By Amber C. Snider, w/ book recommendations by Stacy Rapp & Carmen Pouerie
Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned reader, here’s a roundup of our favorite classic and new books on tarot to help pique your intrigue and develop your divination skills.
The origin story of the Tarot may be shrouded in mystery, but the oldest surviving deck in the world dates back to 15th century Milan. The Visconti-Sforza tarot deck – a beautiful, stylized painted design – contains many of the major archetypes we know today, even though only fragments remain. Fast forward several centuries later. In 1910, illustrator Pamela Colman Smith and mystic A.E. Waite created what is now the most popular deck in the English-speaking world: the Rider-Waite tarot deck (also known as the Rider-Waite-Smith deck). The Rider-Waite remains a staple divination tool for many and has influenced hundreds of other versions and reinterpretations to-date.
Over the course of 500 years, the Tarot still manages to capture our intrigue – not only for its mysticism and artwork, but also for its practicality. Whether it’s to study archetypes in the human psyche, come to terms with grief and loss, understand behavioral patterns and desires, or divine the future, people are still drawn to these mystical 78 cards. Even modern day psychologists are using the Tarot to help understand, clarify, and uncover deep rooted psychical patterns in their patients.
Below, we’ve compiled some of our favorite books on Tarot to help you navigate all the material out there.
For beginners and beyond:
Learning the Tarot, by Joan Bunning
"A 'how-to' book with 19 lessons and numerous exercises, beginning with the basics and gradually moving into advanced concepts so that you can learn to read the tarot at your own pace. Includes interpretations for all the cards. The author first presented this course on the Internet, and continues to provide website support for students with questions. 178 illustrations using the popular Waite deck." – From the publisher, Red Wheel/ Weiser
Tarot for Yourself, by Mary K. Greer
"This tarot classic by Mary K. Greer was the first book to promote reading the cards for your own insight, revolutionizing tarot through a combined emphasis on self-teaching techniques and personal growth. Tarot for Your Self uses meditations, rituals, spreads, mandalas, visualizations, dialogues, charts, affirmations, and other activities to help you establish your own relationship with the cards. Tarot for Your Self covers interpretations for the major and minor arcana, reversed card meanings for all 78 cards, and enlightening information on your shadow/teacher cards." –– From the publisher, Red Wheel/ Weiser
Tarot for Beginners, by Barbara Moore
"This all-new edition of the popular Tarot for Beginners makes it simpler and more enjoyable than ever to learn how to read and interpret tarot cards. Award-winning tarot expert Barbara Moore clearly explains every aspect of the tarot so you can perform readings with ease and confidence.
Discover the core divinatory meanings of all seventy-eight cards, clearly broken down by Major and Minor Arcana, suit, and number. A variety of spreads and sample readings will help you develop essential skills and ultimately create your own unique style." –– From the publisher, Llewellyn
The Crowley Tarot Handbook, by Akron & Hajo Banzhaf
"The Crowley Tarot Handbook provides a thorough guide to the background and methodology of tarot reading with the Crowley Thoth Tarot deck. For those who are ready to delve even deeper into the meanings of the cards created by Lady Frieda Harris and Aleister Crowley, this handbook offers detailed analysis of the rich symbolism and the myriad correlations in the fields of astrology, art and music, mythology, Tree of Life, the Runes, elements, and other archetypal correspondences." –– From the publisher U.S. Games Systems
Modern Tarot, by Michelle Tea
Beloved literary iconoclast Michelle Tea reinvents tarot for a new generation in this guide to using the Tarot as a twenty-first-century tool for connecting with our higher selves. Based on over twenty-five years of experience and a deep and abiding love of the cards, Modern Tarot brings the full force of Tea’s unique insight, inviting pop sensibility, and wicked humor to bear on the tradition of the Tarot in a fascinating journey through the cards that teaches us how to use this tradition for radical self-growth." –– From the publisher, Harper
Tarot for Troubled Times, by Shaheen Miro & Theresa Reed. Read our interview the authors here.
