Here’s another list that I expect to continually expand. All are books worth checking out.
- Dark Tower probably my favorite of Stephen King’s work, this seven book series is his magnum opus that ties all his universe(s) together. I particularly resonated with the way King wove himself (so unflatteringly) into the latter part of the story, and the distain the characters he created have for him is something I really relate to. Start with the Gunslinger and strap in.
- Shadow & Claw: The First Half of ‘The Book of the New Sun” by Gene Wolfe. The Book of the New Sun is one of those great series that really blends the edge between science-fiction and fantasy. The story of a guild-trained torturer thrown out of his order for showing mercy and travels the world as a freelance executioner, this is one of my all time favorite fantasy series.
- The Road by Cormac McCarthy reads like a piece of nihilist poetry. If you’ve managed to get through the amazing Viggo Mortensen movie, know it is a very faithful adaptation, but the book is something else altogether. It captures the true desperation that comes with the dying of hope in a doomed world. Don’t read it if you’re already feeling depressed, though.
- Baudolino by Umberto Eco is one of my favorite books by him, and I love love love everything of his I’ve read. The story of a liar whose lies are so great that they eventually come true (even the fantastical ones) and his adventures in the (impossible) East, this book is a wonderful insight into 13th century intellectualism (and counter-intellectualism).
- The Self Aware Universe by Dr. Amit Goswami who also did the famous documentary What the Bleep Do We Know?! this book bridges the gaps between spirituality and quantum physics in a way that really helped reconcile my perceived differences between magick and science. His documentary The Quantum Activist is another great introduction to the man and his theories… namely the concept that it is matter that arises from consciousness, not the other way around.
- The Book of Codes edited by Paul Lunde. Whoa Nelly, is this the absolute perfect book for any cryptophiles out there. Packed full of great art and tons of educational reference for what might every type of code ever created, it’s easy to lose hours just browsing the pages and absorbing each of the fascinating facets and factoids on every page.
- The Book of the Law (Liber Al vel Legis) – I would be remiss if I did not include Aleister Crowley’s famous 1903 divinely inspired work, and it’s a beautiful piece of spiritual poetry that even a non-Thelemite can appreciate. It’s a really quick read, but you may find yourself needing to read it more than once. Crowley’s total body of work is truly exhausting, but Liber Al is the place to start.
- The Mystery Traditions: Secret Symbols and Sacred Art – the same trip I went to NYCC to meet with George R.R. Martin, I also met James Wasserman who sold me a copy of this book, even though then I wasn’t anything even approaching a magician then. A fantastic visual resource for the esoteric scholar, Wasserman knows his stuff, and who knew that many years later I’d find myself a member of the same fraternity that he had helped save…? He did seem pretty sure I’d be back later to buy that book…
- Modern Magick by Donald Michael Craig. For the aspiring ritual magician, this book is a must-have. Though sadly somewhat light in its astrological focus, regardless the collective resources combined with Craig’s straight-forward style of explanation and “initiation” can really help those who have the will to make the leap from magickal theory to magickal practice.
- The Essential Golden Dawn: An Introduction to High Magic – another great primer book, I found the opening chapters which traced the history of magick to 20th century to be particularly enlightening, and gives a great context for most schools of magickal thought one is likely to encounter. I find the Gold Dawn system a little too straight-laced for my tastes, but have complete respect for its practitioners… and for the aspiring magician who finds Crowley just a bit too “icky”, these guys may be more your speed.
- Liber Null & Psychonaut: An Introduction to Chaos Magic – on the other end of the spectrum from the Golden Dawn (in my opinion) is Chaos Magick, which I also find equally compelling, and Peter J. Carroll’s book is a splendid introduction to wrapping your head around magickal concepts without getting bogged down with a lot of “mumbo-jumbo” (be warned, you’re going to have some…). For those interested in magick, but find the idea of wearing robes and waving wands and daggers around silly, this book may be more up your alley.
Sequential Art (Comics)
- Habibi – In my opinion, Craig Thompson’s finest work (and that’s saying something, he did Blankets for crying out loud). I could go on and on about why you absolutely need to read this book. Oh wait, I did… you can read the gushing review I wrote for NY Journal of Books here.
- Building Stories – Do you know Chris Ware’s work? I can’t get enough of him, though in many ways he’s as atypical as he is genius. Any of his Acme Novelty Library books are worth getting (the edition I linked was nominated for an Eisner Award the year I was a judge), but Building Stories is another thing altogether. I reviewed this collection as well, so you can read all about it here.
- Hellboy – If all you know if the movie, you don’t quite get Hellboy yet. Mike Mignola’s comics have this sort of dry wit contrasted with stark, graphic artwork that is masterful and “untranslatable” into other mediums (though his animation The Amazing Screw-On Head is pretty darn close). Start with Hellboy Vol 1 Seed of Destruction, and if you’re like me you’ll end up devouring everything Mignola’s ever done since. I met him once at a Random House dinner at the San Diego ComicCon one year, but the only thing I can remember eating is my foot…
Role-playing Games (RPGs)
- Pathfinder – I’ve played and run Dungeons & Dragons games in all its various incarnations going back to the late 80’s. D&D 3.0 had its frustrating bits, 3.5 fixed a lot of them, but Paizo’s Pathfinder (which is essentially 3.75) was the superior system and I’ve used it since its Alpha stage. I was already running a Pathfinder Beta/3.5 mash-up game when D&D 4.0 came out, and I was also playing World of Warcraft a lot at the time, so when a gaming buddy invited me and some friends to test out the new system, I immediately saw the “pandering” parallels to WOW (which I felt was the exact wrong focus), turned up my nose and never looked back. I hear some good things about D&D 5.0, but I’m still butt-hurt over the last three versions of the game, and Pathfinder still works fine after all these years, so it’s the system I’d recommend and still use in my own campaign (Blackspire). Through no fault of its own, it does lack some of the classic D&D monsters (Beholders, Illithids, and the like being Wizards of the Coast lPs and all that) but they’re easy enough to adapt to Pathfinder from D&D series 3 material. I also use HeroLab for character/monster creation for my Pathfinder games, but they have versions for other games as well, including Shadowrun, Call of Cthulhu, World of Darkness, and yes even Dungeons & Dragons. Bet you didn’t know Paul Hume, co-creator of Shadowrun is also an O.T.O. brother… gamers and magicians man, I’m telling ya.