The Best Books About Dream Interpretation

9 Min Read | By Gemma Curtis

Last Modified 8 December 2022   First Added 26 January 2017

This article was written and reviewed in line with our editorial policy.

Best Books on Dream Interpretation

We all have mornings where we wake up after a vivid dream, confused, scared, or excited. But have you ever wondered what dreams mean and how we can interpret them? There is a whole host of books about dream interpretation, and we’ve chosen the best ones for you to refer to on those mornings that start with a story.

Psychoanalysis and dream interpretation

The formal study of dream interpretation started academically with Psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud. Within psychoanalysis, manifest dreams (the actual dream) are analysed and interpreted to reveal their latent (i.e., real) meaning.

In Freudian theory, dreams are manifestations of our unconscious and are seen as ‘the royal road to a knowledge of the unconscious activities of the mind’. He believed that the subconscious distorted the latent content of a dream to protect the individual from thoughts and feelings that may be uncomfortable to cope with and therefore dreams require interpretation to give meaning to the abstract dream.

The interpretation of dreams is the royal road to a knowledge of the unconscious activities of the mind

Best book for psychoanalysis and dream interpretation

Sigmund Freud – The Interpretation of Dreams

If you want to start at the beginning of the dream interpretation movement in psychology, Freud’s book, The Interpretation of Dreams is a great read. It outlines Freud’s theory in detail, providing examples and case studies for you to explore. It explains in detail how dreams are all forms of wish fulfilment, the satisfying of unconscious desires, formed by unconscious forces constructing a wish expressed by the dream and the process of distorting this expression. The book outlines the sources of dreams, arguing all dreams are connected to a recent experience. The operations used to decode dreams (condensation, displacement, symbolism and visualisation) are then explained and applied to Freud’s classic Irma’s Injection dream

Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams is undoubtedly seminal and considered by many his magnum opus. However, for the general reader it is quite heavy going and whilst its conclusions are invaluable, they aren’t easily accessible. However, if you want to understand Freudian thinking and its implications for dream analysis and interpretation, The Interpretation of Dreams, is unrivalled.

Dream dictionaries

Dream dictionaries are books providing interpretations for the images held within dreams. These are perfect for decoding symbols and deriving meaning. Simply look up the images manifested in your dreams, and the dictionary will return an explanation for what this might mean.

For example, if you were to dream about snakes, you can find snakes in the dictionary, and it will return an interpretation for what this means. The first dream dictionary was published in the 2nd century AD by Artemidorus titled Oneirocritica, literally, The Interpretation of Dreams – a fact not lost on Sigmund Freud.

Best books for dream dictionaries

Ian Wallace – The Complete A to Z Dictionary of Dreams: Be Your Own Dream Expert

Dream psychologist Ian Wallace’s book, The Complete A to Z Dictionary of Dreams: Be Your Own Dream Expert helps you analyse the hidden messages and meanings within dreams by interpreting the images presented in them. You can decipher what is going on in the back of your mind, meaning you can help figure out what you really want in life. You can also browse a wide range of subjects to navigate the book easily. Whatever image or object appears in your dream, you simply flick to that word and find the meaning, exactly like a dictionary. It discusses over 12,000 dream symbols, so almost anything you dream about will be covered in the book.

Penney Peirce – Dream Dictionary for Dummies

If you’re brand new to dream interpretation or want to learn more about how to read your dreams, the Dream Dictionary for Dummies by Penney Peirce is a great reference book. As with all the ‘for Dummies’ books, this will provide an easy to read guide with step by step instructions. With the help of this book, you can learn how to decode your dreams understand and remember them. Similarly to Wallace’s book, this will also provide an A-Z list of dream symbols and what they mean.  If you want to improve your dream interpretation skills or are a beginner, this book is a great introduction.

Dream Journals

A dream journal (or dream diary) is a notebook used to record your dreams. The best time to record your dreams is as soon as you wake up, as we tend to quickly forget our dreams. Indeed, in order to interpret your dreams, you first have to remember them. Dream journals are a great way of recording what happened in your dream, what you saw and how it made you feel. You could do this simply with a regular notebook however, there are now dedicated dream journals on the market with sections for different aspects of your dream.