"Each of us has a shadow that darkens our inner and outer lives. In Tarot for Troubled Times, Shaheen Miro and Theresa Reed show us how working with the shadow—facing it directly, leaning into it rather than away—releases power that can free ourselves from negative mental habits and destructive emotions to find healing ourselves and others. Tarot, as the authors show, offers a rich and subtle path for this profound transformation." –– From the publisher Weiser
Ultimate Guide to the Rider-Waite Tarot, by J. Fiebig & E. Burger
"Discover everything you ever wanted to know about the world's most popular tarot deck. The Ultimate Guide to the Rider Waite Tarot details the ten most important symbols on each and every card in the deck complete with hundreds of illustrations for easy use. In addition to an explanation of the symbols, each card is given a brief interpretation by topic, [including] primary meaning, spiritual meaning, love and relationship meaning, daily meaning, and more." –– From the publisher Llewellyn
Tarot Plain and Simple, by Anthony Louis
"Tarot Plain and Simple by Anthony Louis is the book you've been waiting for! As the title indicates, this book presents the Tarot in clear language that anyone can understand. If you've had trouble learning the Tarot, this book gives the meaning of each and every one of the 78 Tarot cards—both in simple terms and in-depth ones, both upright interpretations and those for when a card is drawn reversed. Illustrations are from the elegant and mystic Robin Wood Tarot." –– From the publisher Llewellyn
Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom, by Rachel Pollack
"The bestselling tarot classic in a new edition with a new preface by the author. When it was first published nearly 40-years-ago, Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom was an instant classic and inspired generations of tarot students. Often referred to as the 'bible of tarot books' it has now helped to launch the 'tarot renaissance' we’re seeing today. Drawing on mythology and esoteric traditions and delving deeply into the symbolism and ideas of each card, the book offers a modern psychological interpretation of the tarot archetypes rather than a system of esoteric symbolism." –– From Publisher Weiser
21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card, by Mary Greer
"Drawing on nearly forty years of tarot experience, Mary K. Greer has developed a new energizing approach-made up of twenty-one stimulating techniques to interpret or deepen your understanding of each card. Just as the twenty-six letters of the alphabet can be combined to form billions of words, Greer's twenty-one methods can be used in any combination for gaining amazing new insights and perspectives." –– From the publisher Llewellyn
Intermediate and beyond:
Tarot Card Combinations, by Dorothy Kelly
"Tarot Card Combinations is a unique, comprehensive, and highly practical presentation of interpreting the tarot that has helped thousands master the ancient divination. Dorothy Kelly's easy-to-understand approach shares everything one needs to know to unlock the story presented when the cards are drawn. What makes this book unique is Kelly's presentation of cards in endless combinations, revealing how the cards relate to each other and endowing each card with richer meaning and more subtle nuances than when considered alone." –– From the publisher, Weiser
Keywords for the Crowley Tarot, by Hajo Banzhaf
"This easy-to-use reference provides a handy dictionary and overview so you can readily check card meanings and interpret the symbols for different occasions. Included are the number, glyph, astrological attribute, general meaning, what the card encourages what it warns against, and how you can use it if you draw it as your card for the day or card for the year. sure to become a classic in every tarot library!" –– From the publisher, Weiser
Rachel Pollack's Tarot Wisdom, by Rachel Pollack
"Offering an abundant array of new ideas mixed in with enlightening discussions about Tarot's checkered past, this tarot guidebook features innovative ways to interpret and use Tarot, and a wealth of original spreads to try for yourself—including spreads for predictive, psychological, magical, and spiritual readings. All seventy-eight cards are explored from fresh angles: history, art, psychology, and a variety of spiritual and occult traditions, using cards from seven diverse decks so you can easily contrast and compare." –– From the publisher, Llewellyn
Understanding Aleister Crowley's Thoth Tarot, by L.M. Duquette
"Originally published in 2003, Understanding Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot has proved to be the essential guide to accessing the unique symbolism and meaning of Aleister Crowley's remarkable tarot deck along with the deeply textured artwork of Lady Frieda Harris. Crowley authority Lon Milo DuQuette starts by providing an insightful historical background before delving into descriptions of each card in depth, from a tarot perspective and from an expanded, magickal point of view. This unique guide has been updated with a new introduction that provides information on the unicursal hexagram cards included with the deck but never explained." –– From the publisher Weiser
Ultimate Guide to the Thoth Tarot, by J. Fiebig & E. Burger
"Discover everything you ever wanted to know about the Thoth Tarot with this incredibly detailed and illustrated guide. The Ultimate Guide to the Thoth Tarot presents the ten most important symbols on every card in the deck complete with hundreds of color illustrations for easy use. In addition to an explanation of the symbols, each card is given a brief interpretation by topic. Writing in a convenient format designed for simple reference, tarot experts Johannes Fiebig and Evelin Bürger also provide facts, hints, and lore to improve your reading skills right away." –– From the publisher Llewellyn