Everyone on earth has different talents, different childhoods, and different perspectives, and those traits provide a complexity to our waking lives. But one simple thing all of us have in common is a need for sleep.
Whether we're aware of it while sleeping or not, everyone dreams, too, and dreams typically have common themes. We're all familiar with the dream of falling, or swimming, or of being visited by a certain person, or transported to a specific place. Since all of these experiences feel real, it's only natural to be curious about what they all mean.
That's why we've gathered five books on the topic of dream interpretation—some just for fun and some psychology-based—which range from providing insights into thousands of symbols—like swimming in the ocean or interacting with a long-lost relative—to studying the different types of dreams we all experience.
Whether you're the type of person who can recount their dreams as soon as you awake, or you fall into the category of never remembering dreams at all, these books are a fun and educational way to understand this universal state. And who knows? Maybe they'll inspire you to get more sleep, too. After all, the more time you have to sleep, the more dream fodder you'll have to explore.
Here are our picks for the best books about dreams.
Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming by Stephen LaBerge and Howard Rheingold
The act of lucid dreaming, which is to have a conscious awareness of the dream state as you sleep, is an ability that can be formed with practice. This book explores the benefits of lucid dreaming and provides the tools needed to get started with consciously influencing the outcomes of your dreams by summarizing years of research that Stephen LaBerge, PhD, performed at Stanford University. LaBerge hopes that people who learn the methods of lucid dreaming feel more empowered, confident, and creative in their waking lives.
12,000 Dreams Interpreted by Linda Shields and Lenore Skomal
Tennessee businessman Gustavus Hindman Miller first published his interpretation of 10,000 different kinds of dreams in 1901 with the book 10,000 Dreams Interpreted. Psychic and medium Linda Shields set out to update his work for the modern age with this tome, which includes explanations for seeing today's technology in dreams. At more than 500 pages, this book is a fun read for non-scientific interpretations of all of the different types of dreams out there.
Inner Work by Robert A. Johnson
In this book, (Carl) Jungian analyst and author Robert A. Johnson argues that the experiences we have in a dream state shouldn't be written off as "unreal." In fact, his work states that our dreams are a reflection of our unconscious selves, and we can use our dreams to find clarity or peace in our conscious interactions. It's the type of book to read if you've been having the same unsettling dream repeatedly since it will help decipher what the symbols mean and provide guidelines for how they may relate to your life.
The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud
We need to mention this classic book by the famous psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, who published this work in 1899 to stress the importance of dreams in understanding the mindset of a person. By relying on research and case studies to describe how dreams work and how to interpret them, Freud provides a comprehensive understanding of the genre that is still relevant today. While The Interpretation of Dreams may not be the easiest read, it will give you a firm foundation of knowledge on the subject.
The Ultimate Dictionary of Dream Language by Briceida Ryan
Given that this book uses "ultimate" to describe itself, it's a good thing that it delivers. Ryan has about 25,000 different non-scientific explanations for dreams in this book, which cover everything from lucid and premonition-type dreams to symbols with good and bad omens. If you're a superstitious person, be cautious about how you read this pick. The Ultimate Dictionary of Dream Language has a fair number of foreboding entries, so it's easy to not get any sleep at all.
Man and His Symbols by Carl Jung
When it comes to dreams, you can't forget about psychologist Carl Jung. In fact, the idea for Man and His Symbols came to him in a dream and he wrote it just before his death. Jung believed that dreams offer practical advice sent from the unconscious to the conscious self, which he explains in this book that is meant to be easy to understand for the general reader.
Why We Dream: The Transformative Power of Our Nightly Journey by Alice Robb
This 2018 book is by a science journalist who wanted to uncover well, why we dream. After a research trip to Peru, Alice Robb became fascinated by lucid dreaming and set out to show why dreams are vital to our emotional and physical health. She pulls from research old and new to discover the purpose behind our dreams in Why We Dream.
The Dream and the Underworld by James Hillman
In this 1979 book, the late psychologist James Hillman developed "the first new view of dreams since Freud and Jung." It may take some patience to read, but The Dream and the Underworld is insightful.
Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner Self by Robert Waggoner
If you're fascinated by lucid dreams, this is the book for you. Waggoner is a lucid (consciously aware) dreamer himself, and found that he could interact with his "Inner Self" while asleep. In this book, he proposes five stages of lucid dreaming and offers advice on how you can experience your first lucid dream and then advance it to a new level.
Dreams That Can Save Your Life: Early Warning Signs of Cancer and Other Diseases by Dr. Larry Burk and Kathleen O’Keefe-Kanavos
There's something to be said for intuition. In this book, stories that are confirmed by pathology reports are shared about individuals whose dreams indicated what their medical diagnosis was before tests did. Dreams That Can Save Your Life also explores medical studies about these "precognitive dreams." Co-author Kathleen O’Keefe-Kanavos has personally experienced this phenomenon, as her dreams predicted her breast cancer diagnosis, and co-author Dr. Larry Burk studies it.
A Little Bit of Dreams: An Introduction to Dream Interpretation by Stase Michaels
"Dream analyst" Stase Michaels explores why we dream and have nightmares in A Little Bit of Dreams. It's a book on dream interpretation and why dreams are a reliable source of self-knowledge.
The Big Dictionary of Dreams: The Ultimate Resource for Interpreting Your Dreams by Martha Clarke
Part one of this guide by Martha Clarke, who is licensed in psychology, explains the significance of dreams, explains how to decipher them, and describes how to reach a state of lucid dreaming. In part two of The Big Dictionary of Dreams, learn the potential meaning behind nearly 1,500 dream images. You'll also gain instruction on how to make a dream pillow and a dream catcher and advice on how to remember your dreams.
The Mind's Mirror by Kari Hohne
This guide by popular radio dream analyst Kari Hohne is about how dreams can lead you to fulfill your destiny. Her theory is that when you feel lost, dreams can offer advice from your sub-conscience, which she explains further in The Mind's Mirror.