Reading List

As long as I’m in the mood to make lists, I might as well set down my reading list for the biographical research. As with the interviews, I anticipate this list will expand; for example, before I finish reading these books, I believe Deborah Lipp’s and Oberon Zell-Ravenheart’s memoirs will be published.

First, “how-to” books on research and oral history recommended to me by experts:

Article: What is Oral History? by Linda Shopes

The Modern Researcher; Jacques Barzun and Henry F. Graff. (This and the next two books are considered to be important basic textbooks in their fields.)

The Craft of Research; Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, Joseph M. Williams.

Recording Oral History: A Guide for the Humanities and Social Sciences; Valerie Raleigh Yow.

The Battle of Valle Guilia: Oral History and the Art of Dialogue; Alessandro Portelli. (This author is considered a leading oral-history scholar. It’s a good idea for me to read some biography. The only one I’ve read up to this point is The Autobiography of Malcolm X; it’s a great book, but it’s like “Yankee Doodle” to the experienced researchers: they’ve all read it and moved beyond it. Edit: I now remember that I’ve read Genius by James Gleick, a biography of Richard Feynmann.

Black Mountain: An Exploration in Community; Martin Duberman. (I was told to read this after I said that I didn’t want to include my part in Isaac’s life in a biography I wrote.)

Witchfather: A Life of Gerald Gardner, Volume 1 – Into the Witch Cult and Witchfather: A Life of Gerald Gardner, Volume 2 – From the Witch Cult to Wicca; Philip Heselton. (This just came out. I have to see what someone else did with a similar subject.)

Next come books that mention Isaac, or give more context to the evolution of paganism of which he was a part:

Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America; Margot Adler

The Triumph of the Moon; Ronald Hutton

People of the Earth; Ellen Evert Hopman and Lawrence Bond

The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft; Rosemary Ellen Guiley

Green Egg Omelette; Oberon Zell-Ravenheart

And of course, books written by Isaac himself:

Real Magic; Isaac Bonewits

Authentic Thaumaturgy; Isaac Bonewits

Pagan Rites; Isaac Bonewits

The Pagan Man; Isaac Bonewits

Real Energy; Phaedra and Isaac Bonewits

Bonewits’ Essential Guide to Witchcraft and Wicca; Isaac Bonewits

Bonewits’ Essential Guide to Druidry; Isaac Bonewits

In addition to this, I have 10GB of scanned documents from Isaac’s files, and the computer files that were on his laptop. Those all have to read and coded by me.

In a previous post, I told the story of how a friend gave me a copy of seven novels by Jules Verne. I appreciated the gift, but at this point I must ask everyone: No more books, please! My reading queue is quite full!

Added 22-Mar-2012: Although I haven’t made much progress on the above stack, I’ve read two other books to get some insight into the different ways to present a biography:

A Coin for the Ferryman: The Death and Life of Alex Sanders; Jimahl di Fiosa. I wrote to Jimahl, and he was quite helpful in describing his research techniques.

Marty Feldman: The Biography of a Comedy Legend; Robert Ross. Apart from being a biography in someone in whom I have an interest, this is an example of a book researched primarily via the same types of sources I’m using (interviews, media, old memos).

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  1. Anonymous

    I’m sure that you’ll love Triumph of the Moon, but I don’t think it’s essential to your research. Hutton writes about Great Britain in particular. On the back of “Witchcraft: A Concise Guide,” Hutton himself said that Isaac’s book fills in the U.S. gaps.

    BTW, Bonewits’s Essential Guide to Witchcraft and Wicca *is* Witchcraft: A Concise Guide in later edition and from a new publisher. So, there’s one off your list.

    –Deborah Lipp

    1. wgseligman

      I don’t think Deborah won’t see this reply, since she’s not an LJ user, but:

      I’ve already read Truimph of the Moon and enjoyed it. The reason I feel I have to re-read it is that although TotM focuses on Britain, Hutton quotes Isaac as a reference in several spots. Will those quotes be of biographical significance? I don’t remember; that’s why I have to re-read the book. I also want to go over Hutton’s brief description of the evolution of the Craft in the US.

      Unfortunately, I can’t skip reading both W:ACG and BEGW, or at least skimming them. The differences between the two might be significant. Again, I won’t know until I read them.

      1. wgseligman

        Changed my mind. Given the length of the reading list and my slowness working my way through it, W:CG is off the list.

  2. dr_pretentious

    You might want to add Margot Adler’s memoir Heretic’s Heart.

    A biography that might be a useful model in some ways is Barbara Guest’s H.D.: Herself Defined, about the major modernist poet Hilda Doolittle (who published under her initials, as you might too if you had a name like Hilda Doolittle–and in 1913, publishing under non-gender-specific initials was a big plus for a woman writer). H.D. was an eclectic bi-poly-Pagan feminist who had the odd luck of being born in 1889. Since she was also an important pioneer in modernist literature who knew all the big names and was the teenage sweetheart of Ezra Pound, she got a major scholarly biography from a big, respected press. It’s rare to see a sustained mainstream treatment of a person with views and practices out on the fringe with ours. I can’t think of another model as close as this one.

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