Did you know that a 'spotter' scope with fantastic zoom capabilities may not be the best telescope for viewing the stars? I didn't until I read this book - so I returned an expensive gift and reinvested the refund in something more suitable. You can save yourself hundreds (and possibly thousands) of pounds reading this short, handy book before buying a telescope.
As well as some easy to understand basics about telescopes, Scagell provides excellent case studies of what type of telescope are suited to particular owners, based on budget, where you live and how you think you might use it. Do you really need expensive and complex computerised tracking? Do you plan to use your telescope to take photos? What accessories do you need right away, and which are 'nice to have' and worth waiting for? Are you prepared to compromise on portability and maybe buy - or even build - something that may give better stargazing than a flashy, more expensive and more temperamental alternative?
One of the best pieces of advice (and difficult to swallow, if you've already been browsing telescope catalogues!) is that you may just be better off with binoculars to start with.
Scagell backs all of this advice with great stuff on what to look for when you finally find the telescope that's right for you: finding your way around the constellations, gazing at the moon, planets, satellites, etc, etc.
This is a great foundation for a backyard astronomer. For the price of a couple of astronomy magazines, you may well prevent a once-cherished telescope gathering dust under the bed because it was never meant to do the job you wanted it to do.