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 – Saturn in Transit by Erin Sullivan
The full title of this book is Saturn in Transit: Boundaries of Mind, Body, and Soul. The ISBN 13 number for this book is 978-1578631810 and it is currently $21.95 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 $3.28 USD. Published in 1991 and reissued in 2000, this book “demonstrates how the astrological symbols manifest in the individual and the collective unconscious.” (back cover). This book does not over promise and under deliver; it hits the mark with a bullseye!
The book is well-edited, with a useful table of contents at the beginning of the book, an extensive notes section, bibliography, and an index at the end (the golden mean of scholarship). Erin Sullivan is an accessible and thoughtful writer who explains clearly the role of Saturn in the chart and its profound cycle in our lives. She “gives a thorough account of the astrology, mythology, and psychology of Saturn’s role as the source of divine discontent, out of which is born our passion for understanding” (back cover).
The book is broken into five parts, starting with The Evolution of an Archetype, which includes chapters on Kronos the Titan; The Mythic Kronos and Roman Saturn; The Old Malefic; The Midwife of Insight; The Alchemical Lead; and The Master of Time. Part 2 explores The Natural Cycle of Saturn, starting with a chapter on A Journey towards Individuation; then Natal Saturn to Saturn Square (Birth-7); and ending with Second Saturn Return Onward (from age 59).
Part 3 covers The Heroic Round, with chapters on Heroism; Harmatia: The Hero and the Tragic Flaw; The Mythological Round; and The Angles. And Part 4 covers Experiencing Boundaries, Definition, and Containment; Seeing the Inside on the Outside; and The Transit of Saturn over the Angles. Part 5, The Transit of Saturn to the Planets, concludes with Aspects: The Eye of Saturn; The Story of Job; and Saturn in Transit to Natal Planets.
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 and is a go-to book when preparing clients charts. Once I know the client’s age, it is worth a review to look at the section related to the Saturn transit they are in at the time of the reading. I am currently experiencing the second Saturn opposition to Saturn square (45 to 52); I am 51.
If you happen to be in this age range, Sullivan writes that this is a time of “returning to ambition” (79). We are no longer inexperienced and no longer need to be hesitant or doubtful. We enter a different kind of “prime” time in our lives, where we can mostly count on our health, have solid if not overflowing energy, and rely on life experience that we can use to maximize results and minimize failures. We should be doing all we can to “do all we can” during this period of life. Once we hit the next Saturn phase at 52, we will become even more acutely aware that we probably have fewer days in front of us than behind us.
Sullivan is a prolific writer and has published many books. All of Sullivan’s books are worth owning, but this one proved to be the most practical and helpful to me as a professional (I plan to write a future review on her book about Astrology and family: The Astrology of Family Dynamics). Her most recent book is Astrology of Midlife and Aging, which was published in 2005. Without a doubt, this is a must-have book in your astrological library.
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” for 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.