On the Bookshelf
This is a series of book reviews for the astrological books that make it to my bookshelf.
in each review, I talk about my experience with the book, some highlights from the literature, and end with who i think should read the book. if you're looking for reccomendations, you can skim to that bottom section of each review and see if you fit the description!
Books on my shelf:
Saturn: A new look at an old devil By Liz Greene
Liz Greene opens this book with an interesting comparison for Saturn- that of the Beast, from Beauty & the Beast. It is true, as she states, that we often forget this beautiful side of Saturn that emerges onces we learn to love the beast.
There isn't much to say about this book's contents- you can literally read the contents page and understand what Greene is going to discuss. But there is a lot for me to say about how much I love Liz Greene's writing style, and about how meaty her works are. I read one chapter and sit on it for a day or so, just chewing over the information. This is probably why it took me so long to finish... Each chapter felt highly engaging, but I couldn't read more than one at a time. In all of her books, I keep a notepad handy and take notes while reading. I have a special sticky-pad now so I can stick the notes to the Chapter page for later referral.
After reading this book, I have a much better-rounded view of Saturn and all of his complexities. He isn't to be feared, but respected. Since this is a book review and not a blog on Saturn, I'll leave it there.
Who should read this book?
Any beginner astrologer trying to transition to intermediate. Once you have your basics (again, read Arroyo's 4 elements book!), you should start to assimilate more in-depth information and analyses of charts, planets, houses, and aspects. This is a great book on Saturn, a planet often feared, and if you are to go forward with client work it may be extremely helpful to have a sound knowledge of Saturn under your belt before you get the inevitable Saturn questions (like career/work, or the dreaded Saturn Return).
Healing the Soul: Pluto, Uranus and the Lunar Nodes by Mark Jones
What. A. Book.
Mark Jones did an amazing job synthesizing complex information about Evolutionary Astrology in to a "Poet's Cookbook" (one of my favorite descriptions for Pluto aspects and placements ever). Still, this feels like a topic that I would rather take a class on than try to learn on my own. It's definitely a subject that benefits from a teacher who can help answer questions, or from in-class practice.
While reading about Saturn in Liz Greene's book, I found each chapter engaging and interesting (although very dense). In this book, I found the introduction fascinating- but then got hung up on the Pluto section. I found myself re-reading the same chapters and not retaining the information well, or getting a bit bored midway through with a wandering mind. Finally I realized that, as I continue to read charts, I can check the Pluto placements with this book and learn person-to-person. This personalization (ha) method will help me specificially retain the information better, and learn easier, because of the association with people's experiences. So, in the end, I skipped over Pluto's cookbook and went to the Nodes.
Wow. The Nodal section is one of my favorite learning experiences I've had with a book. There was so much to learn about, from skipped steps to ruler placement to conjunctions and aspects. I found this incredibly beneficial, easy to understand, and packed with information. Out of the three main sections of this book, the Nodes were the easiest to understand on my own (without a teacher) and also the one that I immediately started using in practice.
Uranus and collective trauma taught me, or at least reminded me, of the major collective traumas of our Western World. From WW1 & 2, and other major wars like Vietnam, Korea, and modern-day Iraq/Iran, to our social issues like Feminism and the Suffragette movements and modern-say Black Lives Matter and racial/racism issues (BLM was not specifically mentioned in the book), to our home and micro-issues of unhappy parents stuck in specific roles with high expectations. It makes a lot of sense that in this generational planet, we find these huge generational issues. And I, personally, want to help heal a lot of the traumas and issues within my immediate culture and family.
who should read this book?
Anyone who is interested in Evolutionary Astrology. It is helpful to be open to the idea of multiple lives (reincarnation), though not required. It's also helpful to think in terms of collective consciousness and familial patterns. This would not be a good choice for a beginner astrologer, but if you are teetering on the edge of Intermediate (or firmly in that camp), this could be a great source.
Temperatment Analysis and Reading for Children
I'm currently attending (March 5, 2021) Cornelia Hansen's class on counseling parents and reading children's charts, through Kepler College. It's been fascinating. I have had to take a break from my 'for fun' books- like Liz Greene's "Saturn"- to read the course list, but there are no regrets!
