For readers that are completely unfamiliar with psychoanalytic theory or only superficially familiar with it, I recommend reading one of (or both) the following introductory books:
The book that I read many years ago as a basic introduction is now very old, but it was just so easy to read. It focussed on a relatively old school of “ego psychology”, which is one of the main theoretical schools, but it helped make many basic concepts understandable:
The introductory book that most people read these days is not a book I have read, but everyone I know recommends it:
For people looking for comprehensive books that pull together introductions to the main theoretical schools with greater detail (but not too much depth in each theory) I would recommend one of the following:
A textbook that covers most main topics of psychoanalysis that I have read:
However, there is a second edition now, and it is a bit different:
I have not read the 2nd edition. Looking at the table of contents and list of authors to compare the two editions, both seem great, but I am guessing that the 1st edition covers more topics, while they focussed in the 2nd edition on making it easy to read for someone new to the theories of psychoanalysis.
And there is another really good book to describe object relations theories which have not been adequately covered in the textbook I mentioned above:
Good understanding of the major theories is possible with the above books. There is obviously in depth books for each of the main theories and books that go in depth into the work of each major theorist. There are theories that are new or off-shoots from the main theories that are not necessarily covered in these books, but I would not recommend delving into them without a good grasp of the main theories.
The other books I recommend are books that focus on therapeutic technique rather than theory and are:
These 3 technique books are complementary. The first one is the classic book most students read. the second is more of a manual that helps summarize information and present it in a practical, easy to study manner. The third is a really good book that helps you develop specific skills related to management of emotions in the therapeutic relationship.
Obviously there are many other technique books available. Given that the basics of therapy techniques are covered in these books, going into other books that discuss specific modalities of psychodynamic therapy (especially short-term modalities) will become much easier once these are read.
I hope this helps.