85 books like Believing in Magic

By Stuart A. Vyse,

Here are 85 books that Believing in Magic fans have personally recommended if you like Believing in Magic. Shepherd is a community of 9,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The God Delusion

Bruce M. Hood Author Of SuperSense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable

From my list on magical thinking and superstition.

Who am I?

When I was a child, I was fascinated by the supernatural and wanted to believe in the paranormal. On reaching university, I discovered there was no reliable evidence for such phenomena but rather there was a much more satisfying explanation based on the weaknesses and wishes of human psychology. Development is critical to human psychology and as I specialized in children’s thinking, I found more reasons to understand the natural origins of the peculiarities of our reasoning. SuperSense was my first popular science book to expound my ideas, but all of my subsequent books apply similar novel ways of explaining human behaviour from surprising perspectives. 

Bruce's book list on magical thinking and superstition

Bruce M. Hood Why did Bruce love this book?

This was the book that impelled me to write my own account of superstition. I could have also recommended his masterpiece, The Selfish Gene, which I read as a teenager and got me into science in the first place but this unforgiving attack on religion spurred me to write a more balanced view that considered religion as a naturally emerging consequence of cognitive development. In fairness, The God Delusion does briefly mention evidence in support of a natural inclination, but this is outweighed by an agenda (that I do not share) to eradicate religion as pernicious indoctrination. Whatever your opinion of Dawkins, he is undeniably one of the most gifted science writers with a clarity of argument combined with a poetic beauty of prose.

By Richard Dawkins,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The God Delusion as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The God Delusion caused a sensation when it was published in 2006. Within weeks it became the most hotly debated topic, with Dawkins himself branded as either saint or sinner for presenting his hard-hitting, impassioned rebuttal of religion of all types.

His argument could hardly be more topical. While Europe is becoming increasingly secularized, the rise of religious fundamentalism, whether in the Middle East or Middle America, is dramatically and dangerously dividing opinion around the world. In America, and elsewhere, a vigorous dispute between 'intelligent design' and Darwinism is seriously undermining and restricting the teaching of science. In many countries…


Book cover of Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time

Bryan Farha Author Of Pseudoscience and Deception: The Smoke and Mirrors of Paranormal Claims

From my list on critically analyzing paranormal claims.

Who am I?

As a licensed mental health professional, I once had a client claiming to be demonically possessed, and requested that I get an exorcist to drive the evil spirits out of her body. Instead, I utilized a therapeutic approach to challenge “irrational” beliefs. The problem was gone. I realized that people were prone to strange beliefs and started to read and listen to “experts” who were skeptical in nature. To my surprise, I saw Carl Sagan distinguishing astrology (pseudoscience) from astronomy (science). His talk was clear, convincing, and logical. I was hooked.

Bryan's book list on critically analyzing paranormal claims

Bryan Farha Why did Bryan love this book?

Michael Shermer systematically addresses why humans believe weird and extraordinary things. He even makes a case that we are hard-wired for it. Further—and this should make most of us feel better about our strange thinking—he shows how even highly intelligent people sometimes believe in pseudoscience and other extraordinary claims. 

By Michael Shermer,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Why People Believe Weird Things as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This work presents a down-to-earth and sometimes funny survey of a range of contemporary irrationalisms, and explains their empirical and logical flaws. It tackles a variety of topics including creationism, Holocaust denial, race and IQ, cults and alien abductions, and the author looks at the research behind the claims and discredits the pseudoscience involved.


Book cover of White Bears and Other Unwanted Thoughts: Suppression, Obsession, and the Psychology of Mental Control

Bruce M. Hood Author Of SuperSense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable

From my list on magical thinking and superstition.

Who am I?

When I was a child, I was fascinated by the supernatural and wanted to believe in the paranormal. On reaching university, I discovered there was no reliable evidence for such phenomena but rather there was a much more satisfying explanation based on the weaknesses and wishes of human psychology. Development is critical to human psychology and as I specialized in children’s thinking, I found more reasons to understand the natural origins of the peculiarities of our reasoning. SuperSense was my first popular science book to expound my ideas, but all of my subsequent books apply similar novel ways of explaining human behaviour from surprising perspectives. 

Bruce's book list on magical thinking and superstition

Bruce M. Hood Why did Bruce love this book?

