The best books for tarot improvisation for writers and artists

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a poet, tarot muse, and artist whose childhood experiences with vivid night-time dreams and a handful of years on a commune in the cornfields ignited my passion for exploring inner imagery. I read voraciously from science fiction to fairytales to channelings. I discovered tarot in my twenties, using it to read for others, mend my broken heart, and get squared away enough to apply to graduate school for poetry in the heartland at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Ever since, tarot is my favorite mirror for self-reflection. Author of two poetry collections, I wrote a workbook to help others apply the tarot in joyful, healing ways through writing and art.


I wrote...

Heart's Compass Tarot

By Tania Pryputniewicz,

Book cover of Heart's Compass Tarot

What is my book about?

From the tarot curious to the tarot savvy, Heart’s Compass Tarot: Discover Tarot Journaling and Create Your Own Cards provides a guide to using the tarot as a compass to navigate life, focus creativity, inspire writing, and forge a deeper connection to the self. Joy-based journaling questions (How do I love? How does my life force fill me? How do I communicate? How do I enjoy my body?) connect the tarot to the student's past, present, and future. The writing and questing exercises in the book provide a map for discovering personal symbols for use in meditation, dreamwork, and creation of the student's own unique cards. Woven throughout the book are example cards, heart-based interpretations of traditional and original layouts, and tarot-inspired poems and essays.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Poet Tarot Guidebook

Tania Pryputniewicz Why did I love this book?

As a poet, I love the Poet Tarot, for which Two Sylvias Press matched Major Arcana and Court Cards with deceased British and American poets. The Guidebook offers a mini history lesson about each poet’s strengths and weaknesses, including psychological wellbeing, journey to publication, and sources of inspiration. Each chapter ends with suggested actions: “Remember and honor the inspirational women in your life,” (Gwendolyn Brooks as the Queen of Muses / Cups) and prompts: “Is there a project I’ve been afraid to undertake—why?” (ee cummings as The Fool). Taken collectively, the prompts provide a roadmap for a rich self-reflective inventory and the chance to write new poems based on the themes of each poet’s work. I love to use the exercises in the poetry workshops I teach.

By Two Sylvias Press,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Poet Tarot Guidebook as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Guidebook to accompany The Poet Tarot deck. Deck not included.


Book cover of Ancestral Tarot: Uncover Your Past and Chart Your Future

Tania Pryputniewicz Why did I love this book?

Because I love understanding the roots of my present by looking at my past, I loved using Nancy Hendrickson’s Ancestral Tarot exercises to begin a relationship with my own ancestors. Hendrickson defines types of ancestors (blood, place, and time) and suggests practical ways to connect. Journaling prompts encourage you to create a paper trail of your journey. Hendrickson gives us layouts and delves into tools (sigils, moon energy, pendulums runes, oracles). You can dive deep to look at patterns surrounding addiction, generational incarnations, DNA, and more. As soon as I brought this book into my home (while preparing to teach a class with it) I had a powerful and moving dream that connected me to a loving ancestor.

By Nancy Hendrickson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ancestral Tarot as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A practical, hands-on guide for using tarot to connect with your ancestors and gain access to their insights for healing, self-protection, and personal powers.

With a tarot deck in hand, readers will learn how to identify and access ancestral gifts, messages, powers, protectors, and healers.

Tarot expert Nancy Hendrickson guides readers through the basics of finding recent ancestors, and navigating the confusing maze of DNA and ethnic heritage. As a longtime tarot enthusiast, she shows readers how to incorporate a metaphysical tool into a world of tradition.

Ancestral Tarot spreads are included in relevant chapters. Each chapter includes three journal…


Book cover of Journeying the Sixties: A Counterculture Tarot

Tania Pryputniewicz Why did I love this book?

Writer, photographer, and journalist William Cook Haigwood selected his own photos to create Journeying the Sixties: A Counterculture Tarot. The book helped me understand the context for my early childhood when my parents had an apartment in the Haight. Haigwood practically offers a graduate-level course in the Sixties by examining the major players, the opposing forces, and the gifts and wages of the unbridled idealism and enthusiasm characteristic for the times (love, religion, art, music, politics, law enforcement, war, drugs, feminism, poetry, revolution, and more). The Eight of Cups chapter looks at People’s Park in Berkeley; Mick Jagger represents the King of Pentacles; the Death card discussion explores Martin Luther King, Jr., Kennedy, and Vietnam. Haigwood’s interpretations make tarot’s archetypal energies relevant to the lessons of an entire generation. 

