The best books about female magic, witches, potions and spells that aren’t by Alice Hoffman

Laurie Lico Albanese Author Of Hester
By Laurie Lico Albanese

Who am I?

I love historical fiction because it brings history and people from the past to life, showing us their struggles and their secrets—especially the women! Since my first historical novel, The Miracles of Prato, I've been paying attention to the women whose stories haven't been told. When I realized Hester Prynne is our first American historical feminist heroine—indeed, our American Eve and our original badass single mom—I knew I had to let her tell her story.  

I wrote...

Hester

By Laurie Lico Albanese,

Book cover of Hester

What is my book about?

My novel Hester is a bewitched and bewitching update on The Scarlet Letter. It asks the questions, Who was the real Hester Prynne, and what if she could tell her own story? The answer, as you will discover in chapter one, comes in the form of 19-year-old Isobel Gamble, a newly married and mysteriously talented young Scottish needleworker who arrives in Salem in 1829, just as young Nathaniel Hawthorne is struggling to launch his writing career.

Witchcraft, secrets, and the mysterious magic of desire and creativity are integral to Hester and to Hawthorne’s personal history. When the writer meets young Isobel, and learns she is descended from Scotland’s so-called Queen of Witches, their tangled secrets fuel creation, deception, desire, and consequences you will not soon forget.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague

By Geraldine Brooks,

Book cover of Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague

Why this book?

Voice is everything in this mesmerizing novel set in a small city during the plague. England 1666 is thick with suspicion, fear, and death. Widows, healers, and mothers of the dead are easy targets for religious zealots and outsiders, but one young widow—our narrator Anna—finds new ways to survive and thrive. Brooks trains her sights on age-old fearmongering to show how a community breeds suspicion and targets scapegoats in times of pestilence and mistrust. This is a novel that should be read now to remind us of the darkness that lies at the heart of fear and plagues.

Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague

By Geraldine Brooks,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Year of Wonders as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of 'March' and 'People of the Book'.

A young woman's struggle to save her family and her soul during the extraordinary year of 1666, when plague suddenly struck a small Derbyshire village.

In 1666, plague swept through London, driving the King and his court to Oxford, and Samuel Pepys to Greenwich, in an attempt to escape contagion. The north of England remained untouched until, in a small community of leadminers and hill farmers, a bolt of cloth arrived from the capital. The tailor who cut the cloth had no way of knowing that the damp…


The Heretic's Daughter

By Kathleen Kent,

Book cover of The Heretic's Daughter

Why this book?

A mother and daughter face accusations of witchcraft and bedevilment in 1692 Salem and devise a devilish plan that will save only one of them. While researching the Salem witch trials and others in Europe, I learned this horrible truth: the only way an accused woman could save herself was by admitting that she was a witch. In this astonishing novel based on her great-9x grandmother, the author weaves a spellbinding tale of love, fear, and devotion as a mother and daughter make a tortured decision in the face of hate and religious zealotry.

The Heretic's Daughter

By Kathleen Kent,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Heretic's Daughter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A courageous woman fights to survive the darkest days of the Salem Witch Trials in this "heart-wrenching story of family love and sacrifice" (USA Today).  

Salem, 1752. Sarah Carrier Chapman, weak with infirmity, writes a letter to her granddaughter that reveals the secret she has closely guarded for six decades: how she survived the Salem Witch Trials when her mother did not.

Sarah's story begins more than a year before the trials, when she and her family arrive in a New England community already gripped by superstition and fear. As they witness neighbor pitted against neighbor, friend against friend, the…


The Lost Apothecary

By Sarah Penner,

Book cover of The Lost Apothecary

Why this book?

A page-turning, spell-binding book about female empowerment that unspools in exhilarating cliffhangers, this novel will keep you up all night. Two strong and independent Victorians—young and clever Eliza and broken-hearted, vengeful Nella—mix secret potions in a hidden apothecary, where their only customers are women who’ve been wronged. The ending will take your breath away and leave you wanting more.  Which is great, because the author’s next book is coming in 2023.