This is an easily accessible book based on Wegner's brilliant work on consciousness and mental control. I have always found Wegner’s work utterly fascinating as it provides such a convincing picture of a mind constantly in a struggle to think coherently – something that I easily recognise in my own conscious awareness. The findings on intrusive implicit thoughts were particularly influential in my own writing about the conflict between dormant thoughts and conscious appraisal that may be factors in why magical thinking surfaces in the rational mind.

By Daniel M. Wegner,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked White Bears and Other Unwanted Thoughts as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In a series of groundbreaking experiments, Daniel M. Wegner told subjects not to think about white bears. Of course, they found it impossible to avoid thinking of the bears--just as it often seems impossible to stop thinking about forbidden foods, a painful memory, or everyday fears and worries. Synthesizing a wealth of scientific knowledge in an accessible, engaging style, this book reveals that the more we attempt to push away or avoid unwanted thoughts, the deeper they take hold. Wegner offers compelling insights into how unpleasant or obsessive thoughts get out of control--and what we can do to break free…


Book cover of How We Know What Isn't So

Gary Smith Author Of Distrust: Big Data, Data-Torturing, and the Assault on Science

From my list on science’s eroding reputation.

Who am I?

I am the Fletcher Jones Professor of Economics at Pomona College. I started out as a macroeconomist but, early on, discovered stats and stocks—which have long been fertile fields for data torturing and data mining. My book, Standard Deviations: Flawed Assumptions, Tortured Data, and Other Ways to Lie with Statistics is a compilation of a variety of dubious and misleading statistical practices. More recently, I have written several books on AI, which has a long history of overpromising and underdelivering because it is essentially data mining on steroids. No matter how loudly statisticians shout correlation is not causation, some will not hear.

Gary's book list on science’s eroding reputation

Gary Smith Why did Gary love this book?

One of Gilovich’s most famous papers is a (co-authored) 1985 study arguing that the widespread belief by athletes and fans that athletes get a “hot hand” is in fact a statistical illusion. This book is a compilation of similar examples of how everyone—even, or perhaps especially, the most highly educated—believe things that are doubtful or clearly wrong.

By Thomas Gilovich,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked How We Know What Isn't So as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Thomas Gilovich offers a wise and readable guide to the fallacy of the obvious in everyday life.

When can we trust what we believe-that "teams and players have winning streaks," that "flattery works," or that "the more people who agree, the more likely they are to be right"-and when are such beliefs suspect? Thomas Gilovich offers a guide to the fallacy of the obvious in everyday life. Illustrating his points with examples, and supporting them with the latest research findings, he documents the cognitive, social, and motivational processes that distort our thoughts, beliefs, judgments and decisions. In a rapidly changing…


Book cover of Dybbuk

Lenny Cavallaro Author Of The Ibbur's Tale

From my list on Jewish paranormal literature.

Who am I?

I come from a rather strange background: southern Italian and Eastern European Jewish. As a child, I heard both Italian (Neapolitan dialect) and Yiddish. I later learned that my maternal grandmother’s brother was the well-known Yiddish poet and playwright, Jacob Adler, creator of Yente (who wrote under the name B. Kovner to avoid confusion with the great actor by that name). I have been involved with what some call the “occult,” “paranormal,” or “supernatural” for many years, and these appear in much of my recent writing. Moreover, The Ibbur’s Tale draws on various elements drawn from the history of my mother’s family, including the fate of some during the Holocaust. 

Lenny's book list on Jewish paranormal literature

Lenny Cavallaro Why did Lenny love this book?

This study offers a thorough presentation of the traditional (and non-traditional) Jewish thoughts about various topics, including ghosts and apparitions, magic and superstition, and even reincarnation. However, the main thrust is the analysis of six (presumably) documented accounts of possession by spirits and subsequent exorcisms. 

I have listed this work for two reasons. First, it underscores the significance of possession within a community not known for performing exorcisms. Then, more personally, I found the presentation challenging, intriguing, and perhaps even provocative. If such malevolent possession has been documented, why not a benevolent ibbur?

By Gershon Winkler,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dybbuk as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An astonishing book chronicling and dramatizing six documented reports of possession and exorcism in the Jewish experience. Also features a fascinating historical look at the traditional Jewish perspective on reincarnation, ghosts, apparitions, magic and superstition.


