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Interested in learning more about magic and science?
I may have written a novel, but I’m still a history professor! Here are some reading suggestions for those of you whose curiosity has been stirred up by the story of Diana Bishop, Matthew Clairmont, and the hunt for the missing alchemical manuscript Ashmole 782. All of the titles here are non-fiction, and inspired some aspect of A Discovery of Witches.
Elias Ashmole, Theatrum Chemicum Brittanicum: Don’t be put off by the Latin title. This is a collection of English alchemical texts that were gathered by Elias Ashmole. The missing alchemical manuscript that Diana finds in the Bodleian library is not among them, alas, but if you are interested in the subject this is a fascinating glimpse into the mysterious texts that she studies as a historian.
Janet Browne, Darwin’s Origin of Species: Books That Changed the World: Browne is not only a great scholar, but a superb writer. A highly-regarded biographer of Darwin, here she turns her talents to writing a “biography” of his most famous book—and one of Matthew Clairmont’s favorites, as well.
Owen Davies, Grimoires: A History of Magic Books. If you are interested in the history of magic and witchcraft, Davies’ description of the development of magical spellbooks will provide insights into how ideas about magic, science, and nature developed over the centuries.
Carol Karlsen, The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England. Diana Bishop is descended from a long line of witches. You will find out more about some of those witches—the Bishops and the Proctors—while reading this classic interpretation of what happened in Salem in 1692.
Robert Kehew, Ezra Pound, and W. D. Snodgrass, Lark in the Morning: The Verses of the Troubadours. Matthew is a very old vampire, who has slightly old-fashioned views on love and romance. You might be surprised at the love poetry of his early life, and come away with a whole new appreciation for “old-fashioned.”
Bruce Moran’s Distilling Knowledge: Alchemy, Chemistry, and the Scientific Revolution. This marvelous book is not only deeply learned but extremely readable. Touched with Moran’s sense of humor and his compassion for his subject’s tireless efforts to understand the natural world, you will come away from this book with a new appreciation for the alchemists.
Alexander Roob, Alchemy and Mysticism. Diana Bishop is an expert on the enigmatic imagery that is used in alchemical texts. Many are included in Roob’s book, along with other illustrations from mystical and magical traditions.
Lyndal Roper, Witch Craze: Terror and Fantasy in Baroque Germany. This scholarly book was important to me as I wrote A Discovery of Witches because it helped me understand how the belief in witches influenced the imagination. Many of the notions we have about witchcraft today have their roots in these terrifying fantasies.
James Sharpe, Instruments of Darkness: Witchcraft in Early Modern England. Sharpe’s book is an ideal starting point if you are interested in the history of witchcraft beyond Salem or Germany. One of his most controversial arguments focuses on the role that women played as accusers—not just as victims—in the witchcraft trials.
Bryan Sykes, The Seven Daughters of Eve: The Science That Reveals Our Genetic Ancestry. I was fascinated by the combination of history, genealogy, and science in Sykes’s work. The book provides an introduction to the study of genetics, and to the legacies that are carried from generation to generation among the population.--Deborah Harkness (Photo of Deborah Harkness © Marion Ettlinger)
The story started out a little slow, but after getting wrapped up in the characters and all that was going on in the story I could not put the book down. Read morePublished 7 hours ago by Shann B D
I liked this book at least as much reading it the 2nd time as I did the first go around. I found Diana to be a wonderful character, and it was interesting to see her realize the... Read morePublished 1 day ago by Christa Pitcock
It is obvious some people did not read this book based on some of the comments. Excellent book.Published 1 day ago by JOHN D. PHILLIPS
Love this book and the two that follow. I was totally caught up in the story!!! I'm reading them again, cause I liked them that much and can't find anything to match up, so far!Published 1 day ago by Becky Crow
What a great book. Well written and suspenseful. I'm barely half way through the first book and I know I'm not putting it down anytime soon and will move on to the second and third... Read morePublished 1 day ago by Sherry_Renae
I loved A Discovery of Witches. I had hoped that the story would have more magic than history but when a history professor writes a book that's what you'll get. Read morePublished 1 day ago by Meghan Cooper
You will have to read all three books. Take notes of all the characters so you remember little thing a about then.Published 1 day ago by Fox9-VA
My father bought me the book when it first hit the shelves. It now has an honored place on my bookshelf, and caused me to buy the digital copy so that I may read it many more times... Read morePublished 2 days ago by Dawn Baca
A great read and worth the time. Full of twists and turns that will take you by surprise. Characters that you will love and others that you will hate. Read morePublished 2 days ago by Sam