scam in History.Popular Misconceptions. How It works/the set-up. The Win-Win Game. Presentation Points etc. Each, again divided into several sub-sections, which make a very clear and easy-to-read, simple-to-understand style.

Should you be a magician, mentalist, or psychic entertainer who would like to add cold reading lines to your presentations, then you will find plenty of practical, audience tested (by so-called 'Genuine' Psychics), meaty material that you can use.

If you are in the business (or publicity arena) of blocking or exposing so-called Fortune Tellers, Clairvoyants and the like then this book will certainly teach you what to look for and how to go about it.If you are already a 'genuine' professional Reader, Palmist, Astrologer or Clairvoyant, you will of course have no need to read this (or any other) book on 'Cold Reading' will you? However, should you wish to join the lucrative ranks of questionable 'readers' at Psychic Fayres, Spiritualist demonstrations, Telephone and On-Line Clairvoyants, Psychic Evenings or Parties, or simply setting up in your own home on the dining room table, this book will show you exactly how to go about it. Without, I suspect, the author's approval! The psychological techniques revealed in The Full Facts Book of Cold Reading should be studied by all of us in the magic business. Highly recommended."
Eddie Burke, 'Abracadabra' October 2001
"Ian Rowland is a British mentalist, magician, and skeptic who, in 1998, released the first version of this book, which almost immediately not only sold out but gained tremendous recognition as a highly desirable work on the subject of cold reading. Now he has re-released the book in this new edition, and if you have any interest in cold reading whatsoever, you will want to go to his Website and obtain this richly informative volume.

There is no shortage of books on cold reading today, with dozens of titles readily available, from Robert Nelson's early works on the subject to Herb Dewey's now hard-to-get titles. The majority tend to focus on providing stock readings, ready to be memorized and put to use, perhaps organized in a manner that enable ready application to different "mechanisms," from Tarot to phrenology. Some works, such as many by Richard Webster, are exceedingly mechanistic, eliminating much of the improvisational and creative nature of cold reading, while focusing on pragmatic issues. Others are more ephemeral. Some are simple yet effective, like the Mental and Other Writings of William Larsen, Sr., which includes some useful material. Others are specialized, like Dewey's last (and still available) work, Mind-blowing Psychic Readings, which provides scripts for telephone readings. And of course, in the tradition of mentalism publishing, the value of some of the content is at times inversely proportional to the price asked.

The Full Facts Book of Cold Reading is one of the best works I've ever read on the subject. Although sample reading elements are provided from time to time, to me, books filled with such material, while they may be practical for the private reader and other moral knuckle-walkers, they do not otherwise make for interesting reading or even insight to the subject matter. Mr. Rowland, however, has not only a thorough understanding of his subject, but his approach to the concepts he presents is extremely well organized and logical, which does not come about without having had the opportunity to combine long thought with experience. The results of both show here in these pages.

The book is thoroughly instructional, while also serving as something of a debunking text for those who have been misled into thinking that a psychic reading was a demonstration of supernatural ability. Although too detailed for most such casual readers, the book is not overly didactic, and the author's skeptical perspective does not pervade the text to a distracting degree. Once he defines his terms and intentions in the first section of about 20 pages, from there on he takes a direct and systematic approach to deconstructing his subject. In the next hundred pages or so he explains every aspect of how and why cold reading works, providing one of the most cogent analyses of the process of a psychic reading as I have ever come across. This is followed by a third section that includes examples of both improvised and prepared readings, and subsequent segments on "blocking techniques" and challenging psychics, along with a segment of final notes.

The book is thorough, clear, readable, and cleanly if simply produced. My one complaint is that the covers should be on slightly heavier stock; the lightweight glossy paper is extremely fragile and a poor choice, and the asking price certainly justifies the minute cost of real covers. [Note: this was written about the 2nd edition. The current edition is perfect bound with heavy-duty laminated covers - IR]. If you want to understand cold reading, or gain insight into some of the reasons why sleazeballs like John Edward are successful, or if you want to explain cold reading to someone else, this is the text for you. If you want to memorize scripts so you can manipulate and prey upon people while you claim supernatural abilities, this book might be a start, but you will have to turn elsewhere for lengthy scripts, as well as approval."
Jamy Ian Swiss, 'Genii The Conjurors' Magazine', Volume 64, Number 11, November 1, 2001
"This fabulous book deserves a long review, but I simply don't have the space and I don't wish to further delay bringing it to your attention. Ian Rowland's The Full Facts Book of Cold Reading is one of the best books on the subject that I have ever read. The book is designed to protect people from "psychics," but the information presented will certainly teach you how to do cold readings. The material is thoughtfully organized and includes two readings (an improvised tarot reading and a prepared astrological reading). If you have an interest in this subject, you need to read this book. Highly recommended. (You'll need to go to Ian's web site to order this book. The ordering process is simple and secure.)"
Michael Close, MAGIC magazine, December 2001.
"This book first appeared in 1998 and received widespread attention. This second edition should be welcome reading for psychic entertainers and anyone interested in the subject. We feel it appropriate to state that we do not promote the idea of giving cold readings for monetary gain, and again we emphasize that this is not Rowland's intent. At the time of printing you can get information about this book at www.ianrowland.com."
David Goodsell, 'M-U-M', December 2001.
"The first edition of this book was highly praised both by performers ('The definitive work, and long overdue.' - Derren Brown; 'It is so far the best I have read on the subject.' - Banachek; 'No mentalist can afford NOT to have this book, for this is the REAL stuff.' - Alan Shaxon) and by researchers ('Rowland has produced the most comprehensive and useful book on cold reading so far available.' - Marcello Truzzi; 'A marvellous treatise on cold reading. I can't imagine any book on the subject being more definitive!' - Martin Gardner; '[This] cold reading book is superb. Probably the best that has ever been done on the subject.' - Ray Hyman). Following a lengthy period of unavailability (during which the first edition sold on eBay for ten times the original price), this new (2nd) edition is expanded (about 17%) in size, and more professionally produced. For a self-published work, it has a refreshingly low incidence of typos and grammatical errors. It is well written, meticulously organized, and enjoyable to read. Selling for £40 + shipping (approximately $60), and available only direct from Rowland's (UK-based) Website (http://www.ianrowland.com/), the book is approximately 6x9 inches, wire-bound with laminated covers, and 214 pages in length. [Note: this description does not apply to the 3rd and current edition, which is larger and perfect bound with laminated covers - IR]

