The best books about superstition

4 authors have picked their favorite books about superstitions and why they recommend each book.

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The Night Tiger

By Yangsze Choo,

Book cover of The Night Tiger

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. 


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!


I wrote...

The Flapper Affair: A 1920s Time Travel Murder Mystery Paranormal Romance

By Tam Francis,

Book cover of The Flapper Affair: A 1920s Time Travel Murder Mystery Paranormal Romance

What is my book about?

Fashion, Passion, Hot Jazz & Murder: Meet Eduard Hall, an odd young man who just happens to fall in love with Mia Waverly, a beautiful ghost from the famous Waverly family, brutally murdered seventy years ago. Though her body was never found. With time running out and through extraordinary forces, they travel back in time to the night of the murders, setting off a chain of events that will change everything. If they can solve the mystery, they may save her and her family, but lose each other forever.

The Flapper Affair is the story of two young lovers crossed by time, space, and an unsolved murder.

Believing in Magic

By Stuart A. Vyse,

Book cover of Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstition

This book examines the psychology of superstition from the perspective of cognitive science and fallibility of human reasoning. Rather than dismissing superstitious behaviour, Vyse provides a comprehensive explanation of why we continue to hold such beliefs as a function of the way our minds work. This was the book that really inspired me to examine the developmental origins of magical thinking.


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. 


I wrote...

SuperSense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable

By Bruce Hood,

Book cover of SuperSense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable

What is my book about?

Would you willingly wear the cardigan of a killer? Do you think you can tell when you are being watched by someone you can’t see? Do you believe in ghosts or spirits? Even in this modern scientific era, most people believe in phenomena that if true would violate the laws of Nature. Even individuals who are not religious hold supernatural beliefs even though they may not be aware of them. In SuperSense, I trace the origin of magical thinking to the development of children’s thinking. Rather than indoctrination, I argue that children are naturally inclined to infer the presence of hidden structure, energies, essences, and all manner of causal entities that lay the foundation for later adult magical beliefs that can operate implicitly in our thinking. 

Anya's Secret Society

By Yevgenia Nayberg,

Book cover of Anya's Secret Society

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. 


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. 


I wrote...

Andy and the Mask of the Dead

By Carolyn Watson Dubisch,

Book cover of Andy and the Mask of the Dead

What is my book about?

Andy and the Mask of the Dead is an enchanting story of a mischievous young boy who finds himself invited into another world. A world of dancing ghosts, roses, and marigolds. A world that celebrates the past and the people who’ve moved on. Andy draws you into his discovery of the magical Mexican holiday of “Dias de Los Muertos” Day of the Dead). It’s the perfect way to expand your child’s world through rhymes and art.

Bitter Greens

By Kate Forsyth,

Book cover of Bitter Greens

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.


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.


I wrote...

The Big If

By Sharisse Coulter,

Book cover of The Big If

What is my book about?

Set in the never-dull music industry The Big If takes a deeper look at that gray space in love where compromise crosses the line. When what is expected and what one dreams of can no longer coexist. It’s a story about those moments when life forces us to choose our true priorities and act the part of the person we wish to become. Can Penelope have her dreams and desires satisfied without shattering culturally created boundaries? If choosing her own path means losing stability and comfort, not to mention love, will this adventuress have the courage to throw expectations aside and follow her heart? 

The Silent One

By Joy Cowley,

Book cover of The Silent One

Another classic title by one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most-loved storytellers. This moving story follows the special friendship forged between Jonasi, a lonely deaf-mute pacific islander, and a huge white turtle. It’s a book about isolation and prejudice, and how love can heal all. One review describes it as ‘somewhere between fact and fiction, superstition and the supernatural.’ It’s another that’s been made into a fabulous film.


Who am I?

