Tarot cards have long been used to seek insight and direction, and yes, sometimes they’re pulled out just for fun. In recent years, there have been some especially creative themed tarot decks available. There’s cat-themed tarot, Sailor Moon tarot, kawaii tarot, Alice in Wonderland tarot, Labyrinth tarot. Yes, these are all now on my personal wishlist. And yes, recently I purchased a tarot deck that’s themed after the hit reality TV show The Bachelor. And I’m not ashamed, because those cards are stunningly gorgeous.
But you know what kind of tarot deck I’d really like to add to my collection? A tarot deck based on contemporary authors. From young adult authors to fantasy authors to those who write literary fiction, there are all sorts of authors who nearly perfectly embody different cards in the major arcana. Here are my picks for the 22 authors who I think best embody the 22 cards in the major arcana. And if anyone wants to make my author-as-tarot-cards dream a reality, I would love to see this deck come true!
Quick disclaimer before we get into the cards: this is all in good fun, and if you don’t agree with my cards, you’re more than welcome to come up with your own! In fact, I’d love to see it. Also, this post as inspired in part by this Book Covers as Tarot Cards blog post. So if you like the idea of literary tarot, definitely go check out that post as well!
0 – The Fool
I know it seems harsh to dub anyone “The Fool,” but like all cards in the tarot deck, there are positive and negative aspects of this, the first — or last — card of the major arcana. The Fool embodies childlike curiosity, beginnings, and spontaneity. Not only do John Green’s young adult novels capture that spirit, but his latest nonfiction title, The Anthropocene Reviewed, is all about a joyful curiosity for a human-centered planet.
I – The Magician
N.K. Jemisin is a sci-fi/fantasy author and the first person to win the Hugo Award for Best Novel in three consecutive years, so she had to be our Magician card. The Magician is powerful, resourceful, is able to create magic, and can uncover knowledge. Jemisin’s novels are smart, powerful, and — of course — magical. Check out the author’s most recent novel The City We Became, a story in which New York City is embodied in six different magic souls, to see what I mean.
II – The High Priestess
The High Priestess Card stands for insight, intuition, and the subconscious mind. Much like Lauren Groff’s novels and short stories, this card “teaches you that the world is not always as it seems and more profound influences are often at play.” Take Groff’s acclaimed novel Fates and Furies, in which the reader is presented one version of reality in the first half of the novel and then present a second version of events in the second half of the novel. And for even more insightful and thought-provoking literature from Groff, check out her latest, Matrix.
III – The Empress
For The Empress, it seemed only right to choose one of today’s most popular and most beloved authors, Liane Moriarty. Moriarty is one of the most-read contemporary authors, according to Goodreads, and pretty much everything she writes seems like it’s getting adapted into a television series. The Empress card is normally associated with the feminine, motherhood, romance, and family. While Moriarty doesn’t exclusively write about these things, her novels generally focus around women and often deal with family dramas, including her most recent novel Apples Never Fall.
IV – The Emperor
As with The Empress, for The Emperor, we had to go with one of the most successful and popular contemporary authors. The Emperor card symbolizes power, structure, wisdom, and experience. And with over 60 books under his belt, the prolific author is certainly experienced. The Emperor honors structure and has the ability to create calm out of chaos. King does the same when he harnesses his nightmares and “scariness” into short stories and novels. The author’s latest novel is Billy Summers.
V – The Hierophant
The task of The Hierophant is to teach others and to pass down spiritual wisdom. Nobel Prize–winning author Kazuo Ishiguro is not religious in the strictest sense. In fact, the author has said, “Religions are things that we make up. It’s another question whether God is made up, but surely religions are man-made things.” However, Ishiguro’s novels, especially Klara and the Sun and The Buried Giant, bring up spiritual questions. The Hierophant is also about wisdom and tradition, elements that Ishiguro’s eclectic collection of novels embody in different ways.
VI – The Lovers
For The Lovers card, I had to go with a pair of writers who work together harmoniously. So of course, I thought of the successful romance-writing duo Christina Lauren. The Lovers are all about love, harmony, and alignment. Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings are certainly harmonious and aligned, as they’ve successfully written nearly 30 novels together as a duo. In an interview, the authors admitted that while they are two very different people, “we always felt very safe with each other…That trust has always stayed.” Check out their latest, The Soulmate Equation.
VII – The Chariot
The Chariot is the card that embodies movement, taking action, and making decisions based on your values. This made me think of Celeste Ng, specifically her novel Little Fires Everywhere. First of all, you have the character of Mia Warren who quite literally is always on the move, but you also have a whole cast of characters who are taking action and standing up for what they think is right. Celeste Ng’s stories are powerful and her characters and strong and willful, which is why she is the perfect author for The Chariot card.
VIII – Strength
Obviously the Strength card stands for strength, but it’s also a card that symbolizes courage, persuasion, and compassion. Ta-Nehisi Coates’s writing, both fiction and nonfiction, embodies strength and compassion. When you look at Coates’s debut work of fiction, The Water Dancer, this is the story of a man, Hiram Walker, who displays incredible courage, strength, and resilience, and just like the Strength card, he’s able to overcome every obstacle that stands in his way.
IX – The Hermit
Despite author Haruki Murakami’s extreme popularity, the author has been able to live a fairly reclusive life, which is why he’s the perfect author for The Hermit card. Murakami’s novels often feature surrealist and even magical storylines, but at their core, the stories are most known for their introspection and journeys of self-discovery, traits that are also emblematic of The Hermit. Murakami’s most recent novel is Killing Commendatore.
