The best Salem witch trials books 📚

Browse the best books on the Salem witch trials as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of Records of the Salem Witch-Hunt

Records of the Salem Witch-Hunt

By Bernard Rosenthal

Why this book?

This edition of the actual court papers provides not only a more accurate transcription, but also adds previously unpublished documents, background material, and extensive notes that both clarifies obscurities and identifies the individuals who wrote even the unsigned manuscripts. (Disclaimer: I was one of the project’s sub-editors.)

From the list:

The best books to understand why the Salem Witch Trials occurred

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Book cover of Witchcraft at Salem

Witchcraft at Salem

By Chadwick Hansen

Why this book?

While I do not agree with all of the author’s conclusions, this book showed me the prevalence of folk-charms in the culture, as well as the psychological reactions humans have to stress that could explain some of what happened with the “bewitched.”

From the list:

The best books to understand why the Salem Witch Trials occurred

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Book cover of The Witches: Suspicion, Betrayal, and Hysteria in 1692 Salem

The Witches: Suspicion, Betrayal, and Hysteria in 1692 Salem

By Stacy Schiff

Why this book?

For me, Stacy Schiff’s masterpiece is the end-all, be-all resource when it comes to the history of early America’s witchcraft trials—which, it turns out, extended far beyond the village of Salem. The seed for my own novel came from one tiny line in the book’s “Cast of Characters” index: “Herrick, George, well-born, handsome Salem deputy sheriff in his thirties…Spends 1692 rounding up and transporting witches.”

From the list:

The best “truth is stranger than fiction” books

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Book cover of Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New England

Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New England

By John Putnam Demos

Why this book?

While researching and writing My Enemy’s Tears, I found Entertaining Satan on the shelves of a bookstore in New York City. Sure enough, there was a chapter on Mary Bliss Parsons titled Hard Thoughts and Jealousies. A prominent historian studied my 8th great-grandmother’s case and wrote about it. Local gossip was the author’s first subject for exploration—right on, because gossip is what led to Mary’s imprisonment and trial. Demos explores the lives of many accused of witchcraft and the culture that accused them. Anyone interested in the history of women’s lives and the reasons behind the centuries-long belief…

From the list:

The best books about 17th century America

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

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

By Mary Beth Norton

Why this book?

While there is no one all-encompassing reason the 1692 panic proceeded as it did, Norton’s account presents the terrors and violence of the earthly warfare that dominated so many lives at that time, influenced everyone one else, and which had been largely ignored by previous accounts of the trials. 

From the list:

The best books to understand why the Salem Witch Trials occurred

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Book cover of Narratives Of The Witchcraft Cases, 1648-1706

Narratives Of The Witchcraft Cases, 1648-1706

By George Lincoln Burr

Why this book?

This collection of contemporary 17th century works covering (mostly New England) witch-related cases before, during and after the 1692 trials was one of the earliest sources I discovered at my local public library back in the early 1960s. It provides a window into the varying reactions people had to the uncanny and what they did about it.

From the list:

The best books to understand why the Salem Witch Trials occurred

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