When it comes to magic books, especially about hoodoo, one usually is provided a selection of funky little pamphlets, often full of errors, aimed at practitioners or aspiring practitioners (These probably include my own books like Death and Destruction: How to Cast Magic Spells for Vengeance, Harm, &c. -- one thing about the little pamphlets is they don't sell well enough to make pro editors a viable option.) The Jim Haskins Voodoo & Hoodoo: Their Traditional Crafts Revealed by Actual Practitioners tends to be as close to scholarly as is common, at least for books that are also still of use to practitioners.
Well, below are two books that I found extremely helpful. These are not corny little conjure booklets: these are actual scholarly works. Skepticism is presumed but not shoved down your throat, and it's easy for practitioners to read the contents as fact instead of records of belief. An advantage of this sort of book is it actually has a tendency to explain the processes behind these behaviors in magical practice which we just take for granted.
by Ioan P. Couliano
A fine autumn day at Borders with a 40% off coupon burning a hole through my pocket, I decided I hadn't devoted myself to any Medieval studies in a while, and so went to the history section. There, staring back at me right at eye level, was this book. I flipped it through, landed on a random page, and at once realized it was something I needed to own.
While the title indicates it's about love spells, and indeed they probably do focus on that more than any other specific type, it's actually about magic in general. Many habits that are done by practitioners have their reasons explained (Why do you have to "purify" yourself before doing so many works? The answer regards an important substance, a type of energy in us all, called the pneuma which is absolutely essential to magic. It seems to correspond to the eastern chi and prana, as well as the "soul" that is lost in cases of susto.) The workings of the pneuma and its influence on phantasms, another important element in magic -- approximately what's being done in visualizations, and what our herbal and planetary magic work to influence -- are also explained in a form unassuming that one will 'just know' about these things and how they work, and thus, it explains at length why they work. The book also contains a few spells, such as a communication spell invoking the angel Orfiel, cleansing/empowerment spells to get the pneuma in shape, and some love magic.
The focus is clearly on European high magic in the Renaissance (as it's based off the stuff which was prim and proper enough to get recorded) but because it's clear so many of the concepts are universal or nearly so, as far as magical practices, it's of much utility to a spellcaster from any tradition.
by Julian Jaynes
This book had been sitting, unread, around the family house since before I was born. It became a running joke in the household, because the book was so tedious to read no one had ever finished the first chapter. Then, some years ago, my mother made up her mind and decided she would go and actually read the thing, no matter how long it took. She then began to summarize to me everything she'd been reading (and also revealed that, if you can get past the first 100 pages the book livens up quite a bit -- the slow start is due to the author's efforts to ensure his readers understand what he means by 'consciousness' which, in this case, is closer to self-consciousness.) That turned me round to reading it.
The focus here is not so much on magic, but on the mindset which is responsible for some magic as well as psychic ability and communication with gods or spirits. Again, the author is writing with an assumption that his readers are just scientists and so never tries to assume the gods, spirits, magic and divination are real beyond what the brain can do with them, but I found for myself that having this understanding of how it works was very, very, very useful in developing abilities. Most of these occult actions come from a lack of a conscious state, and as the title promises, the book explains how consciousness evolved from a merging of both the right and left sides of the brain, which in earlier times functioned (more) separately, and lack of connect between thoughts on both sides caused people to feel they were being controlled or spoken to by external forces. Now, to me it seems perfectly possible that gods, spirits, etc. can be really talking to people and just use one more readily susceptible side of the brain in this work, so I don't have any sort of issue or feeling that the science of this book is at all contrary to spiritual belief.
And once again, because he explains so much of the how, you start figuring out ways you can better activate these abilities. Other useful information, like why people in ancient or very rural cultures seem to have stronger tendency for these abilities, is given. It also has an interpretation of the Trojan War that will never make you think of it the same way again.
I strongly recommend both of these books to anyone interested in magic. If you buy through the links above, you can get free shipping on an order over $25 -- both books bought together at the current price will come to $26.83 (Also, since they ship from Amazon, you can just add them to your cart and then continue shopping on the main Amazon.com site for whatever other items you're needing.)