A Beginner’s Guide to Occult Books

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I think most of us have a fascination for the things we can’t explain, for whatever hides beneath the surface. Almost within reach, but not quite. That’s what the occult is all about, and there are so many occult books that explore the topic.

What is occultism?

Occultism is the belief in or study of the supernatural — which is usually hidden or secret. It generally involves practices like divination, magic, witchcraft, or alchemy. But it also deals with supernatural forces or beings such as ghosts or vampires. It can be considered a genre that encompasses sub-genres like supernatural and paranormal. The occult genre generally differs from fantasy books because it doesn’t involve any world-building; it uses creatures and practices that people believe in. 

So basically, occult books are about those esoteric or mystic things that don’t belong to the realm of science, but that people believe in. 

Nonfiction Occult Books

A History of Magic, Witchcraft, and the Occult by DK

This massive book is a comprehensive guide on the history of magic and all things occult. It begins with chapters on prehistory and goes all the way to modern ideas like the rise of occultists in the 20th century, wicca, and new age practices. It’s also illustrated! It has many images to accompany all that the book tries to explain. Although it’s mostly based on western beliefs, it’s a great text for beginners. It will help you understand the origins and evolution of magic and the occult. 

Jambalaya: The Natural Woman’s Book of Personal Charms and Practical Rituals by Luisah Teish

Jambalaya mixes theory and practice regarding voodoo and other traditions from the African diaspora like Orisha. While it has chapters on civil rights movements and spiritualism, it can also feature some spells and rituals that the reader can practice. The book is really all about connection. Plus it also has a few occult, magical practices that are less known around the world. Teish does a wonderful job of mixing memoir, folk wisdom, and African American beliefs all in one book. 

The Occult Book: A Chronological Journey from Alchemy to Wicca by John Michael Greer

This book is also a historical journey through the occult. Written in chronological order, it features detailed and specific incidents and arcane knowledge from around the world, from the 6th century BCE all the way to 2012. From the Philosopher’s Stone to the Kabbalah. Each short entry will introduce you to a different topic on the occult. 

Modern Tarot by Michelle Tea

No occultist book list is complete without some Tarot! It’s one of the best-known occult divination practices. Modern Tarot is a beginner’s guide to the deck. It provides a more modern primer to the centuries old practice. For each card you have a comical illustration and its explanation. It also includes some practices you can do to bring the energy of that card into your own life. This book is a great, updated guide to the divination practice and a must for fans of occult books. 

Parapsychology: A Beginner’s Guide by Caroline Watt

Parapsychology is the study of psychic and paranormal phenomena, so it’s right up the occultist alley. This book is a beginners guide that explores the evidence behind such phenomena. Parapsychology takes a look at the history and evolution of the field as a science, with an open-minded and data-driven approach. Even for skeptics, this book on the occult studies is quite a great way to start reading about the topic. 

Fiction Occult Books

The Club Dumas by Arturo Perez-Reverte

This book follows the book dealer Lucas Corso. He is hired to authenticate a The Count of Monte Cristo manuscript. But his adventure leads him to a thrilling adventure with devil worship, occult practices, and swashbuckling characters similar to those of Alexandre Dumas. So Corso now has to seek out two copies of a rare book which claims to have instructions to summon the Devil. It’s a classic tale of mystery and adventure that weaves travel, murder, books, and the occult. 

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Alex Stern is a freshman at Yale. But she’s also one of the people who monitors Yale’s secret societies, the Houses, and their occult rituals. This is her second chance, after a tumultuous childhood and her survival of a multiple homicide. Alex is given the opportunity to enter Yale with a full scholarship because she can see ghosts. But the Houses’ activities prove to be more forbidden, more sinister, and more deadly than imagined. It’s now up to Alex to solve the mystery and survive. Ninth House is kind of dark academia, with the occult hidden in plain sight in an academic background, making it one of those books that you just can’t put down. 

The Diviners by Libba Bray

Set in New York in the roaring 20s, The Diviners follows Evie O’Neill. She lives with her uncle, who’s obsessed with the occult. She’s scared that he’ll find out about her powers, but when they both visit a murder scene with some dark symbols, Evie realizes her powers could help her catch the killer. Bray’s book is atmospheric and creepy, with an evil lurking in the background. It’s also the first in a series that merges the historical setting and the occult brilliantly. 

The Library of the Dead by T. L. Huchu

Ropa is a ghostalker. She passes messages from the dead for a living. One day, the dead whisper that someone is bewitching children, stripping them of their joy, leaving them as husks. So she begins to investigate. She will call on Zimbabwean magic and Scottish pragmatism to hunt down the culprit. And in the process she will find an occult library hidden below Edinburgh’s streets. Full of dark twists and turns, this suspenseful book is an absolute occult delight. 

alchemists of kush cover image

The Alchemists of Kush by Minister Faust

The Alchemists is the coming-of-age story of two boys in different timelines. Both boys come under the guardianship of a mystic, who swears to transform them as they become leaders — or die trying. The first boy is Raphael Garang, a young Sudanese refugee. The second is named Hru-sa-Usir. He lived next to the Lower Nile 7,000 years ago. Both boys share common stories and struggles and both follow the same paths. This stunning and complex book features a different kind of alchemy, which is another staple of occultism. 

If you want to read more occult books about witches, we have a list of the 100 best books about witches! Or check out our recommendations for queer witch books.