I have been ill on and off, and as such, have been whiling away the time reading biographies of Aleister Crowley.

#1 A Magick Life by Martin Booth (2001)

Booth deliberately avoids any kind of controversy or any strongly interpretative lens. He often presents details with the caveat that Crowley (and others) often exaggerated claims about himself, and then leaves it up to the reader to gauge their veracity for themselves. The book itself is clearly written, well researched and humorous. Granted, any biography about Crowley that lacks in humour is probably not worth reading. This is a decent biography for someone with any trepidations regarding Crowley’s notorious reputation.

#2 Do What Thou Wilt by Lawrence Sutin (2002)

Sutin, like Booth, aims for a balanced representation of Crowley but includes far more information about magick in general. More consideration is given to the history of magick and to Crowley’s magickal endeavours, about which he is quoted at length. Whereas Booth’s biography more or less unfolds like a chronological retelling, Sutin provides more in the way of meta analysis and does not shy away from interpretations. Because of this, Sutin may come off at times as a bit of an apologist for Crowley, who never really needed apologizing for. The writing itself is clear, accompanied by amusing chapter titles e.g. Chapter Three: Years of Wandering in Which Crowley Pursues the Heights of Magic and Mountains, Embraces Buddhism, Then Abandons All for the Love of a Woman and the Life of a Country Laird.

#3 Perdurabo by Richard Kaczynski (2010, Revised and Expanded edition)

I’ve just begun this tome but am already enjoying it. It’s certainly received the highest praise from OTO members, artists and members involved in occult organizations, and it’s not difficult to see why. Kaczynski’s writing is engaging, thoroughly researched, and accompanied by many archival photographs. Instead of childhood, it begins with Crowley’s initiation into the Order of the Golden Dawn, and so it seems that magick is given fair and serious consideration. If I had to make any recommendations, despite not having finished the book, it would probably be this one. UPDATE: This book is incredibly well researched, much more extensively than the other two. With this level of detail and scope, it’s easy to see why some have called it the definitive Crowley biography. However, it is quite a hefty text! Recommend Booth’s book if you’re pressed for time.

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