This page contains a list of the best books on or by Sigmund Freud. Just to be clear, there is no single best book on Freud. The best book for you will depend on your preferred learning style and the amount of time that you want to spend reading about Freud. An 800-page scholarly overview is unlikely to be best for someone looking for a short beginner-friendly introduction, for example. This list aims to take this ambiguity into account by featuring books that will appeal to a variety of learning styles.
Secondly, this is not a list of personal recommendations. It was created by compiling recommendations from a variety of online sources including bibliographies, course syllabi, and community recommendations. You can find out more about this process here. Links to the sources used to create this list are at the end of the post. Following these links will help you quickly find a wider range of options if the listed books do not fit what you are looking for.
Here are the best books on or by Sigmund Freud in no particular order.
Freud: A Very Short Introduction – Anthony Storr
Publisher description: Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, developed a totally new way of looking at human nature. Only now, with the hindsight of the half-century since his death, can we assess his true legacy to current thought. As an experienced psychiatrist himself, Anthony Storr offers a lucid and objective look at Freud’s major theories, evaluating whether they have stood the test of time, and in the process examines Freud himself in light of his own ideas. An excellent introduction to Freud’s work, this book will appeal to all those broadly curious about psychoanalysis, psychology, and sociology.
Freud – Jonathan Lear
Publisher description: In this fully updated second edition, Jonathan Lear clearly introduces and assesses all of Freud’s thought, focusing on those areas of philosophy on which Freud is acknowledged to have had a lasting impact. These include the philosophy of mind, free will and determinism, rationality, the nature of the self and subjectivity, and ethics and religion. He also considers some of the deeper issues and problems Freud engaged with, brilliantly illustrating their philosophical significance: human sexuality, the unconscious, dreams, and the theory of transference. Lear’s approach emphasizes the philosophical significance of Freud’s fundamental rule – to say whatever comes to mind without censorship or inhibition. This binds psychoanalysis to the philosophical exploration of self-consciousness and truthfulness, as well as opening new paths of inquiry for moral psychology and ethics.
The second edition includes a new Introduction and Conclusion. The text is revised throughout, including new sections on psychological structure and object relations and on Freud’s critique of religion and morality.
One of the most important introductions and contributions to understanding this great thinker to have been published for many years, Freud, second edition will be essential reading for anyone in the humanities, social sciences and beyond with an interest in Freud or philosophy.
The Freud Reader – Peter Gay
Publisher description: The first single-volume work to capture Freud’s ideas as scientist, humanist, physician, and philosopher.
What to read from the vast output of Sigmund Freud has long been a puzzle. Freudian thought permeates virtually every aspect of twentieth-century life; to understand Freud is to explore not only his scientific papers―on the psycho-sexual theory of human development, his theory of the mind, and the basic techniques of psychoanalysis―but also his vivid writings on art, literature, religion, politics, and culture.
The fifty-one texts in this volume range from Freud’s dreams, to essays on sexuality, and on to his late writings, including Civilization and Its Discontents. Peter Gay, a leading scholar of Freud and his work, has carefully chosen these selections to provide a full portrait of Freud’s thought. His clear introductions to the selections help guide the reader’s journey through each work.
Many of the selections are reproduced in full. All have been selected from the Standard Edition, the only English translation for which Freud gave approval both to the editorial plan and to specific renderings of key words and phrases.
The Cambridge Companion to Freud – Jerome Neu
Publisher description: Does Freud still have something to teach us? The premise of this volume is that he most certainly does. Approaching Freud from not only the philosophical but also historical, psychoanalytical, anthropological, and sociological perspectives, the contributors show us how Freud gave us a new and powerful way to think about human thought and action. They consider the context of Freud’s thought and the structure of his arguments to reveal how he made sense of ranges of experience generally neglected or misunderstood. All the central topics of Freud’s work from sexuality and neurosis to morality, art, and culture are covered.
The Interpretation of Dreams – Sigmund Freud
Publisher description: “The interpretation of dreams is the via regia to a knowledge of the unconscious element in our physical life.”—Sigmund Freud
Freud’s discovery that the dream is the means by which the unconscious can be explored is undoubtedly the most revolutionary step forward in the entire history of psychology. Dreams, according to his theory, represent the hidden fulfillment of our unconscious wishes. Through them the inhibitions are released and tensions relaxed. The ability to interpret these manifestations of conflict in the human psyche opened a vast new realm of investigation, particularly invaluable in the treatment of neuroses. By his pioneer investigations into the world of dreams, Sigmund Freud created a transformation in our generation’s thinking.
The Interpretation of Dreams is offered here in the translation by Dr. A. A. Brill, who for almost forty years was the translator and standard-bearer of Freudian theories in America.
Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality – Sigmund Freud
Publisher description: Available for the first time in English, the 1905 edition of Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality presents Sigmund Freud’s thought in a form new to all but a few ardent students of his work.
This is a Freud absent the Oedipal complex, which came to dominate his ideas and subsequent editions of these essays. In its stead is an autoerotic theory of sexual development, a sexuality transcending binary categorization. This is psychoanalysis freed from ideas that have often brought it into conflict with the ethical and political convictions of modern readers, practitioners, and theorists.
The non-Oedipal psychoanalysis Freud outlined in 1905 possesses an emancipatory potential for the contemporary world that promises to revitalize Freudian thought. The development of self is no longer rooted in the assumption of a sexual identity; instead the imposition of sexual categories on the infant mind becomes a source of neurosis and itself a problem to overcome.
The new edition of Three Essays presents us with the fascinating possibility that Freud suppressed his first and best thoughts on this topic, and that only today can they be recognized and understood at a time when societies have begun the serious work of reconceptualizing sexual identities.
Civilization and Its Discontents – Sigmund Freud
Publisher description: Freud’s seminal volume of twentieth-century cultural thought grounded in psychoanalytic theory, now with a new introduction by Christopher Hitchens.
Written in the decade before Freud’s death, Civilization and Its Discontents may be his most famous and most brilliant work. It has been praised, dissected, lambasted, interpreted, and reinterpreted. Originally published in 1930, it seeks to answer several questions fundamental to human society and its organization: What influences led to the creation of civilization? Why and how did it come to be? What determines civilization’s trajectory? Freud’s theories on the effect of the knowledge of death on human existence and the birth of art are central to his work. Of the various English translations of Freud’s major works to appear in his lifetime, only Norton’s Standard Edition, under the general editorship of James Strachey, was authorized by Freud himself. This new edition includes both an introduction by the renowned cultural critic and writer Christopher Hitchens as well as Peter Gay’s classic biographical note on Freud.
The following sources were used to build this list:
University Course Syllabi:
- Freud: The Invention of Psychoanalysis – University of Pennsylvania
- Freud and the Literary Imagination – University of Washington
- Psychoanalysis and Philosophy
- Where to start reading Freud?
- Should I read Freud?
- Philosophy of Psychoanalysis where should one start, if they are interested in focusing on this field?
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