8 Books to Get You Started on Your Tarot Journey
So you have a tarot deck (or two, or three - I know how it goes!)
Things have changed a lot since I was an awkward teenager first discovering the tarot. Picture me lurking in my bedroom late at night with my trusty Rider-Waite-Smith deck and two dog-eared books and you get the picture.
In a way, the limitations of the time were helpful. Without lots of book choices on Amazon or card meanings online I was able to focus on the information I had with me. Now I have to sit on myself to avoid spending too much on books or getting sucked into an internet vortex. Sometimes I’m successful, and sometimes… not so much.
So my perhaps old-timey recommendation? If you’re starting out, grab a book or two and really get to know them. Practice with lots of readings and thumb through to the meaning of each card. Notice what rings true to you and what confuses you. Write it all down. I can’t overstate the usefulness of a tarot journal.
You’re well on your way to tarot proficiency!
Here are the books that guided me on my journey, as well as some newer additions that can do the same for you.
Learning the Tarot: A Book for Beginners by Joan Bunning
I started out on this book and it is wonderful. A comprehensive tarot course with succinct and accessible card definitions perfect for the beginner. This one is concise and easy to navigate with helpful sections on cards that compliment each other and just enough information to get you started without overwhelming you. Joan Bunning also offers the course for free on her website here, though I recommend supporting her wonderful work and enjoying the feel of a book in your hands.
Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom by Rachel Pollack
I adore this book. It’s like an old friend I will never get tired of having tea with. Filled with wonderful insight and deep meaning, do yourself a favor and pick it up. There’s a reason why this is sometimes referred to as the “Bible of tarot.” Pollack’s immersive writing style and serious tarot chops make each page a fountain of insights. It has a more spiritual and historical orientation, but is never overly-dense or dogmatic. After reading it you feel deeply connected to the cards on multiple levels.
the creative tarot: a modern guide to an inspired life by jessa crispin
For those of you who want a less-woo, more focused look at the tarot, Jessa Crispin’s book offers a creativity-centered approach to the cards. Her writing is incredibly clear and engaging and she illustrates how to use the cards to tap into the creative process. Each card meaning connects to artists with inspiring connections to their lives and concludes with recommendations of songs, paintings, plays, and films for further insight.
Tarot Wisdom by Rachel Pollack
As anyone who’s studied tarot for a long time will tell you, you never stop learning! In this book, Rachel Pollack returns to the cards and shares what she’s learned since the publication of Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom. Expect more beautiful and insightful tarot interpretation put together in a masterful, easy-to-follow way. This book is very in-depth and incorporates many other mystical traditions into tarot. I suggest getting this after you’re familiar with Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom only because it’s easy to get carried away with this much magic.
Holistic Tarot by Benebell Wen
What a tome! This book is packed with card meanings and much, much more. Inside you’ll find a wealth of spreads and explorations into the history, uses, and philosophy behind tarot. And pretty much anything else you want to know about the practice. The only caveat? It’s a lot to digest. For those looking to dip their toes in, this book can be a little too much too soon, but if you’re the kind who wants all the information in one book, this is the one for you!
The Tarot: History, Symbolism, and Divination by Robert M. Place
My favorite book on the history of tarot. If you’re persnickety about historical accuracy and want to cut through the occult legends and myths around tarot pick this one up asap. Place’s scholarship is excellent and clarifies many of the misconceptions about tarot’s origins with clarity and respect. His explorations of the meanings of the Marseille and R-W-S systems are very enlightening, too, and this book makes for an excellent reference you’ll turn to again and agan.
The Encyclopedia of Tarot vol. 1 by Stuart Kaplan
Decks, decks, and more decks! A great resource on tarot history and, you guessed it, tarot decks. From the Medieval origins of the tarot through the twentieth century, this book has all the information and illustrations you need. Helpful for those curious about the evolution of tarot as well as those interested in collecting. Start with volume one for a useful intro, and add others as your journey progresses. The extensive photos also help curb excessive deck purchases…
A newer addition, this book has a wonderfully approachable tone and engaging anectdotes from the author’s life and tarot journey that help the reader better understand the cards and how they apply to real life situations. What’s more, each card meaning is followed by a spell or ritual you can do to deepen your practice. It’s a jaunty, fun read for the witchier tarot seekers out there.
How about you? What books have helped you on your journey with tarot?