The best books about witchy women to read in a cottage in the woods

Who am I?

I’ve loved folklore and fantasy literature since I was tiny, but I’ve also had a lifelong fascination with science, history, and the natural world. As a disabled mother of two, I’ve not (yet) had the opportunity to see as much of our world as I’d like, but I love building fantasy worlds and weaving within them stories that blend a grounded earthiness with the supernatural and metaphysical. My writing always begins with a single mental image, the seed of an idea that I explore and build around until I have a full-fledged story ready to commit to paper. I love stories that break the mould, take you somewhere unexpected, and then make you never want to leave.


I wrote...

A Curse of Ash and Embers

By Jo Spurrier,

Book cover of A Curse of Ash and Embers

What is my book about?

Two witches fought to the death—the cruel mistress and her rogue apprentice, fuelled by rage and a hunger for vengeance. 

When 16-year-old Elodie Forster is sent away to work as a maid, she finds herself in a ruined cottage, working for the survivor of that battle, the wounded, exhausted, and haunted young witch Aleida Blackbone. Sarcastic, short-tempered, and with patience hanging by a thread, Aleida is trying to break away from the evil path her old mistress trained her upon, and has misgivings about this arrangementbut with huge monsters roaming the woods, a demonic tree lurking in the orchard and an angry warlock demanding repayment of a debt, Aleida needs Elodie’s help, whether she likes it or not.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Circe

Jo Spurrier Why did I love this book?

Circe is a retelling of the story of this legendary witch from ancient Greece, best known from Odysseus’ difficult journey home from the Trojan War. This tale is normally told from Odysseus’ point of view, but Miler flips the script to show us how Circe came to be alone on her island with only plants and animals for company. In her exile she has all the time in the world to hone the craft of her magic, until the fated meeting with Odysseus that changes the course of her immortal life. When I was young I loved reading myths and legends from around the world, and Circe took me back to those days with stories of the Titans, of Daedalus and the Minotaur, and Odysseus and his men. Circe, with its measured pace and poignant, evocative language, is soothing and engaging at the same time, perfect for a reader who needs a moment to slow down and breathe.

By Madeline Miller,

Why should I read it?

32 authors picked Circe as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The international Number One bestseller from the author of The Song of Achilles, shortlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction

Woman. Witch. Myth. Mortal. Outcast. Lover. Destroyer. Survivor. CIRCE.

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. Circe is a strange child - not powerful and terrible, like her father, nor gorgeous and mercenary like her mother. Scorned and rejected, Circe grows up in the shadows, at home in neither the world of gods or mortals. But Circe has a dark power of her own: witchcraft. When her gift threatens…


Book cover of Wyrd Sisters

Jo Spurrier Why did I love this book?

The OG witches of modern fantasy literature. I’ve put down Wyrd Sisters because it’s the first of Pratchett’s Witches books to feature the trio of Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, and Magrat Garlick, but I’d list the whole series if I could. If you haven’t read them, I envy you, because you get to experience this trio and their world for the first time. Granny Weatherwax is a good witch because she has to be, but if she were to go the other way there’s no doubt she would be the greatest evil witch the Discworld has ever known. She plays cards with Death, knows the power of stories, and, most importantly, understands that being Good and Right is not the same as being Nice. Pratchett’s Witches were formative reading for me, and paved the way for many beloved reads on our shelves today.

By Terry Pratchett,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Wyrd Sisters as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Destiny is important, see, but people go wrong when they think it controls them. It's the other way around.'

Three witches gathered on a lonely heath. A king cruelly murdered, his throne usurped by his ambitious cousin. A child heir and the royal crown, both missing.

Witches don't have these kinds of leadership problems themselves - in fact, they don't have leaders.

Granny Weatherwax is the most highly regarded of the leaders they don't have. But even she finds that meddling in royal politics is a lot more complicated than certain playwrights would have you believe. Particularly when the blood…


Book cover of Uprooted

Jo Spurrier Why did I love this book?

This one hits a lot of buttons for me—folkloric fantasy, putting magic in the hands of ordinary folk, the not-special/disregarded girl who discovers her own kind of magic, the crotchety old teacher who has to meet Agnieska where she is, rather than forcing her to fit his mould. Add to that the otherworldly, non-human threat of the Woods and the deeply creepy terrors that emerge from it, and I’m a happy camper. This story departs from the rigid rules of a hard magic system for something more flexible and mystical, a better match for its fairytale roots than the hard-magic systems that have been popular for so long. This is a plot-driven rollercoaster of a story that barely gives you time to breathe, but that’s just the way I like it.

