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Books for Dreamers

by Chris Wayan 2001-2012

Alphabetized by author; group efforts are under title, including most films; a few 'auteur' films are under writer/director.
Boldface: Recommended. ALL CAPS: long works--books, full-length plays and feature films. Capitalized Italics: short works.
Most works here are too long for the World Dream Bank; check Project Gutenberg, etc. WDB has two more booklists: for prodigies, geniuses & gifteds and for planetologists, terraformers & worldbuilders
Stories About Dreams - Dream-Based Stories, Dreams AS Stories - Dream Journals - Books on Dreamwork

Anderson, Poul: The Visitor
A short story, inspired by a dream, that also hinges on a dream, a psychic one. Sad and fatalistic, though.
Bryant, Dorothy: THE KIN OF ATA ARE WAITING FOR YOU
A cult classic--a bittersweet utopian novel of a society centering on dreams.
Davison, Al: THE SPIRAL CAGE (graphic novel) and SPIRAL DREAMS (comics collection)
SPIRAL CAGE is a comics classic--the autobiography of a kid with spina bifida, whose parents were told he'd never walk. Well, he walks. And writes! Strong subject, strong writing, strong art--and jammed full of dreams and visions. SPIRAL DREAMS is a collection of shorter work including strong examples of psychic dreams; further vols, viewable at his site (see links), have a surreal/visionary bent, with Buddhist overtones. His MINOTAUR'S TALE is a foray into stark realism that's somehow more dreamlike than his dreams.
Dick, Philip K: THE THREE STIGMATA OF PALMER ELDRITCH and the early novels EYE IN THE SKY, UBIK
Many of Dick's books explore anti-lucidity: the inability to tell what's real and what's a dream. STIGMATA is perhaps the strongest example of this uncertainty, but even his best known and popularly accessible book, THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE, has strong hints that the alternate world he paints so convincingly is just a bad dream--a bubble that wants to burst.
Dickson, Gordon: THE PRITCHER MASS
Earth's a mess, and we plan to leave it. But cartoon aliens that appear in our dreams--the only way they can reach us, it seems--tell us we're not welcome among the stars. "Clean up your own mess!" Though the main focus of this science fiction novel is our coming-of-age as a species, taking on adult responsibilities, Dickson also challenges Freud's assumption (largely accepted even by Jung) that dreams are personal, internal, and apolitical. What if they're wrong, and those tribal shamans were right all along? What if dream creatures are real?
DREAMSCAPE (film)
Dream-recorders are invented, promptly get misused. Our hero ends up facing a nightmare-journey, the promised Dreamscape... which frankly disappointed me. INCEPTION had at least surface wit; PAPRIKA, though animation, has realer characters; and both have better dreamscapes.
Du Maurier, George: PETER IBBETSON (1892)
This eccentric novel opens like a sweet, simple memoir of the author's childhood in 1840s Paris, but it morphs into a tale of lucid dreams shared by two lovers kept apart by day. First they build their own dreamworld, and then explore the lives of their ancestors back to cave times (anticipating Jung's notion of the collective unconscious by decades). You may find it too New Age (70 years before the term existed!) but I liked it. Find an illustrated edition--Du Maurier was a cartoonist for PUNCH and he obviously had a ball with these drawings. Compare with the roughly contemporary story "Brushwood Boy" by Kipling.
FORBIDDEN PLANET (film)
The science fiction version of Shakespeare's The Tempest, with dreams as Caliban! A xenologist digs up relics of the long-extinct Krel only to find their ancient devices still work: dreams come true! Including nightmares: the Krel's own dreams, materialized, destroyed them. The disciplined Dr Morbeus, his innocent daughter Altaira, and their robot servant Robby (Prospero, Miranda and Ariel) are in fragile equilibrium till an Earth ship lands. The crew's rivalry for Miranda wakens "Monsters from the Id!" Half Shakespeare, half camp, all gorgeous, and more Freudian than Freud.
Gaiman, Neil: SANDMAN (11 graphic novels forming one epic, though individual volumes can stand alone.)
Sophisticated comics studded with dozens of dreams, showcasing every flavor of dreaming. Gaiman's personification of Dream slips from a brooding emcee of other's dreams to a flawed hero trapped in his own lonely dream-tale, doomed if he can't unbend and change. Gaiman cheerfully loots Classical and Shakespearean images, but builds a genuine tragicomedy of redemption that's very much his own. Skip volume 1; start with v.2, A Doll's House.
Glaser, Nina: OUTSIDE OF TIME, RECOMPOSED, and MALE BONDING.
A San Francisco photographer whose surreal Butoh-influenced images affected my dreams strongly--see Eel Girls. I still don't know if her work rises from dreams or just feels utterly dreamlike.
Goldstein, Lisa: THE DREAM YEARS
1920s Surrealists and radical French students in 1968 meet across time and start a pro-dream revolution against the death-machine. Feels too short and sketchy to me, but still fun--great wish fulfilment for any hippie. Historically educational, too.
Nolan, Christopher: INCEPTION (film)
An action flick on dreams? Oxymoronic! Or is it? In the future, dreams are used for espionage, so our Drean Team must enter a dream within a dream within a dream--but of course they end up FOUR levels in. Four caper movies nested like babushka dolls--and all work! On the surface at least--their core mission is silly, women are all Film Noir (Mal was a dream researcher yet her dream-self's a femme fatale saboteur; Ariadne's the Spunky Girl, One Of The Boys, and the Group Mom all at once). Worst of all, Nolan treats dreams as mechanistic, stupid, and hostile to outsiders, even loved ones; that's just false.
Jones, Diana Wynne: Carol Oneir's Hundredth Dream (short story, in Jones's MIXED MAGICS; also anthologized in DRAGONS AND DREAMS, edited by Jane Yolen)
A precocious dream artist gets in a rut, repeating her commercial successes. Then her dream-characters rebel... Quite funny, but as a dream artist myself I found real depth under the comedy.
Kipling, Rudyard: Brushwood Boy
A sweet short story on shared dreaming, in which lifelong shared dreams bring together two soul-mates. Compare with George Du Maurier's roughly contemporary novel PETER IBBETSON.
