The most recommended books about witch hunts

Who picked these books? Meet our 28 experts.

28 authors created a book list connected to witch hunts, and here are their favorite witch hunt books.
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Book cover of Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New England

Bryan Le Beau Author Of The Story of the Salem Witch Trials

From my list on the story behind the Salem Witch Trials.

Who am I?

A native of Massachusetts and married to a descendent of two of the accused, the Salem witch trials have long fascinated me. Armed with a Ph.D. in American studies from New York University – focused on American history, literature, and religion – a significant portion of my academic career has been devoted to research, publications, classes, and public lectures on the Salem witch trials, reflected in the third edition of my book, The Story of the Salem Witch Trials. The book is only one of several books and many articles I have published on various aspects of American cultural history, many of which relate in some way to what happened in Salem in 1692.  

Bryan's book list on the story behind the Salem Witch Trials

Bryan Le Beau Why did Bryan love this book?

John Putnam Demos remains the “dean” of historians of the Salem witch trials. 

Entertaining Satan remains his most impactful contribution to the study of the events of 1692 by providing their cultural context in early New England, upon which historians have built over the years expanding upon Demos’ findings.

Perhaps his greatest contribution is his interdisciplinary approach invoking the research tools of psychology and sociology, as well as cultural history. His concluding chapter, “Communities: Witchcraft over Time,” provides broadly, excellent insights drawn from his extensive research.  

By John Putnam Demos,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the first edition of the Bancroft Prize-winning Entertaining Satan, John Putnam Demos presented an entirely new perspective on American witchcraft. By investigating the surviving historical documents of over a hundred actual witchcraft cases, he vividly recreated the world of New England during the witchcraft trials and brought to light fascinating information on the role of witchcraft in early American culture. Now Demos has revisited his original work
and updated it to illustrate why these early Americans' strange views on witchcraft still matter to us today. He provides a new preface that puts forth a broader overview of witchcraft and…


Book cover of Witchfinders: A Seventeenth-Century English Tragedy

J.S. Watts Author Of Witchlight

From my list on if you are seeking witchery.

Who am I?

I’ve always loved fantasy. My mother told me fairy stories and I read every book of myth and legend in my local library. I’ve continued to read and love books of fantasy and magic. I guess it’s not surprising that all four of my novels and most of my short stories have a speculative aspect to them. Having grown up with the traditional view of the aged, ugly crone luring children away to their doom, I especially love stories of witches that come at the topic of witchcraft from a different angle. I live in the East of England, where the infamous witch-hunts of the seventeenth century took place.

J.S.'s book list on if you are seeking witchery

J.S. Watts Why did J.S. love this book?

If you mention witches, most people think fantasy novels, but this is a factual history about the real life witch-hunts that took place across the East of England in the 17th Century. It unpicks the brutal and most likely self-serving crusade of the original Witchfinder General, Mathew Hopkins and the religious hysteria of the time. It is a worthy counterbalance to classic horror films such as Witchfinder General and to all the varied and imaginative fiction that has been written about witches and witchery over the centuries, my own included.

By Malcolm Gaskill,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

By spring 1645, two years of civil war had exacted a dreadful toll upon England. People lived in terror as disease and poverty spread, and the nation grew ever more politically divided. In a remote corner of Essex, two obscure gentlemen, Matthew Hopkins and John Stearne, exploited the anxiety and lawlessness of the time and initiated a brutal campaign to drive out the presumed evil in their midst. Touring Suffolk and East Anglia on horseback, they detected demons and idolators everywhere. Through torture, they extracted from terrified prisoners confessions of consorting with Satan and demonic spirits.

Acclaimed historian Malcolm Gaskill…


Book cover of Witches & Neighbors: The Social And Cultural Context of European Witchcraft

Lu Ann Homza Author Of Village Infernos and Witches' Advocates: Witch-Hunting in Navarre, 1608-1614

From my list on the trauma of European witch-hunting.

Who am I?

