The number of books available in and out of print on astrology is mind-boggling and continuing to grow. Unfortunately, there is a lot of “static noise” in the overall stream of information, which can make finding the best books on the subject a daunting task. Astrology is a complex study and practice, which makes beginner books that promise to “make it easy” misleading, giving a rich and deep study short shrift. It is not my intention to review any and all astrology books, but rather to “cherry-pick” the best of books based on my work as a professional astrologer and lifelong student of the craft.
Choosing the Book
For this review process, I am looking at three main factors: the knowledge and wisdom of the author, the readability and delivery of the knowledge, and the usefulness of the book – in practice or for building an understanding of the field. Beginner books will be delineated from more advanced techniques from largely philosophical and or theoretical books. Most of the books will fall somewhere between beginner and theoretical, with an eye towards usefulness. When I began, I read as much as I could from past and current authors and explored many different techniques until I finally settled on my particular way of doing astrology, which has become my signature style.
The Book This Month – Astrology and the Authentic Self by Demetra George
The full title of this book is Astrology and the Authentic Self: Integrating Traditional and Modern Astrology to Uncover the Essence of the Birth Chart. The ISBN 13 number for this book is 978-0892541492 and it is currently $20.90 USD on Amazon at the time this article was written. If you are a used book junkie, you can find a copy on Alibris for $16.35 USD. Published in 2008, this book “provides a model for the practicing astrologer and student to analyze a client’s life purpose as indicated through the natal chart” (back cover). And this book delivers!
The book is well-edited, with a useful table of contents at the beginning of the book, a glossary of terms, extensive endnotes for each chapter, but surprisingly, no index at the end. Demetra George is an accessible and thoughtful writer who argues for the use of ancient astrology techniques in modern astrology practice. She “outlines how to follow traditional guidelines [of ancient astrology], but interprets them within a modern context, adding the insights of more contemporary approaches” (back cover).
The book is broken into four parts, starting with Laying the Foundation, which includes chapters on The Grammar of Astrology and Determining Planetary Condition. Part 2 explores Establishing the Framework, with chapters on An Overview of the Chart; The Ascendant, Its Ruler, and the Life Direction; The Sun, The Moon, and the Life Purpose; and Timing by Transits and Progressions. Part 3 covers Building the Structure, with chapters on The Lunation Phases; Fortune, Lunar Nodes, and Eclipses; Mythic Asteroid Archetypes; Aspect Patterns; Timing by Solar Returns and Annual Predictions; and the Finished Structure. And Part 4 concludes the book with The Person Who Lives in the Chart, with chapters on Encountering Your Clients and The Healing Power of Myth to Address Suffering. There is also an epilogue, The Astrologer as Counselor.
While it is true that this book is intended for the professional and student, a few adjectives need to be placed in front of the student, like “serious”, “deeply committed”, “intending to become a professional astrologer”, and “scholarly”. I highly recommend this book. In fact, it has informed many aspects of my own practice, the most important being my choice to move from using the Placidus House system to the Whole Sign House system. Almost all western astrologers who started out with western (i.e., Tropical) astrology cut their teeth on the Placidus system, and most still use it. It’s a fine system; however, George’s argument in this book convinced me to change systems.
There are three main distinctions between the two systems. First, the whole signs system sets every house at 30 degrees and is assigned a single Zodiac ruler. With Placidus, houses can range from less than 30 degrees to considerably more than 30 degrees and be co-ruled by as many as three signs. Second, the angles of the Houses become points within the House rather than the cusp (or starting point of the 1st, 4th, 7th, and 10th Houses). Lastly, the Medium Coeli (10th House cusp in the Placidus system) and Imum Coeli (4th House cusp in the Placidus system) can range from the 9th to the 11th and 3rd to the 5th Houses respectively. I have found this range extremely useful when talking about career and family with clients.
All of George’s books are worth owning, but this one proved to be the most practical and helpful to me as a professional. At the time of writing this article, George has recently published (January 2019) a new book entitled Ancient Astrology in Theory and Practice: A Manual of Traditional Techniques, Volume I: Assessing Planetary Condition. I look forward to getting a copy soon and reading it.
Knowing the Reviewer
I have an academic background; my PhD is in English (1996) and my concentration was rhetoric and composition. Astrologically speaking, I am an Aries Sun with Mercury, my point of communication, also in Aries. These two facts about my background and astrological identity are the two main “lenses” of how I pick and interpret books. I want them to be well-written, researched, and presented (my academic lens), and I want them to be useful, direct, and pithy (my Aries Mercury lens).
I will be most helpful to you if my point of view and your point of view have significant similarities. If you spend enough time reading music, book, or movie reviews, and you explore a number of different reviewers, you probably experience a thrill when you find the reviewer that hits your sweet spot and you can trust him or her to give you a heads up on music, books, or a movie in a way you can trust. When you listen to music, read the book, or see the movie by “your” reviewer, you know you will not be wasting your time. I want to be “your” reviewer.