By Naomi Novik,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Uprooted as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A dark enchantment blights the land in the award-winning Uprooted - a enthralling fantasy inspired by fairy tales, by Naomi Novik, author of the Temeraire series.

Winner of the Nebula Award for Best Novel
Winner of the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel
Winner of the British Fantasy Society Award for Best Novel

Agnieszka loves her village, set deep in a peaceful valley. But the nearby enchanted forest casts a shadow over her home. Many have been lost to the Wood and none return unchanged. The villagers depend on an ageless wizard, the Dragon, to protect them from the forest's…


Book cover of Wise Child

Jo Spurrier Why did I love this book?

This is a vintage read, but well worth your time if you can get your hands on it. It’s a gentle but immersive story, well suited to a rainy day when all you want to do is curl up with a blanket and a book. Set in early Christian Britain, it’s the story of a misfit child taken in by the village witch, and chronicles her path in learning the slow craft of herbs and magic, until she is inducted into the ranks of those who work magic, serving the people and the land. When you’re looking for something a little more grounded and restorative, without heavy violence and unburdened by overwrought romance, this is the one for you.

By Monica Furlong,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Wise Child as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

Orphaned by the death of her grandmother and her father’s disappearance, 9-year-old Wise Child is taken in by Juniper, a healer and sorceress. Soon enough, the young girl finds herself flourishing under Juniper’s care—learning about herbal lore, and even introductory magic. But just as she begins to feel at home in the Scottish village, the girl’s mother—the black witch Maeve—returns.

Forced to choose between Maeve and Juniper, Wise Child has a difficult decision to make. She could stay with Juniper or leave with Maeve and adopt a life of luxury. In making her choice, Wise Child comes to discover her…


Book cover of Stardust

Jo Spurrier Why did I love this book?

A modern fairytale, by the master storyteller Neil Gaiman, with one of my favourite evil witches. In Victorian England, Tristan Thorn sees a star fall and impulsively promises to bring it to the young woman who spurns his love. But he must cross into the world of Faerie to find his prize, and the star is not some cold, dead thing, but a living, breathing girl. Most of the story deals with Tristan and Yvain, the fallen star, but my favourite parts are those with the Witch Queen pursuing them, hunting after Yvain’s heart because eating it will restore her youth. She’s just so deliciously evil (and deliciously played by Michelle Pfeiffer in the movie from 2007). An absolutely classic tale of adventure, romance, and magic, an unforgettable read.

By Neil Gaiman,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Stardust as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Now a major motion picture—this charming fairy tale by the #1 New York Times bestselling author, weaves a magical story set long ago in the tiny English village of Wall, a place where things are not quite what they seem.

Go and catch a falling star . . .

Tristran Thorn promises to bring back a fallen star for his beloved, the hauntingly beautiful Victoria Forester—and crosses the wall that divides his English country town from another, more dangerous world of lords and witches, all of them in search of the star. Rich with adventure and magic, Stardust is one…


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Shahrazad's Gift

By Gretchen McCullough,

Book cover of Shahrazad's Gift

Gretchen McCullough Author Of Confessions of a Knight Errant: Drifters, Thieves, and Ali Baba's Treasure

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Traveler Lover of the quirky Cairene Texan

Gretchen's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Shahrazad’s Gift is a collection of linked short stories set in contemporary Cairo — magical, absurd, and humorous.

The author focuses on the off-beat, little-known stories, far from CNN news: a Swedish belly dancer who taps into the Oriental fantasies of her clientele; a Japanese woman studying Arabic, driven mad by the noise and chaos of the city; a frustrated Egyptian housewife who becomes obsessed by the activities of her Western gay neighbor; an American journalist who covered the civil war in Beirut who finds friendship with her Egyptian dentist. We also meet the two protagonists of McCullough's Confessions of a Knight Errant, before their escapades in that story.

These stories are told in the tradition of A Thousand and One Nights.

Shahrazad's Gift

By Gretchen McCullough,

What is this book about?

Shahrazad's Gift is a collection of linked short stories set in contemporary Cairo-magical, absurd and humorous. The author focuses on the off-beat, little-known stories, far from CNN news: a Swedish belly dancer who taps into the Oriental fantasies of her clientele; a Japanese woman studying Arabic, driven mad by the noise and chaos of the city; a frustrated Egyptian housewife who becomes obsessed by the activities of her Western gay neighbor; an American journalist who covered the civil war in Beirut who finds friendship with her Egyptian dentist. We also meet the two protagonists of McCullough's Confessions of a Knight…


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