These books are fascinating.
Kidwheels: Understanding the child in the chart By Cornelia Hansen
I meantioned this in my section heading, but I have been studying with Cornelia through Kepler College. You might say I'm biased toward liking her book- but, really, it is a great work. She is extremely qualified (looking at her Master's in Child Development, years of teaching experience, and years of Astroogical research done directly with children) to create this bridge of early-childhood development and Astrology. Cornelia conducted a research study with a group of young children, observing their mannerisms and tendencies and temperament while noting their charts. Through this, she has developed her own system of discovering temperament in our charts.
her research, passion, and drive has really opened up a new branch in astrology that is very rarely explored.
This book highlights the major temperament types, and goes over the 9 elements of temperament (with her system of how to identify and scale each element). These include activity level, intensity of reaction, distractibility and persistence, and if you naturally approach/withdraw from new situations. From this list alone you can probably tell why it might be helpful for parents. She doesn't just describe these aspects, she goes further and gives some counseling and parenting advice for each temperament type.
Say you have an easy child. Sure, you did a great job as a parent and your kid wound up even-keel. But if your next child won't stop screaming and saying "no!", that doesn't mean you failed them as a parent.
my favorite part of using temperament with children's charts is that it helps take away parental shame. your child is naturally disposed to be shy, or highly active, or stubborn and persistent. but knowing this, you can take active steps to better interact with them.
This book is a great resource for any astrologer who reads children's charts- especially because it bridges the astrological debate of ethics. On one hand, it may be unethical to read a child's chart because you can influence their destiny and put unfair pressure on them to develop a specific way. On the other hand, it can be enormously helpful for parents to understand that their child is more of a reader than an athlete, or should be put in to dance, or might struggle with anxiety. With Cornelia Hansen's Temperament system, you can examine age-appropriate information that helps parents understand their child and better cohabitate.
who should read this book?
Any parent who is interested in Astrology. Any person who struggles to get along with their spouse, parents and/or siblings. People who are often put in to counseling positions, or who read children's charts.
Temperament: Astrology's forgotten key by Dorian Gieseler Greenbaum
When I bought this book, it was because it was reccomended by my Instructor Cornelia Hansen. I didn't know what to expect, other than to learn about temperament. This book really introduced me to the ancient practices of Temperament, the history of it, and the theory of it.
As a more-modern astrologer (and by that I mean I haven't formally studied any ancient astrology), it can be slightly overwhelming to dive in to a more technical discussion on historical figures and philosophies. However, this section of the book was concise and well written. I found it informative and engaging. Don't mistake concise for short- it definitely covered the history of this topic. But it did move on nicely to the modern application of this idea.
I had no idea that Waldorf Schools were based on temperament!
While I might still mix up some ancient terms (I have Melancholic down, but Sanguine vs. Phlematic?), this book is an excellent foray in to Temperament and it's modern uses. I defeintely learned a lot about myself- which, at this point in my years of astrological self-study, is impressive.
Who should read this book?
I'm less likely to reccomend this book to beginner astrologers. While I think it is important to branch out and explore as many astrological topics as possible, I think you need to learn the elements and other basics first. However, this is a great side of Astrology that I don't hear many people discuss. If you want to get in to psychological Astrology, counseling, or children's charts- definitely add this to your reading list.
Great Basic/Introductory to mid-level Books:
Aspects in Astrology
by Sue Tompkins
Discover the Aspect Pattern in your Birth Chart
by Glenn Mitchell
I don't think the two books above (Aspects in Astrology and Discover the Aspect Pattern in your Birth Chart) are actually a linked pair- but they work so well together! I got Aspects in Astrology from an herbalist shop in a town near me (one that does a lot of astro-herbalism!), and found it immensely helpful for understanding all things aspect. Sue Tompkins opens by talking about the planets, so if you're new or need a refresher or are curious to see what she finds important, there is a good opener for you. After establishing the planets, she talks about the aspects. That fast. She talks about the hard aspects, the odd aspects, the soft ones and rare ones. She talks about how to divide the circle and understand aspects in this fashion- like what it means to have two 'Square' planets, a hard aspect, that actually share common ground. She also dispells any worry that having hard aspects means anything negative, and is great at showing the positives for each placement.
