Good Minds Suggest—Jeanette Winterson's Favorite Books About Witches!

Posted by Goodreads on October 1, 2013
Jeanette Winterson Hanged in 1612, the Pendle witches of Lancashire starred in England's most infamous—and well-documented—witch trials. Jeanette Winterson's gothic and haunting retelling of the event, The Daylight Gate, evokes the wildness of 17th-century England, when religious intolerance and superstition led to the persecution of many women—but Winterson's embattled witches wield real magic. At the center is Alice Nutter, a self-made entrepreneur, a lover of both men and women, and the only wealthy woman accused of witchcraft among the impoverished group. Winterson, the author of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit and Written on the Body, tells Goodreads, "The woman as witch happens historically when the idea of the Goddess, with her power and sexuality, is too threatening to be allowed in the social order. The witch is both fearful and fascinating, as women are. But if she gets tricky, you can always burn her." Winterson offers five witchy favorites.

The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike
"Fabulous, funny, and feminist. Most people know the movie version, but Updike's novel is a great remaking of the ancient Triple Goddess theme and how miserable male terror turns goddesses into witches."


The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
"Another great story that nobody reads because everyone watches the movie. Splitting the witches into Good and Bad is a fascinating insight into how difficult men find it to allow women to be complete. Virgin vs. Whore. Evil vs. Innocent. Good woman, bad woman. There's no need to be heavy-handed about the readings, but the extra layers underneath are revealing. And what woman wouldn't want a pair of ruby slippers?"


Macbeth by William Shakespeare
"Here the three witches are hell-bound hags with uncanny powers of prophecy, but the real witch is Lady Macbeth herself, a study in thwarted female power."


Witch Cult in Western Europe by Margaret Alice Murray
"A useful nonfiction reader, this is a serious study into ritual, practice, beliefs, superstition, and prejudice. For the American reader trying to understand the New England obsession with witchcraft, it is a help to trace back the line pre-Mayflower and the Puritan terror of women and magic."



The Witches by Roald Dahl
"Controversial and cruel but a ripping read for adults and children alike. These are really nasty witches who want to kill all children everywhere. Dahl's witches are descendants of the witch in Hansel and Gretel, with their ugliness, deformity, and psychopathic determination. Enjoy the story and marvel at what the male psyche does to women!"


Vote for your own favorites on Listopia: Best Books with Witches



Comments Showing 1-33 of 33 (33 new)

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message 1: by Linda (new)

Linda Davies Wonderful stuff! I cannot wait to read the Daylight Gate. Love the Witches of Eastwick. Thanks for the recommendations Jeanette


message 2: by Liane (new)

Liane Swift The Daylight Gate by Jeanette Winterson is a fantastic read.....needs to be read twice - agree with my lilsis!


message 3: by Adrienn (new)

Adrienn Kiss Jeanette Winterson is my best friend :)


message 4: by Marlene (new)

Marlene Brannon Looking forward to reading The Daylight Gate. My favorite book about witches was The Witching Hour, by Ann Rice. Didn't like the "Lasher" part, but loved the family history of powerful witches.


message 5: by Zandra (new)

Zandra sweet stuff


message 6: by Sandy (new)

Sandy Robertson Margaret Murray's work on the history of witchcraft was found to be erroneous many years ago. Surprised JW doesn't know this.


message 7: by Mary (new)

Mary Sandahl Anyone interested in the history of magical ideas/practice in the English speaking world (or the "Western tradition" generally) needs to hang onto objectivity and critical caution. It's a topic that's attracted a lot of speculation, and a lot of hot debate among scholars, academics, and interested non-professionals. Much of what we'd like to know about possible traditional practices and beliefs will probably never be retrieved in any dependable form; it falls under the canopy of folklore research, and folklorists know how fragmentary and uncertain the evidence for their research can be.


message 8: by Lauren (new)

Lauren I am surrprised Lolly Willowes isn't on this list!!


message 9: by Tatiana (new)

Tatiana I love The Witches by Roald Dahl. Definitely a good choice and a must for the list.


message 10: by Sandy (new)

Sandy Robertson Absolutely, Mary. The problem with Murray is she used evidence selectively to 'prove' her cherished thesis of an ancient, pre-Christian nature religion. Swallowed whole at the time, it is now pretty generally discredited.


message 11: by Lexy (new)

Lexy Wolf Oh, come on......! I read The Witches in 2nd grade - right along with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory AND James and the Giant Peach....! Time to grow up, ladies.


message 12: by Lexy (new)

Lexy Wolf Also - Witches of Eastwick was so damn boring - yes - the movie too - especially when Michelle Pfeifer is flying around like the airhead she is. ... What about Practical Magick? Hardly the movie - the BOOK.


message 13: by Lexy (new)

Lexy Wolf If we are going back to grade school, then the #1 book to read is The Witch of Blackbird Pond - an authentic classic. But for 2nd grade?? Try the "Dorrie" series.


