Book reviews by Steve Earles: NON-FICTION

Celtic Astrology: From The Druids to the Middle Ages

Written by M.G. Boutet

Foreword by David Frawley

As an Irishman I am always interested in anything to do with the Celts – my interest being initially sparked by Jim Fitzpatrick’s superb Celtic artwork that has graced books, t-shirts, cards, and several fabulous album covers including works by Darkthrone, Thin Lizzy, Sinead O’Conner, The Darkness and Planxty!)

That our ancestors had great knowledge of the stars is indisputable. Just look at Newgrange or Stonehenge for proof. Hawkwind were right all along!

This meticulously researched book explores the Druid’s systems of cosmology, astrology and astronomy in impressive detail. It truly is a fascinating story well told. This book is well-explained, with excellent illustrations, many by the author, a fine artist.

Overall, a book that would appeal to anyone interested in the history of the Celtic people and for anyone with an interest in cosmology, astrology and astronomy.

The Wildlife Gardener

Written by Kate Bradbury

Photography by Julie Watson

Kudos to Alix at Pen & Sword for sending me this superb book to review. I had told her I was feeding a family of hedgehogs that made themselves at home in my garden, and thought (quite rightly) that this would be a perfect book for me to review.

The family of hedgehogs, having been well fed for a couple of months, are now happily hibernating!

Endorsed by such luminaries as Chris Packham and Alan Titchmarsh, this book is written with great passion and knowledge. At a time when people are becoming more and more aware of the threats posed to wild animals ad plants by human activity, the thought that we can actually do something in our own gardens is very empowering.

Personally, I found the information about animals I already encourage into the garden, like birds and hedgehogs, most useful. But equally, having read the book, next year I will also encourage other creatures like bees.

I also have to compliment Julie Watson on the beautiful photographs.

A book for life… and lives!

Reading The Rocks: How Victorian Geologists Discovered The Secret Of Life

Written by Brenda Maddox

The ground work for so many facts we take for granted was laid in the Victorian era. This energetic and enlightening book tells the stories of the first geologists, the first men and women to try and reassemble the jigsaw puzzle of the past and overturn centuries of dogma and ignorance in the process.

These Victorian geologists are great characters, truly people the phrase ‘you couldn’t make it up’ was invented for. They showed great courage as what they discovered put them in conflict with the prevailing views of Earth’s age, which was based the Bible and the Book of Genesis in particular. It soon became obvious that the Earth was very old indeed and was not created in six days! It is no coincidence that all the activities of these geologists coincided with Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. Darwin himself was a keen geologist; indeed, his relationship with Charles Lyell is one of the most interesting parts of this book.

Brenda Maddox has rather courageously tackled a vast subject and done a fine job in producing a most interesting and engaging book.

Classics Illustrated: A Cultural History, second edition

Written by William B. Jones, Jr.

I remember reading the Classics Illustrated version of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds as a child and being utterly captivated by it; indeed it is still a story I love today.

I had no idea as a child of the long and rich history of Classics Illustrated. Among others there were comic strip adaptations (the term might be graphic novels now) of Classics by the likes of Robert Louis Stevenson, Jules Verne, Edgar Allen Poe, H Rider Haggard, and more.

To call this a book is to do it a disservice: it is, simply put, an encyclopaedia of the history of the publishing of Classics Illustrated and those who produced it. A great achievement by the author, and kudos to McFarland for the beautiful presentation of the book, complete with many fabulous colour and monochrome illustrations.

A thing of beauty and joy forever.

Steve Earles is author and co-author of numerous projects, including To End All Wars: The WWI Graphic Anthology, available summer 2014 (