Knox, Elizabeth: DREAMHUNTER and DREAMQUAKE
These two wonderfully strange books are set in an ambitopia reeling from the discovery of a physical dreamworld that only a minority (dreamhunters) can enter--bringing back dreams they can share with others in a sleeping operahouse. Fine worldbuilding, imagery, character and plotting--the tale succeeds as surrealism, Le Guin-style science fiction, shamanic adventure, political thriller (if we dream collectively, here comes conformity!), and as a moral fable for creative artists. Compare to McNeil's DREAM SEQUENCE and Le Guin's LATHE OF HEAVEN.
Lewis, C.S.: VOYAGE OF THE DAWNTREADER: The Dark Island
This kids' classic contains a startling chapter, Dark Island, in which the voyagers land on the Isle where Dreams come True. They flee in terror before anything's even bitten them. It's clear Lewis generalized from his own dreamlife; in PERELANDRA, Lewis equates dreams, pagan spirit worlds (fair enough), and... Hell! This deeply imaginitive writer feared his own dreams. "Here Be Monsters" indeed! Parallels FORBIDDEN PLANET.
Le Guin, Ursula K: THE LATHE OF HEAVEN
George Orr's dreams change things--so his therapist sets out to save the world, wielding the power of George. The tale of a man who can change anything but his shrink's ego! Simultaneously (1) a black comedy about rationalization, (2) a blacker comedy about the male American psyche, (3) a bittersweet love story, (4) an updating of the worldwide fable "The fisherman and his wife", (5) a fine parallel-world story, and (6) a witty Taoist parable on why change never gets us far. Way better than the movie (either version).
Le Guin, Ursula K: THE WORD FOR WORLD IS FOREST
A colonial war against a dream-oriented culture. A grim parable about Vietnam with all the same flaws as AVATAR--brutality, preachiness, and taking the easy way out--smashing your utopia quickly, so you don't have to fully envision it. I'd rather have read a (unique) utopia than a (standard) political sermon. But glimpses of utopia are better than nothing I guess.
Le Guin, Ursula K: Social Dreaming of the Frin (in her recent collection CHANGING PLANES)
What if we dreamed together as a community? Our desires and fears mingling in one big public stew? I was curious about the roots of this story and emailed her. I told her of my dream-group's experiments with actual shared dreaming. She told me the idea didn't come from real experiences of shared dreams--it was pure science fiction with what she sees as a contrafactual premise; she doesn't believe dream telepathy exists!
Lovecraft, H.P: DREAM-QUEST OF UNKNOWN KADATH
Lovecraft's horror leaves me yawning, but I like this early book--a turn-of-the-century dream-fantasy like Lord Dunsany in a fey mood, with a flood of vivid dream-images. Logic? Who needs logic?
McCay, Winsor: LITLE NEMO IN SLUMBERLAND, and DREAMS OF THE RAREBIT FIEND
LITTLE NEMO, written and drawn as Sunday newspaper comics early in the 20th Century, has now been collected into a multivolume graphic novel. It works surprisingly well as such--McCay wrote it as a continuous story--simple but quite Jungian, as Nemo slowly grows from a timid child to a master of his dream realm. Clunky word balloons, but otherwise many decades ahead of its time graphically (Wild Art Nouveau dream images, the most visually gorgeous comic of all time) and oneirically (rather than quarrel with Freud, McCay simply ignores him to follows his own path: Jung in Oz on acid). RAREBIT FIEND has a different dreamer each week, letting McCay play with bizarre dream imagery with no plot restraints--except of course turn-of-the-century newspaper censors!
MacDonald, George: LILITH (1895)
A pre-Surrealist surrealist novel, asserting the world is a nested dream--a dream within dreams--and one difficult, but essential, to wake from. One of very few Christian writers to confront dreams' full depth and complexity--most were hobbled by echoes of medieval Church doctrine: dreamwork is witchcraft (true enough) and witchcraft is devil-worship (false). A multileveled, humane, weirdly modern book--Lin Carter's intro to my paperback copy says its "use of dream symbols... bears close comparison with the best of Kafka." I agree. Belongs in any lit course on dreams.
McIntyre, Vonda: DREAMSNAKE
Her first novel, and a strong one--a feminist adventure of a healer wandering through a postnuclear world, whose working tools are strange snakes that give healing dreams. The dreams aren't the core of the story, but no survey of dream-related literature should omit a book this fun. Remember fun?
McNeil, Carla Speed: FINDER: DREAM SEQUENCE (graphic novel)
FINDER is a series of quite brilliant graphic novels from Lightspeed Press. The recent volume DREAM SEQUENCE stars an apolitical artist reluctant to face how his dreams get exploited in a commercialized world. A shadow-figure starts gleefully, brutally ejecting tourists from his dream-Paradise. A tale with implications for any world-creator, whether shamanic, literary or artistic. Compare to Elizabeth Knox's DREAMHUNTER and DREAMQUAKE.
Miesel, Sandra: DREAMRIDER (revised and reissued as SHAMAN; either edition is fine)
A Midwestern historian's weird dreams initiate her as a shaman and tell her to change her society (a scary parody of today's safety- and therapy-obsessed America). Rock-solid research, showing how to tackle the problems shamanic dreamers face--better than Castaneda. Good parallel worlds too. And the otters who teach Ria in her dreams are marvelous characters. Not just educational--it's great fun watching Ria slowly tear loose from her narrow life (with a little help from her friends). An amazing first novel.
Moore, Alan: PROMETHEA (graphic novel)
A five-volume story steeped in Gnostic mysticism, about a girl in a near-future New York who gradually becomes an avatar of a goddess/principle trying to free our souls. She undergoes a gradual shamanic initiation, moving deeper into dreamspace. Full of feverish psychedelic art and grating apocalyptic humor (Moore also did the notoriously harsh political comicWATCHMEN).
Morrow, James: THE CONTINENT OF LIES
A science-fiction novel about a new artform: dreambeans. Eating a bean induces a carefully composed dream lived first-hand. Our hero, a dreambean reviewer, faces a crisis of conscience as he starts to suspect his beloved medium is just too involving, too prone to abuse--or hijacking.