I loved her discussion of aspects by mode, like how a fixed square works versus a mutable square. However, most of the book is a cookbook, or quick reference, to planetary combinations. Tompkins doesn't fully separate out every single aspects, but she does talk about every possible planet combination (including a handy section in the very back about planets and the major angles!) and what could manifest from these. I definitely use this as a reference, making sure I fully understand something or double-checking information when it comes up. She spends a lot of time, at least a few paragraphs, talking about hard and soft versions of these planetary combinations.
Who should read Aspects in Astrology?
Anyone who is ready to jump in to the scarier, more intense-looking side of astrology. Are you ready to learn some math? Are you ready to test your interpretive skills? Don't worry, there are charts in here and diagrams to help you understand what the heck a chart means.
What about 'Discover the Aspect Pattern'?
This is the next step after you've mastered Aspects in Astrology. This book is chart after chart of examples. It goes in to planetary patterns, how to recognize them, how to counsel a client with each pattern. It talks about T-Squares, Grand Trines, and the infamous Yod. When I was browsing a metaphysical bookstore's astrology section and saw this spine, I was immediately excited. (My husband knew, just from my face, that we would be taking home some new books that day.) But when I opened it up and saw just how many charts were in there, page after page.... I had to stop myself from sitting down right there and excitedly studying the examples. This book was too fun for a nerd like me.
A highlight from this read was a concept I'd never heard before- the Oriental planet. This is the planet that rises above the horizon just before your Sun. It's usually Mercury, Venus, or the Moon, but it can be any planet. And it tells you a lot about someone. I've started using this idea with people, and it's amazing how often the oriental planet summarizes what's going on in the rest of the chart.
Who should read this book?
Someone who is taking their chart reading to the next level. You can get by reading for friends and others with just planets, signs, and houses, and some basic aspect knowledge. But this book will really deepen your understanding, challenge your brain (so much to know!), and make you respect professional astrologers.
This is not a reference book. A lot of astrology books are great to read through, and then go back and check sections... and technically you do that with this book, too. But for this book, it is way more important to have that initial readthrough. You must read it all before you can use it for a quick peek. It builds knowledge as you go through the book, like it's own course.
Astrology: Using the Wisdom of the Stars in Your Everyday Life by Carole Taylor
I have to be honest: I don't own this book. BUT! I did check it out of my local library for a few months, years ago, and really enjoyed it. The photos shown are taken from google, and are not mine.
If you have never studied Astrology but are curious, this is the book for you.
It is fun, unique, and simple. The first half of the book goes over the planets and signs, showing you what matters to each sign, and how the planets behave. You get a lot of basic, ground-work information here. It was nothing new when I read it (although I still loved the book!). To me, the best part was the back half.
Taylor takes you through various scenarios and shows you how to practically read a birth chart. Your client is a dad who is having a hard time letting his son go on a big trip? Let's look at the chart and figure out the cause. You have a client who works in finance and wants to know if this is a good fit? Let's examine the chart and see what it says. Work, love, friendships... This back half is so empowering for new readers and a goldmine of information. At the time I checked it out of our library, I already knew how to read a chart, but this book actually changed some of the style of how I communicated information, helped me figure out some good themes, and also helped my consulting skills. Above all else, it gave me confidence.
Who should read this book?
New astrologers, people who are just entering this world or who want to start reading their friend's and family's charts. The section at the end is GREAT as an example of chart synthesis, putting all the pieces together and looking for specific information. However, it is fairly basic and short in it's descriptions.
The Luminaries by Liz Greene & Howard Sasportas
This is a unique book, from it's content ("The Psychology of the Sun and Moon in the Horoscope") to it's format- a series of lectures, alternating between Greene & Howard. It made it easy to read section by section, but hard to find a good stopping point... So while reading this, I had to commit to finishing a lecture. No reading on the bus for me!
