The Salem Witch Trials took place many centuries ago but come every October, people gain a renewed interest in the trials and all that lead up to the horrifying frenzy.
It’s one of the most fascinating and controversial periods in American history and one from which countless movies and books have drawn inspiration.
You may have seen a movie or two that moved you to wonder what the best books on the Salem Witch Trials are. Luckily, there are quite a few that are absolutely worth reading.
Some are fiction and beautifully written while others are nonfiction, factual, and thoroughly researched.
Popular movies about the witch trials include The Crucible and others, like Hocus Pocus, simply draw from them and give a unique twist.
If you’re interested in reading more about the facts of the Salem Witch Trials as well as the mass hysteria, there are numerous nonfiction titles on this list.
If you’re like me and want to read well-written novels based on the trials, I’ve included several fiction books here, too.
There are very talented authors listed here and I give a quick take on what makes each book special, so let’s get started!
Best Fiction Books on the Salem Witch Trials
The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent
A historical novel, The Heretic’s Daughter tells the story of Martha Carrier, one of the first women accused and tried as a witch in Salem.
The story is told through the eyes of her daughter, the young Sarah Carrier.
What helps to make this book all the more interesting is that it’s written by Kathleen Kent, a 10th-generation descendant of Martha Carrier.
She researched meticulously for the book; it’s historical fiction at its finest.
It’s a gut-wrenching tale so be prepared!
The book humanizes the accused “witches”, their family members, and all the heartache they experienced during the trials.
In reading the story of the Carrier family, you can sense how grossly unfair (and ridiculous) the situation was and how it rocked every resident of Salem.
It does away with the cheesy “spookiness” we’re so often treated to when it comes to this subject and time period.
Instead, the story emphasizes the ruthlessness to which innocent women were subjected.
We’re reminded that families were indeed torn apart, women were tortured, and actual lives were taken.
The Heretic’s Daughter also highlights the human condition and the traits that allow certain people to endure persecution and ultimate death with courage and dignity.
Deeper within the story of the Salem witch trials, however, lies the tension between mother and daughter as they find it nearly impossible to understand each other.
One of my all-time favorites, Kent’s writing is not to be missed!
I was sad to close this book because I knew I’d miss the prose.
If you’re looking for an intense novel about the witch trials, this one can’t be beaten.
The Crucible by Arthur Miller
Set in colonial Massachusetts in 1692, The Crucible might be the most well-known piece of literature on this historical event. It’s a literary classic, and one which you probably read in high school but might not have a great recollection of.
It’s why it’s worth another read – to refresh your memory.
It’s set in Puritan New England and it does justice to the witchcraft hysteria of the times. It’s one of the best Salem witch trials books ever written about early America.
It centers around a group of young girls and how their lies brought so much destruction to their small town.
It all starts with one misguided, vengeful teenager who accuses another girl of witchcraft. From that point on, the accusations snowballeduntil they engulfed the entire town.
Mean girls are to be feared in this time and place, and it seems that no one can escape the escalating hysteria of the trials as acquaintances and enemies turn on each other to save themselves.
The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Written in 1851 by Nathaniel Hawthorne, the author of The Scarlet Letter, The House of Seven Gables is an American classic and an absolute must-read. It’s one of the best novels of classic literature.
The author tells the story of the mysterious Clifford Pyncheon and the Pyncheon family, a family known for generations as greedy and pompous, and forever cursed by someone who was sentenced to death during the Salem Witch Trials.
It’s a gothic novel that young readers have been reading in high school for decades. If you read this as a teen, it may have been your first foray into the magnitude of the witch frenzy.
This is a good book to read if you’re interested in book characters that tie back to what took place in New England in 1692.
Fun fact: the House of Seven Gables actually exists: it’s a real house and it inspired the author to write the novel after staying there as a guest.
In 2007, the house was designated a National Historic Landmark Destination and you can visit it yourself!
I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem by Maryse Condé
You’ve likely heard of Tituba before if you’ve been fascinated by the witch trials that took place in Salem.
There are many nonfiction retellings of Tituba’s life, but now she’s the center of a fictional story in this captivating novel.
Tituba, a slave from the West Indies, was accused of witchcraft and jailed for two years following the trials.
I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem, follows the heroine through her years on earth and puts into new perspective what life must have been like for her.
This is the story of Tituba like you’ve never read before!
Crane Pond by Richard Francis
Crane Pond is a fascinating read. You’ll get to know Samuel Sewall, a man committed to his family and his career as a conscientious judge.
His intentions are to do good in the world around him but as Salem becomes engulfed in a storm of witchcraft accusations, Sewall’s morality and good judgment are tested.
