Review – The Penguin Book of Witches

The Penguin Book of Witches

 Title: The Penguin Book of Witches

 Editor: Katherine Howe

 2014 – Adult Nonfiction – History

 Rating: 2.5/5

The Story: In The Penguin Book of Witches, Howe has collected a number of original source documents from history to demonstrate the power and impact of the Salem Witch Trials. These documents include everything from a witch hunting manual written by King James to Salem court documents to post-Salem colonial accounts. In addition, Howe prefaces each document with a description adding context.

What I Loved: It’s a book containing actual historical documents pertaining to witches, a concept which I find fascinating.

What I Didn’t Love: These are documents and treatises written between 1500 and 1800. That means they are written in a style that can be very hard to read today. So this is more on me than the book, but it was hard going and I got bored A LOT. I even considered giving up for a while.

Final Thoughts: I’ve never read Kafka’s The Trial, but I imagine it is very similar to some of the court documents from Salem. Just ridiculous. I have a better understanding now (I think) about the pressures that the women would have felt to confess, because they were being hounded and besieged by repetitious charges and questions. So even though I didn’t enjoy the book as a whole, it was educational and I feel like I learned quite a bit.



Filed under Reviews

8 responses to “Review – The Penguin Book of Witches

  1. Pingback: It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? | Jancee Reads

  2. I’ve seen The Penguin Book of Witches on a few lists, but I didn’t realize it included primary sources. That sounds fascinating, in an educational sort of way.


  3. I’m sorry to hear that this was hard enough to get through that it wasn’t enjoyable, because the idea of a more factual history of witchcraft sounds like fun to me.


    • Yeah. I don’t know what it was. Typically historical, factual sources are no problem for me. The concept was fascinating, and when I actually got into a groove it was riveting. But overall, rough.


  4. I think you might enjoy reading The Devil in the Shape of a Woman. It only looks at women accused of witchcraft in colonial New England, but it consists of the author analyzing historic documents, so it can be a lot easier to read than just the originals, plus you still get the same historic information. Here’s the link to it on Goodreads:


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