One of the most common tarot questions I get asked is how did I memorize the cards. The answer is I didn’t. But I have read a lot of books on tarot card meanings.
NOTE: This post contains affiliate links. Affiliate links provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to products.
I mentioned this in my how does tarot work post, but I’ll say it again. We all know the meanings of tarot cards. We have that meaning filed away in our subconscious, and that meaning is shaped by the books we’ve read, our personal experiences, and what we believe.
If you’re looking for the definitive meaning behind the cards, well. Sorry?
I mean, it just doesn’t exist. It’s like asking for a definitive meaning for the Bible. That’s not real either. That’s why there are so many different Christian churches, and even within one church, several people will come to different conclusions about the meaning of scripture.
So, if you’re looking for a way to memorize the meanings, I don’t have it. I do, however, have a way that you can simply look at a card and know what it means.
Anyone Can Read Tarot
Before you grab these books on tarot card meanings, please remember that I said anyone can read tarot.
Literally all you need to do is look at the card. There are images on the cards, and those images convey meaning. It doesn’t matter what deck you have, because all decks are designed to convey meaning.
However, I do recommend getting a good beginner tarot deck, because that will make it so much easier for you to read the cards. Some decks are more esoteric than others, and some decks are more pretty than functional.
At the end of the day, you just need to grab a deck that you can look at and understand. So pick one that has images that tell you a story. Look for decks that are designed to convey stories that are part of the cultures you belong to. Those images will resonate with you more.
Why am I harping on the deck? Mostly because if you have a good deck, you don’t really need to do a ton of studying or book buying. The deck will tell you what you need to know with the images on the cards.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do a little reading on the tarot…
Books on Tarot Card Meanings
I consider these to be advanced tarot books. Not that I’m in any position to determine what’s advanced and what isn’t. I simply think these books are for people who want a little more than just quick and dirty card definitions.
So, if you’re looking for an education in symbols and archetypes, you’ll enjoy these books.
001: Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom: A Tarot Journey to Self-Awareness by Krista Pollack
If you buy one book on tarot card meanings, grab this one.
This book is a really in-depth look at the meanings of tarot cards and the symbols presented on the cards. It also provides a look at the history of tarot and divination, with a whole section devoted to doing readings.
While this probably isn’t as accessible as some of the very short and quick tarot references, this is a great book that will help you better understand the cards and how to approach them for a reading.
002: Man and His Symbols by Carl Jung
I won’t pretend that this books is super accessible, especially if your initial introduction to tarot was from the hashtag boss babes on Instagram. But if you want to know more about symbols and how our unconscious mind works, and how the collective unconscious unravels the meaning of those symbols, then this is a great place to start.
I do recommend this book as a great option for people who are tired of overemphasizing their rational mind and who want to dip their toes a bit further into their intuition. And, if this book isn’t your cup of tea, there are tons of great explainers for it online for free. So you can get the general gist without the homework.
(Yes, I used to teach college students. I know the urge to find the info for free and in a much more accessible format is what drives learning in the modern era.)
003: The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler
Surely you’ve heard of the hero’s journey. Well, let’s talk about a more modern, simplified version.
As a writer, I like this book because the central thesis of it is this: We all know the majority of plots and character archetypes. And we can use those to make a billion and one different stories.
And as a tarot reader, that’s kind of what I do. I look at the archetypes on the cards and the “plot” of a spread, and tell you what it says. Then, as the reading recipient, you can tell me if that resonates or not, or add necessary nuance to make the reading relevant to you.
So whether you’re a writer or tarot reader, I think this book is a great addition to your shelf.
004: Women Who Run with the Wolves by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola-Estés
This book is for those who want more information about myths and fairytales and folklore and the roles women played in those tales. It explores the cycle of life, death, and rebirth, which is a cycle present in the tarot.
The focus of this book is showing the obstacles that stand in the path of the wild woman by using folklore. Because the major arcana is the fool’s journey from card 0 to card 21, seeing the path that different archetypes have to take through their own journey can be a great way to add some understanding and flavor to your readings.
Will all the tales in this book help you? Maybe not. But I do think any tarot reader worth their salt won’t mind having more information on various myths.
005: Mythology by Edith Hamilton
Who amongst us doesn’t have this dusty old paperback on their shelf somewhere? The first time I encountered this book was in a high school mythology class. It was an elective, and I was a senior looking for some easy stuff between AP classes.
This book gives a great overview of Greek and Roman myths, with a smidgen of Norse myths too. Because a lot of these myths are the foundations for western literature, it’s important to know them. And if you’re interested in tarot, these tales can help you understand a lot of symbols and allusions that you may see in some decks.
it’s worth noting that this is just a starting place in the realm of mythology. But it’s totally worth reading. And you can always find used copies all over the place.
What Tarot Card Meanings Books Do You Like?
What books helped you the most when it came to the tarot? Have you picked up a copy of my Tarot Card Meanings Journal yet?