Liz Greene and Howard Sasportas are really great orators, two clever people who speak well and really know their subjects. Some times the audience chimes in, and it takes me back to college days, making me feel like I am also one of their students! This is actually the 3rd book in their series of Seminars in Psychological Astrology, but I'm glad I started with this one. We all know, whether we're beginners (with some basic knowledge) or advanced, that the Sun and Moon are extremely important in our charts. This book really helped me understand part of what they truly mean.
The Moon is our inner emotions, our inner life, right? But it's also our past. It's also our mother. It's our cycle of nurturing and care. The Sun is our ego, right? But it's also our future, what we strive toward. It's also our father. It's our outward expression.
Through reading these seminars, though a little dry and information heavy, I gained a lot of insight in to psychology. It made me regret not taking psychology classes earlier. It made me realize a lot about myself, and my cycles of action. It made me rethink how I see my Sun-Moon conjunction (Balsamic moon, 2 degree orb), or my Sun-square-Saturn. And this understanding didn't come from a cookbook "Saturn means X, Sun means Y, here is how they combine," but from this deeper place of "How did that authority and fear mix with my vision of X...?"
Now, whenever I look at a chart, I see the whole life. Before this, I knew that you could see childhoods, parents, future partners, kids in your Natal chart. Now I can actually find it.
This book is not only theoretical; they go through real case studies, and show you how to hear about someone's life and go back to the chart and find that information. Once you do that enough times, you notice patterns and can start to make educated guesses about someone's life. They gave me a lot of hope and insight in to this powerful, important part of Astrology.
Who should read this?
I say it a lot, but... Anyone. Honestly, you probably want a working knowledge of astrology to read this book. It's helpful to know the planets and their basic functions and the houses before you go in to a more advanced lecture on childhood psychology. But if you have the basic building blocks, this could start your path in to Astrology in a really interesting way.
Asteroid Goddesses by Demetra George & Douglas Bloch
George & Bloch do a great job together in this work, and it was a big undertaking. I loved how in depth they went on each of their chosen 4 asteroid goddesses. Each of those goddesses has a chapter devoted to their history (I learned a lot!), their mythology, and their background. This is meant to empower you to understand the significance of their role in a chart. You might know Juno as a marriage significator, but reading about her as Hera, as a Goddess who was in a loveless marriage, and the power struggle between combining a matriarchal society with patriarchal conquerers... Or learning of Vesta, also known as Hestia, who is the "Virgin Goddess", and how that's helped reframe my perspective on Virgo. After reading this book, there were a series of charts I saw that had extremely prominent female asteroids, and the stories told in this book were extremely helpful to share with my clients.
I also loved the Epherides of 16 asteroids in the back. As soon as I read about one asteroid, I'd go back and check where it was in my chart.
They also discuss the main 4 asteroids as different aspects of the feminine experience, applicable to any gender. These discuss specific roles and functions, and in George & Bloch's book they see them as niches of Venusian and Lunar energies. Ceres, the mother. Pallas Athene, the daughter. Vesta, the sister. Juno, the wife.
Following the ~180 pages of discussion on these four archetypes comes short introductions to the other 12 asteroids, including Chiron. They separate them in to dualities, which I appreciate (Astrology is all a balance, a Yin-Yang, a masculine-feminine...). The lovers are Eros & Psyche. The Empaths are Sappho and Amor. The Warrios are Lilith and Toro. The protectors are Diana and Hidalgo. The Liberators are Pandora and Icarus. The knowledge holders are Chiron and Urania.
George & Bloch describe these pairings breifly, talking about them as a series of bipolar functions working in tandem to transform and grow us.
Who should read this book?
Someone who has a firm grasp on other aspects of astrology and is interested in adding more feminine energy to their interpretations. George stated in an interview with Chris Brennan on his podcast that it stood out to her, back in the 70's, how very masculine all the planets are... And ever since she said this, I've paid more attention and realized it to be true. This is one reason why I love the book Asteroid Goddesses, and also why I love the book the 12 Faces of the Goddess (in a post below). There is a lot of information, so be ready for a dry read... Unless you love mythology and history like I do!
below: an arroyo classic.