I am a historian of early modern Europe, with a research focus on Spain and Italy. I first encountered archival documents from the Spanish Inquisition during research for my first book: I was already a fan of religious history but quickly became a fan of studying the law. I am fascinated by the ways in which people between the 1500s and 1700s used the legal systems at their disposal to recapture honor and pursue enemies. I am always on the lookout for ways in which religious prescriptions from centralized authorities did not match what was happening on the ground with ordinary, usually illiterate people.

Lu's book list on the trauma of European witch-hunting

Lu Ann Homza Why did Lu love this book?

This book should never go out of print, and for good reason: it is so smart and so very readable.

Briggs persuasively assesses the village contexts that played into witchcraft accusations and confessions in early modern Europe.

He clearly explains the crucial contexts of debt, feuds, and local relationships behind witchcraft allegations, and provides important insights into questions of gender and age. His evidence is compelling.

By Robin Briggs,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In his remarkable and compelling interpretation of the course and causes of the fear and persecution of witches that bedeviled Europe for centuries, Briggs draws on the latest research into the local realities underlying the phenomenon. In particular, he employs his own extensive work in the rich archives hidden away in those Franco-German borderlands in which so many cases became known. Briggs reveals how ordinary people diverted ordinary and not-so-ordinary grievances into a complex structure of blaming and scapegoating. Villagers inhabited a harsh and dangerous world, where real and fantastic fears mingled.
Through his study of real cases and real…


Book cover of Witch Hunt

Alesha Escobar Author Of The Wayward Wizard

From my list on heroes when secret agencies mess things up.

Who am I?

I’m an avid fantasy reader and enjoy stories filled with magic, danger, and a mix of humor and romance thrown in. When I’m not writing my own fantasy novels, you might catch me tucked away in a corner, reading a book, and fueling my imagination. Since my own book, The Wayward Wizard, features a secret organization trying to intercept the supernatural, I knew similar stories would make a perfect list to share with fellow fantasy readers.

Alesha's book list on heroes when secret agencies mess things up

Alesha Escobar Why did Alesha love this book?

Who’s ever been blamed at work for something they didn’t do?  Well, the Office of Preternatural Affairs takes it to a whole new level when they suspect one of their agents, Cèsar Hawke, of murdering a woman. I mean, she was found dead in his home…but he claims he’s innocent. And he’s going to hunt down a shaman who can speak to the dead to prove it.

This wickedly fun story takes the urban fantasy detective trope and infuses it with humor, danger, and twists & turns.

By SM Reine,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

There are scratches on Cèsar Hawke’s arms, a discharged Glock on his coffee table, and a dead woman in his bathtub. Yeah, maybe he brought the waitress home for some fun—he was too drunk to remember it—but he knows for a fact that he didn’t kill her. He’s an agent with the Office of Preternatural Affairs. He doesn’t hurt people. He saves them. The cops disagree. Now Cèsar is running. Isobel Stonecrow speaks with the dead. She brings closure to the bereaved and heals broken hearts. But when she talks to the wrong spirit, the OPA puts a bounty on…


Book cover of Witch Hunting and Witch Trials

Malcolm Gaskill Author Of Witchfinders: A Seventeenth-Century English Tragedy

From my list on witch hunting in Britain and Europe.

Who am I?

I am an Emeritus Professor of Early Modern History at the University of East Anglia and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. I taught history for many years at several UK universities, and I was the Director of Studies in History at Churchill College, Cambridge. I am the author of six books, including Hellish Nell: Last of Britain’s Witches and Witchcraft: A Very Short Introduction. His latest book, The Ruin of All Witches: Life and Death in the New World, will be published in November by Penguin. I live in Cambridge, England, and I am married with three children.

Malcolm's book list on witch hunting in Britain and Europe

Malcolm Gaskill Why did Malcolm love this book?

This was the book that got me started over thirty years ago, and which I still turn to today. It’s an absolute mine of information, specifically relating to the written indictments for witchcraft which survive in great numbers for the Home Assize Circuit – that is, the courts that heard felonies in south-eastern England.

