Books

Top 5 books about wizards and witchcraft, chosen by Malcolm Gaskill

The academic and witchcraft expert Malcolm Gaskill selects five books that left him spellbound.

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Image: Joe from Pixabay

Malcolm Gaskill, author of The Ruin of All Witches, names his top five books to read about wizards and witchcraft.

1. Religion and the Decline of Magic by Keith Thomas 

One of the first books I read cover to cover at university. The winner of the first Wolfson Prize, it salvaged thousands of details about English popular belief and arranged them into a vivid worldview we had lost. It changed my life. 

2. Berlin, the Downfall: 1945 by Antony Beevor

A masterly account of the ‘twilight of the gods’ annihilation that Hitler wished for himself and his people. Beevor soars elegantly between macro and micro, from generals poring over campaign maps to the plight of civilians cowering in the rubble.  

3. The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis

Before the Netflix series came Walter Nevis’ novel about chess wizard Beth Harmon, which stokes drama and emotion with a simple prose style. The climax raised my heart rate, then reduced me to tears.  

4. Austerlitz by WG Sebald  

An extraordinary novel, which like all Sebald’s books plays with fact as well as fiction. The eponymous character’s search for the truth about his childhood offers insights into our compulsion to remember and our flawed relationship with the past.  

The Ruin of All Witches by Malcolm Gaskill (Allen Lane, £20) was shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize 2022

5. The Whitsun Weddings by Philip Larkin

A sublime collection of poems, from MCMXIV’s vignettes of doomed domesticity on the eve of war, through our struggle to say things “not untrue and not unkind” in Talking in Bed, to the impermanence of life and endurance of love in An Arundel Tomb.  

You can buy The Ruin of All Witches from The Big Issue shop on Bookshop.org, which helps to support The Big Issue and independent bookshops.

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine. If you cannot reach your local vendor, you can still click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue today or give a gift subscription to a friend or family member.You can also purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue Shop or The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play.

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