Norton, Andre: STORM ON WARLOCK and ORDEAL IN OTHERWHERE
1960s science fiction novels about a matriarchal, dream-based society. OTHERWHERE, in particular, had a big influence on me. Near-pulp in pacing and color, yet not fluff--the books tackle a host of issues pop culture of the period ignored--fundamentalism, lucid dreaming, sexism, reverse sexism, and capitalism's looting of native cultures.
Nylund, Eric: PAWN'S DREAM
Fantasy novel of a recurring dreamworld that's real. The dream dynamics are convincing, but are just the frame for a disappointingly conventional fantasy plot within the dreamworld--the dreamer must take charge of a family power struggle. Failure of imagination, or failure of nerve?
PAPRIKA (film; director Satoshi Kon also did the wonderfully surreal MILLENNIUM ACTRESS.)
Experimental recorders allow realtime dreamsharing--and healing. Dr Atsuko Chiba, on the research team, uses them illegally to help patients; but she may have become addicted to her dream-persona, Paprika, who lacks her inhibitions. Some devices go missing, and dreams of psychotic patients get planted in researchers' minds. By the end, a psychedelic nightmare-parade invades the waking world--if there is one! PAPRIKA's a wild colorful ride, with sounder dream-theories, realer characters (even though it's anime; in particular, it takes women seriously) and a warmer heart than Hollywood films on dreams, like INCEPTION and DREAMSCAPE.
Robinson, Kim Stanley: Before I Wake (short story)
A science fiction tale in which Earth drifts into a region of space with subtly different energy and we suddenly are dreaming awake. Civilization burns as a result. Unusually for Robinson, it ends sadly; no cure. We just have to learn to live with it. Or not. Many of the story's surreal images are from his actual dreams.
Shakespeare, William: A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM and THE TEMPEST (plays)
Not about dreams per se, yet rife with dream-elements: illusions, wish-fulfillments, tricksters, spirits and transformations. One's a playful young man's farce on love's delusions; the other an old man's fable about disillusion--and, in the end, disillusionment from disillusion as Prospero faces that he'll be humanly imperfect, and takes up the mantle of leadership again.
Silverberg, Robert: LORD VALENTINE'S CASTLE and sequels
A science fiction ambitopia: a world where dreams are encouraged, acted on, and regulated by government bureau! An aborted masterpiece--all too soon it drifts away from dreams to more conventional politics, but the first half is fascinating. How do you interpret insanely megalomanic dreams if there's evidence they're true? What are an exceptional person's responsibilities?
Starhawk: THE FIFTH SACRED THING
A utopian novel of her vision of a future witch/pagan/green/anarchist San Francisco, with psychic dreamers playing an interesting though not central role as the City's early warning system.
Storm, Hyemeyohsts: SEVEN ARROWS and SONG OF HEYOEHKAH
Plains dreamwork and shamanism taught in subtle, humane, beautifully told teaching-stories. Dreams within dreams, lives within lives, tales within tales--as cleverly nested as Sheherazad's. A success both as literature and as non-European dream-theory, clearly explained. Compare: Jung's MAN AND HIS SYMBOLS.
Tennant, Emma: HOTEL DE DREAM
The dreams of the Hotel's tenants come true. And interfere with each other. And rebel against the dreamers... High literature? Maybe yes, maybe no. Funny? Oh, yes.
Thomas, D.M.: THE WHITE HOTEL
Sigmund Freud treats a woman with psychosomatic illness and eerie dreams. Doctor and patient are equally unaware they're premonitions of the Holocaust... A novel with humor so dark it pounces on you like the monster under your bed.
Tolkien, J.R.R., Leaf By Niggle (novella in his collection TREE AND LEAF and elsewhere).
A long, personal, peculiar (even for Tolkien) fable of a man's dreamworld becoming his heaven/hell. A nice little art project can take over your whole damn life! It's personal of course: Tolkien dreamed this story while he was struggling to finish The Lord of the Rings. He turned his nightmare into a strangely positive vision of the afterlife--and an artist's duty to ordinary life and ordinary people as well as the vision. Compare to George MacDonald's LILITH
Twain, Mark: THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER
This uncomfortable novel isn't just a black version of Faust or one more Twain critique of Christian dualism--Twain was a serious dreamworker, and it's prescient science fiction too! It extrapolates how lucid dreaming without solid ethical grounding can go terribly wrong. The Stranger, Traum [German: 'dream'], acts like a lucid dreamer, idly helping or hurting us, secure in the certainty we're mere dream figures--his to play with. A very dark Buddha! Next time you go lucid, remember the Stranger's casual cruelty. Compare with Le Guin's THE LATHE OF HEAVEN.
Van Allsburg, Chris: BEN'S DREAM
A children's picture book telling (with vivid line illustrations) of two kids' shared dreams of floating round the world in a great flood. Fictional, but pretty true to real shared dreams. I especially like that the imagery is so vivid it can easily distract you from the evidence it's shared. I missed it, though our protagonist Ben didn't!
Willis, Connie: LINCOLN'S DREAMS
Prizewinning science fiction I found disappointing. Little connection to Lincoln's real (psychic!) dreams. And as a psychic dreamer myself, I felt insulted. Annie (our psychic dreamer) is a classic fainting 19th Century anima, sleepwalking her way thru the book, doomed to a droopy death from page one. And Willis's picture of the Civil War is weirdly apolitical--she empathizes with Lee's pain, but I'd be more impressed if she made me care despite the immorality of Lee's cause, instead of simply sidestepping it. Does she mention slavery once?
Stories About Dreams - Dream-Based Stories, Dreams AS Stories - Dream Journals - Books on Dreamwork
Almond, David: Where Your Wings Were (short story in COUNTING STARS), and SKELLIG
An autobiographical childhood tale of a magical recurring dream. It also became, in expanded form, the seed of his best-known novel, SKELLIG.
Altman, Robert: THREE WOMEN (film)
Altman based this feature film directly on a dream of his.
Anderson, Poul: The Visitor
A short story, inspired by a dream, that also hinges on a dream, a psychic one. Sad and fatalistic, though.
