A Sagittarius and an Aquarius cross paths. Does it end in true love? You’ll have to read Minnie Darke’s Star-Crossed to find out. The novel follows Justine, who believes that running into her childhood sweetheart Nick is no coincidence. Convinced their love is written in the stars, she starts to use the horoscopes that she writes to guide Nick, an astrological devotee, into alignment. To celebrate the book’s release, Darke (a Gemini) shared a list of zodiac sign book recommendations.
Something I love about book lists (and it’s also something I love about good book shops, great book sellers, passionate publishers, libraries, and dear friends) is that they can sometimes spark in me the desire to read books that I wouldn’t normally choose if left entirely to my own devices. Some of the wildest, weirdest, and most moving reading experiences I’ve had have come from recommendations. So, for you, I have put together a slightly crazy reading list. Ranging across genres, locations, decades, and versions of reality, it takes you through all 12 signs of the zodiac, touching on each of the dozen animals whose images and meanings continue to resonate through our lives and imaginations. Whether you’re a pleasure-seeking Taurus or an idealistic Aquarian, a sure-footed Capricorn or a life-of-the-party Gemini, an adventurous Sagittarius or a nurturing Cancerian, a mysterious Scorpio or a regal Leo, a balanced Libran or a meticulous Virgo, there’s a little something for you on my star-gazer’s list.
Aries, the Ram
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick
Dick’s novel, originally published in 1968, is the speculative fiction classic that inspired the movie Bladerunner. Set in a post-apocalyptic future, it’s the story of bounty hunter Rick Deckard, who has the task of tracking down and decommissioning six escaped androids. With the bounty, Rick hopes to be able to afford to buy a real sheep to replace his electric one, living as he does in a world where animals have become precious and rare. But, this novel asks, just how clear is the boundary between real and ‘artificial’ life?
Taurus, the Bull
Going Bovine by Libba Bray
This unusual YA novel might be described as the lovechild of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. It’s the tale of high-school student Cameron Smith, who is diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jakob variant BSE, colloquially known as “mad cow disease.” A girl (or is she an angel?) called Dulcie persuades Cameron to leave his hospital bed and undertake a potentially life-saving journey. What follows is a crazy, reality-bending road trip. Pack tissues.
Gemini, the Twins
Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
My favorite twins in literature come from this luminous novel, in which a zealous Baptist minister takes his wife and four girls to the Congo on an evangelizing mission. Two of the girls are twins—brave, physically vigorous Leah, and the much more cerebral Adah, whose experiments with language are a highlight of this book.
Cancer, the Crab
Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson
I admit this is a slightly sideways choice—but perhaps that’s only right and proper when it comes to making a recommendation to the crabs of the zodiac. Paterson’s novel was one of my uber-favorites when I was a child. Set in Chesapeake Bay, it’s the story of Sara Louise (or “Wheeze”), daughter of a crab fisherman, and the supposedly ungainly twin sister to the beautiful and talented Caroline (which makes this a possible Gemini pick, too). I cannot quite tell you what it is about this book that makes me love it so, but every few years I read it again, just to make sure it’s still there.
Leo, the Lion
A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley
Originally called simply A Long Way Home, this book became Lion when it was adapted for a movie starring Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman. It’s the true story of Saroo “Lion” Brierley, who was separated from his family in rural India as a very young child. Adopted by a family in Tasmania (where I’ve lived my whole life), Saroo later used Google Earth—and his scraps of childhood memory about the topography of his home town—to find his way home. It’s a remarkable true tale.
Virgo, the Virgin
The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter
This book, by one of my ultimate literary goddesses, Angela Carter, begins with the virginal 15-year-old Melanie discovering that she is “made of flesh and blood. O, my America, my new found land!” This book reads like a fairy tale: When Melanie’s parents are killed, she and her siblings are placed in the care of her very strange uncle, a maker of creepy puppets and toys. This book is weird and wonderful.
Libra, the Scales
Libra by Don DeLillo
This dense work is one of the more heavyweight inclusions on this list. DeLillo’s fictional reinvention of the life of John F. Kennedy’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, is definitely not a beach read. Oswald was a Libra, but the title may also refer to the way that DeLillo sees broader historical events and trends tipping the scales of Oswald’s grim choices.
Scorpio, the Scorpion
The Collected Poems by Sylvia Plath
Even if you didn’t know a whole heap about astrology, you’d be able to pick Sylvia Plath as a Scorpio. I spent my teenage years immersed in Sylvia’s dark, clever, passionate poetry, and I love it to this day.
Capricorn, the Goat
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
Goat, faun… same difference, right? Lucy’s visits to Mr. Tumnus’ house in the woods of Narnia are one of my favorite parts of this evergreen children’s classic. Like a plate of Vegemite on toast is my ultimate comfort food, and a pair of well-worn Ugg boots is my ultimate comfort wear, this book is my ultimate narrative comfort zone.
Aquarius, the Water Bearer
Dune by Frank Herbert
Again, this is an eccentric choice, but Aquarians are known for thinking outside the box. It’s precisely because Dune set on the planet of Arrakis that water becomes a precious commodity. Read this book for a rip-roaring tale of prophecy, witchcraft, love, betrayal, politics, and worm-riding—and also to admire how Herbert constructs the culture of Arrakis’s Fremen people around their understanding of the importance of water.
Pisces, the Fish
The Pisces by Melissa Broder
Not for the squeamish, this is a book about having a sexual encounter with a sea creature, which seems to have been something of a theme in recent literary times (see also Guillermo del Toro’s book-movie double, The Shape of Water). Broder, perhaps best known for her presence in the Twitterverse, here tells the story of Lucy, who’s basically trashing her life by sampling the entire smorgasbord of unhealthy emotional habits. Could anyone be needier than Lucy herself? Well, maybe Theo—the half-fish man she meets in the water near the Californian mansion she’s house-sitting for her sister. This book’s not going to be for everyone, but if you’re in the mood for a walk on the wild side, step into the water…