Spell-tastic Reading for Halloween

"Enchanted to Meet You" by Meg Cabot
"Enchanted to Meet You" by Meg Cabot
Courtesy image

We have entered the month in which we all avoid driving to, or anywhere near, Salem; pumpkin flavor gets infused into every imaginable food product; and small children count down the days to the biggest sugar high of the year.

In the Book Shop, our shelves are bursting with seasonal titles in every section.  If you’re looking to get beyond your annual rereading of Edgar Allan Poe, the recent surge in popularity of the horror genre makes this the perfect time of year to explore our thriller shelves.  But if horror is not your thing, do not worry because witches remain hotter than ever and appear in almost every category of book we carry.

On our History shelf, In Defense of Witches: The Legacy of the Witch Hunts and Why Women are Still on Trial by Mona Chollet (translated by Sophie R. Lewis) has just arrived in paperback.  The French feminist author suggests that the types of women historically accused of witchcraft continue to be the same women oppressed today. Part history, part literary criticism, part manifesto, this book is a call to broomsticks for independent women everywhere.

For the practicing witch, there are spellbooks aplenty, like The Contemporary Witch: 12 Types and 35+ Spells and Rituals for Advancing Witches to Find Their Paths by Ambrosia Hawthorne and Sarah Justice, but also a new memoir by Diana Helmuth called The Witching Year: A Memoir of Earnest Fumbling Through Modern Witchcraft that digs deep into the rules, spellcasting, and liturgy, and travels to Salem, Edinburgh, and Northern California, so you don’t have to.  Helmuth takes a journalistic approach to her search for something to believe in and the results are thoughtful, funny, and relatable.

Turning to fiction, The Witching Tide by Margaret Meyer is a new literary novel that takes readers back to a deadly witch hunt in 17th-century England.   For fans of Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell and the historical fiction of Hilary Mantel, Margaret Meyer’s book is an immersive read rich with atmospheric detail about one woman caught between the accuser and the accused and the terrible decisions she must make. Weyward by Emilia Hart will appeal to fans of The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner.  The natural magic in it is on the lighter fantasy side and the stories of three women across five centuries are affecting and full of secrets.  On the lighter side, witchy romantic comedies abound.  Enchanted to Meet You by Meg Cabot, In Charm’s Way by Lana Harper, Kiss and Spell by Celestine Martin, and The Kiss Curse by Erin Sterling are all new additions to a series full of magic, humor, and love.

Spooky season isn’t just for adults, of course. In board book format, there’s Room on the Broom, of course, but if we can deviate from witches for a moment, I would also point the youngest of readers to Happy Halloweenie by Katie Vernon, in which we meet a hot dog who just can’t decide what to be for Halloween. One of my favorite new picture books is I Will Read to You by Gideon Sterer, illustrated by Charles Santoso.  One night, a young child asks his mother who reads to all the witches (and goblins and ghouls, skeletons and vampires and more) out there?   And so the boy sets out with a book to find all the monsters in the world and he reads them a bedtime story.   A tiny bit creepy, but lovely and heartwarming at the same time.

The legacy of Harry Potter is a bevy of middle-grade fiction featuring witches discovering their powers. Our favorites include Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston, Witchlings by Claribel A. Ortega, and The Marvellers by Dhonielle Clayton. Graphic novel readers should check out The Witches of Brooklyn series; the newest, Spell of a Time, just arrived last month and features a trip to Coney Island and a missing mermaid.

The new Romantasy genre mash-up (of Romance and Fantasy) is taking the world by storm. Night of the Witch by Sarah Raasch and Beth Revis sits on our Young Adult shelf, but that shouldn’t stop older readers from picking it up, too. In this epic enemies-to-lovers romance, a witch and a witch-hunter discover they have common enemies.  Set during the medieval German witch trials, this novel combines history and magic, love and adventure, with twists galore. 

When was the last time a book cast a spell on you?

Hannah Harlow is owner of The Book Shop, an independent bookstore in Beverly Farms.  Harlow writes biweekly recommendations for us.  See more of what she recommends reading at thecricket.com.