I've been asked by my friend the Librarian (note the capital L, that's new) to recommend a book or two on Wicca for the religion section at her library. Apparently they have absolutely no books on the subject, and she is seeking to remedy the situation. I must admit that I have pondered on this for maybe too many days (I think she would have liked an answer a few days ago...), as the longer I think about it, the more undecided I become. I mean, how can you condense the entirety of Wiccan practice and philosophy down to a book or two? You just can't.
Usually when someone asks me at work (yes, I'm really a bookseller) what they should start with, I recommend Scott Cunningham's Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner. That's the one I started with, along with Raymond Buckland's Practical Candleburning Rituals. But this was quite some time ago, and there was not much to choose from. I quickly became enamored of Scott Cunningham and bought everything he had written. His Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs and his Encyclopedia of Crystal, Gem, and Metal Magic are still the books I use most often. Unfortunately, he passed away shortly after I discovered him. Here's a wonderful article about him from Llewellyn's site.
Back then, it seemed there was a larger demand for Buckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft (yes, I worked at a bookstore then, too), but I didn't really dig it myself. Maybe others found it more desirable beacuse it's a big book with a giant pentagram on it? I had forgotten why I didn't like it until I looked in one again the other day. In Gardnerian witchcraft, which is where Buckland got most of his 'brand' of witchcraft, it is necessary to do rituals 'skyclad' (naked), and the initiation rites seem to include a fair bit of bondage. Not for me, thank you very much...
In the early 90's, I bought pretty much every new witchcraft book that came in so I could give it a try. Some I kept, but most have been sent out into the world to find a new home. Aside from a few of the Cunningham books, the one book from then that I actually still use is Edain McCoy's The Sabbats. Celebrating the Sabbats is my favorite part of being pagan, and I've gotten many, many ideas for family shindigs from this book. One book I wish I still had is Power of the Witch, by Laurie Cabot, although I do still have her Celebrate the Earth book about the Sabbats which has some good recipes. Since Ms. Cabot is based out of Salem, Mass, my dear Librarian might have some local interest in her books, as her library is in nearby Connecticut.
In the past few years, there has been just an enormous amount of paper dedicated to Wiccan practice. Many are excellent, and some are just so-so. Speaking of family (yes I was, just a minute ago), my son, age 10, and I have been having 'magic' lessons based on Elements of Witchcraft and The Book of Wizardry. Elements of Witchcraft is a very basic book written for (pre-)teens, but it serves our purposes (he is only 10...). The Book of Wizardry is written more as a young adult novel kind of thing. It seems to try to make a bridge between those interested in the Harry Potter kind of magic and those who are serious about how things really work. I don't think I would really recommend it for a child/teen to read on their own as they might misunderstand. I've been reading the chapters out loud during the lesson and then following up with 'real-world' magic instruction.
As far as recent books I've actually felt the need to purchase (which if you know me, you might think it wouldn't be too hard to convince me to buy a book, but I'm actually pretty picky), there are three that stand out to me. One is Grimoire for the Green Witch, which is a book on natural witchcraft with a Wiccan slant. This is a great all-around book that is substantial enough for a beginner and beyond. And it only has a small pentagram on the cover...The other book is Wicca: A Year and a Day. I actually just purchased this book and am anxious to be at a place in life (soon hopefully) that I can start work through it. It will be nice to get a refresher course that's more in depth than my original self-guided training. A year and a day is the traditional amount of time for study before initiation. (As well as other things like a handfasting...) This book has a lesson for each day and covers theology, deities, divination, correspondences, ritual work, and etc. I'm hoping that I will be able to integrate some of the lessons into my son's lessons. While this seems to be a really great book, my husband pointed out to me that if it got checked out of a library, it could result in a very, very overdue book. The last book is Everyday Magic by Dorothy Morrison. This is essentially a spell handbook; they are all fairly simple to do, and they are arranged alphabetically by intention. Handy in a pinch.
OK, down to the official Moderatrix recommendations. If you can get only one book, get Cunningham's Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner. If you can get two books, get Wicca and The Sabbats. If you can get three...(we can always hope, right?), get Wicca, The Sabbats, and Grimoire for the Green Witch.