Bell, Gabrielle: Cody and THE BOOK OF SLEEP
Many of Bell's comics are dream-based; such as On the Seashore from her collection When I'm Old. Cody, anthologized in Best American Comics 2013 (ed: Jeff Smith) is a dark comic of murder loosely inspired by a nightmare. The Book of Sleep I haven't yet tracked down.
Bergman, Ingmar: WILD STRAWBERRIES (film) and NAKED NIGHT (film; also titled SAWDUST AND TINSEL):
He's claimed all his films are dreams, though I take that metaphorically. But these two have scenes straight from Bergman's dreams, staged as accurately as he could.
Carroll, Lewis: ALICE IN WONDERLAND and THROUGH THE LOOKING-GLASS
These aren't just dreamlike, but dream-based. Carroll said he pieced them together from bits of what we would today call hypnogogic imagery.
Charnas, Suzy McKee: Listening To Brahms (award-winning science fiction story anthologized in VANISHING ACTS and elsewhere)
A lizard in a dream told her this whole tragicomic novella about music, survivors' guilt and redemption. Powerful. Recommended.
Cocteau, Jean: ORPHEE (film) and KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND TABLE (play)
The play "Knights" was directly inspired by a dream. Cocteau's film of the Orpheus myth also borrows heavily from dreams. Ann Faraday points out that the mirror-world in "Orphee" shows the non-REM state, which is rare in art--most artists mine REM, for its vivid imagery and passion. Cocteau did something subtler in Orphee.
Crespi, Giuseppi Maria: PAVONATTO (painting, early 1700s)
What about paintings based on dreams? Crespi dreamed of a blue cat with green feathered wings, and painted it for his daughter nearly three centuries ago--the oldest visual record of a dream I've found. "Pavonatto" is in a museum in Pisa, Italy.
Farmer, Nancy: THE EAR, THE EYE AND THE ARM
Ugly cover, fine YA book. It began from a dream, though it quickly went its own mad way... to win the Newberry Prize. A romp through a future Africa--science fiction, surrealism, or farce?
Gaiman, Neil: Feeders And Eaters, a short story (anthologized in KEEP OUT THE NIGHT)
A tale based on a nightmare Gaiman had in his twenties.
Gurganus, Allan: It Had Wings (short story in his collection WHITE PEOPLE)
A tale about finding an angel in the back yard, based on a childhood dream. For an oddly parallel short story and novel, see David Almond, above.
Kindl, Patrice: OWL IN LOVE
A surreal, funny (and surprisingly moving) YA novel about an owl stuck in an American high school (with a crush on her science teacher!) The first edition says it came straight from a dream. I believe it. Kindl's other books are well-written but OWL's bold strangeness stands out.
King, Stephen: IT
The scene in the junkyard with the flying parasites is straight from a dream. In an interview, King said he was stuck and asked his dreams for a way out; he dreamed he was the girl in the junkyard, looking into an old refrigerator, and...
Lindquist, Rowena Cory: Prelude To A Nocturne (a short story in DREAMING DOWN UNDER, a collection of Australian speculative and slipstream fiction)
A bittersweet tale of two sisters, one of whom matures while the other, due to a controversial treatment, stays young. Lindquist's afterword says "Amazingly, the title and attitudes of the main characters came to me fully formed in a dream."
McKean, Dave: MIRRORMASK (film)
A feature film (dialogue by Neil Gaiman) based on a series of dreams McKean had. Visually spectacular, though I don't think the story resolves psychologically in the end--Helen's mirror-twin gets stuffed back into the care of her smothering mom. A bad idea if she's a Jungian shadow, and she sure acts like one. She's bound to break out again, and you can hardly blame her. Each Helen should end up with more of her opposite's life and energy. But as failures go, it's a fascinating one.
Mansfield, Katherine: Sun and Moon (short story)
Mansfield dreamed this short story--even its title. But she didn't read it in a dream or observe the characters--she lived it, through the uncomprehending eyes of a 5-year-old boy as he watches adult doings at a party with bafflement and wonder.
Mukherjee, Bharati: JASMINE and WIFE
The endings of these two novels, as well as a number of her short stories, come from dreams. In each case, just as she was about to write the final scenes according to her conscious plans, she dreamed a different and better ending.
Pierce, Meredith Ann: THE DARKANGEL TRILOGY: The Darkangel, A Gathering of Gargoyles, and The Pearl at the Soul of the World
A fantasy in three novellas based on a set of dreams--not Pierce's own, but the dreams of a mad patient of Jung's! And you can feel it. Compellingly dreamlike--Pierce had the wisdom not to water down the dreams with too much logic. Aeriel, a girl on the Moon, must stop an angelic vampire determined to return to Earth, no matter what it costs the struggling lunar ecology. Gothic romance, mythic creatures vividly realized, primal mother-daughter scenes. Unique; I don't know of any other novels inspired by someone else's dreams.
Prelutsky, Jack: THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN RIDES TONIGHT and NIGHTMARES: POEMS TO TROUBLE YOUR SLEEP
These two collections of comic/scary poems for kids almost all come from dreams. In fact many poems in his other books are dream-based, like Forty Performing Bananas
Robinson, Kim Stanley: Before I Wake (short story)
A science fiction tale in which Earth drifts into a region of space with subtly different energy and we suddenly are dreaming awake. Civilization burns as a result. Unusually for Robinson, it ends sadly; no cure. We just have to learn to live with it. Or not. Many of the story's surreal images are from his actual dreams.
Sayles, John: THE BROTHER FROM ANOTHER PLANET (film)
Sayles says, in "Writers Dreaming," that BROTHER was provoked by three consecutive dreams. But if he'd stopped at dream one, the film'd be called Assholes From Outer Space. He said "Nah," but his dreams came back with a rewrite, with more sympathetic characters: Bigfoot In The City. He said "Better, but it's only good for a half-hour short." So his dreams tried a third time, and that version became a strange and wistful feature: The Brother From Another Planet.
Schreiner, Olive: DREAMS
I still don't know if these fables are actual dreams, or if Schreiner crafted them consciously, or something in between. In any case, they're powerful shamanic visions, with scorching imagery. Schreiner was an early 20th century writer whose present obscurity is probably due to her fierce political radicalism--it's sure not because her stuff is dull or poorly written.
