What to read according to your star sign

Whether you read your horoscope daily or don't quite understand the fascination with astrology, can the stars help you choose what to read? 

Nell Frizzell
Does your birthday explain your reading habits? Image: Ryan McEachern / Penguin

You don’t need to plot your entire life by the predictions found between the recipes and the adverts for walk-in baths at the back of glossy magazines in order to take an interest in horoscopes. Nor do you have to wholeheartedly believe in the total predetermination of the stars in order to take comfort in the idea of destiny, commonality and patterns of behaviour.

For centuries, science and astrology were as interwoven as shot silk. Hippocrates, arguably the father of western medicine, was a great fan of star-gazing, writing at some point 400 years BC that "a physician without a knowledge of astrology has no right to call himself a physician". Galileo, the engineer, scientist and astronomer who first realised that the earth orbited the sun and much more besides, also apparently wrote horoscopes for his students. Who knows, maybe Mystic Meg has a secret life as a physicist or structural engineer.

One thing is clear; for as long as people have been people we have been ascribing each other general characteristics by day and staring into the sky at night. And for as long as people have been people, we’ve been telling each other stories to bind us together and learn about our world. So what are the perfect stories to share according to those 12 astrological signs into which we are born? Get out your telescope and let’s go looking.


March 21 – April 20

As the first sign in the calendar, Aries is often, perhaps unsurprisingly, considered that of leaders. Ruled by Mars, a planet of war, action and dynamism, those fiery Aries are often considered turbulent, proactive; perhaps with just a hint of a short attention span. Which does rather lend itself to the idea of short stories or maybe even the collected aphorisms of Confucious under the famous title The Analects.

Most likely reading habit: In there like swimwear for the hardback edition, signed, the very day it comes out.


 April 21 – May 20

Practical, capable, competitive and usually fairly reliable in a crisis, those born under Taurus are considered earthy with a tendency to lust. In fact, a wise (if slightly outmoded) star-seeker once told me that Taurean men were like bulls; only happy when they had plenty of cows around. So why not buy them Hemingway? The descriptions of wine, food, poor heating and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s genital insecurity in Paris are nothing if not earthy, after all.

Most likely reading habit: Don’t be surprised if they lend your only copy of a particularly beloved paperback to a stranger on a train, given as an act of spontaneous flirtation. They are ruled by Venus, you know.


May 21 – June 21

Represented by the two figures, perhaps sisters, perhaps an analogy for internal conflict, Gemini is ruled by Mercury and usually described as an air sign. Geminis attract words like sociable, curious, attentive and just a little capricious. You may be thinking that the obvious choice for such a split persona would be Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. But let’s not be too literal about this. In fact, perhaps Little Women would be more the order of the day; that tumbling, interwoven story of sibling affection, conflict and competition by Louisa May Alcott.

Most likely reading habit: Buying three copies of the same book, to give away to friends and family.


 June 22 – July 22

Well, there are pincers. It would be foolish to pretend otherwise. These summer crabs can be suspicious, insecure and, well, maybe a little bit crabby. But perhaps it is more helpful to think of Cancerians as the lateral movers - the ones who approach things from an unexpected angle, who can be hard to pin down, who enjoy tweaking rather than leaving well alone. You may even hear words like manipulative ascribed to them. So, without being too bald about things, perhaps we’re in the literary territory of Jane Austen’s Emma here. Or, when it goes too far, The Prince by Machiavelli.

Most likely reading habit: Just the sort of person to have three books on the go at any one time, and to be very aware of which ones are visible through the window to passers by.


July 23 – August 22

The big, roaring, midsummer life-and-soul of the party. Leo is a fire sign and so often associated with creativity, passion and generosity with just a hint of underlying danger and recklessness. Think of the enormous, heady, slightly seedy parties in F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Or, if you want to be absolutely literal about things, The Lion and The Unicorn by George Orwell.

Most likely reading habit: Don’t be surprised to find wine stains on some of the inside pages or for the cover to have been faded by the sun.


August 23 – September 21

A good Virgo is as earthy as the ground is brown. They are thought of as both the very stuff from which good things grow, and a little like wading through mud. Virgo strengths are said to be attention to detail and analysis while there is a slow, stubborn determination running under a lot of what they do. In short, they might well be the sort of person who has actually read Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time rather than just downloaded it in a fit of good intention. They might actually pursue all of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, even the agricultural bits.

Most likely reading habit: Underlining, folding over pages, sticky notes, annotations done in biro - all the things that make books loved, if not pretty.


September 22 – October 22

Represented by a set of scales, Libras are often seen as even-handed and well-suited to partnership. They are said to be ruled by Venus, which even the most junior scholars of leg razors and history of art can tell you means love, affection and intimacy. When it comes to taste in books, it isn’t a huge leap to mention Romeo and Juliet, One Day, Anna Karenina, Wuthering Heights; anything featuring a really prominent relationship.

Most likely reading habit: It is not beyond the realms of probability that a Libran will buy a loved one a book as a gift in order to read it themselves after.


October 23 – November 22

These little lobsters are another water sign. But not the crashing ocean wave sort of water; often described as decisive, determined, calm in a crisis and perhaps a little old before their years, Scorpios may be more likened to lakes and rivers. And if rivers are their bag then The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn certainly contains a lot of water, and some young people acting above their age. A Libran is also likely to be a fan of narrative non-fiction and essays.

Most likely reading habit: Possibly just the sort of people to order their book shelves by genre and then subdivide those genres by alphabet. You know, like an actual library.


November 23 – December 21

One of the fire signs, Sagittarians are often seen as outgoing, sociable, extroverted and lauded for their sense of humour. Which is lucky, because their tendency to lose things, bite off more than they can chew and steamroller over detail sometimes needs to be glossed over with some well-timed funny. When it comes to literary tastes, you could do a lot worse than buying some P.G ,Wodehouse or Nora Ephron.

Most likely reading habit: Leaving their book on the train, in their other bag, at the place they’re staying on holiday or in someone else’s bed.


December 22 – January 20

The old goat of the horoscope, Capricorns are said to be ruled by Saturn. Which, as all primary school pupils know, is a fairly mysterious, distant and possibly cold planet. Perhaps this is why Capricorns are often seen as just a little aloof. But they’re an earth sign too; which may account for their reputation for also being serious, conscientious and stable. Think of Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice or George Knightley in Emma.

Most likely reading habit: They might well use a bookmark rather than dog-earing their pages. Which is admirable, of course.


January 21 – February 19

Despite what the name may suggest, Aquarius is an air sign. That breezy lightness is often interpreted as temperamental, eccentric, maybe even capricious. Aquarians can be described  as shy, or living in their heads. Which is interesting, considering they’re ruled by Uranus. Ahem. While short stories may seem a natural choice, perhaps something like The Dubliners by James Joyce would be a more original book to opt for.

Most likely reading habit: Starting another book before the first is finished; or always reading a novel in tandem with a piece of non-fiction.


February 20 – March 20

A slippery fish, the Pisces. This last water sign in the chart is thought of as emotional, generous, perhaps a tad gullible. They are said to be led by Neptune and all the instinctual, artistic associations that comes with. Perhaps the most stereotypical embodiment of Pisces in books is Jane Eyre herself, while a good genre for pisces is something escapist; be that historical or science fiction.

Most likely reading habit: Feeling truly bereft once a good novel comes to an end and they have to say goodnight to the characters that have become their friends.

Would you let your star sign affect your reading habits? Let us know what you think of this article by emailing editor@penguin.co.uk. 

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