It is difficult not to concur with the original reviewers: this is the definitive text on cold reading. Unlike most other works on the subject, it is not a mere listing of "what to say", but an exhaustive compilation of the various intersecting methodologies that comprise a good cold reading, and a detailed look at *why* these techniques work. After a brief introduction and definition of terminology, the book dismisses several popular misconceptions about how cold reading works (body language, shrewd observation, fishing for clues, vague generalizations, and gullible clients). It then follows with discussions of how a reading is "set up", the principal themes, elements of the reading itself (the heart of the book, covering 38 separate classes of statements, with examples and analyses), eleven ways to deal with negative responses, presentational dressings, and coping with sceptics. Following this, two of Rowland's readings (an improvised Tarot reading and a prepared astrological reading) are examined in detail, relating their contents to the theory already presented. There's a short, eye-opening (some might say 'chilling') chapter on how to 'block' a psychic reading (i.e., how to thwart a reader), and some final, brief looks at 'instant' readings, hot readings, and mnemonics.

Prior to this book, there has not been a good, methodical approach to this subject (Ray Hyman's unpublished class notes were arguably the best option available, and they were not *very* available). Several popular books by successful practitioners (e.g., Webster, Dewey) are invaluable, but they lack a rigorous analysis of the 'why' of a successful cold reading. Rowland lectures and entertains widely on the subject of psychic phenomena, and has performed extremely successful readings on network television in both Britain (BBC) and the United States (NBC), so he knows whereof he writes.

Some people do not approve of Rowland. Several dislike the fact that he makes this book available to the general public. Rejecting books available to the general public, however, would eliminate most books in our libraries... they are pretty much *all* available to anyone with the wherewithal to pay for them. Rowland's Website will likely be more difficult for the average person to discover than a local (or Internet-based) magic shop (in which Rowland promises it will not be sold). The price of the book removes it from the category that would appeal to the merely curious. I think it's fair to say that the only people who will actually read this book are those with a strong interest in understanding the mechanics of cold reading... not the 'general public'.

There are those who dislike Rowland because he is an avowed sceptic of things paranormal (like a true sceptic, he does not disavow the possibility of 'real' psychic readings; he simply opines that a more natural explanation is possible). I am of the opinion that society's single greatest failing is the intolerance and enmity fostered by some against people whose sincerely-come-by beliefs differ from their own.

Regardless, if you're looking for the best book ever written about the art of cold reading, you need search no further. I don't believe that anyone can become a top-notch cold reader by simply reading a book about it, any more than one can become a surgeon in similar fashion. But I also think that the *best* surgeons are those with the deepest understanding of the basis for what they are doing, and who keep abreast of the latest works in their fields."
Doug Dyment, for PEAnet, July 2001
"'The Full Facts Books Of Cold Reading' is brilliant. While it would take me six years to train to be a doctor, I could set myself up as a psychic right now, and charge people $40 an hour, purely on the basis of what I've read in this book. And I know I'd do better than any of the psychics I've been to.

Author Ian Rowland says all you need to be a good cold reader is the gift of the gab, modest acting ability, lack of nerves and a touch of stage presence. Basically, these are the same qualities you'd need to be a teacher, a telemarketer, an insurance salesperson or any number of less well paid and less glamorous occupations.

Rowland knows what he's talking about. He's not psychic, and claims to lack both charm and charisma, and yet has done tarot readings on TV where he's wowed complete strangers with his accuracy - in one case, knowing the name of a woman's brother. He's also done personal astrological readings that the sbjects claim are up to 99.9% accurate, even though he's written exactly the same thing for people of different stat signs.