Tolkien, J.R.R., Leaf By Niggle (novella in his collection TREE AND LEAF and elsewhere).
A long, personal, peculiar (even for Tolkien) fable of a man's dreamworld becoming his heaven/hell. A nice little art project can take over your whole damn life! It's personal of course: Tolkien dreamed this story while he was struggling to finish The Lord of the Rings. He turned his nightmare into a strangely positive vision of the afterlife--and an artist's duty to ordinary life and ordinary people as well as the vision. Compare to George MacDonald's LILITH
Twain, Mark: short story The Great Dark (in TALES OF WONDER and other collections)
August 1898: "Last night, dreamed of a whaling cruise in a drop of water. Not by microscope but actually." He turned the dream into a vivid and tragic story. For these whalers are being watched: their waterdrop is under a microscope. Its light dries up their drop, stranding the crew and the dreamer in a desert of light surrounded by the great dark. Brilliant and creepy--it haunted me as a kid. Decades before physics faced the problem of observer effects, Mark Twain turns them brutally personal--if God really does watch over us, the light of his scrutiny would be fatally desiccating!
Twain, Mark: 3,000 Years Among The Microbes (in TALES OF WONDER and other collections)
Another tale from a dream: "I dreamed that the visible universe is the physical person of God; that the vast worlds that we see twinkling millions of miles apart in the fields of space are the blood corpuscles in His veins; and that we and the other creatures are the microbes that charge with multitudinous life the corpuscles." In the tale he built from the dream, the microbes, some of them deadly diseases, dismiss as crazy the idea they're motes in a much larger being, with the power to heal or kill their own home--their God. As we deny our smallness--and deadliness.
Yeats, William Butler: CATHLEEN NI HOULIHAN (play); numerous poems too
Yeats was, besides a poet of great technical skill, a visionary of equal dedication. He worked with dreams, induced visions, Tarot, automatic writing, you name it. The play "Cathleen" is dream-based, as are dozens of his poems, which constantly wrestle with the basic shamanic task: how to embody complex visions, both in art and in life.
Stories About Dreams - Dream-Based Stories, Dreams AS Stories - Dream Journals - Books on Dreamwork
Barasch, Marc Alan: HEALING DREAMS
Far broader than the title suggests. Beside dreams with health advice, Barasch covers 'big dreams' of all sorts--dreams healing families or communities, telepathic and predictive dreams, political dreams--all the dreams that Western psychology from Freud on declared impossible. Barasch argues you can't separate personal and communal, symbolic and literal, healing and spiritual, body and mind; a single dream may work on all these levels at once, so dream theory MUST be many-layered. Some of the best dreams are his own: dreams saved Barasch's life..
Davison, Al: THE SPIRAL CAGE (graphic novel) and SPIRAL DREAMS (comics collection)
SPIRAL CAGE is a comics classic--the autobiography of a kid with spina bifida, whose parents were told he'd never walk. Well, he walks. And writes! Strong subject, strong writing, strong art--and jammed full of dreams and visions. SPIRAL DREAMS is a collection of shorter work including strong examples of psychic dreams; further vols, viewable at his site (see links), have a surreal/visionary bent, with Buddhist overtones. Example: Ground Zero
Dunne, J.W.: AN EXPERIMENT WITH TIME (1920s)
Dunne looked for precognition in everyday dreams, not spectacular cases. He simply compared his dreams to waking events a few days later as well as earlier. He found dream images echoing the future just as frequently as the past. His examples are quiet and small--a gate and field, a particular house. But anyone approaching his data fairly has to concede he found a symmetrical pattern--rich connections to events one day off (past or future), sparser references two days off, and so on, forming a bell-shaped curve: ordinary Gaussian distribution centered on the present, but spreading into past and future equally! It's as if the dreaming mind were in a balloon, looking down on the timescape: things directly below (both past and future) are quite clear, but quickly foreshorten as one looks further into the distance. Whether there's a horizon beyond which we can't see, Dunne couldn't say--he had at least one precognition years before the event (a vivid peak experience: flying in an early plane). Like a peak on the horizon? Or looming over it?
Dunne had trouble recognizing even obvious predictive echoes. Only if he pretended they were in the past, reading his own journal backwards, would backward echoes suddenly come clear. He describes it as a trance he had to shake himself out of, over and over. Precisely the opposite of the credulous eagerness so many skeptics attribute to psychics and parapsychologists! It takes effort to strip off cultural brainwashing, even when your experience proves it false.
Dunne also points out how Einsteinian spacetime fails to explain why we experience time as a flow. To be fair, I find Dunne's own theory of "serial time" inadequate, too. But his experiment still poses a real problem for physics and psychology--and when I bothered to really try his method (unlike most of his critics), I got his results.
Faraday, Ann: THE DREAM GAME
Still my favorite how-to book on advanced dreamwork. Faraday started as a sleep researcher whose subjects wanted to know what their dreams meant. Open-minded, entertaining, full of sample dreams, with original and quite sound theories on literal dreams and dream warnings, visual and verbal puns, and the notoriously spotty nature of psychic dreams (Briefly: most of us picture ESP as like vision, but it's more like radar or sonar--without active scanning, no echoes come back. And we scan for what concerns us now, not what in hindsight looks important.)
A FLOCK OF DREAMERS, an anthology of dream-inspired comics
The only anthology of dream art I've found yet. The strongest pieces are by Kjartan Arnorsson, Bob Kathman, Luke Walsh, Danijel Zezeli & Jessica Lurie, and Jim Woodring. Others have vivid images but weak plots and ideas. Like other published dream art, nearly all the contributors are male. Still, it's a great how-to book proving that dreams don't have to be presented artfully or prettily to be powerful.
Jenks, Kathleen: JOURNAL Of A DREAM ANIMAL
Fascinating--at once a dream-journal, a literary work (her raw entries are better than most polished writing) and a spiritual autobiography. Jungian but with a raw passion most such journals lack. Far more personal and passionate than Sheila Moon's ideologically similar DREAMS OF A WOMAN.