Erin *Proud Book Hoarder* You make me want to read Witches of Eastwick even more now. I've always loved the movie.


message 15: by Andy (new)

Andy Anyone who finds "The Witches of Eastwick" boring might need to do a little growing herself.

I was told by Anita Silvey, former head of children's books at Houghton Mifflin that "The Witch of Blackbird Pond" was the only manuscript she'd ever seen that required absolutely no editing. It was published exactly as the author submitted it. Wonderful book.

As is "Lolly Willowes."


message 16: by Vibeke (new)

Vibeke Carmen I just loved The Witching Hour by Anne Rice. Read it about 20 years ago... now I've found Deborah Harkness - and will warmly reckommend her books :-)


message 17: by Jurnee (new)

Jurnee Marlene wrote: "Looking forward to reading The Daylight Gate. My favorite book about witches was The Witching Hour, by Ann Rice. Didn't like the "Lasher" part, but loved the family history of powerful witches."
OOOhh that was a good series of books, I loved them all, but your right about "Lasher" it was confusing all the way through the series. I wasn't happy when I finished the last book, for several reasons.


message 18: by Kat (new)

Kat Sandy wrote: "Margaret Murray's work on the history of witchcraft was found to be erroneous many years ago. Surprised JW doesn't know this." Yep, it's sort of horrifying that she lists Margaret Murray's hogwash along with two children's books as her "witchy favorites." It makes me skeptical as to whether or not she actually did any real academic research before writing this book.


message 19: by Jurnee (new)

Jurnee (reply to message 18)
I guess that's why i will never write a book for myself, I HATE to study for anything. It flows naturally from me or I know intuitively or I say
F it.
I have not read one book from the list, maybe parts MacBeth in High School only because I was forced. I've only recently come to love reading for pleasure.
Will you be reading The Daylight Gate for it's Historical information or for pleasure?
I think it takes guts to throw yourself on to paper & add your name to it. Some people are not very nice ya know. Then add in a forum like this and your asking for someone to rip you a new one.


message 20: by Dalmar (new)

Dalmar Great Series!!!!!!!!


message 21: by Melanie (new)

Melanie Whether or not we like a book is sometimes completely separate from whether it's considered "good" or "well-researched." Doesn't mean we can't like it. And she shouldn't be subsequently dubbed a bad author just because she likes something different than you. It wasn't called "The best witch books," simply her favorite witch books.


message 22: by Jo (new)

Jo Cavins Let's not forget Practical Magic. If you only know the lame movie, go get the book. It's wonderful. Someone in the comments mentioned Witch of Blackbird Pond, and I'll second that. I remember it as the first chapter book I read as a child. I can still (about 50 years later) picture the cover of that book.


message 23: by Blair (new)

Blair Conrad No Granny Weatherwax or Tiffany Aching?


message 24: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl Green Jurnee wrote: "Marlene wrote: "Looking forward to reading The Daylight Gate. My favorite book about witches was The Witching Hour, by Ann Rice. Didn't like the "Lasher" part, but loved the family history of power..."

I love Lasher!


message 25: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl Green Lexy wrote: "Also - Witches of Eastwick was so damn boring - yes - the movie too - especially when Michelle Pfeifer is flying around like the airhead she is. ... What about Practical Magick? Hardly the mov..."

I didn't like Eastwick at all


message 26: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl Green The Witching Hour by Anne Rice is not only my favorite witch book but my favorite book of all.


message 27: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl Green I just read A Discovery Of Witches and I thought it was OK, parts of it really dragged.


message 28: by Tim (new)

Tim Hicks Pratchett: Wyrd Sisters, Equal Rites and others.


message 29: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl Green Good? Have not read him, have a copy of Good Omens to read


message 30: by Peter (last edited Oct 30, 2013 03:38PM) (new)

Peter I found Serafina Pekkala and her group of witches from Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" were quite interesting.


message 31: by Demi (new)

Demi I started to read "A Discovery of Witches" by Deborah Harkness yesterday. I hope I like it :)


message 32: by Anna-karien (new)

Anna-karien Otto I love Emma Donoghue's retelling of favourite fairy tales called "Kissing the Witch".


message 33: by E (new)

E McMahon A Mirror for Witches
by Esther Forbes

This is a unique short novel - I really enjoyed it, set in Salem MA area in the 17th century, and told in the style of 17th century tract.


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