Influential Books by Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud is one of the most famous figures of the twentieth century. His often controversial ideas had a major impact on the growing field of psychology, and his influence continues to be felt today. In addition to his grand theories of human psychology, he was also a prolific writer, publishing more than 320 different books, articles, and essays.

The following list represents a selection of some of his most famous and influential books. If you are interested in learning more about Freud and his theories, considering reading a few of his original writings to get a better grasp of Freudian theory directly from the original source.

There are many textbooks that summarize his ideas, but sometimes nothing beats consulting the original writings to gain greater insights and perspectives on his many ideas. 

Studies on Hysteria (1895)

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Studies on Hysteria, or Studien über Hysterie, was co-authored by Freud and his colleague Josef Breuer. The book described their work and study of a number of individuals suffering from hysteria, including one of their most famous cases, a young woman known as Anna O. The book also introduced the use of psychoanalysis as a treatment for mental illness.

The Interpretation of Dreams (1900)

The Interpretation of Dreams was originally published in German under the title Die Traumdeutung. Freud often identified this book as his personal favorite, and it has gone on to become a perennial classic in the history of psychology.

The book lays out Freud's theory that dreams represent unconscious wishes disguised by symbolism. If you're interested in learning more about Freud's approach to dreams and the unconscious mind, this book is a must-read.

The Psychopathology of Everyday Life (1901)

The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, or Zur Psychopathologie des Alltagslebens, is considered one of the major texts that outline Freud's psychoanalytic theory.

The book takes a closer look at a number of deviations that occur during everyday life, including forgetting names, slips of the tongue (aka Freudian slips), and errors in speech and concealed memories. He then analyzes the underlying psychopathology that he believed led to such errors.

Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905)

Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, or Drei Abhandlungen zur Sexualtheorie, is considered one of Freud's most important works. In these essays, he outlines his theory of psychosexual development and introduces other important concepts including the Oedipus complex, penis envy, and castration anxiety.

Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious (1905)

In Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious, or Der Witz und seine Beziehung zum Unbewußten, Freud observed how jokes, much like dreams, could be related to unconscious wishes, desires, or memories. Freud's theory of humor is based on his theory of the id, ego, and superego. According to Freud, the superego is what allows the ego to generate and express humor.

Totem and Taboo (1913)

Totem and Taboo: Resemblances Between the Mental Lives of Savages and Neurotics, or Totem und Tabu: Einige Übereinstimmungen im Seelenleben der Wilden und der Neurotiker, is a collection of four essays that apply psychoanalysis to other fields including religion, anthropology, and archaeology.

On Narcissism ( 1914)

In On Narcissism, or Zur Einführung des Narzißmus, Freud outlines his theory of narcissism. In the book, he suggests that narcissism is actually a normal part of the human psyche. He referred to this as primary narcissism or the energy that lies behind each person's survival instincts.

Introduction to Psychoanalysis (1917)

As one of Freud's most famous books, Introduction to Psychoanalysis (or Vorlesungen zur Einführung in die Psychoanalyse), Freud outlines his theory of psychoanalysis including the unconscious mind, the theory of neuroses and dreams.

The preface, written by G. Stanley Hall, explains, "These twenty-eight lectures to laymen are elementary and almost conversational. Freud sets forth with a frankness almost startling the difficulties and limitations of psychoanalysis, and also describes its main methods and results as only a master and originator of a new school of thought can do."

Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920)

In Beyond the Pleasure Principle, originally published in German as Jenseits des Lustprinzips, Freud explored his theory of instincts in greater depth. Previously, Freud's work identified the libido as the force behind human actions. In this book, he developed a theory of drives that are motivated by the life and death instincts.

The Future of an Illusion (1927)

In The Future of an Illusion, originally published as Die Zukunft einer Illusion, Freud explores religion through a psychoanalytic lens.

He describes his own ideas about the origins and development of religion, and suggests that religion is an illusion made up of "...certain dogmas, assertions about facts and conditions of external and internal reality which tell one something that one has not oneself discovered, and which claim that one should give them credence."

Civilization and Its Discontents (1930)

Civilization and Its Discontents, or Das Unbehagen in der Kultur, is one of Freud's best known as most widely read books. The book centers on Freud's ideas about the tension between the individual and civilization as a whole.

According to Freud, many of our most basic desires are at odds with what is best for society, which is why laws prohibiting certain actions are created. The result, he argues, is an ongoing feeling of discontentment among the citizens of that civilization.

Moses and Monotheism (1939)

In Moses and Monotheism, first published in 1937 as Der Mann Moses und die monotheistische Religion, Freud utilizes his psychoanalytic theory to develop hypotheses about events of the past. In this book, he suggests that Moses was not Jewish but was instead an ancient Egyptian monotheist. This was Freud's final work and perhaps one of his most controversial.

A Word From Verywell

Freud may not be as dominant of an influence as he was in the past, but being familiar with his work and theories is important if you want to understand how psychology developed. College textbooks often supply only a cursory overview of some of his best-known ideas.

If you are interested in taking a closer look at Freud's work, exploring some of his many books can provide a great deal of insight into the ideas that fueled the rise of psychoanalysis.

1 Source
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  1. Dallas Baptist University. Freud. Bibliography (full).

By Kendra Cherry
Kendra Cherry, MS, is the author of the "Everything Psychology Book (2nd Edition)" and has written thousands of articles on diverse psychology topics. Kendra holds a Master of Science degree in education from Boise State University with a primary research interest in educational psychology and a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Idaho State University with additional coursework in substance use and case management.