As a writer from Aotearoa New Zealand who cares deeply about social issues and human rights, I believe fiction has the power to change hearts and minds and bring us all together with greater compassion and understanding. When I was growing up here, there were few books published by Pacific or Māori writers and we were taught little about their customs or mythologies. I’ve loved watching this change over the last forty-odd years (and particularly the last ten years) and can see how access to these stories has not only empowered Māori and Pacific youth and brought them closer to their culture but enriched everyone who lives in our pacific paradise! 


I wrote...

The Crossing: Blood of the Lamb, Book 1

By Mandy Hager,

Book cover of The Crossing: Blood of the Lamb, Book 1

What is my book about?

Maryam refused to play by The Rules, and now they’re out to get her blood...The people of Onewēre, a small island in the Pacific, know that they are special – chosen to survive the deadly event that consumed the Earth. Now, from the rotting cruise ship Star of the Sea, the elite control the population – manipulating old texts to set themselves up as living ‘gods’. But what the people of Onewēre don’t know is this: the leaders will stop at nothing to meet their own blood-thirsty needs . . .

Winner of the 2010 NZ Post Children’s Book Awards: Young Adult Fiction, Shortlisted for the LIANZA Young Adult Fiction Award, Shortlisted for 2010 Sir Julius Vogel Award. 2010 Notable Book (Storylines Children’s Literature Charitable Trust).

Hitler's Monsters

By Eric Kurlander,

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

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.”


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.


I wrote...

Planet Auschwitz: Holocaust Representation in Science Fiction and Horror Film and Television

By Brian E. Crim,

Book cover of Planet Auschwitz: Holocaust Representation in Science Fiction and Horror Film and Television

What is my book about?

Planet Auschwitz explores the diverse ways in which the Holocaust influences and shapes science fiction and horror film and television by focusing on notable contributions from the last fifty years. The supernatural and extraterrestrial are rich and complex spaces with which to examine important Holocaust themes – including the dangerous afterlife of Nazism after World War II. Planet Auschwitz explores why the Holocaust continues to set the standard for horror in the modern era and asks if the Holocaust is imaginable here on Earth, at least by those who perpetrated it, why not in a galaxy far, far away? The pervasive use of Holocaust imagery and plotlines in horror and science fiction reflects both our preoccupation with its enduring trauma and our persistent need to “work through” its many legacies.

Burden Falls

By Kat Ellis,

Book cover of Burden Falls

I love a vengeful ghost. And Dead-Eyed Sadie, who haunts the little town of Burden Falls, is like an eyeless grudge’s Kayako Saeki. I almost expected to hear that horrible death rattle while flipping the pages. After a series of nightmares and a vision of Sadie, and the appearance of a dead body, teen sleuth, Ava Thorne is determined to solve the town’s murder problem before she becomes the main suspect. With a cursed waterfall and a vengeful ghost to contend with, it should be simple… right? Not when the murderer seems to have a vendetta against the Thornes and there’s a ghost on the loose.


Who am I?

I often refer to myself as a haunted body. Death is something that has fascinated and alarmed me since I can remember. I’ve even had a spooky experience or five that I can’t explain. But to write a ghost story is akin to making someone fall in love with you, or lean in close to hear a secret. I love the intrigue and power of that kind of tale. Our oldest stories are ghost stories and the biggest and most enduring mystery for the entirety of humanity is: Is there life after death? 


I wrote...

And the Trees Crept In

By Dawn Kurtagich,

Book cover of And the Trees Crept In

What is my book about?

When Silla and Nori arrive at their aunt’s home, it’s immediately clear that the manor is cursed. The endless creaking of the house at night and the eerie stillness of the woods surrounding them would be enough of a sign, but there are secrets too—questions that Silla can’t ignore: Why does it seem that, ever since they arrived, the trees have been creeping closer? Who is the beautiful boy who’s appeared from the woods? And who is the tall man with no eyes who Nori plays with in the basement at night… a man no one else can see?

