Book review: Tarot for Real Life by Jack Chanek
Hi all! This book is published by Llewellyn Publishing. It's just been released in America and will be released shortly in the UK as well.
I've read a few tarot books; I find that they all have something useful to say. This is definitely one of the better ones. Jack has a chatty, informal style, with a strong emphasis on finding ways to use the cards that work for you rather than hewing to 'rules'.
The book is arranged in a way I've never seen before. Most books will go through history, spreads etc and then list all the cards, one after another. Jack has divided his lessons into six sections, to match with the six parts of the decks – the Majors, the four Minors and the Court cards – and arranged them in order. So the practical parts are paired with the down to earth Pentacles, the big picture stuff matches with the Majors and so on. It's a really thought provoking way of doing it.
The card descriptions include a full image of the standard RWS card and a description of the meanings. There are no reversals included in the descriptions, but there is a whole chapter (in the analytical, thoughtful Swords section) about the different ways reversals can be used and how to decide which to use and whether to use them. Personally, I'm a mood user of reversals – I tend to decide based on the person and question whether to use them or not, and only with decks where the image on the back allows reversals without foreknowledge. It's great to see such a thoughtful discussion of them here, and acknowledgement that they can have different meanings depending on the situation.
There are lots of exercises scattered throughout the book, really practical ones like "A person comes to you with this issue, draw your cards and see what they say." Jack emphasises the usefulness of a tarot journal to keep track of your readings. I have to be honest, I haven't started a journal – I keep meaning to and not getting to it! – but I'm planning to get one very soon and work through some of these exercises. I'm good at individual cards, but stringing them together into a story (in the emotional Cups section of the book!) eludes me so far, so these exercises will be great for practise.
There are also several different spreads sprinkled through the book. While the 22 card septenaries spread will be beyond me for a while yet, the others look really useful, and I'm looking forward to practising them.
Overall this is a fantastic book. It's simple, it's clear, it's the only book I've read that talks about the practical side of offering readings to people (in the passionate Wands section!) and it's definitely one that I'm going to come back to over and over. Just brilliant.