X – The Wheel of Fortune
The Wheel of Fortune is a card that’a all about luck, fortune, karma and destiny. Rebecca Serle’s novels — especially her most recent, In Five Years — explore the nature of karma, fate, and destiny. And get ready for her next novel, One Italian Summer, which will be out in March 2022. In this book, a daughter quite literally meets up with a younger version of her deceased mother. This is a novel about reconnecting with the past as a way to move forward, and turning points are also a big part of what The Wheel of Fortune is all about.
XI – Justice
Justice represents justice, fairness, truth and equality. Angie Thomas’s young adult novels — such as the critically acclaimed The Hate U Give — are all about standing up for justice and what’s right. In an interview with The Guardian, Thomas said, “I’m a writer who is concerned about politics.” And while she went on to say that she doesn’t plan to only write about social justice, she said she does write antiracist stories. For these reasons, she’s clearly Justice. Be sure to pick up a copy of The Hate U Give‘s prequel, Concrete Rose, which came out earlier this year.
XII – The Hanged Man
Stephen Graham Jones
The Hanged Man might sound like a sinister card, but really this card is all about changing your perspective so that you can see the world in a different light. Stephen Graham Jones is the perfect author for The Hanged Man card because his horror novels include startling imagery but really focus on examining Indigenous identity, colonialism, racism, sexism, and much more from a fresh perspective that is wholly his own. His latest novel My Heart is a Chainsaw just came out in August of this year!
XIII – Death
Death can mean the end of something, but it also means change, transitions, and transformation, and so for this card, I wanted to go with an author who is the queen of transformations. Each of Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s novel is unique and unlike anything else she’s written before. Gods of Jade and Shadow is a historical fantasy novel based on Mexican folklore. Mexican Gothic is a gothic horror novel with an unforgettable twist. And for her most recent novel Velvet was the Night, Moreno-Garcia is getting into political noir thriller territory.
XIV – Temperance
The Temperance card represents patience, moderation, and a balance between the masculine and the feminine. Ann Patchett’s literary fiction exhibits moderation because her writing style is poetic but accessible. It’s clear she has a strong control of the written word. And talk about patience! The characters in her latest novel The Dutch House are very patient, as they wait for decades for the potential to be reunited with the family home they were forced to leave as children.
XV – The Devil
What matters to The Devil? Sex, drugs, and excess. And who’s the author who loves writing about that stuff? Well, Chuck Palahniuk, obviously. This is not to say Palahniuk is evil. It’s just that this author loves to embrace the darker side of life. Of course there’s Fight Club, Palahniuk’s most famous work, which is about a group of men disillusioned by the American dream that turn to violence. His 2018 novel Adjustment Day is a dystopian novel that sheds a light (and satirizes) the dark side of society.
XVI – The Tower
The Tower. It’s a card that signifies revelation, awakening, and surprises. With The Tower, you can expect the unexpected. And that’s definitely been the case with Akwaeke Emezi’s work thus far. Emezi’s debut novel Freshwater was all about revelations and awakening to the hidden sides of oneself. Their recent novel The Death of Vivek Oji is the beautiful story of a family learning the secret life of their son/nephew/cousin after his death. Again, revelations, awakenings, and surprises.
XVII – The Star
The Star is the card of hope, faith, and a feeling of purpose, which made me think of author Nicola Yoon. Yoon’s young adult fiction is starry-eyed, hopeful, and a little bit magical, but it works because it feels sincere. In her latest, Instructions for Dancing, a teen girl closes herself off to the idea of love after she gains the magical ability to see how people will break up when they kiss. But then she meets a boy who gives her hope and faith in love again, even if it doesn’t always end the way we wanted.
XVIII – The Moon
The Moon is the card of intuition, dreams, and the unconscious. The moon can also symbolize that things aren’t quite what they seem. In all of their books, Rivers Solomon uses speculative fiction narratives to confront important subjects, like classism, racism, and more. Much like dreams, Solomon uses surrealistic and sometimes frightening imagery to get to the heart of harsh realities — as is the case with their recent novel Sorrowland.
XIX – The Sun
Taylor Jenkins Reid
For The Sun, I had to go with Taylor Jenkins Reid. The Sun radiates positivity, success, and radiance. Reid is the perfect representation of this card because, for one, her books are so fun, and also, much like the sun itself, Reid’s stories are wildly popular and successful. This isn’t to say Reid’s novels are all sunshines and rainbows. Malibu Rising deals with real issues of broken families and questions of identity. But it all ends with an explosive party, in true Sun fashion.
XX – Judgement
Judgment is less about judging others and more about looking within oneself to get closer to the truth of who you are, the good and the bad. If we’re looking a Judgement at face-value, then maybe any crime novelist would be a good fit for the Judgment card. But Tana French is one of the best contemporary mystery authors (if not the best) because she makes her characters confront their hidden secrets and flaws. By the end of each of her character-driven novels, her characters have been exposed in a way that makes French the perfect example of Judgement. Her latest, The Searcher, is well worth a read.
XXI – The World
The World represents completing one journey so that you can make room to start anew. What did this make me think of right away? Kate Atkinson’s novel Life After Life, in which a character is reborn again and again to start a new journey. But The World also stands for all kinds of rebirth, through travel, through accomplishment, or just through a new awareness of the world around you. In that sense, all of Kate Atkinson’s works embody The World in some way. In her newest novel Big Sky, private investigator Jackson Brodie has literally relocated to a seaside village to start anew.
Okay, so this tarot deck is not actually available to purchase, but these 17+ gorgeous, inclusive tarot and oracle decks are. And if this post is inspiring you to grab your deck of tarot cards and get to reading, here are five of the best books on tarot to get you started.