The purpose of this post is to present my list of the top 6 best astrology books for new students of astrology.
In this list I focus primarily on books that cover the basics of the fourfold system that is common in most approaches to western astrology, which includes 1) the planets, 2) signs of the zodiac, 3) the doctrine of aspects, and 4) the concept of the 12 houses.
Each of these books can be read by those who have no background in astrology, and some of them also contain interpretations, so that you can look up the meaning of specific placements in your birth chart.
One thing that I should say from the start is that astrology requires a lot of study, so don’t expect to only end up with one astrology book ever, but instead this will probably be the starting point for eventually building up a small library on the subject if you stick with it.
That being said, if you had to start with just one book, below you will find some great recommendations to consider.
For a video version of this list, see the video on my YouTube channel titled Top 6 Astrology Books for Beginners.
The Secret Language of Astrology
My first recommendation is The Secret Language of Astrology, by Roy Gillett, which was published in 2011 by Watkins.
Roy is the President of the Astrological Association of Great Britain, which is the main astrological organization in the United Kingdom.
I like this book because it provides a beautifully illustrated and relatively concise overview of astrology, and it has a decent section on the history of astrology at the beginning of the book to get you oriented on the subject.
The book really excels at explaining the meanings of the planets and signs of the zodiac, and it also provides some some interpretations of natal chart placements, although they are somewhat brief.
It is a relatively light read, being only about 175 pages long, and can be picked up for pretty cheap, with prices ranging around $14 USD for a brand new copy on Amazon.
The publisher has a PDF preview of the book up on their website, if you want to check it out and see if it is the right book for you.
The American Ephemeris
My second recommendation is a book called The American Ephemeris, by Neil F. Michelsen and Rique Pottenger, from ACS Publications.
An ephemeris is a book of planetary positions, which tells you which planet is in which sign of the zodiac every day of the year. It also tells you which degree of each sign the planets are in, so you can figure out when the planets will change signs or make alignments with each other.
This is useful because it helps you to start learning how the planets move, and you can look up other useful stuff like when the planets will turn retrograde, when eclipses will take place, and more.
There are a few different versions of the American Ephemeris available, which show different ranges for different years, like 1900–2000, 2000–2050, or 1950–2050. There are also different versions where the day begins at either midnight or noon, although the midnight version is sufficient for most purposes.
I should point out that while I would recommend the American Ephemeris, there are other ephemerides published by different companies, and these are fine to work with as well. Astrodienst even has a free online ephemeris that you can pull up in PDF format.
An ephemeris is a crucial piece of every astrologer’s toolkit, so it is a good idea to learn how to use one sooner rather than later in your studies.
My third recommendation is Parkers’ Astrology, by Julia and Derek Parker.
This book has been around for a few decades now, and there are a few different editions. The one I have is one of the more recent ones called the “new edition”, published in 2009.
This is a pretty big, thick, comprehensive book, coming in at over 500 pages. It is very well-illustrated, and it sits open flat on a table for easy reference.
One of the most useful and unique features of this book is that it contains a lot of interpretations of natal chart placements. So, if you want to look up what Mars in the 11th house means, or Mercury square Jupiter, you can do so with this book. While some of the other books on this list also have delineations, this one easily has the most.
Just about any edition of this book is good, but try to get one of the more recent ones from 2001 or 2009 in order to get the most up-to-date versions of the graphics and visuals.
There is a description page for the latest version of the book on the authors’ website.
Cosmos and Psyche
My fourth recommendation is Cosmos and Psyche, by Richard Tarnas.
This book was published in 2006 by Viking/Penguin, and it was a pretty big deal at the time.
Tarnas is a university professor, and he became well-known in 1991 when he published a book that traced the history of western thought called The Passion of the Western Mind. This book became a best seller, and ended up on many university reading lists.
Fifteen years after publishing Passion of the Western Mind and establishing himself in the academic community, Tarnas released Cosmos and Psyche. In Cosmos Tarnas essentially tries to make the case for astrology, arguing that it is a legitimate phenomenon that is deserving of serious study.
This is not your typical introductory astrology book, since it was mainly written for academics and intellectuals, but for that reason it does act as a great thinking-person’s intro to astrology book.
The basic premise of the first part of the book is “what if astrology was a legitimate phenomenon?” He then tries to introduce the subject in a careful and respectable fashion, and demonstrate its validity through natal chart studies, as well as demonstrating how outer planet cycles have correlated with major turning points in history.
This isn’t an easy book to read, as it is probably the most cerebral intro to astrology book on the market today, but it is rewarding. It should also be noted that the book is mainly text, and there are not a lot of illustrations, although that makes it unique on this list since it would probably work very well as an e-book.