It’s a story of shame, regret, and ultimate redemption.
Based on a real-life man, Sewall actually sentenced 20 people to their deaths during the Salem Witch Trials and he grew to regret it.
This novel is different from the rest on this list in that it does not tell the story of the people accused but that of a judge and the inner workings of his mind and intentions.
The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe
In Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, readers get to follow Connie Goodwin, a Harvard graduate student working on her doctoral dissertation who is about to embark on something very peculiar.
Asked by her mother to help with the sale of her grandmother’s abandoned home near Salem, Connie discovers an old key with the words “Deliverance Dane” on it.
This discovery sets her off on an entangled journey to find out more, as she discovers a physick book filled with secrets.
Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
The Witch of Blackbird Pond is an engrossing read about Kit Tyler, a teenager who arrives in colonial Connecticut from Barbados. She’s not exactly welcome in the town and finds herself an outcast.
Soon, however, she’s befriended by another girl which gives her a smidge of hope that things might be getting better.
Unfortunately, the other townspeople suspect that her new friend is a witch. What comes next has everything to do with loyalty, love, and personal survival.
Elizabeth George Speare is an incredibly gifted writer; every sentence feels artful. She won the Newbery Medal in 1959 for this book, so you know you’re in for a real literary treat when you pick this one up from your to-be-read list!
How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather
How to Hang a Witch, a New York Times bestseller, was written by a real-life descendant of Cotton Mather, a minister whose actions bear some responsibility for what took place in Salem during the trials.
The book is an easy, entertaining read; it’s set in modern-day America and tells the tale of a high school student who is also a descendant of Cotton Mather.
A native of New York City, Samantha isn’t exactly welcomed to Salem with open arms considering her last name, especially not by the descendants of those who suffered the most during the trials many centuries ago.
How to Hang a Witch is an ingenious fictional tale that’s inspired by the misfortunes of 1962 Salem and it’s one you’ll likely enjoy as a leisurely read!
Best Nonfiction Books on the Salem Witch Trials
Now that we’ve covered some amazing fictional novels about the trials, it’s time to get a little more serious and talk about some nonfiction books.
These books have done an incredible job of examining the trials, the town, and its people. Several of the books give a unique take on the rich history of the trials and what allowed them to take place.
Others tell the untold story of the accused and some place the trials in the context of the broader Atlantic world, as well as events that laid the perfect foundation for such mass hysteria.
If you’re interested in delving deep into this subject, every book listed will offer you some new insight.
The Witches by Stacy Schiff
If you’re interested in a nonfiction account of the infamous Salem Witch Trials, then Cleopatra: A Life.
She’s a highly-regarded historian and gives an engrossing account of what led up to the trials.
You’ll learn not just about the young girls who caused this hysteria with their impassioned lies, but also about the droves of other people, including prominent men, who allowed such nonsense to take over their town.
This nonfiction title should be towards the top of your list of books to read about this subject!
Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft by Stephen Nissenbaum and Paul Boyer
I love this title because it perfectly captures what occurred in Salem that bitter year in 1692: a town possessed by accusations, trials, and ultimate hangings.
What’s been missing for so long in accounts of the trials is an examination of the town and social culture before the accusations even occured.
Why did this happen and how could it have taken hold of an entire community so ruthlessly?
With Salem Possessed, we get some answers.
This is a special nonfiction book because it goes much deeper than what happened that infamous year. This wasn’t the only event that brought violence to the village; it was actually just one of many volatile events that happened during that time.
Through meticulous research, we learn about the town’s development, which is important to understanding the trials in a greater scope.
The authors give us an idea of why the people of Salem feared evil so much.
Here, we get an account of how the trials affected Puritanism, the role of the church in the early American experience, and how commercial capitalism played a part in the hysteria of the trials. Pretty interesting!
If you’re ready for a thorough examination of the times, Salem Possessed is it.
A Storm of Witchcraft: The Salem Witch Trials and the Amerian Experience by Emerson Baker.
In A Storm of Witchcraft, historian Emerson Baker paints a picture of American Life and makes the convincing argument that the trials were the perfect storm of many different factors.
In this exceptional nonfiction book, readers can see how a new government, political pressure and disagreements, a violent frontier war, and religious tension all set the stage for the Salem witch hunts, trials, and hangings.
This book is perfect for history lovers who want to get a better sense of the happenings of New England in the 1690s.
Baker argues that the trials were a turning point in American History, making way for less adherence to Puritan values and a greater desire for independence. It’s definitely worth a read!
Now that you’ve seen this list of the best books on the Salem Witch Trials, I hope you have fun reading through a few!
Maybe you can make it a tradition of reading a new Salem book every October or at the start of the Fall season.
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