Book cover of Anya's Secret Society

Carolyn Watson Dubisch Author Of Andy and the Mask of the Dead

From my list on open your child's eyes to cultures around the world.

Who am I?

I moved to New York City for school when I was 18 years old and found myself surrounded by people from all over the world. Every fourth person in New York City is an expat. It was fascinating to me and since then I have lived in three countries and done months-long artist residences in Morocco and Ireland. I also read books and stories about cultures from around the world and am particularly enchanted by Africa. Currently, I live on the Pacific coast of Mexico in the city of Mazatlán and have written two children’s books about Mexico. 

Carolyn's book list on open your child's eyes to cultures around the world

Carolyn Watson Dubisch Why did Carolyn love this book?

The illustrations are marvelous and the story is a peek into what it’s like for a child that is different in Russian culture. As a left-handed child she is forced to write and do nearly everything with her right hand except draw. This is the author’s personal story and you can see from the art that her drawing is amazing. I added this book to my list as Russia tops the headlines these days and remembering that children in Russia are just children with their own stories to tell feels important. Also, it’s an incredible book. 

By Yevgenia Nayberg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Anya's Secret Society as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Left-handed Anya draws with great passion . . . but only when she's alone.

In Russia, right-handedness is demanded--it is the right way. This cultural expectation stifles young Anya's creativity and artistic spirit as she draws the world around her in secret.

Hiding away from family, teachers, and neighbors, Anya imagines a secret society of famous left-handed artists drawing alongside her. But once her family emigrates from Russia to America, her life becomes less clandestine, and she no longer feels she needs to conceal a piece of her identity.


Book cover of The Night Tiger

Tam Francis Author Of The Flapper Affair: A 1920s Time Travel Murder Mystery Paranormal Romance

From my list on vintage fashion, passion and dance reads.

Who am I?

I write cross-genre fiction with a pen in one hand and a vintage cocktail in the other, filling the romantic void, writing novels when my husband deployed. When in port, we taught swing dancing and have been avid collectors of vintage sewing patterns, retro clothing, and antiques. All of which make appearances in my stories. I’ve always been fascinated with the paranormal and have had some unexplained experiences, some of those made their way into my stories as well. I live in a 1908 home in Texas that may or may not be haunted. I have book reviews, vintage lifestyle tips, recipes, interviews, giveaways, and games on my site!

Tam's book list on vintage fashion, passion and dance reads

Tam Francis Why did Tam love this book?

I was fascinated with the depiction of the 1930s Malaysian dance halls steeped in music, fashion, and dance. As a writer who dabbles in the paranormal, the cultural spirits and supernatural elements were intriguing. The split narrative appealed to me since my Jitterbug Dress series is a dual narrative set in the 1940s and 1990s. The author also set the narrative apart by telling the story in different tenses and POVs (Ren and William’s story is in third person past, while Ji Lin’s story is first person, present). Choo did a great job of juxtaposing the beast or wild animal inside each person, where the line of who we are inside and what we present to society is drawn all while creating tension and suspense, keeping me guessing on how all these narratives intertwine. 

By Yangsze Choo,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Night Tiger as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER | REESE BOOK CLUB PICK | BBC BIG JUBILEE BETWEEN THE COVERS READ

'It reminds me of Where the Crawdads Sing . . . it's an amazing book' Rhys Stephenson on BBC's Between the Covers

'You won't be able to put this one down!' Reese Witherspoon

They say a tiger that devours too many humans can take the form of a man and walk among us...

In 1930s colonial Malaya, a dissolute British doctor receives a surprise gift of an eleven-year-old Chinese houseboy. Sent as a bequest from an old friend, young Ren has a…


Book cover of Bitter Greens

Sharisse Coulter Author Of The Big If

From my list on to smash patriarchy and still enjoy your vacation.

Who am I?

As a feminist writer, I first gravitated to light female-driven stories in college as a break from the heavy academic tomes I was reading. I tore through the chick lit section of my local bookstores and realized that there was so much more to the genre than I knew or had heard it given credit for. They explored relatable themes— friendship, injustice, love, loss, sex—while being unapologetically feminine and light. For my own writing, I still read a lot of heavy nonfiction about injustice and smashing the patriarchy, but I keep the lightness by blending the heavy stuff with humor—this genre’s specialty.

