Book review: Kitchen Table Tarot by Melissa Cynova

Melissa Cynova writes that Kitchen Table Tarot is for beginners, but I have a feeling this book will become more like a lifelong friend to anyone who starts their tarot journey with it.

Because it doesn’t just take you into the meanings of the cards: It’s a comprehensive guide to everything an aspiring tarot should know, from self-care (so important, and so often overlooked) to caring for your tarot deck, to what to keep in mind if you might want to read professionally one day.

Just like a good friend, Kitchen Table Tarot can introduce some new, exciting things into your life, but grow alongside with you as you take leaps into unexplored places.

Melissa has been reading tarot since 1989. Over time, she started teaching tarot to her friends at her kitchen table, and that’s exactly where you feel you’re at when you’re reading this book. Melissa’s writing style is friendly, funny, and conversational.

While some tarot resources rely heavily on esoteric, academic language (and hey, that’s totally cool if that’s your thing), Melissa’s lessons and interpretations are open and accessible, and full of fun, modern references that take tarot out of the shadows and into the real world.

(For the record, I’ve had the chance to meet Melissa in person and she is as cool and hilarious as her writing would indicate.)

I appreciate that Melissa shares the same disdain that I do about tarot superstitions – like the one that says you shouldn’t buy your own deck. Let me tell you: You might be waiting a long time to get one if you fall for that.

She also shares my view that the Rider-Waite-Smith deck is a good place to start learning, or at least with a deck that follows the RWS style. Melissa has included a helpful list of suggested tarot decks if you’re not sure which one to choose.  

One of my favourite things about Kitchen Table Tarot is the statements Melissa has included for each Major Arcana card. These are clear, focused distillations that give direct insight into the action each card is taking. I can see these statements becoming major building blocks for beginners, but experienced readers will get a lot of out of them, too. They can act as prompts, keywords, or affirmations that you can use for all types of readings.

The Hierophant’s statement is, “I am unlocking.” While the Hierophant can sometimes come off as a dry, traditional presence, this statement reinforces its wisdom and power, too.

Melissa shares her own challenges in connecting with this card when she was first learning tarot, and how she came to unlock some insightful layers of her own once she began exploring it deeper. No spoilers here, though – you’ll have to buy the book to find out what those layers are.

“I am focusing,” is another statement I appreciated, this one for the Lovers. Often, the Lovers can symbolize choices, confusion, ambiguity…but Melissa’s simple, clear, action-oriented statement gives a whole other aspect to this card that ties in themes of commitment, fate, and more.

For the Minor Arcana, Melissa has arranged the cards not by suit, as many tarot books do, but by number or ranking. So you’ll find the Aces all together, and the Queens, and the Kings – you get the picture. This offers an opportunity to look at the elements and numbers that are at work in the Minor Arcana, too.
You can learn tarot all you want, but no one teacher, book, or lesson will spell it all out for you. You’ve just gotta take the leap and do it. Let yourself be wrong sometimes, and be willing to let this path unfold for you as it needs to. You can’t force your expectations upon it.

With a book like Melissa’s, though, you will at least have a solid resource to fall back on when you need it.

Learn more about Melissa and her work at

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