Ewen doesn’t provide much in the way of analysis. There is a substantial, very useful, introduction, but the really incredible thing about this book is how Ewen managed to comb through the archives, then held in the Public Records Office in London, and find almost all of the witchcraft indictments hidden there. He was an amazing researcher, who provided raw data for subsequent generations of historians.

Among many findings that can be drawn from his research are that, outside the peculiar spike in trials in the mid-1640s (the subject of my book, Witchfinders), English witch-trials peaked…

By C L'Estrange Ewen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Originally published in 1929, the author presents a formidable collection of facts, brought together in a scholarly manner. This is an examination of the general history of witchcraft, its changing laws and legal procedures, as well as methods of interrogation and punishment. This book must be considered an essential reference work for every student of witch lore.


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

Laurie Lico Albanese Author Of Hester

From my list on female magic, witches, potions and spells.

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.  

Laurie's book list on female magic, witches, potions and spells

Laurie Lico Albanese Why did Laurie love 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. 

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…


Book cover of A Brief History of Misogyny: The World's Oldest Prejudice

Susan Corso Author Of Jezebel Rising

From Susan's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Metaphysical Magical Novelist Spiritual Mentor Visionary

Susan's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Susan Corso Why did Susan love this book?

Jack Holland was an incredible writer. When he told men he was writing a book about misogyny, one group expressed surprise that a man would write such a book. His reply was, “Why? We invented it.” How can you not thoroughly love a man who could answer that? More, he’s done his homework, and done it exceedingly well.

He takes us through the history of this dreadful manifestation of patriarchy sympathetically and carefully. The links he creates historically are breath-taking, and cage-rattling they’re so sensible. Every woman in the world should read this book, and so should every human who knows a woman.

By Jack Holland,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Brief History of Misogyny as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this compelling, powerful book, highly respected writer and commentator Jack Holland sets out to answer a daunting question: how do you explain the oppression and brutalization of half the world's population by the other half, throughout history?


The result takes the reader on an eye-opening journey through centuries, continents and civilizations as it looks at both historical and contemporary attitudes to women. Encompassing the Church, witch hunts, sexual theory, Nazism and pro-life campaigners, we arrive at today's developing world, where women are increasingly and disproportionately at risk because of radicalised religious belief, famine, war and disease. Well-informed and researched,…


Book cover of Imagining the Witch: Emotions, Gender, and Selfhood in Early Modern Germany

Lu Ann Homza Author Of Village Infernos and Witches' Advocates: Witch-Hunting in Navarre, 1608-1614

From my list on the trauma of European witch-hunting.

Who am I?

I am a historian of early modern Europe, with a research focus on Spain and Italy. I first encountered archival documents from the Spanish Inquisition during research for my first book: I was already a fan of religious history but quickly became a fan of studying the law. I am fascinated by the ways in which people between the 1500s and 1700s used the legal systems at their disposal to recapture honor and pursue enemies. I am always on the lookout for ways in which religious prescriptions from centralized authorities did not match what was happening on the ground with ordinary, usually illiterate people.

Lu's book list on the trauma of European witch-hunting

Lu Ann Homza Why did Lu love this book?

For the last twenty-five years, historians have been convinced that witch suspects drew on their personal histories as they confessed to being the Devil’s disciples.

Kounine flips that presumption on its head by asking how the processes of interrogations and torture might actually create a self-identity of being a witch, a category that was more flexible and nuanced than we might have expected.

By Laura Kounine,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Imagining the Witch as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Imagining the Witch explores emotions, gender, and selfhood through the lens of witch-trials in early modern Germany. Witch-trials were clearly a gendered phenomenon, but witchcraft was not a uniquely female crime. While women constituted approximately three quarters of those tried for witchcraft in the Holy Roman Empire, a significant minority were men. Witchcraft was also a crime of unbridled passion: it centred on the notion that one person's emotions
could have tangible and deadly physical consequences. Yet it is also true that not all suspicions of witchcraft led to a formal accusation, and not all witch-trials led to the stake.…


Book cover of Witch-Hunting in Scotland: Law, Politics and Religion

Malcolm Gaskill Author Of Witchfinders: A Seventeenth-Century English Tragedy

From my list on witch hunting in Britain and Europe.

