Creating A Library: Beginner Books

Tuesday February 25th 2014
Attentive Reading by Gustave Jean Jacquet. (Wiki)

First of all: thank you everyone for writing in with your brilliant book suggestions. Two big gaps in my library have already been filled. I have just finished Richard Idemon’s Through The Looking Glass (how could I not have read this before?!) and I’ve been dipping into The Round Art by AT Mann, a very beautiful book and a wonderful example of 1970s quality publishing.But I wanted, briefly, to address a specific book question that is often asked. What is a good basic astrology beginner’s book?

Clearly, Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs is a fun place to start. Why is her book still in print after all these years? Well, because she writes beautifully — she’s funny and poetic, the book is full of wild imagery. Here’s an example.

“Lots of people like rainbows. Children make wishes on them, artists paint them, dreamers chase them, but the Aquarian is ahead of everybody. He lives on one. What’s more, he’s taken it apart and examined it, piece by piece, color by color, and he still believes in it. It isn’t easy to believe in something after you know what it’s really like, but the Aquarian is essentially a realist, even though his address is tomorrow, with a wild-blue-yonder zip code.”

Goodman’s book is a romp through the Zodiac; it won’t teach you how to draw up a birth chart.A book that will do that is Parker’s Astrology — revamped, redesigned and reprinted many times since its first incarnation as The Compleat Astrologer in 1971. It’s published by Dorling Kindersley, so like many of their books the text is sometimes subordinate to the pictures. However, it’s kind of fun and it does show you how to draw up a chart, progress it and interpret it. It’s well structured too and it’s not stupid or patronising. “Serious” astrologers may turn their noses up at it, but ignore them. This book does what it sets out to do.

The study of astrology has evolved a lot in the last 100 years since the days of Alan Leo and Evangeline Adams, but old books often contain gold. Mind you, you do have to remember the context of the times in which they were written.


A book that I briefly found useful is Margaret Hone’s Modern Textbook of Astrology. I unearthed my copy, which dates from the 1950s, in the second hand section at Watkins in London many years ago. This will show you how to draw up a chart without using a computer, and if you’re interested in the evolution of astrological thinking, this is an Ur-text. But it is super dry.

Another book that dates from the same era and ought to be just as dated is Grant Lewi’s Astrology for the Millions. However, this book is still a delight; it’s like being in the company of a kind uncle. Lewi is a lovely writer with a light touch, and his mission, which was to popularise real astrology, is commendable. Older editions of this book are better. They haven’t been tampered with to the same extent by well-meaning followers of Lewi. Again, you will be able to learn exactly how to draw up and interpret your own natal chart using this book.

For something very up-to-date, several people have recommended Sue Merlyn Farebrother’s Astrology Decoded. I haven’t read this book, but if I were starting out now I think I’d take a look at this one first.

There’s also been a recommendation for Stephen Arroyo’s beginner’s book, Chart Interpretation Handbook. I haven’t read this, but if it’s up to his usual standard it ought to be good. Clare Martin’s Mapping the Psyche has been suggested too, and Alan Oken’s Complete Astrology is now on my list.I’d suggest getting one of the above books — along with La Goodman — and then add in these two: Howard Sasportas’ The Twelve Houses and Steven Forrest’s Inner Sky. Both authors write extremely well, so the books are actually a pleasure to read as well as full of insight. Finally, sprinkle a little of the wisdom from Donna Cunningham’s How To Read Your Astrology Chart on what you have learned so far and you will start to mix an astrology cake.

I recommend digging around for a second-hand copy of most of these. I’ve seen some of them for sale for a penny.I’d be interested in what you have to say. I’m sure there are some excellent beginner books that I’ve missed out, and also, if you have read some of the ones I haven’t, what did you think?


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  1. Prospera says:

    A little surprised that Llewellyn-George’s Horoscope Maker and Delineator hasn’t made an appearance. It’s a basic, useful text, as is Sakoian and Acker’s Astrologer’s Handbook. Linda Goodman? Meh… not so much. Anything by Robert Hand or Martin Schulman, or Jan Spiller. Don’t forget Bernadette Brady for progressions and fixed stars.

    • Prospera says:

      Llewellyn-George is an old-fashioned cookbook-style text. It was my first ‘go to’ book to answer, ‘so what does that actually mean?’ Yes, definitely for beginners.

    • Christina says:

      Aha – Llwellyn-George is not on my shelf. Is it good for beginners?

      Brady, Spiller etcetera are great but I don’t think those are for beginners. I don’t really think horary is for beginners either although quite a few people recommended starting with Lilly.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I have a strong sentimental attachment to Linda Goodman’s books. They were the first ones I read as a preteen, over thirty years ago. I think what appealed to me then, and what still makes her useful, is that she wrote with compassion and humour about all 12 Sun signs; useful, as I see many rank beginners try to simplify their lives by saying “Oh, you can never trust a Capricorn” or ” Leos are all self-centered jerks.”
    I had almost forgotten about The Inner Sky! I loved that book back in the day. In fact, I am now feeling inspired to re-read some of my “beginner’s” books that have been collecting dust for decades. It will likely be enlightening to see how these early mentors shaped the way I practice astrology today!

  3. William says:

    I would recommend the March and McEvers books as well for basic instruction. Two other authors that are good are John Townley and Robert Hand.

    • Christina says:

      Yes – how could I have left out March and McEvers? I think you could teach yourself the basics with just these ladies holding your hand. I do not have the first ones in this series, but I love The Only Way To Learn About Tomorrow, and their horary one.
      Townley and Hand are phase two I think: that is once you have the basics under your belt and you start to elaborate.

  4. Liz says:

    I couldn’t do without Sue Tompkins’s Astrological Aspects and Rob Hand on Transits. Real desert island books. Good for both beginners and experienced astrologers.

    • Christina says:

      Yes. I’ve had another vote for Tompkins on Facebook. I agree about the Transits book: that’ll be in round two.

      I’ll put a page together as a reference for people when the redesign of this site is complete.

  5. Anonymous says:

    “Astrology, a Cosmic Science” by Isabel M. Hickey…a beginner’s guide, but with a slant toward karma and spiritualism with an interpretive style only Hickey can provide.