Image courtesy of Behance.
Tarot reading is like yoga-- it’s a practice, something that you need to start, restart, and continue to build upon. Think of your tarot deck’s guidebook as a foundation, one that gives you good bones to construct a viable and varied practice. Whether you’re a novice or an expert, these books will teach you more about tarot reading, analysis of spreads, and honing your skills than going it alone.
Class in session, readers! Here’s the syllabus:
Jonathan Dee does a fabulous job of organizing-- and yes, illustrating-- the information in this book. A great starter for novice readers, this book also appeals to more experienced tarot practitioners because it’s such an easy reference to have on hand. He breaks down the deck, introducing and expanding decently upon each card in both the upright and reverse directions. He then goes further to include multiple spreads, how and why to use each spread, card combinations, and timing your readings.
His vocabulary is clear but not dumbed down, and he moves fluidly through the deck from Major to Minor Arcana. Each card is given equal attention, and while a specific deck is used to keep the illustrations consistent, An Illustrated Guide to Tarot (2001) applies to any deck because the information is not deck-specific.
The Tarot Workbook (2002) by Kathleen McCormack is a great resource for those who have been reading for a while or who have gotten stuck in a rut with their practice. The book is written in Question and Answer format, and the first portion is divided into three spreads: Bohemian, Romany, and Celtic Cross. Examples are laid out, with analytical questions to get the reader thinking. Then answers are provided in a detailed analysis. This book provides a great way to hone your ability to read card combinations and create a “story” that pulls the reading together in a way the reader and querent can understand.
Understanding the Tarot: A Personal Teaching Guide
Juliet Sharman-Burke is no stranger to the tarot scene (The Mythic Tarot is hers), and in Understanding the Tarot (1998), she dives into the symbolism of the tarot art and how they relate to divination. What we love about this book is that she includes a discussion of each card using how it is rendered in several popular decks, along with real-life case histories to demonstrate the level of insight tarot can provide.
There’s also the typical brief notes on interpreting the cards and spreads to use, but the first portion of the book also offers great notes on the history of tarot, how to select a deck, and tips on familiarizing yourself with the cards. We think this book is very beginner-friendly, but also a good resource for the experienced practitioner to have on hand as a way to “compare notes” and refresh your knowledge. Because let’s face it-- there are 78 cards. We’re bound to need to refresh ourselves on them once in a while.
Shaheen Miro and Theresa Reed have put together a gorgeous book on how to use the ancient tool of tarot for self-care, self-analysis, healing, and growth. This book covers loads of difficult topics, and guides the practitioner to use tarot in ways traditional approaches to divination don’t address. Topics include: divorce, grief, shadow work, addictions, caregiving stress, and more. There’s also advice for making these issues actionable in your own life. This is not to say that this book replaces a therapist, but it certainly is a timely and useful tool to have in your arsenal. We’d recommend Tarot for Troubled Times for everyone!
We love the concept of this book, and the execution is well-done, too. The Tarot Coloring Book by Theresa Reed is a soothing way to explore learning tarot from the inside-out. Perfect for tarot newbies or those who have found the idea of learning so many cards intimidating, this book takes you card by card at your own pace. By adding the coloring element to the knowledge aspects-- such as meaning, history, and symbolism-- you’re encouraged to slow down and take your time learning at your own pace. The coloring almost becomes a sort of meditation, which relaxes tension surrounding the education elements and opens the brain and spirit to receive instruction and inspiration.
It doesn’t matter what skill or experience level you have, sometimes tarot reversals-- when the cards appear upside-down-- are hard to interpret. Enter Mary K. Greer’s The Complete Book of Tarot Reversals. This book belongs to the Special Topics in Tarot Series by Llewellyn Publishing. Greer offers twelve different ways to read and interpret reversed cards, along with a comparison to their upright meanings and learning opportunities. We know that not everyone reads reversals in a reading, but for those who do-- or if you don’t, but want to have an alternative interpretation on hand-- this book is a hugely important addition to your tarot library.
Second in the Llewellyn Publishing Special Topics in Tarot Series is Understanding the Tarot Court, by Mary K. Greer and Tom Little. The court cards in tarot are often considered just as hard-- if not harder-- to interpret in a reading as reversals. This is because the court cards can play such varied roles in the reading-- people in our lives, messages from spirit, teachers, or projections of our own unrecognized issues. This book will help you decipher which role they are playing in the reading, and what their message is. Comparisons of court cards among popular decks are included, which is helpful in making comprehension accessible. So, too, is information on personality types and Jungian archetypes, as well as new spreads-- we especially like the storytelling spread. We recommend this book to intermediate or experienced tarot readers.
Reading tarot is a practice, just like yoga or meditation. It’s important to learn your deck in a personal way, but it’s also important to keep educating yourself and reading up on different ways to use and understand tarot. Use our list to build yourself a tarot library, and feel free to drop your recommendations below!