Who am I?

I am an Emeritus Professor of Early Modern History at the University of East Anglia and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. I taught history for many years at several UK universities, and I was the Director of Studies in History at Churchill College, Cambridge. I am the author of six books, including Hellish Nell: Last of Britain’s Witches and Witchcraft: A Very Short Introduction. His latest book, The Ruin of All Witches: Life and Death in the New World, will be published in November by Penguin. I live in Cambridge, England, and I am married with three children.

Malcolm's book list on witch hunting in Britain and Europe

Malcolm Gaskill Why did Malcolm love this book?

The distinctive selling-point of this work is summed up by its sub-title: a focus on law, politics and religion as causal factors, not just for humdrum witchcraft accusations but for major, sustained witch-hunts. Brian Levack has made a huge contribution to our understanding of witch-hunting, and here brings his specialist expertise to bear on Scotland, which experienced the most intense, and devastating panics anywhere in the British Isles (and worse even than most places in continental Europe).

Historians have long learned not to see witch-hunts as hysterical spasms of pre-Enlightenment ‘superstition’. Demonology was a serious subject in the sixteenth and seventeeen centuries, and was logically coherent within the mentalities of the time. Witchcraft, then, wasn’t some insane sideshow to the dominant legal, political and religious issues of the day, but central to those issues.

Embedding witchcraft in these mainstream contexts is essential to understanding what it once meant, not just…

By Brian P. Levack,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Witch-Hunting in Scotland as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Shortlisted for the 2008 Katharine Briggs Award

Witch-Hunting in Scotland presents a fresh perspective on the trial and execution of the hundreds of women and men prosecuted for the crime of witchcraft, an offence that involved the alleged practice of maleficent magic and the worship of the devil, for inflicting harm on their neighbours and making pacts with the devil.

Brian P. Levack draws on law, politics and religion to explain the intensity of Scottish witch-hunting. Topics discussed include:

the distinctive features of the Scottish criminal justice system the use of torture to extract confessions the intersection of witch-hunting with…


Book cover of Sister Witch

K K Weakley Author Of Sekhet

From my list on the world of magic and realms beyond our own.

Who am I?

As a magical realism/horror author, born and reared in Ireland—I love stories that scream strange and unusual. By adding an extra dimension to a story, you can open the mind to the most wonderful places. I love to write for everyone with no exceptions, and while there are many worlds to lose yourself in while reading, I am drawn to the what ifs of magic. The worlds of witches, the dead, the unimaginable and realms beyond our own. This is why I love to write, and the reason I share my mind with those who enjoy a tale outside the norm of daily life.

K K's book list on the world of magic and realms beyond our own

K K Weakley Why did K K love this book?

The story of Moll Dyer caught my attention from the first page, the second my homeland was mentioned. Like so many in Ireland during this timeline in history when work was scarce and mouths needed to be fed, moving across the pond to England where her father still struggled to find work was the only choice she had. Violated, shunned, shipped off to the Colonies with her uncle, making an enemy in the process.  

While this can be deemed historical fiction, it is a paranormal, supernatural story, of a witch-hunt that just keeps giving.

By David W. Thompson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Moll Dyer prays she can leave her troubles behind when she immigrates to the new world, but a paranormal threat grows, and soon follows her across the ocean to Maryland.

Colonial life in the Old Line state was tough on both man and woman. Hunger, disease, Indian attacks, and drought tested the resolve of the settlers daily, but troubles for the Dyers included the threat of a succubus on a mission! Will the demonic call initiated by her family prove too much to resist as she labors to rebuild her life in a distant land?

The legend of Moll Dyer…