The Lost Apothecary

By Sarah Penner,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Lost Apothecary as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

Named Most Anticipated of 2021 by Newsweek, Good Housekeeping, Hello! magazine, Oprah.com, Bustle, Popsugar, Betches, Sweet July, and GoodReads!

March 2021 Indie Next Pick and #1 LibraryReads Pick

“A bold, edgy, accomplished debut!” —Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of The Alice Network

A forgotten history. A secret network of women. A legacy of poison and revenge. Welcome to The Lost Apothecary…

Hidden in the depths of eighteenth-century London, a secret apothecary shop caters to an unusual kind of clientele. Women across the city whisper of a mysterious figure named Nella who sells well-disguised…


In the Devil's Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692

By Mary Beth Norton,

Book cover of In the Devil's Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692

Why this book?

A fascinating exploration of the Salem witch trials that illustrates how the New England girls whose accusations lead to the wrongful execution of thirteen innocent women and imprisonment of some two hundred more were victims of war trauma in the Maine woods. During the so-called King Phillip’s War, Puritan immigrants who seized land as part of their Massachusetts Bay Colony Charter waged horrific, brutal battles with Native Americans defending their land from coveters and invaders. Their wives and children were there to witness and suffer it. This book was a key to my greater understanding of the land seizure and other events that led to and fueled the Salem Witch trials. 

In the Devil's Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692

By Mary Beth Norton,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked In the Devil's Snare as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Award-winning historian Mary Beth Norton reexamines the Salem witch trials in thisstartlingly original, meticulously researched, and utterly riveting study.

In 1692 the people of Massachusetts were living in fear, and not solely of satanic afflictions. Horrifyingly violent Indian attacks had all but emptied the northern frontier of settlers, and many traumatized refugees—including the main accusers of witches—had fled to communities like Salem. Meanwhile the colony’s leaders, defensive about their own failure to protect the frontier, pondered how God’s people could be suffering at the hands of savages. Struck by the similarities between what the refugees had witnessed and what the…


The Ruin of All Witches: Life and Death in the New World

By Malcolm Gaskill,

Book cover of The Ruin of All Witches: Life and Death in the New World

Why this book?

This new and acclaimed book about the first witch trial in America in 1651 Springfield, Massachusetts, reads like a novel in which two outsiders, Hugh Parsons and his vision-seeing wife Mary (who probably suffered from paranoid schizophrenia or post-partum psychosis) become the target of an entire town. Puritan laws and Old World medieval folk tales contribute to the sense of darkness and foreboding that prevail over the town and its inhabitants, reminding us that New England was a dark land, isolated and full of enemies, hungry and poor and primed to be swept up by diabolical accusations and actions. Read this for a deep understanding of the causes and consequences of the American witch trials. 

The Ruin of All Witches: Life and Death in the New World

By Malcolm Gaskill,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Ruin of All Witches as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

*A TIMES, SUNDAY TIMES AND BBC HISTORY HISTORY BOOK OF THE YEAR 2021*

'The best and most enjoyable kind of history writing' Hilary Mantel

'A bona fide historical classic' Sunday Times

Simply one of the best history books I have ever read' BBC History

In the frontier town of Springfield in 1651, peculiar things begin to happen. Precious food spoils, livestock ails and property vanishes. People suffer fits and are plagued by strange visions and dreams. Children sicken and die. As tensions rise, rumours spread of witches and heretics, and the community becomes tangled in a web of spite, distrust…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in witchcraft, the Salem witch trials, and Colonial America?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about witchcraft, the Salem witch trials, and Colonial America.

Witchcraft Explore 231 books about witchcraft
The Salem Witch Trials Explore 21 books about the Salem witch trials
Colonial America Explore 41 books about Colonial America

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Entertaining Satan, The Devil in the Shape of a Woman, and Awakenings if you like this list.