Highly reccomended introduction to reading charts
Chart Interpretation Handbook by Stephen Arroyo
The major thing I loved about this introduction is the emphasis on 'Interpretation'. Everything is framed in this light. It describes key concepts and ideas, major themes of signs and planets, and it says the basic idea of what a sun's house (for example) might be. This book wants you to start putting things together on your own, and assumes that you don't have much knowledge at the start. It mixes a step-by-step guide and cookbook-esque book while giving you the tools to combine, mix, and bake your own interpretations.
This is actually one of the books reccomended by the Los Angeles Astrology School, and I didn't find it until I'd already been studying astrology and reading charts for a few years. Now, I keep it so I can lend it out to any friends who want to learn on their own.
If you only want one book, this is an excellent option.
I want to highlight a section I really appreciated: Chapter 4, the Planets and the Elements. Arroyo goes planet by planet and describes how they might act in each element. Jupiter, for example, "shows what sorts of experiences and modes of activity generate an inner faith and confidence in oneself... Opportunities come through expression of that element's energy." He then goes on to describe Jupiter in Earth signs, with an "inner faith [that] comes when one tunes into practicality, dependability, and the experiences of the senses. Opportunities are stimulated when one works hard, assumes responsibilities, and tunes in to nature and its rhythm." What a great insight to this hard-to-pin-down energy. I liked his perspective on all of the planets, and I also loved the accessibility of learning them through the elements, rather than sign-by-sign.
Memorizing isn't fun and doesn't make learning any language easy/fast, but getting the building blocks and learning to figure it out yourself, and *start talking*, does!
I'm really glad to be writing these reviews of the books on my shelf, because I'd forgotten about this book. It's worth a re-read for me now, to refresh my perspective and make sure I'm not forgetting anything important.
Who should read this book?
Anyone who wants to read an astrology chart.
Favorite Intro-book pick: 12 faces of the goddess!
The Twelve Faces of the Goddess by Danielle Blackwood
This is my new favorite beginner recommendation.
This book does talk about goddesses in different cultures, midnfulness rituals, and some magic, but you can easily skip any of that if it isn't appealing. Astrologically, this is an amazingly written book talking about each sign in detail (an entire chapter per), going over the seasonal significance and the layers/depth of each sign, and giving a great introduction to elements, modes, and the expressions of these combinations.
If Aries was a woman... If Taurus was a woman... By framing the signs in this way, we get to see who they would be personified as a lover, as a friend, as a friend, as a coworker; we get an insight in to their minds and hearts, which is extremely helpful for figuring out how each planet might act in each sign later on, or how a sign might be expressed in each house.
After describing the seasonal symmetry and diving in to the signs, she gives you a goddess archetype who embodies the Zodiac characteristics. This is followed by suggested magical rituals; I honestly skipped these parts, and it was still a full, great book.
I don't want to give too much away from this book. I found it fascinating and read it quickly. This should be one of the first introductions to astrology for people intrigued, but without a lot of knowledge on the signs. This first, and then planets, and last houses.
Who should read this?
Anyone who wants to really understand what each sign is about, and why. People BRAND NEW to Astrology and the Zodiac. Or, anyone who really wants help understanding themselves, and could use some direction with career and life path. It really familiarizes you with each zodiac, and how that archetype would act in love, relationships, work, etc.
The Astrology of Self-Discovery by Tracy Marks
This was one of the first astrology books I ever purchased, and I only recently discovered it's true beauty. For a while I left it half-read and forgotten, but now I'm glad I own it and reference it when people have specific nodal questions.
The first section of the book is about Moon Signs, and this is where I stopped. Marks talks about difficulties with each Moon placement, negative manifestations, and troubles to look out for. She has a collection of quotes that she associates with each moon following the paragraph she writes. While I enjoyed the first chapter on Lunar Consciousness, and our need to reparent ourselves, I didn't connect with my specific Moon descriptor, nor did my husband connect with his. I think we both got too caught up in the quotes- I'm not a big fan of them, and don't really agree with the decision to include so many. A full page and a half of one or two lines from an assortment of places... It reminds me of putting "Love, Family, Fun" on your living room wall. Why? Coming back to this section of the book, I can't say the description isn't correct. But perhaps it lacked the meat I was looking for when I bought the book.