Jung, Karl: MEMORIES, DREAMS, REFLECTIONS and MAN AND HIS SYMBOLS
The first is an autobiography so full of dreams and visions it shows Jung to be a working shaman in all but name. The second is a good popular summary of his thought, with lots of dream examples, though far less personal. Of the dream experts who matured before the discovery of REM, Jung is the most modern. I do think he has rather traditional notions of gender, but then I live in San Francisco.
Kerouac, Jack: THE BOOK OF DREAMS
I'm embarrassed to say I still haven't read this famous dream-journal. Just not a fan of run-on sentences...
Kingsford, Anna: DREAMS AND DREAM-STORIES (1888)
Two dozen long, coherent, mystical, fascinating dreams, plus half a dozen (published) short stories based on similar dreams; the best is probably Beyond the Sunset--and it's no coincidence that's the most openly dream-based. The dream-plots behind the published tales are interesting but Victorian commercial conventions stifle them. The raw dreams, however, are amazing.
Kingsford, Anna: CLOTHED WITH THE SUN (1888)
Whole text available online. Mystical visions, about half of them dreams, the others trance-channeled. She influenced the Order of the Golden Dawn, and thus shaped New Age mysticism. But she's a lot steelier than her flabby descendents--a pioneer of radicalism, feminism, Wicca and animal rights. Our three great sins: sexism (and suppression of intuition), fundamentalism (and faith itself, instead of mystical experience), and violence (stemming from the belief we're mere animals--pure matter).
Moon, Sheila: DREAMS OF A WOMAN (dream journal)
Long, coherent, literate, mythic dreams. But the title's true. Moon writes like she's some generic "woman," not an individual. She'll tell some outrageous weird-ass image, then only say "it was an archetype" or "it was an aspect of me." OK, but who are YOU? And WHICH you? A subtle cowardice--instead of exposing her private life, she gets cosmic on us! She may go deeper in private, but the book leaves a false impression. It's a bad guide for beginning dreamers, worth reading just as a warning--she's not the only dreamer to hide the heart of her dreams behind safe, solemn, impersonal Jungianism! Compare with Jenks above, or (in contrast) Nelson below.
Muir, Edwin: THE STORY AND THE FABLE (1940)
A autobiography full of spiritual dreams and hypnogogic visions. He finds himself inside stars, traveling through time, undergoing transformations and meeting strange deities (examples). "I was born before the Industrial Revolution, and am now about 200 years old... in 1751 I set out from Orkney for Glasgow. When I arrived I found that it was not 1751, but 1901... No wonder I am obsessed with Time...I was brought up in the midst of a life which was still co-operative, which had still the medieval communal feeling. We had heard and read of something called "competition," but it never came into our experience. Our life was an order. Since the Industrial Revolution there has not really been an order except in a few remote places..."
Nelson, Katherine Metcalf: NIGHT FISHING (dream/art journal)
Selections from her dream-journal. Each dream's a one-page prose-poem facing an illustration in clear light pastels. Low contrast, so they lack punch for me. Her writing's vivid, literate if a bit elusive. Her dreams? Advanced! Enlightened, humane, full of animals, especially fish. Often her dreams contrast two choices, and dream figures often give explicit advice. Compare to Kathleen Jenks or Sheila Moon, above.
A note on gender: As I read, I thought female characters dominated Nelson's dreams about 60/40. Then I counted. Near-exact gender equality! I'm a feminist and I STILL mistook parity as slanted toward women! So brainwashed... Then I tried a sample of my own dreams and found 55/45 women--more than Nelson! Of course, I grew up surrounded by sisters. But what's network TV's excuse for shows with 70% male faces? Guys wall-to-wall! A good exercise for dreamworkers to try--and then to apply to any art medium. And then look for age, race and species diversity. If any.
Price, Nancy: ACQUAINTED WITH THE NIGHT (1948)
A dream-journal by a busy actress, theater-company manager and writer. Long dreams (she has superb recall), intense, well-written (verging on poetry, as in Dead or Alive?). The content's often magical, and bristling with shamanic elements--prediction, telepathy, communication with animals, messages from the spirit world. About my favorite published dream-journal. Examples
Reklaw, Jesse: DREAMTOONS (comics: a collection of 4-panel strips)
Reklaw draws dreams contributed by his fans, in a simple crisp Zipatone style. Surreal deadpan humor, emphasizing dream-absurdity. They're little comic masterpieces of 4-panel compression, but I'd love to see him draw longer, more continuous dreams he'd have to treat meaningfully, where he couldn't milk surrealism for easy laughs. I haven't yet read his newest, CONCAVE UP. See also Kindred sites for current link to his online zine SLOW WAVE.
Shaw, Jim: DREAMS (artist's dream-journal)
Intricate shaded pencil drawings of raw dreams with their texts--surreal, manic, insane dreams! Shaw's a working artist, and it shows, both in the vividness of the graphics and in his obsessions--he dreams about art and its meanings as much as about personal concerns. Strange intricate knots of images and ideas--vivid, and nothing like my dreams at all! Or anyone else's I know.
Veitch, Rick: RABID EYE (a volume collecting the comic "Rare Bit Fiends")
Brief, surreal dream-comics, a bit like Jim Shaw's DREAMS or Jesse Reklaw's DREAMTOONS (see above). Veitch's dreams are mostly of his buddies and, well, guy stuff--work, fights, comix, monsters, war. It's a vivid, courageous baring of this man's dreamworld. The format (usually one page per dream) is limiting--Veitch only shows the climax, the shock-value panel. Yet his appendix says these dream-scenes, in context, meant things for him that aren't evident to us readers--some dreams were even psychic (predictions of the Challenger crash, etc!) I'd rather have seen his full process on the page. Oh, well, that's MY thing!
WIMMEN'S COMIX #1, #4, #13 etc (Last Gasp Comics, 1972-; some issues spelled Women's, Womyn's, etc)
The occasional comics about dreams in this long-running anthology were the first women's dream-art I'd seen. They looked much more like my dreamlife than the men's dreams I'd seen. Michelle Brand's There I Was (in WC #1) inspired me to start drawing my own dreams; Joey Epstein's "Beyond Reason" (in WC #13) made me tackle taboo issues like ESP.
