Carl Jung’s 11 Best Books
Carl Jung’s books go beyond a simple analysis of human behavior. He was a pioneer of deep psychology and a prolific author. His work contains a wonderful alchemy of psychoanalysis, spirituality, religion, philosophy, and the dream world. Few personalities stir up interest like this great analyst of the human psyche.
Graham Collier said that Jung only needed a little over five minutes to impress anyone. Collier was an RAF pilot in World War II and philosophy professor at the University of Georgia. He had the opportunity to meet the celebrated Swiss psychoanalyst when Jung was 75 years old. Collier was impressed by Jung’s ironic and almost roguish look and his respectful silence when listening to someone’s answer.
Life isn’t an illness that you can die from”
-Carl Gustav Jung-
Doctor Collier also explained that during one period in his life, Jung felt rejected by some of the scientific community. It was after publishing more than one book about the study of the conscience that delved more deeply into spiritual concepts than analytic ones. In spite of all that, his theories raised so much interest that the BBC, in an effort to appeal to the desires of the public at the time, invited Jung to debate with a Labor Party member on live television in a show called Face to Face. This particular politician was quite critical of Jung’s theories.
The result of the meeting was simply amazing. Jung’s composure, spontaneity, conviction, and charm were such that the “interview” ended up being more of an improvised conference. The politician, John Freeman, who went on the program with the intention to give a criticism of Jung’s theories, was so captivated by him that they developed a long-lasting friendship. In fact, Freeman was the one who encouraged Jung to write one of his best-known books, Man and His Symbols.
There are many more anecdotes to tell about Jung. We could talk about his extensive travels, his complex relationship with Freud, or his influence on film and on our culture in general. However, one way to understand Jung is through his books. It is worth diving into this incredible legacy and exploring his theories, symbols, personal reflections, and this figure who made an indelible mark on the history of psychology.
The best books by Carl Jung
Jung’s work is extensive and draws a lot of material from his own autobiography, including books of essays and personal reflections. We can even find the 1906-1913 correspondence between Jung and Freud. These letters delve deeper into the development of the psychoanalytical movement and the relationship between these two figures.
Now, in this article about the Carl Jung’s best books, our priority is to cite his most representative work. We are looking for the books will delight everyone, from novice to expert “Jungians”, with their concepts, theories, and ideas.
1. Man and His Symbols
At the beginning of this article, we explained the origin of this book. After his BBC interview, a well-known politician asked Jung to share his theoretical concepts with the general public in the simplest and most educational wa possible. He did just that, and this ended up being Carl Jung’s last book which he wrote before his death in 1961.
In Man and His Symbols, what grabs our attention first are the book’s 500-plus illustrations. These images fully immerse us in the theory of symbolism and the importance of symbols in our dreams, in art, and even in our daily behavior.
“I am not what happened to me. I am who I choose to become”
-Carl Gustav Jung-
2. The Archetypes and The Collective Unconscious
Essential. This is one of Jung’s most interesting books and the one that defines one of his most controversial topics: archetypes.
In front of us is a collection of essays that digs into the collective unconscious on one hand and the nature of the archetype on the other. This psychic expression of structures inherited from our fellow beings is, without a doubt, what makes up the cornerstone of much of Jungian work.
3. The Relations Between the Ego and the Unconscious
As we already know, Carl Jung was the founder of the school of analytic psychology. This book is, without a doubt, the best representation of this approach. It is also, in essence, a reflection of a small part of the history of psychology.
En these pages, Jung guides us through a much more original idea than Freud had offered us at that time regarding the human psyche. His continuous studies and revisions of the subject give us a fuller understanding of the unconscious. Here, Jung establishes the duality between the collective unconscious and its influence on the individual unconscious.
4. Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principal
Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principal is a little gem that Carl Gustav Jung wrote with Wolfgang Pauli, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and one of the fathers of quantum mechanics. In this book, we can delve into one of the most interesting and well-known Jungian concepts. We are taking, of course, about synchronicity.
Jung spoke about this idea for the first time in the Eranos meetings organized each year in Ascona, Switzerland. Some article, essay, or book always came out of these gatherings. This was in the fifties, and the Swiss psychiatrist presented something as polemic as it was attractive to his colleagues and the rest of the academic word: what we understand as coincidence is not actually due to simple chance, but something that he called synchronicity…
The book also goes into detail about the relationship between said concept and another equally important idea in his work: intuition.
5. Modern Man In Search of a Soul
This is one of Carl Jung’s books that best represents his work. At the same time, it is a wonderful excursion into the world of the unconscious. In spite of the fact that most of the book is about dreams, it is here that we can “track” part of our complex and the limiting behavior that we tend to show in our conscious life.
Jung objective in interpreting dreams was different than Freud’s. He wasn’t seeking to identify classic sexual fixations developed during childhood. On the contrary, he wanted to trace a “map of the present” and of the context in which his patients lived to be able to understand the reason behind their behavior and emotional suffering.
This is, without a doubt, one of the most indispensable books for understanding Carl Jung’s legacy.
6. Conflicts in the Child’s Soul
Some of our readers might be surprised to see the term “soul” in a book about psychology. It is important to remember that in Carl Jung’s work, this idea, this concept, is ever-present.
In fact, as Jung explained in his own autobiography, no physician could cure a patient without first making contact with the patient’s soul.
This idea gives us a clue of Jung’s holistic approach to human beings. He believed that childhood and youth are the most important phases of a human’s life that we should pay much more attention to them. In this way, possible conflicts, deficiencies, and prejudices that the child experiences in their family context, as well as the personality of the parents, undoubtedly determine the well-being or potential psychological problems of the child later in life.
Curiously, Sigmund Freud’s daughter dedicated her life to this purpose. She provided psychological help for children with childhood trauma. Freud himself never paid much attention this field and didn’t fully develop it in his work.