However, the next section grabbed me. After Marks talks about New and Full Moons, she dives in to the Nodes of the moon. These struck true for me, for my friends, for my husband, and for later clients. I love her descriptions of the nodal axis, and struggles (although I could do without the quotes she adds here, too). I'm not a workbook-type person, but for anyone who is she includes worksheets that are brief and well directed. I really gained insight from mine, a North Node in Scorpio and South in Taurus.
The next section deals with transits, particularly major transits from the outer planets. This was excellent, too. She describes the nature of these planets to help you understand the interactions they hold with eachother, rather than making a 'cookbook'; Marks does a great job with telling you the basics and giving a few examples, and then expanding on them to include other factors like eclipses. This was a really great section that I missed when I first read and put down the book, and I'm so glad I came back to finish it.
She ends the book with a discussion of psychology, depth astrology, and similar topics that are fascinating to me. This section is a cool overview of these ideas, even going in to misuses of astrology. While it feels, when writing this, that the book jumps around to a lot of topics, Marks has a good flow between them and keeps on the subject of depth astrology. She's constantly asking you to self-check and ask what your roots are, your deep feelings, your fears, and how you should grow yourself.
Who should read this?
This might be a good book for an astrology student who is transitioning out of beginner and in to intermediate. It's not an intense book, easy to look at just your placements and gain value, but it also offers a lot of growth potential. If you have any interest in the psychology of astrology, this could be a good one to add to your book shelf.
THE HOUSES: Temples of the Sky by Deborah Houlding
This book is an overview of the 12 houses: their traditional roots, their meanings throughout the ages, and the changes that transitioned them to modern meanings. It gives a lot of great information in a short format. I am glad to have read it, and glad to own it.
What I most appreciated about this book was how well it describes the historical background of each house. Recently, a friend asked for my descriptions of how the houses evolve and link together. I spent a day in contemplation, and wrote out an essay (my version of fun) about the transitions between houses, and the discoveries each house offers, on our walk through life. After, I opened up Houlding's book and behold- a beautiful wheel depicting similar ideas. I know these are not unique ideas in the astrology community, but she is a concise writer and has great diagrams depicting these historical ideas. It obviously stuck with me on a subconscious level.
This is not a fun book. It's informative. There is a lot of information packed in to this short book. It explores many important areas of understanding houses, like their ancient origins, the nature of axis, the growth and accumulation of knowledge house by house, and the ideas of ancient to modern astrologers on the houses. There have been a few times that I've worked on client charts and used this book as a reference to explain difficult house placements.
Who Should Read This?
For a beginner astrologer, I would highly reccomend buying (and reading) this book. I personally keep it on my bookshelf so I can lend it out to others, although I'm sure I could benefit from re-reading it every few years as a refresher.
The Basics: An Ephemeris
No Astrologer's Bookshelf is complete without one of these! They record planetary positions, making it a great quick-reference for what's coming up or what has already happened. You have someone over for dinner and they share their birthday? Open up your Ephemeris and see their placements. Better yet, check where Saturn was on their birthday, and then check to see when they will have their Saturn Return... You might find some interesting behaviors looking at the charts like this, noticing stationary planets, or multiple passes over a degree, etc.
You can read this like a book and familiarize yourself with different planetary patterns, or you can quickly check a date for key information.
How to Use
You do need to understand planetary glyphs to really use this, but you can easily keep a cheat sheet close by until you learn them. I also recommend using a bookmark- they are so helpful for looking at those outer planets!
Each section shows a month, and a series of planets or asteroids (depending on what Ephemeris you have). You can pick a day (I have Dec 21, 2020 selected in the photo) and go down the list to see where everything was. This was the day of Jupiter and Saturn's grand conjunction, both at 0 degrees Aquarius.
Shaded sections show retrogrades for the planets, making that easy to see at a glance. They are also marked at the begining of a page or month with a D (direct) or an R (retrograde).