On the Heavenly Spheres
My fifth recommendation is On the Heavenly Spheres, by Helena Avelar and Luís Ribeiro.
This book was published by the American Federation of Astrologers in 2010, and it is actually an English translation of the couple’s 2007 book Tratado das Esferas, which was translated from Portuguese by Maria Mateus.
This is a book presents an introduction to traditional astrology, which is the type of astrology practiced in Europe prior to the 20th century. It focuses especially on the Medieval and Renaissance traditions, and the authors have worked closely with the surviving textual traditions from those periods.
Luís has some background in graphic design, and the diagrams in the book are amazing. There has to be something close close to 100 diagrams and tables, making the book very richly illustrated.
This book will teach you the nuts and bolts of traditional predictive astrology, it has quickly become a standard text for many traditional astrologers. I hear that they are working on a followup or second edition of the text, which I’m looking forward to.
The Essential Guide to Practical Astrology
My final recommendation is The Essential Guide to Practical Astrology, April Elliott Kent.
This book was originally published in 2011 by Alpha Books/Penguin, but was recently reprinted in 2016 by April’s company Two Moon Publishing.
This book is my top recommendation for beginner astrology books because it is very approachable. April’s writing style is more casual and conversational, and it is almost written like a series of blog posts on different areas of astrology.
Coming in at just under 400 pages, the book covers a lot of ground, and has a very nice layout, with lots of clear paragraphs and bullet points. It also contains lots of delineations of natal chart placements, which is useful for beginners who want to understand their birth chart.
While it does not have a ton of illustrations of diagrams, it makes up for that by having very clear and comprehensive prose, making the concepts easy to understand for a novice audience. For that reason this is my top recommendation in terms of beginner astrology books.
Bonus Recommendation: Hellenistic Astrology
And since this list is about books that I would personally recommend, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my own book, Hellenistic Astrology: The Study of Fate and Fortune.
Published in 2017, this book provides an overview of the original tradition of western astrology that was practiced about 2000 years ago, during the time of the Roman Empire.
In the first part of the book I provide an overview of the history and philosophy of ancient astrology, and then I transition into a detailed treatment of basic, intermediate, and advanced techniques that are used in the context of natal astrology to make statements and predictions about a person’s life.
I focus in particular on exploring the original conceptual basis for the four-fold system of planets, signs, aspects, and houses. The purpose is to understand not just what different parts of an astrological chart mean, but also why they mean what they mean, and how astrologers developed those concepts originally in ancient times.
It is a long and heavy book, coming in at about 700 pages, with 120 chart examples, and 50 diagrams and tables. It would make for a solid beginner book as long as you read it alongside a primer on modern astrology, like one of the books mentioned above. The book can also be read alongside the lectures in my Hellenistic astrology course.
Alright, that is it for this list on the top beginner astrology books!
As I said at the beginning, this is just a starting point for your studies, and you will probably end up amassing a small library of astrology books if you stick with it. So I would recommend picking up more than one of the books on this list if your budget allows.
Ultimately the more widely read you are, the better an astrologer you will eventually become, because you will know everything that is out there and then you can decide what area or approach you want to specialize in.
If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions about your own favorite astrology books so far, let me know in the comments section below!
12 Replies to “The 6 Best Astrology Books for Beginners”
I think Understanding the Birth Chart by Kevin Burk is one of the most helpful books I’ve ever found! And for house interpretations no library should be without Deborah Houldings The Houses-Temples in the Sky.
This is very useful article, and I do agree with your suggestions. I have read most of them. Parkers’ Astrology, by Julia and Derek Parker was one of my first astrology books.
Additionally, must have = The American Ephemeris, by Neil F.
I also agree that Kevin Burke’s book Understanding Astrology is a great beginner book. It starts with basic info and moves into aspects and chart interpretations without being too technical.
Heavenly Spheres was the book that put me on the path toward traditional astrology—and eventually Hellenistic Astrology and your course. I think I found out about it from a list on one of your pages several years ago. Not necessarily an easy beginner read (also needs an index), but a seriously dense tome and worth the effort. Thumbs up for bonus recommendation.
The Inner Sky – Steven Forrest
Bernadette Brady’s “Predictive Astrology: The Eagle and the Lark” is a very good and readable introduction to predictive astrology. Perhaps it doesn’t count as a comprehensive beginner’s book, though, as it does focus on predictive astrology rather than general principles.
Horoscope Symbols by Rob Hand remains my go-to text for beginners. A clearer book on astrology has never been written, in my opinion.
Thank you Chris,
I own so many astrology books, this gives me direction to assist on prioritising which one to read first
I really enjoyed The Twelve Houses by Howard Sasportas
Would you consider follow up posts for both intermediate and advanced books?