Magical Realism in books is where magic exists in an otherwise mundane World … and I’m not above wishing that this kind of thing really exists! If you’re new to the genre, here are 6 of my favorite books that will rope you into the World of Magical Realism for sure.
Neverwhere, Neil Gaiman
It’s been quite a few years since I first read this, and it remains my hands down favorite book with magical realism in it. Gaiman developed an entire World of beautiful, magical, fantastical creatures & people existing in an underground London called London Below. When you’re finished reading this book – you’ll want to try and find Neverwhere yourself.
Under the streets of London there’s a place most people could never even dream of. A city of monsters and saints, murderers and angels, knights in armour and pale girls in black velvet. This is the city of the people who have fallen between the cracks. Richard Mayhew, a young businessman, is going to find out more than enough about this other London. A single act of kindness catapults him out of his workday existence and into a world that is at once eerily familiar and utterly bizarre. And a strange destiny awaits him down here, beneath his native city: Neverwhere.
The Golem and the Jinni, Helene Wecker
A beautifully written book that gave me all the feels. It’s so rich and detailed with the whimsy of a fantasy / mythological novel but imbued with a historical feel thanks to the Middle Eastern and Jewish folklore, plus tinged with the immigrant experience.
Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic and dies at sea on the voyage from Poland. Chava is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York harbor in 1899. Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire born in the ancient Syrian desert, trapped in an old copper flask, and released in New York City, though still not entirely free. Ahmad and Chava become unlikely friends and soul mates with a mystical connection
[Buy The Golem and the Jinni @ Amazon]
The Shining Girls, Lauren Beukes
A time traveling serial killer may sound a bit far-fetched, but trust me, this book will leave you blown away … and maybe be a little more wary of strangers who try to talk to you. Harper is a truly evil villain. He sees girls that have something special about them – he calls it “The Shining” – and he kills them when they’ve grown up. But this story is not as straightforward as it seems, and there are a lot of twists and crazy turns that happen. It’s a detailed web of a story, a bit gruesome at times, but well worth the read.
Harper Curtis is a killer who stepped out of the past. At the urging of the House, Harper inserts himself into the lives of the shining girls, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. He’s the ultimate hunter, vanishing into another time after each murder, untraceable-until one of his victims survives.Kirby is the last shining girl, one of the bright young women, burning with potential, whose lives Harper is destined to snuff out after he stumbles on a House in Depression-era Chicago that opens on to other times. Determined to bring her would-be killer to justice, Kirby joins the Chicago Sun-Times to work with the ex-homicide reporter, Dan Velasquez, who covered her case. Soon Kirby finds herself closing in on the impossible truth.
[Buy The Shining Girls @ Amazon.com]
NOS4A2, Joe Hill
Time-traveling usually seems like a cool thing to do, but have you thought what happens when it takes you to a place you don’t want to go to?
Victoria McQueen has a secret gift for finding things: a misplaced bracelet, a missing photograph, answers to unanswerable questions. Charles Talent Manx has a way with children. He likes to take them for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the NOS4A2 vanity plate. With his old car, he can slip right out of the everyday world, and onto the hidden roads that transport them to an astonishing – and terrifying – playground of amusements he calls “Christmasland.” One day, Vic goes looking for trouble—and finds Manx.
Doctor Sleep, Stephen King
For those with a special, rare kind of gift – there are vampire like predators hidden in plain sight – waiting to pounce! Stephen King has a way with characters, and he did justice to The Shining with this sequel (don’t worry – you don’t have to read The Shining first … but you definitely should read it). Seeing Dan all grown up and reading the story after he managed to escape “the house” was satisfying. And he was so endearing. The “True Knot” … ooh, they were … just bananas! But I’m glad to see they sort of brought Dan back to life. This book has some twists to it, and it’s definitely good readin’.
On highways across America, a tribe of people called The True Knot travel in search of sustenance. They look harmless—mostly old, lots of polyester, and married to their RVs. But as Dan Torrance knows, and spunky twelve-year-old Abra Stone learns, The True Knot are quasi-immortal, living off the “steam” that children with the “shining” produce when they are slowly tortured to death.
Every Day, David Levithan
What kind of life do you think you would lead if you woke up in a different body every day? This book is a weird trip for sure, and I’m not too sure that I “got it” but it is definitely memorable.
Every day a different body. Every day a different life. There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. “A” has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere. It’s all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which “A” has been living no longer apply. Because finally “A” has found someone A wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day.
What are some of your favorite books that would classify as Magical Realism? Or is this a genre you don’t read a lot of?
// Comments //
I have come to really enjoy magical realism. Several of the books you’ve listed have been enjoyed by me. (Every Day; The Golem and the Jinni; Neverwhere). Here are some of my favorite magical realism choices: Bless Me, Ultima; All the Crooked Saints; When the Moon Was Ours; The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender; and, of course, A Hundred Years of Solitude.
@Anne thanks for the recommendations! I haven’t already any of them though I’ve heard of a few, so I’ll be adding them to my reading list.
My favorite would be the classic One Hundred Years of Solitude by Marquez. It takes some time but it’s simply beautiful.
A couple of years back I read The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke. It was not called out as magical realism, but I ended up loving the surprise when things turned magical towards the end.
Sue at Book By Book
Hmmm….I generally think I don’t like Magical Realism, but I do like your choices here! I wouldn’t have thought of them that way. Guess I need to throw away my preconceptions. I love ANYthing with a time travel theme – The Shining Girls was great! And I really want to read Every Day and Golem and the Jinni, too. Maybe I Do like magical realism after all…
Book By Book
Cait @ Paper Fury
I looove Neil Gaiman! 😀 I haven’t read Neverwhere yet, but I adore Coraline and The Graveyard book and The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I guess they would all definitely be magical realism too, right?! I’m a pretty big fan of magical realism. I love the Skulduggery books and all of Cassandra Clare and Holly Black’s! 🙂
Thanks for stopping by @ Paper Fury!
Cait – Love Gaiman too. I haven’t read Coraline but Graveyard Book is awesome sauce. And yup – Gaiman could have his own list of fantastic magical realism books!!!
I’m partial to magic in books. It’s so sad that all of these have been on my TBR list forever but I still haven’t gotten to them either. Someone recommended A Discovery of Witches and I second that. I loved that book.
All of these books are actually on my TBR list. I better get on that. 🙂 I really enjoyed A Discovery of Witches, which I think would fall under magical realism. I love a little magic in an everyday world.
yay, I LOVE THIS LIST! I love, love magical realism but don’t read enough of it. Definitely check these books out!
Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard
The first two on your list have been on my TBR list for a while now. I need to make time for them.
Angie @Angela's Anxious Life
I have been loving magical realism for a while now. Thanks soooo much for these suggestions. I have read a couple of them and plan on reading the other ones now!!!
I have The Golem and the Jinni in my TBR pile. I read Every Day a while ago. While I didn’t give it a very good rating (for a number of reasons), I thought the premise was really original and unique. And it was different having a character that was neither “he” nor “she”!
Practical Magic is a good one. I read it years ago, but I still remember liking it quite a bit.
I loved Doctor Sleep and NOS4A2, though didn’t read them as magical realism…
Great list! I just recently acquired The Golem and the Jinni. I’ve heard it is soo good. Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman was my gateway book into magical realism. Never looked back!
ALL books I have on my TBR and all currently unread. OMG, I have reading to do!
Joy Weese Moll (@joyweesemoll)
Neverwhere is on my list for this year, because of the London connection. But this was a timely reminder. I just requested it from the library because it will be perfect next week when I’m away for a couple of days for a nephew’s graduation.
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