By William Cook Haigwood,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Journeying the Sixties as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Journalist and writer William Cook Haigwood offers a unique look at the Counterculture of the 1960s in this collection of historical essays and vintage photographs that uses the symbolism of the Tarot to describe and conceptualize the era’s critical cycles of experience. Journeying the Sixties: A Counterculture Tarot features photographs selected from thousands made by the author during more than 15 years of reporting and participation in what has come to be called “the 20th century’s longest decade.” Selected images from the period have been formatted as Tarot cards. Essays supporting the cards use the Fool’s Journey to extend a…


Book cover of The Castle of Crossed Destinies

Tania Pryputniewicz Why did I love this book?

As a lover of fairytales, I love the premise of The Castle of Crossed Destinies and that tarot cards appear visually down the margins of the pages. Novelist Italo Calvino places us in two settings: a castle, and a tavern. Guests traveling through the woods arrive to discover they have lost their ability to speak so they use tarot cards to “show” their stories. The narrator translates those cards (reliably or unreliably—you decide). A tarot card grid appears for the stories in the Tavern of Crossed Destinies section of the book that lays out plot possibilities. I love the visual “chess” concept and that you can use tarot card layouts to plot tales, novels, or a series of poems. 

By Italo Calvino,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Castle of Crossed Destinies as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A group of travellers chance to meet, first in a castle, then a tavern. Their powers of speech are magically taken from them and instead they have only tarot cards with which to tell their stories. What follows is an exquisite interlinking of narratives, and a fantastic, surreal and chaotic history of all human consciousness.


Book cover of The Creative Tarot: A Modern Guide to an Inspired Life

Tania Pryputniewicz Why did I love this book?

Jessa Crispin’s Creative Tarot suggests ways to connect to one’s muse through tarot. Crispin’s chapters match each tarot card’s essence to artists, thinkers, philosophers, and writers, looking at challenges and gifts each personality encountered over the course of their lifetime (and how they manifested in detriment or bloom). One of my favorite lines makes tarot card exploration forever relevant: Crispin writes, “It is about retelling the present.” And it is about how to ground tarot energy in specifics: what does it mean to be a King of Cups? Who has lived such an incarnation? Her “living examples” make tarot tangible for my students; I love her specific suggestions for how to explore the energy of each tarot card through music, film, paintings, art, and literature. 

By Jessa Crispin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Creative Tarot as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A hip, accessible, and practical guide for artists and creative people looking to tarot for guidance and inspiration in the tradition of The Secret Language of Birthdaysand Steal Like an Artist.

What if the path to creativity was not as challenging as everyone thinks? What if you could find that spark, plot twist, or next project by simply looking at your life and your art through a different lens?

Written for novices and seasoned readers alike, The Creative Tarotis a unique guidebook that reimagines tarot cards and the ways they can boost the creative process. Jessa Crispin guides you through…


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What You Do To Me: A Novel

By Rochelle B. Weinstein,

Book cover of What You Do To Me: A Novel

Rochelle B. Weinstein Author Of When We Let Go

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Not only am I the author of seven women’s fiction novels, I’m a voracious reader who believes she was raised by Judy Blume and Sidney Sheldon. In our broken home, reading was an escape, a salve for the wound, a place where I felt heard and understood. My novels touch on deep emotions—real and relatable. If I don’t capture that feeling when I’m reading through my drafts, I dig deeper. And that’s the thing about a great book, that gut punch, that slide under my skin, I get you. There’s no better read than the one that pulls the heartstrings and gives you all the feels.    

Rochelle's book list on tugging on every one of your heartstrings

What is my book about?

What You Do To Me follows Rolling Stone reporter Cecilia James on the hunt to find the muse behind a famous love song, all while managing an estranged relationship with her father and boyfriend Pete.

Inspired by Hey There Deliah, the dual timeline stretches across the sunny beaches of 1970s Miami with star-crossed lovers Eddie and Sara, to the glittery music industry of 1990s LA. For music lovers and fans of that first, unforgettable love, What You Do To Me is the story of a love song with equal parts heart and harmony.

What You Do To Me: A Novel

By Rochelle B. Weinstein,

What is this book about?

From the bestselling author of This Is Not How It Ends comes a moving novel of two unfinished love stories and the music and lyrics that bring them together.

Journalist Cecilia James is a sucker for a love song. So when she stumbles across a clue to the identity of the muse for one of rock’s greatest, she devotes herself to uncovering the truth, even as her own relationship is falling apart.

While writing an article for Rolling Stone, Cecilia works to reveal the mystery that has intrigued fans and discovers a classic tale of two soulmates separated by fate and circumstance. Rock…


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