There's no one devius trick. There's a whole range of devious tricks, based on a combination of facts and psychology, which Rowland has dissected and helpfully named.

There's Fine Flattery. Most people like to think of themselves as being a little bit more honest than the general population, independent, wise in the ways of the world and a good friend. Tell themthat, and butter them up while looking perceptive at the same time.

Then there's the Fuzzy Fact. mention some sort of connection with Europe, 'possibly Britain, or it could be the warmer, Mediterranean part?' and let them go on from there. It would be almost impossible for anyone to deny 'some sort of connection' with Europe.

There's genius in the Vanishing Negative as a way of extracting information. A question such as, 'You don't work with children, do you?' can be met with either a negative answer, to which you respond, 'No, I thought not, that's not really your role' or a positive answer, to which you respond, 'Yes, I thought so. There's a strong affinity wiht children indicated.' You can't lose, and you've gained some information about them.

And there's brilliant psychology behind the Push Statement - coming up with a specific incident, then modifying it and prodding the client until eventually they connect it with a memory ('How could you know that when I'd forgotten!').

Add a few Sugar Lumps, a couple of Lucky Guesses (if even one hits you can guarantee this will be remembered and retold) some Peter Pan Predictions, then learn all the ways to sound like you're right when you're wrong, and you're set.

The transcripty of a tarot reading Rowland didon TV is illuminating. He tells a woman there's someone from her teenage years, Nick or a Mick, perhaps a boyfriend, perhaps a close friend. She says she has a brother named Michael. Bingo! She was quite close to her brother, wasn't she? Later on the TV show this is recalled as Rowland knowing the name of the woman's brother. This is how people remeber psychics as having amazing powers.

All this comes under the heading of cold reading. Rowland touches briefly on hot reading (sneaky ways of finding out about the client before the reading) and magic tricks (which, a little frustratingly, he won't explain). But really the cold reading techniques are fascinating enough.

I'd like to imagine millions of people buying this book instead of spending their money visiting a spirit medium, ringing a psychic phone line or having their personal astrology chart done. I'd love to think this one book could destroy all theose dodgy operators single-handedly. But sadly, I know the people who really should read this book never will. They'd rather pay to have someone tell them they're wise and creative and a good friend, and that someone whose name starts with the letter M is happy in the afterlife."
Helen Vnuk, Autumn 2002, From 'The Skeptic' magazine produced by the Australian Skeptics Society
"Ian Rowland is a performer who has made quite an impact on The Magic Circle Monday Nighters in recent months. Firstly with his lecture on cold reading (which was reviewed in last month's issue by Graham Reed) and more recently with his appearance in the Evening of Mentalism and Mystery (reviewed in this issue). The Full Facts Book Of Cold Reading is a 158 page book written and published by Ian which was available to accompany his lecture. As the subtitle says the book sets out to be "a complete guide to the methods which can be used to give psychic readings without being psychic".

Ian describes cold reading as 'a deceptive psychological strategy. Among other things it can be used by someone who is not psychic to give what seems to be a very convincing psychic reading. Cold reading is not one single technique, or a single procedure. It is better to think of cold reading as the collective term for a set of techniques which can be used in different ways to achieve different goals.'

And it is these techniques which the book primarily focuses upon. Although other books and manuscripts on this topic exist (most notably the work of Herb Dewey) I've not seen anything as extensive, well organised and readable as Ian's book.

In this book Ian has clearly categorised these techniques into The Setup, The Principle Themes, The Elements of the reading, The Win Win game, Presentational Points, Putting It All Together and Coping with skeptics, which makes them very easy to understand and follow. He also includes transcripts of 'test conditions' readings he demonstrated on two British television shows to see whether he was capable of convincing a complete stranger that he was genuinely psychic, purely by using cold reading. These transcripts enable the reader to see the techniques in action and the reactions they can receive.

Ian points out that the book is not about whether psychic powers exist, whether they are beneficial and the methods used by magicians, mind-readers, mentalists and other people who use deception purely for entertaiment. However, throughout the book, Ian makes plainly clear his view on the former issue.

Ian's goal with this book is to help readers to decide whether those claiming to be psychics are using cold reading. He writes in the introduction, 'In an age when consumers are more cautious and informed than ever before, virtually none of them know the first thing about cold reading... I can't prove that psychics use cold reading. But I can give you all the information you need to decide for yourself.'

However, I suspect that the reason the large number of Circle members rushed forward to purchase this volume at Ian's lecture had little to do with them making that decision and more to do with them learning the techniques. Although there is nothing wrong with this - and the book will cerainly enable readers to do that - I hope that all purchasers with this goal in mind consider carefully the moral implications and follow Ian's example. He writes, 'I am a lecturer and entertainer who specialises in psychic themes ... however, I always stress that these demonstrations are just tricks, and I'm not really psychic'. Pretending that you can do psychic readings for real is not the same as pretending you're a magician. If you do purchase this book - and I highly recommend it for anybody with an interest in this type of material - please consider carefully this issue"
Anthony Owen, January 1999, From The Magic Circular (the in-house magazine of The Magic Circle)

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