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 – Planets in Transit by Robert Hand
The full title of this book is Planets in Transit: Life Cycles for Living. The ISBN 13 number for this book is 978-0914918240 and it is currently $23.39 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 $10.76 USD.
Originally published in 1980 and reissued in 2002, this book “covers complete delineations of all the major transits – conjunction, sextile, square, trine and opposition – that occur between the transiting Sun, Moon and all planets to each planet in the natal chart and the Ascendant and Midheaven, as well as compete delineations of each planet transiting each house of the natal chart.” (back cover). This book does not over promise and under deliver; it is, bars none, still the best transit book on the market.
The book is well-edited, with a useful table of contents at the beginning of the book and an index at the end (the golden mean of scholarship). Robert Hand is one of the “great thinkers” of astrology practice and, well, you should simply own and read all of his books. According to Noel Tyl, one of the other “great thinkers” in astrology, “As a guide to perception, astrology needs constant refreshment and creative scrutiny. We can always be grateful for the incisive and energetic views offered by Robert Hand” (back cover).
The book has a forward by Charles A. Jayne, an Introduction, and thirteen chapters, starting with Interpreting Transits, then Timing Transits, a Case Study: Nixon and Watergate, and then chapters for each point beginning with the Sun and ending with Pluto.
There is no need for a bibliography or notes since the transit interpretations are all the creation of Hand’s extensive practice and thorough mind. Each transit gets a four or more-paragraph explanation that clearly delineates the meaning of the relationship of one point to another while also explaining the nuance of each change in aspect.
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. This is a book I use when I want to review my own chart. Currently, I am in the very middle of transiting Pluto squaring my natal Moon. This transit is not an easy one.
First, Pluto is moving through my 3rd House of Communication so I can expect: “everyday contacts, everyday communications, and conversations [to] take on a much heavier tone while Pluto transits this house. Elements in your everyday life that you normally take for granted – neighbors, immediate relatives, daily business and other such routine matters – now become fraught with significance” (479).
My Moon occupies my 12th House of Spirituality and is in the Sign Libra while transiting Pluto is currently moving through Capricorn, which makes these signs 90 degrees apart (squared). Hand writes, “This transit produces very intense experiences in your emotional and personal life, and it will test your innermost psychological workings. You may be forced to dig down deeper inside yourself than you have ever done before to get the answers that you need at this time” (492). No pressure, right?!
Further, in the section he writes, “your domestic life may [experience] significant changes, which are reflections of your inner change” (492). Interestingly enough, my wife, who is from South Africa, will be returning from a two-month visit, bringing back her daughter, who has been living with us since she moved to the US to be with me, and her middle child, a stepson, who is 26. My daughter, who was an only child until 12, will now be sharing the house with an “extra” new person and starting pubic school for the first time.
Hand is a prolific writer and has published many books. All of Hand’s books are worth owning, and this one has proved to be one of the most practical and helpful to me as a professional (I plan to write a future review on his book Horoscope Symbols). Discounting the re-release of Planets in Transit, Hand’s most recent work is Essays on Astrology, published in 1997.
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).