1. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones – You’ve almost certainly seen the Miyazaki movie adaptation, but have you read the extremely excellent book? In both the book and movie, Sophie Hatter is my style icon and I will love her forever. (Obviously I am referring to Belligerent Elderly Sophie and not Meek and Mild Pre-Curse Sophie). The book is much more chill and cozy than the movie (no war plot), and Howl is far more of a dweeb, which pleases me. Instead of a scary war-portal hell cupboard attached to his house, he has the country of Wales, where he wears a sweatshirt and carries a cricket bat, and drives Sophie about in a car, and never ever explains what’s going on. This novel encompasses a genre I like to refer to as “soft fantasy” – there are magic and witches but they don’t fundamentally change anything in anyone’s lives and there are all kinds of mundane problems that can’t be fixed with magic – like Howl’s atrociously dirty bathroom. Also, it is one of the few books out there that truly celebrates weird belligerent old women, which is my favorite quality in a book.
2. Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner – This was originally published in 1926 and I’m honestly not sure how it was allowed. It starts out as the story of a girl named Laura. Laura loves her father and loves nature and grows up quite dreamily, never feeling inclined to marry anyone. After her father dies, she moves in with siblings, continues to resist matrimony and lives as a spinster in their spare room until one day she decides, to hell with it, London sucks and I’m going to move to the countryside. Her dumb brother has lost most of her inheritance in stocks but she makes do and moves to the countryside, where she makes lots of friends, casually acquires a familiar, goes to a coven meeting, and becomes a witch. It’s a very dreamy book with lots of woodsy countryside and long passages concerning tea and baked goods. It also picks as its heroine a very stubborn and strong willed old woman. (This is a trend for me, clearly.)
3. The Once and Future King by T.H. White – I’m going to be honest with you, once you get past the very beginning this ceases to be cozy and begins to be very intense, but it is WORTH YOUR READ. This witches in this novel are not charming or whimsical, but they are dark and interesting women enacting and experiencing tragedy all around them. This’ll make your heart hurt a little bit, but in a nice way, ultimately. (I think.)
4. Witch Week by Diana Wynne Jones – Yes, I have two Diana Wynne Jones novels on this list. She’s really good okay???? SUE ME. This is part of the Chronicles of Chrestomanci series, which I was deeply obsessed with as a teen. All the books can be read out of sequence or independently so you don’t need to read anything else to get into this. It’s a pretty short read and deals with witch hunts and parallel universes and petty boarding school squabbles and also, notably, Guy Fawkes.
5. Blue is For Nightmares by Laurie Faria Stolarz – This book is PEAK YA, so if that’s not your jam maybe skip it, but I read it when I was fifteen so it will always be in my witchy lil heart. It’s different than the others in that this is more like Wicca/Psychic Witchery, and not Pre-Industrial Fantasy Universe Witchery. It takes place at a boarding school and features a murder mystery that the lead character has to solve with only PSYCHIC POWERS. (It turns out that’s not as effective a tactic as like, traditional detective-ing, but in her defense, she is predicting a future murder which I imagine is difficult, so I cannot fault her.) Read for intense teenage witch vibes.
Thumbnail image courtesy of Natalie Franke at nataliefranke.com.