Sharisse's book list on to smash patriarchy and still enjoy your vacation

Sharisse Coulter Why did Sharisse love this book?

I came across this book in the research stage of writing my new novel and from the very beginning I was hooked. I love a good fairytale, in this case Rapunzel, retold as feminist historical fiction. The characters are deliciously multi-faceted, the alternating storylines deftly woven together, and I felt like I was being doled out insights into where we are now as women through the lens of where we’ve been before. Engaging and enlightening. After reading it I felt inspired to read more of her work, write more of my own, and empower as many women as possible.

By Kate Forsyth,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Bitter Greens as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


A Library Journal Best Book of 2014: Historical Fiction

The amazing power and truth of the Rapunzel fairy tale comes alive for the first time in this breathtaking tale of desire, black magic and the redemptive power of love

French novelist Charlotte-Rose de la Force has been banished from the court of Versailles by the Sun King, Louis XIV, after a series of scandalous love affairs. At the convent, she is comforted by an old nun, Sœur Seraphina, who tells her the tale of a young girl who, a hundred years earlier, is sold by her parents for a handful…


Book cover of Apothecary

Douglas Phillips Author Of Quantum Space

From my list on hard science fiction published this century.

Who am I?

As a scientist, I love hard science fiction, especially when the story makes me think about the true nature of reality or takes me on an adventure to places unknown. We’ve all read the classics from Clarke, Heinlein, Bear, or Asimov. But books written decades ago are becoming increasingly dated as society progresses into a new century. (Will people of the future really chain smoke? And why are all the characters men?) Never fear, modern hard sci-fi is alive and well. Here are five recent books that tell an intriguing, uplifting, or awe-inspiring story. Even better than the classics, it’s hard sci-fi for the 21st century!

Douglas' book list on hard science fiction published this century

Douglas Phillips Why did Douglas love this book?

Peter Cawdron has written a whole series based on various first-contact scenarios, each an independent novel.

Apothecary is one of my favorites. Set in 16th-century England, it follows a young apprentice named Anthony, who works at a London apothecary (a pharmacy). When his blind friend Julia is accused of witchcraft and set to burn at the stake, Anthony seeks help from a member of the aristocracy who harbors a deep secret about her arrival in this medieval land.

The story is accurate, fascinating, and fun, as superstition and primitive technology clashes with advanced alien science. But like all Peter Cawdron stories, at its heart Apothecary is a story of characters struggling to do what’s right.

Book cover of Hitler's Monsters: A Supernatural History of the Third Reich

Brian E. Crim Author Of Planet Auschwitz: Holocaust Representation in Science Fiction and Horror Film and Television

From my list on the history of horror and science fiction.

Who am I?

I am a historian of twentieth century Germany and the Holocaust, but I am also a voracious consumer of popular culture. How do I justify spending so much time watching and analyzing horror and science fiction film and television? Well, write a book about it, of course. The first thing I realized is that many other brilliant scholars have thought about why this imagery permeates contemporary culture, even if I asked different questions about why. I hope you are as inspired and enlightened by this book list as I was.

Brian's book list on the history of horror and science fiction

Brian E. Crim Why did Brian love this book?

Eric Kurlander is a brilliant historian of modern Germany who finally treats this topic with the seriousness it deserves. Lots of charlatans and amateurs on the History Channel love to speculate about the Nazis and the occult, but Kurlander brings a historian’s rigor to the subject and reveals a complex relationship between the supernatural and the Nazi worldview. Among his findings is that key Nazi figures used the vast propaganda machinery, including film, to depict its “racial enemies” as monstrous. Kurlander also breaks down absurd beliefs like World Ice Theory and determines the truth behind Hitler’s fascination with the “Spear of Destiny.”

By Eric Kurlander,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The definitive history of the supernatural in Nazi Germany-the occult ideas, esoteric sciences, and pagan religions touted by the Third Reich in the service of power

"[Kurlander] shows how swiftly irrational ideas can take hold, even in an age before social media."-Michael Dirda, The Washington Post

"A careful, clear-headed, and exhaustive examination of a subject so lurid that it has probably scared away some of the serious research it merits."-National Review

The Nazi fascination with the occult is legendary, yet today it is often dismissed as Himmler's personal obsession or wildly overstated for its novelty. Preposterous though it was, however,…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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