Filling out your dream journal is a lovely way to wake up as it clears your mind and forces you to use your brain productively. The University of Rochester Medical Centre say ‘When you have a problem, and you’re stressed, keeping a journal can help you identify what’s causing that stress or anxiety. Then, once you’ve identified your stressors, you can work on a plan to resolve the problems and, in turn, reduce stress.’. This also applies to dream interpretation, as if you have a recurring image or theme to your dreams, you could figure out what in life is troubling you and therefore fix the problem.

The Best Dream Journals

Knock Knock Dream Journal

The Knock Knock Dream Journal is a great journal, with sections to record your dream, categorise it, say how it made you feel, draw sketches and also write your interpretation. It’s an ideal gift for anyone interested in dream interpretation as it makes the process extremely easy and accessible for all.

Dream Journal: A Daily Diary to Analyze Your Dreams & Track Your Sleep

This dream journal not only offers plenty of space to record and introspect upon your own dreams but there is additional space to track your sleep length and quality too. It offers a combination of questions and open space for prompted thought and freeform expression.

Overall dream interpretation books

These books simultaneously offer an introduction to the psychoanalytic theory behind dream interpretation, guides on how to interpret dreams and using these interpretations for personal growth. Whereas the works of Freud and Jung are comprehensive, they are targeted at academics and those with a degree in psychology. Whilst this does not diminish the importance of their works, it does affect their accessibility. Moreover, for some, dream dictionaries lack academic rigour and may fail to offer helpful meaning and personal interpretation. These books provide the best of both. An understanding of the psychology with a high degree of accessibility and personal applicability.

The best overall dream interpretation books

Robert Johnson – Inner Work: Using Dreams and Active Imagination for Personal Growth

Written by a noted author and Jungian analyst, Johnson explores the unconscious mind by looking into dream symbolism. The book offer a practical step-by-step guide on uncovering the meaning of your dreams and then takes you to the next level of dream analysis by helping you learn from these interpretations by harmonising your conscious and unconscious thoughts. Whilst spiritual by nature, this is not a glossy self-help guide, instead it is guide for helping you communicate with your inner self.

Stephanie Gailing – The Complete Book of Dreams: A Guide to Unlocking the Meaning and Healing Power of Your Dreams

A book that offers everything. This book offers a cornucopia of information and insight regarding dreams and sleep and the health-promoting powers that are contained therein. Stephanie Gailing taps into the healing power of dreams by not only documenting the strategies behind dream interpretation, but also guides you on how to remember your dreams, how to document them and how to decode them. This a hollistic read not only advocating the power of dreams but also the benefits of sleep more generally.

Ancient dream interpretation

In ancient cultures such as in Egypt and Greece, dreams were considered to be divine mediums whereby the gods communicate with man. The task of understanding these dreams was often assigned to a person of significant religious or social standing such as priests and the interpretation of dreams was seen as a way of predicting the future as omens and prophecies.

Dream interpretation fun fact

Studies show that people prescribe as much weight to dreams now as they did in ancient times. Just as dreams  were powerful enough to affect ancient people’s judgement, such as military action being dictated by dreams of victory (or defeat), a study in the American Psychological Association showed people were more likely to cancel a trip involving a flight if they had dreamt of a plane crash than if there was a government warning against flying. This demonstrates how our fascination with dreams and dream interpretation is just as palpable now as it was over four thousand years ago.

Ancient books about dream interpretation

If you seek a more classical approach to dream analysis and dream interpretation see books on Greek mythology, sagas from ancient Rome, Old Norse stories, epics from Mesopotamia and of course religious texts such as the Bible and Quran.

Some examples include:

  • Homer’s Iliad:  Zeus sends a personified dream (Oneiros) to Agamemnon, the commander of the Greek army during the Trojan War. The Oneiros is ordered to go to the camp of the Greeks at Troy and deliver a message from Zeus urging him to battle.
  • The Epic of Gilgamesh: recounts the adventures of an ancient Mesopotamian King living among gods and monsters where dreams act as a conduit between man and god whilst also being highly symbolic and foreboding
  • Jacob’s Ladder (Genesis 28:10-21): Jacob had a dream in which he saw a stairway lined with angels resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven. The ladder is metaphorical for a pathway to God, which you can follow through following the example of Jesus.

Read more about sleeping beliefs and legends from around the world.

More on dream interpretation

If this post has prompted your interest in dream interpretation, along with books, why not check out our 30-minute podcast on ‘What do dreams mean?’ hosted by Dr. Pixie McKenna.


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