Four books with dreams drawn by guys are on this list (see Davison, Reklaw, Shaw, and Veitch) plus one overwhelmingly male comix anthology (A FLOCK OF DREAMERS), but I've found only one book of dream art by a woman, Katherine Metcalf Nelson's NIGHT FISHING. Come on! Girls dream, girls draw--but they don't get easily published. Comics historian Trina Robbins says the comics industry's as sexist today as 40 years ago, and MariNaomi has online stats proving it. And is the fine art world any better? Ask the Gorilla Girls! If YOU know of women's dream art and comics that should be on this list, or are interested in building an anthology of women's dream art and comics, EMAIL ME!
Woodring, Jim: Jim (comic book: Vol.2, #1, from Fantagraphics Press)
This second half of this slender comic book is a long shadowy tale that Woodring says is a recurring dream--he finds himself in ancient times, working on a mysterious sacred sculpture project. It's hard not to suspect he's sculpting himself. Moody and powerful, it wrestles with the central issues of any creative artist--images, ego, dreaming, discipline, soul-sculpture. Much of Woodring's work (like FRANK and THE BOOK OF JIM) comes from dreams.
Zograf, Alexandr (pen name of Sasa Rakezic): LIFE UNDER SANCTIONS and PSYCHONAUT
Zograf's a cartoonist trapped in Serbia under the UN embargoes. He just wants to draw his dreams, not report the social misery outside--but his worlds can't help fusing.
Stories About Dreams - Dream-Based Stories, Dreams AS Stories - Dream Journals - Books on Dreamwork
Barasch, Marc Alan: HEALING DREAMS
Far broader than the title suggests. Beside dreams with health advice, Barasch covers 'big dreams' of all sorts--dreams healing families or communities, telepathic and predictive dreams, political dreams--all the dreams that Western psychology from Freud on declared impossible. Barasch argues you can't separate personal and communal, symbolic and literal, healing and spiritual, body and mind; a single dream may work on all these levels at once, so dream theory MUST be many-layered. Some of the best dreams are his own: dreams saved Barasch's life..
Campbell, Joseph: FLIGHT OF THE WILD GANDER
His most interesting book for dreamers. His thesis: since shamanism's roots are pragmatic and future-looking and most importantly nomadic (you never knew what was over the next hill!), its worldview handles social and technological change much better than hierarchical, orderly, past-based dogmas like Christianity and Islam. And dreamwork is shamanism...
Dunne, J.W.: AN EXPERIMENT WITH TIME (1920s)
Dunne looked for precognition in everyday dreams, not spectacular cases. He simply compared his dreams to waking events a few days later as well as earlier. He found dream images echoing the future just as frequently as the past. His examples are quiet and small--a gate and field, a particular house. But anyone approaching his data fairly has to concede he found a symmetrical pattern--rich connections to events one day off (past or future), sparser references two days off, and so on, forming a bell-shaped curve: ordinary Gaussian distribution centered on the present, but spreading into past and future equally! It's as if the dreaming mind were in a balloon, looking down on the timescape: things directly below (both past and future) are quite clear, but quickly foreshorten as one looks further into the distance. Whether there's a horizon beyond which we can't see, Dunne couldn't say--he had at least one precognition years before the event (a vivid peak experience: flying in an early plane). Like a peak on the horizon? Or looming over it?
Dunne had trouble recognizing even obvious predictive echoes. Only if he pretended they were in the past, reading his own journal backwards, would backward echoes suddenly come clear. He describes it as a trance he had to shake himself out of, over and over. Precisely the opposite of the credulous eagerness so many skeptics attribute to psychics and parapsychologists! It takes effort to strip off cultural brainwashing, even when your experience proves it false.
Dunne also points out how Einsteinian spacetime fails to explain why we experience time as a flow. To be fair, I find Dunne's own theory of "serial time" inadequate, too. But his experiment still poses a real problem for physics and psychology--and when I bothered to really try his method (unlike most of his critics), I got his results.
Epel, Naomi: WRITERS DREAMING
A collection of interviews with writers on the role of dreams in their creativity. Admittedly, in a lot of cases the answer is "not much", but the very question forces even writers who think they ignore their dreams to look deep into the nuts and bolts of their creative process. Compare: Townley's Night Errands: How Poets Use Dreams
Faraday, Ann: THE DREAM GAME
Still my favorite how-to book on advanced dreamwork. Faraday started as a sleep researcher whose subjects wanted to know what their dreams meant. Open-minded, entertaining, full of sample dreams, with original theories on literal dreams and dream warnings, visual and verbal puns, and the notoriously spotty nature of psychic dreams (Briefly: most of us picture ESP as like vision, but it's more like radar or sonar--without active scanning, no echoes come back. And we scan for what concerns us now, not what in hindsight looks important.)
Feather, Sally Rhine: THE GIFT
A popularization of her mother Louisa Rhine's study HIDDEN CHANNELS OF THE MIND, in which she sampled 14,000 accounts of apparent ESP sent to the Rhine Institute over decades. But Sally emphasizes the practical results of ESP, arguing it's a naturally evolved sense as useful as any other. She focuses on 400-plus cases where it was possible for the subject to ACT on ESP's warning; only a minority did, but the outcome in those cases was clear: action paid off. Accidents avoided or mitigated; lives saved! Time is not a linear track; fate is not fixed.
Freud, Sigmund: THE INTERPRETATION OF DREAMS
I plowed dutifully along, not enjoying his pomposity, but gritting my teeth because it's a classic... until Freud he concluded an otherwise plausible dream analysis by explaining away an apparently psychic element by saying the dreamer censored the REAL dream--her reported dream is wrong! That twists "real" into a pretzel even Moebius couldn't follow. And it's not just one dream. Freud rejects whatever won't fit his schemes--dreams, data, disciples. Read him as a literary landmark if you like, but as a practical guide to dreamwork, Freud's next to useless.
Garfield, Patricia: CREATIVE DREAMING and others.
Solid how-to books in the vein of Ann Faraday.
Gendlin, Eugene: LET YOUR BODY INTERPRET YOUR DREAMS
The book pioneering the concept of "felt shifts": the "click" you feel when a dream or part of it suddenly makes sense. He validates this subjective sense--an excellent antidote to all those great dream-theorists who'll push their interpretations on you...
