Frightful October Reading

Some Suggested Titles from AAR's Reading Religion

Reading Religion is an open book review website published by the American Academy of Religion. The site provides up-to-date coverage of scholarly publishing in religious studies, reviewed by scholars with special interest and/or expertise in the relevant subfields. Reviews aim to be concise, comprehensive, and timely.

Below, the editors of Reading Religion have selected some books and reviews from the site and have shared some titles available to review. If you’re interested in reviewing books for Reading Religion, take a look at the guidelines. If there are any books missing from the Reading Religion site that you think should be there, email [email protected].

Reviews to Read

Magic and the Witchery in the Modern West: Celebrating the Twentieth Anniversary of "The Triumph of the Moon"

Edited by Shai Feraro and Ethan Doyle White

From the review:

“[This book] is a fascinating sample from a growing pool of research in the new academic field of Pagan studies. . . . a smorgasbord of splendid scholarship which demonstrates a vibrant and healthy new field of academic work.” - Samuel Wagar

The Paranormal and Popular Culture: A Postmodern Religious Landscape

Edited by Darryl Caterine and John W. Morehead

From the review:

“[This] is a book that every university library with a collection on religion, folklore, or popular culture should invest in. . . . [T]here is quite a lot in here that scholars from an array of backgrounds will find both intriguing and useful. For this, and for raising the flag for the academic study of ‘the paranormal,’ Caterine and Morehead deserve to be congratulated." - Ethan Doyle White

The Routledge History of Medieval Magic

By Sophie Page and Catherine Rider 

From the review:

“[T]his collection provides both scholars and students with a through, comprehensive, and updated vista of this fascinating field of research. . . [This book] certainly accomplishes its aims of providing an overview of the advances in research on medieval magic since the 1990s while setting up a strong research agenda for its future scholarly exploration.’" - Shai Feraro

Holy Horror: The Bible and Fear in Movies

By Steve A. Wiggins

From the review:

“Wiggins’ undemanding and oftentimes comedic writing style serves to deliver his most academic ideas via fun, digestible content accessible to a wider audience. As the book is devoid of the pretentious jargon that continues to plague academic writing, it is refreshing to read. The book certainly makes the case that even with a playful writing style, scholars can accurately and thoroughly explain their arguments and ideas.“ - Zachary Doiron

Haunted: On Ghosts, Witches, Vampires, Zombies, and Other Monsters of the Natural and Supernatural Worlds

By Leo Braudy 

From the review:

“The breadth of Braudy’s narrative is simply astounding. Page by page Braudy whisks readers from literary works known only to experts to pop culture media, from obscure history to dime-store horror novels whose pages have not had the chance to yellow. series. . . . Haunted display’s its author’s sharp intellect coupled with a keen sense of observation that takes in all aspects of human culture.” - Joshua Caleb Smith

Available for Review

In Blood and Ashes: Curse Tablets and Binding Spells in Ancient Greece

By Jessica L. Lamont

From the publisher:
“From binding spells and incantations to curse-writing rituals, magic pervaded the ancient Greek world. In Blood and Ashes provides the first historical study of the development and dissemination of ritualized curse practice from 750-250 BCE, documenting the cultural pressures that drove the use of curse tablets, charms, spells, and other private rites. This book expands our understanding of daily life in ancient communities, showing how individuals were making sense of the world and coping with conflict, vulnerability, competition, anxiety, desire, and loss, all while conjuring the gods and powers of the Underworld.”


El Monte: Notes on the Religions, Magic, and Folklore of the Black and Creole People of Cuba

By Lydia Cabrera

From the publisher:
“First published in Cuba in 1954 and appearing here in English for the first time, Lydia Cabrera’s El Monte is a foundational and iconic study of Afro-Cuban religious and cultural traditions. Drawing on conversations with elderly Afro-Cuban priests who were one or two generations away from the transatlantic slave trade, Cabrera combines ethnography, history, folklore, literature, and botany to provide a panoramic account of the multifaceted influence of Afro-Atlantic cultures in Cuba. Cabrera details the natural and spiritual landscape of the Cuban monte (forest, wilderness) and discusses hundreds of herbs and the constellations of deities, sacred rites, and knowledge that envelop them. The result is a complex spiritual and medicinal architecture of Afro-Cuban cultures. This new edition of what is often referred to as “the Santería bible” includes a new foreword, introduction, and translator notes. As a seminal work in the study of the African diaspora that has profoundly impacted numerous fields, Cabrera’s magnum opus is essential for scholars, activists, and religious devotees of Afro-Cuban traditions alike.”

The Gut: A Black Atlantic Alimentary Tract

By Elizabeth Pérez

From the publisher:
“If the head is religion, the gut is magic. Taking up this provocation, this Element delves into the digestive system within transnational Afro-Diasporic religions such as Haitian Vodou, Brazilian Candomblé, and Cuban Lucumí (also called Santería). It draws from the ethnographic and archival record to probe the abdomen as a vital zone of sensory perception, amplified in countless divination verses, myths, rituals, and recipes for ethnomedical remedies. Provincializing the brain as only one locus of reason, it seeks to expand the notion of 'mind' and expose the anti-Blackness that still prevents Black Atlantic knowledges from being accepted as such. The Element examines gut feelings, knowledge, and beings in the belly; African precedents for the Afro-Diasporic gut-brain axis; post-sacrificial offerings in racist fantasy and everyday reality; and the strong stomachs and intestinal fortitude of religious ancestors. It concludes with a reflection on kinship and the spilling of guts in kitchenspaces.”