7. The Psychology of the Transference
In this blog, we have already spoken on occasion about the interesting concept of transference. This is an idea that is always very present in the psychoanalytical or psychodynamic school of thought.
This is one of Carl Jung’s most representative books on the subject. He also draws an interesting parallel between alchemy and transference between patient and therapist. As we already know, in daily practice psychotherapy can give rise to a phenomenon in which the patient ends up projecting his experiences and emotions on the therapist, which complicates the healing process.
In this book, Jung makes use of his symbolic figures again to explain the dynamic and connections that sometimes form between physician and patient.
8. Psychic Energy and the Essence of Dreams
This book is comprised of six interesting essays. In these essays, we come to intimately know what we understand as “deep psychology”. This concept represents the true cornerstone of Jung theory. It is important to remember that for this Swiss psychiatrist, all mental phenomena are actually forms of energy.
The primary function of dreams is to try and reesatblish our psychological equilibrium”
-Carl Gustav Jung-
In the first essay, titled “On the Energy of the Soul”, he offers an interesting introduction to better understand certain aspects of our personalities, like introversion and extroversion. Later, in “General Considerations on the Psychology of Dreams” and “The Essence of Dreams”, he goes deeper into this study of human and social behavior and dreams in a way that helps both novices and experts better understand these representative concepts.
It is also interesting to note that this volume ends with the essay titled “Psychological Foundations of Spiritism”. Here the author explains, with habitual clarity, the objective considerations of Jungian psychology on the subject, which are undoubtedly interesting to keep in mind.
9. Writings on Spirituality and Transcendence
Carl Gustav Jung didn’t believe in God, he believed in spirituality and the way in which each of its aspects defines and traces the essence of our culture and, as a result, humanity itself.
“It would be most unjust of psychology to ignore religion, with all that it is and as close as it is to the human soul,”
-Carl Gustav Jung-
This is a personal and passionate book. It is the perfect weekend reading if you want to better understand the extensive vision of analytic psychology that Carl Gustav Jung espoused and left as a wonderful legacy. If there is one thing that he always had in mind, it is that to understand someone’s roots, we cannot forget about the spiritual plane. According to Jung, we must consider all the phenomena and traditions that make up the root of psychic life.
So, we should understand that Carl Jung’s books, Writings on Spirituality and Transcendence, in particular, are the reflection of his open mind. He was receptive and sensitive to everything he observed and tried to look beyond the ordinary to find meaning in the reality of the human soul.
This book is an anthology, a trip through anthropology, religion, art, and spirituality that will have an impact on every reader.
11. Memories, Dreams, Thoughts
Now we are in 1957 and Carl Jung is 81 years old. It is the perfect moment for him to begin a cathartic and relevant project, which is the story of his own life. Jung did it with the help of his colleague and friend, Aniela Jaffe. In these pages, we learn about his formative years, about his tense but productive relationships with Freud, and how each trip, conversation, discovery, and experience gave shape to what he calls “the bottom of his soul”.
It is worth mentioning that the reader doesn’t encounter a simple book of memories and personal reflections of someone in the twilight of their life. Jung takes full advantage of the opportunity to once again lay down the foundations of his theories. He describes his ideas about the human mind, about the unconscious, the role of symbolism, and the principles of psychotherapy.
This book will help us better understand Carl Jung’s thoughts and his personal work as a psychologist.
11. The Red Book
We’ve left for last one of Carl Jung’s most valuable and also most difficult to understand books. We are talking, of course, about The Red Book. It is so special for a variety of reasons. One of them is that it took him more than 15 years to complete, or at least to decide that it contained everything that he wanted to communicate.
Another point that we have to highlight is that his heirs didn’t want it to be published. It wasn’t until 2009 when we could finally have access to this strange, serpentine, and enigmatic book that is fascinating and disturbing at the same time. The Red Book, or Liber Novus, narrates and illustrates the terrifying visions that Jung had between 1913 and 1916. His purpose in writing the book was to try to understand these images and unearth the associated symbols.
The Red Book isn’t a philosophical, scientific, religious, or literary book. It is an unclassifiable work with prophetic and mythical nuances that allows for multiple interpretations. It requires multiple approaches if you want to understand or even enjoy it. It is, at the end of the day, a great gem that is worth reading after you understand a little bit more of Jung’s theory.
“Somewhere there was once a Flower, a Stone, a Crystal, a Queen, a King, a Palace, a Lover and his Beloved, and this was long ago, on an Island somewhere in the ocean 5,000 years ago. . . . Such is Love, the Mystic Flower of the Soul. This is the Center, the Self.”
-Fragment of The Red Book-
In conclusion, in spite of the fact that there are many more books, essays, articles, works, etc. by Carl Jung, these 11 recommendations offer an excellent representation of an essential and unforgettable figure who deserves a bit of our time. What we get out of reading this books by Carl Jung is as enriching as it is fascinating.
Jung, Carl G., (1985), Man and His Symbols. Paidos.
Jung, Carl G., (2009), The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious. Paidos.
Jung, Carl G., (2009), The Relations Between the Ego and the Unconscious. Paidos.
Jung, Carl G., (1952), Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principal
Jung, Carl G., (2013), Modern Man in Search of a Soul, DeBolsillo
Jung, Carl G., (2011), The Conflicts in the Child’s Soul. Paidos
Jung, Carl G., (1983), The Psychology of the Transference
Jung, Carl G., (1995), Psychic Energy and the Essence of the Soul. Paidos.
Jung, Carl G., (2016), Writings on Spirituality. Trotta
Jung, Carl G., (2001), Memories, Dreams, and Thoughts. Paidos
Jung, Carl G., (2010), The Red Book, Paidos.