Hillman, James: THE DREAM AND THE UNDERWORLD
A slightly pessimistic book on the rock-bottom depths of the human psyche, which he thinks doesn't change. My dreams disagreed, but what do they know?
LaBerge, Stephen: LUCID DREAMING and others
Several books by the foremost researcher of lucid dreams. His thought's evolved from the early books, which viewed dreams as a new space for scientists to explore and experiment in, to a gentler, more respectful approach conceding that dreams may have their own agendas. Compare to Twain's THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER, with a lucid dreamer run amok.
THE LANGAGE OF THE BIRDS (anthology)
A book of interviews with shamans and articles on their practices. Fun! Much of it is first-person shop talk, with less secondhand anthropological blather (or New Age blather) than is usual in books on shamanism.
THE OXFORD BOOK OF DREAMS (ed. Stephen Brook)
A collection of hundreds of well-written dreams, often by famous writers. Entertaining though flawed--editor Stephen Brook doesn't distinguish between genuine dreams and made-up dreams in novels! So it's hard to be sure what's fiction, what's not. He does list his sources, but you'd better know your writers or be willing to Google a lot.
Priestley, JB: MAN AND TIME
In 1963, Priestley put out a request on a BBC-TV show for examples of strange experiences with time. Over a thousand responses came, mostly predictive dreams and visions of varying clarity, accuracy and credibility. The following year he published many examples (though withholding most dreamers' names for privacy reasons) in the second half of his book Man and Time. The first chapters merely compile philosophical views of time over the centuries; but this latter half builds into an original theory: everyday linear time is just one of three experienceable temporal dimensions. Time 2 is Dreamtime--the time in which we can wander through Time 1, seeing future and past. Time 3 is alternate/branching/sideways time, many-world time--the time in which we make choices and change the world--or at least our paths through its meta-landscape. It's a clearer version of J.W. Dunne's critique of conventional physics' 4-dimensional spacetime. Priestley's model has the virtue of plausibly explaining some of the peculiarities of dream ESP--the relative scarcity of predictions about personal matters, with hits mostly about either trivia nobody'd try to change, or disasters too big to change. In between, where the wills and choices of observers are focused (and most effective), the future's hard to predict: it's in flux. Priestley thinks that word observer is, in temporal theory, wrong; we're sculptors. We shape the future--or steer our awareness to preferred time-paths, if you prefer that image. Forgetting choice limits us to theories of a fixed timetrack we ride along, though we may perhaps peer ahead as well as behind (Time 2). But he argues that just as the bare fact of prediction requires a 2nd time-dimension, premonitions you act on to avoid disaster require a 3rd: some version of the many-world theory--what shamans call the Tree of Time.
Henry Reed: GETTING HELP FROM YOUR DREAMS
This 1970s book has fine examples of group work that are still cutting-edge. But the "Me Decade" values trouble me: Reed says "demand gifts from dream figures and show them who's boss"--even kill your enemies and trust they'll return as allies or servants. This so-called Senoi tradition (which the Senoi people disown) assumes that those you hurt or kill are just shadowy parts of you, other masks of God. Charlie Manson assumed that! Reed's not alone--much American dreamwork underrates fairness and community. It's not proven dreams are only about the self!
Rhine, Louisa: HIDDEN CHANNELS OF THE MIND
A sampling of the 14,000 accounts of apparent ESP sent to the Rhine Institute over decades, plus LR's attempt at a taxonomy of ESP experiences. I disagree with some of her judgments, but thousands of anecdotes stop being just anecdotes--they're a solid portrait of the breadth, ubiquity and practicality of ESP in real life as opposed to the lab--or in people's preconceptions. Fully half her examples are dreams. See also Sally Feather Rhine's THE GIFT, which mines the same data testing a single thesis: is ESP useful in real life, can we change what we foresee?
Starhawk: DREAMING THE DARK
A solid how-to guide to visionary work and the cultural blinders we need to shake off--including Jungian apoliticality; it prompted a spectacular dream of mine. Her other nonfiction books are equally strong.
Stearn, Jess: EDGAR CAYCE, THE SLEEPING PROPHET
A bio of a very effective American shaman who never heard the word. Not exactly dreamwork, but not exactly not, either. I wonder if such trance-channeling in the service of diagnosis and prescription one of NREM's forgotten functions? If so, "normal" NREM may be like a radio tuned to no station--we think that static is all the sleeping brain can manage. What if we're wrong?
Storm, Hyemeyohsts: SEVEN ARROWS and SONG OF HEYOEHKAH
Plains dreamwork and shamanism taught in subtle, humane, beautifully told teaching-stories. Dreams within dreams, lives within lives, tales within tales--as cleverly nested as Sheherazad's. A success both as literature and as non-European dream-theory, clearly explained. Compare: Jung's MAN AND HIS SYMBOLS.
1001 EROTIC DREAMS, a dream-interpretation book
A thousand and one sex dreams, and not one like mine! Whole themes are missing: cross-gender dreams, transformation dreams, dreams of animal people, sex as spiritual connection. A spicy curio of a book, shallow in its interpretations, being particularly ignorant of shamanism and spiritual sex. I list it as a warning and as an example of dream dictionaries in general--books trying to interpret dreams via fixed, universal meanings. Five thousand years of this, and the premise is still wrong. At least this one's not serious. So many are.
Townley, Roderick, ed.: NIGHT ERRANDS: HOW POETS USE DREAMS
A 1998 book with dozens of essays, poetry's answer to Naomi Epel's Writers Dreaming. Many wander way off-topic (these are poets, not journalists) but read Rachel Hadas, John Hollander, Maxine Kumin, Denise Levertov, Philip Levine, and Robley Wilson.
Ullman, Montague: DREAMS AS EXCEPTIONAL HUMAN EXPERIENCE
I haven't read this yet, but Roswila, the world's most knowledgeable dream blogger, says "Dr. Ullman is one of the bright lights of the dream field" and I trust her to know.
Van de Castle, Robert L.: OUR DREAMING MIND
The best single modern reference book for dreamers. Comprehensive. Van de Castle is a pioneer of modern dream research--cautious, fair-minded, and always reliable. Solid bibliography too--much of this list derives from it.

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