Everyday Madness

By Lisa Appignanesi,

Book cover of Everyday Madness: On Grief, Anger, Loss and Love

Lisa’s husband dies as he is being treated for cancer. She writes about the first year after in which grief, madness, confusion, isolation, and fury coincide with Britain’s beginning Brexit madness. Nothing can be made sense of and yet we need words to express what’s happening. And then words provide for consoling and managing.

Who am I?

Memoirs have crept up on me as favorites. I could list many more. Please let me! As a psychoanalyst, I listen to the pains and struggles of individuals trying to become more at ease with themselves. They engage with their demons and try to make sense of how to manage the way their personal history has created their worldview and how to expand it enough to enter a present. Memoirs are another way of addressing such struggles. They have an elegance and a universality that emerges out of their individual stories. We learn about the other and we learn about ourselves.


I wrote...

Bodies

By Susie Orbach,

Book cover of Bodies

What is my book about?

Susie looks at how we get the bodies we have. We think of them as predetermined and unfolding but in reality our bodies reflect the familial, cultural, geographic, raced, gendered, and classed positions we are born into and develop from.

Bodies looks at cultural differences – that the Kaypoo bite where we would kiss for instance; at the importance of touch; at the earliest body to body relationship between infant and carers; at the meaning of clothing, of body shape. The democratisation of beauty and the selling of the western and body as a way to enter modernity produce huge profits for the beauty, fashion, food, and diet industries which Bodies discusses. Bodies looks at all the themes through her clinical work with individuals as a psychoanalyst.

Lord of the White Hell

By Ginn Hale,

Book cover of Lord of the White Hell: Book One

This novel is everything—a school story, a coming-of-age story, a fish-out-of-water story as well as being chock-full of swords and sorcery. It follows genius mechanist Kiram Kir-Zaki as he journeys far away from his home to attend the prestigious Sagrada Academy where he hopes to make the connections that will earn him a place in the king’s court. Instead, he finds himself shunned on account of his race and compelled to share a room with a man who is widely believed to have no soul. If two hot outcasts being forced to share a room and eventually falling so deeply in love that death itself cannot separate them, then this book is your cup of tea.


Who am I?

I’m a novelist and the editor and publisher of Blind Eye Books—a small press focused on producing LGBT genre fiction as well as a lifelong aficionado of queer media, especially BL, yaoi, and danmei. 


I wrote...

The Sea of Stars

By Nicole Kimberling,

Book cover of The Sea of Stars

What is my book about?

Thomas Myrdin knows that intrigue is part of life at court, but that doesn’t make his king’s betrayal any easier to take. Yet heartbreak troubles him less than the apocalyptic visions that haunt him. Fiery premonitions that show the world burning in ruins—and the cause, the king’s daughter. Visions and vengeance awaken a strange new power within him, but not even he is sure if he is the kingdom’s savior, the king’s pawn.

Lord Adam Wexley harbors a secret longing for the elegant Thomas, but his duty is to protect the newborn princess. When a sudden threat arises, Adam seeks to procure the services of Grand Magician Zachary Drake. Even if it means sacrificing his own soul—and his body. In a rising storm of magic with the power to strip away men’s souls, the thread of desire connecting three men could be the kingdom’s last lifeline…

White Bears and Other Unwanted Thoughts

By Daniel M. Wegner,

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

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.


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. 


I wrote...

SuperSense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable

By Bruce Hood,

Book cover of SuperSense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable

What is my book about?

Would you willingly wear the cardigan of a killer? Do you think you can tell when you are being watched by someone you can’t see? Do you believe in ghosts or spirits? Even in this modern scientific era, most people believe in phenomena that if true would violate the laws of Nature. Even individuals who are not religious hold supernatural beliefs even though they may not be aware of them. In SuperSense, I trace the origin of magical thinking to the development of children’s thinking. Rather than indoctrination, I argue that children are naturally inclined to infer the presence of hidden structure, energies, essences, and all manner of causal entities that lay the foundation for later adult magical beliefs that can operate implicitly in our thinking. 

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