Influential Books by Sigmund Freud

The Seven Best Philosophy Books on or by Sigmund Freud

Influential Books by Sigmund Freud

From beginner-friendly introductions to classic works by Freud, this page features philosophy books to suit any learning style. It’s important to note that there is no single best book on Freud.

The best book for you will depend heavily on your preferred learning style and the amount of time/energy you’re willing to spend reading. For example, if you tend to find classic works of philosophy difficult to understand, you might want to start with a short, beginner-friendly introduction.

If you prefer more depth, you can choose a more comprehensive introduction, a relevant handbook, or pick up one of the classics.

It’s also worth noting that it is not a list of personal recommendations. Personal book recommendations tend to be highly subjective, idiosyncratic, and unreliable. This list is part of a collection of over 100 philosophy reading lists which aim to provide a central resource for philosophy book recommendations.

These lists were created by searching through hundreds of university course syllabi, internet encyclopedia bibliographies, and community recommendations. Links to the syllabi and other sources used to create this list are at the end of the post.

Following these links will help you quickly find a broader range of options if the listed books do not fit what you are looking for.

Here are the best philosophy books on or by Sigmund Freud in no particular order.

Freud: A Very Short Introduction – Anthony Storr

Category: Short Introduction | Length: 176 pages | Published: 2001

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.

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Freud – Jonathan Lear

Category: General Introduction | Length: 260 pages | Published: 2015 (2e)

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. …

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The Freud Reader – Peter Gay

Category: Anthology | Length: 896 pages | Published: 1995

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. …

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The Cambridge Companion to Freud – Jerome Neu

Category: Comprehensive Overview | Length: 370 pages | Published: 1991

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.

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The Interpretation of Dreams – Sigmund Freud

Category: Classic | Length: 496 pages

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. …

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Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality – Sigmund Freud

Category: Classic | Length: 208 pages

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. …

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Civilization and Its Discontents – Sigmund Freud

Category: Classic | Length: 192 pages

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.

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The following sources were used to build this list:

University Course Syllabi:


  • Bibliography for the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Freud

Other Recommendations:

Additional Resources

If you want to learn more about Freud, you can find a collection of free articles, videos, and podcasts here.

You might also be interested in the following reading lists:


Sigmund Freud’s 10 most important books

Influential Books by Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud is as loved as he is hated, but there is no doubt that his theoretical legacy has left its mark on our culture and our society .

Although his ideas have become totally outdated in terms of their explanations of how mental processes work, both our way of thinking and our way of creating culture have, in part, their mark.

Sigmund Freud’s most important and influential books

That is why, even decades after his death, the work of the father of psychoanalysis is still of general interest.

Below you can see a small list of Freud’s most important books , so that you can go deeper into his ideas and evaluate them critically. The order in which they are listed is chronological, according to their year of publication.

1. Studies on Hysteria (1895)

This book, written by Sigmund Freud and his mentor Josef Breuer, is the seed of the psychodynamic theory that Freud would create during the years following the publication of these writings .

It is also the set of texts in which one intuits the ideas about the unconscious that would later give rise to the great theories of psychoanalysis, although in this case the subject matter is more closely related to psychiatry and clinical psychology of the late nineteenth century.

You can buy it by clicking on this link.

2. The interpretation of dreams (1900)

For many people, this is the book with which psychoanalysis was born .

In this work Freud develops the idea that dreams could be the realm in which unconscious thoughts emerge into consciousness disguised through messages transmitted in a symbolic way.

Thus, the dreams would be expressions of repressed desires that take advantage of to lean out to the encounter of the conscious mind when we sleep.

You can buy it here.

3. Psychopathology of daily life (1901)

The theory created by Sigmund Freud not only deals with the causes of the symptoms of serious mental disorders . It also tries to explain the fundamental psychological mechanisms that are behind the actions of the human being in general.

This is one of the books written by Freud in which the psychoanalyst explains the way in which, in his opinion, the functioning of our unconscious gives rise to the appearance of small inconsistencies in our way of behaving: lapses, confusing words when expressing ourselves and, in general, what Freud called failed acts . He also explains the possible failures in the functioning of the human psyche that from his perspective could be behind these phenomena.

You can buy it through this link.

4. Three trials of sexual theory (1905)

Sexuality had a very important role in Freudian theory . In fact, some of his students distanced themselves from him, among other things, because of the emphasis with which the father of psychoanalysis defended the centrality of the sexual as part of the unconscious and impulsive machinery that makes us behave as we do.

This is one of Freud’s most important books because it contains the ideas that shape Freudian theory of psychosexual development.

You can buy it here.

5. Totem and Taboo (1913)

Un the rest of Freud’s books, this selection of trials goes further the clinical realm to delve into those phenomena historically rooted in the social and cultural. The conclusions found in the pages of this work have implications for subjects such as religion, rituals and even archaeology .

The content of this work is more philosophical and anthropological than the rest of Freud’s books.

Buy it here.

6. Introduction of Narcissism (1914)

The content of this book is a review of Freud’s theory of drives. In Introduction to Narcissism , Freud explains that narcissism is part of the normal functioning of the psyche and that its seed is present from the first stages of psychosexual development.

You can buy it here.

7. Introduction to Psychoanalysis (1917)

Who better to make psychoanalysis known to us than the person who created it?

Between the pages of this work, Sigmund Freud explains the main foundations of the psychoanalytic theory and points out the fundamental pillars on which the psychoanalyst’s work must be based. It is a good option to get a general idea of what Freud understood by neurosis, unconscious, dreams, repression, etc.

Buy it here.

8. Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920)

This is Freud’s first book in which a distinction appears between the life drives (Eros) and the death drives (Tanathos). In addition, Sigmund Freud’s theory of instincts

is portrayed here in great detail

Buy it through this link.

9. The Self and the Self (1923)

The theory of ego structures is of total relevance within Freud’s work, and in this book its fundamentals are well explained. The difference between the Ego, the Self and the Overself, as well as the principles by which they are governed and their role in the human psyche, are analyzed in depth.

Buy it here.

10. Discontent in Culture (1930)

Since Sigmund Freud dealt a great deal with the tensions between individual drives and the conflict these enter into when they clash with norms of behavior, it is not surprising that he dedicated one of his books to examining the fit between individual and culture . The basic idea expressed in the pages of this essay is that, since the interests of civilization and the primary desires of individuals are in constant tension, this generates a feeling of chronic malaise.

This is one of Freud’s most important books from the perspective of social psychology.

Buy it here.


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