Magical realism is among the unique types of narrative fiction. It appears to be among the least difficult genres to fall in love with. In other words, magical realism is the best genre for anybody with a big imagination and an appreciation for characters and stories they can connect with and learn from.
So if you have been devouring magical realism books for as long as you possibly can read or are interested in dabbling in this particular hybrid of gritty reality and heavenly, you will appreciate our selections for the Best Magical Realism Books.
What Is Magical Realism?
A literary style known as magical realism presents the actual world as having magic or a fantastical undertone. The realism fiction genre includes magical realism.
The universe is still based on reality in a work of magical realism. Still, fantastical aspects are seen as usual in this realm. The distinction between imagination and reality is hazy in magical realism books and short stories, much as in fairy tales.
What Are the Characteristics of Magical Realism?
Although each magical realism book is unique, they all have similar elements, such as:
1. A setting with reality.
All books on magical realism are placed in a setting in this reader-familiar reality.
2. Elements of magic.
Every magical realism tale has fantasy aspects that do not exist in our reality, such as talking objects, dead people, and telepathy. But in the book, they’re portrayed as commonplace.
3. Insufficient data.
To normalize magic as much as possible and support the idea that it is a part of daily life, magical realism writers purposefully leave the magic in their works unexplained.
Writers often use magical realism to provide an implied criticism of society, particularly of politics and the elite. Latin America and other regions economically exploited and oppressed by Western nations saw the genre’s popularity rise. Authors of the magic realism movement criticized and expressed their dislike for American imperialism in this genre.
5. A unique story design.
Unlike other literary genres, magical realism does not have a traditional narrative arc with a distinct beginning, middle, and finish. Because the reader is uncertain when the narrative will develop or the conflict will occur, reading becomes more intense.
The 4 Elements of Magical Realism?
Real, Contemporary Setting
Despite never explicitly stating it, each story contains hints that it was written during the authors’ lifetimes. Kafka’s story takes place in early twentieth-century Europe, while Marquez’s story takes place in mid-century Colombia.
Setting fantastical elements in the real world allows Magic Realist authors to lend credibility to their work. This allows readers to believe in the fantastical elements.
Magical Phenomena & Creatures
As the name implies, the defining feature of Magic Realism is that something unexplainable occurs in otherwise realistic circumstances.
This is a phenomenon described in The Metamorphosis. Gregor transforms into a massive bug. The unexplainable in Marquez’s story is the discovery of a seemingly mythical creature. The farmer comes across an old man with enormous wings, or an angel, as some belief him to be.
Magic’s Unknown Origins & Lore
The pillar that distinguishes Magic Realism from other fantastical genres.
The author attempts to give some hints about the world’s lore on both its magic and creatures in Fantasy, high or low, with hard or soft magic systems. Even if the author never reveals the means and mechanisms underlying the fantastical event, they will serve as impetus. They will explain what happened.
This is never the case in Magic Realism. They are never given an explanation.
Why did Gregor transform into a massive bug? We’ll never know. How did he transform into a colossal bug? No clue.
The emphasis in both of our exemplar stories is not on the fantastical event itself. The emphasis is also not on the possibilities that these events open up.
Rather, it focuses on the characters’ attempts to deal with the mundane consequences of the fantastical event. We don’t see Gregor and his family delving into the implications of spontaneous human transformation, such as how it could be monetized and weaponized. The small Colombian community is also uninterested in solving the mystery of the angels’ origins.
The characters in both stories accept the fantastic event and try to move on with their lives.
Best Magical Realism Books To Read
Below are the best novels that Penn Book recommended reading:
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
Considered a fantastic author’s most significant work, One Hundred Years of Solitude traces the Buendía clan’s fate. The founding family of a fictional city in Márquez’s native Colombia above, well, a hundred decades ago Hungry for experience and appreciated by ghosts, the Buendías find themselves pulled along in the slipstream of history.
As they contend with violence, political upheaval, and technological change, the household’s shifting fortunes reflect the country. Rich in characters and glittering with symbolism, this sprawling family play was hailed as the most robust Latin American book of all time.
Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
A magical realist takes on British imperialism’s legacies. Midnight’s Children follows Saleem Sinai, a young telepath having an animal-keen sense of smell. Produced the specific moment India officially breaks off from British rule, he is not the only character blessed with mysterious skills.
In reality, the recently independent state is filled with healthy Midnight Children each Indian child born between 12 and 1 am on Saleem’s birthday also enters life expectancy with supernatural gifts.
One Hundred Years of Solitude, this book attracts a fascinating parallel between the political and the private. The Sinai household grapples with imperialism’s messy aftermath, as Saleem’s twin, the Indian country, also reluctantly comes old.
The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
First began as a letter to her dying grandfather, The House of the Spirits, catapulted Chilean writer Isabel Allende to the literary stratosphere. She weaves a spellbinding tapestry where three generations of the Trueba family come home alive.
Regardless of its matriarch’s clairvoyant powers, Clara, the household can not escape the catastrophe which appears to be its destiny: maybe not the great pains of revolution and dictatorial repression, nor the romantic sorrows of envy and hate.
In The House of the Spirits, the Trueba girls take center stage. Different as they are, they are connected by their titles that Clara all takes the significance of “white” as a family heritage.
Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter
An aerialist who retains her circus afloat with her dazzling escapades, Sophie Fevvers was born together with the nubs of wings on her shoulder blades.
Unceremoniously dumped into a brothel for a baby, she spends her youth employed as a living room a function that picks up steam when puberty blesses her with a set of full-feathered wings.
That is her story, anyhow, but journalist Jack Walser is not buying it. Depending on Sophie’s piece together, he follows her carnival on its whirlwind tour from London into Siberia.
A whimsical adventure using a heart, Nights at the Circus is famous for carving its magical realist sensibility involving two personalities: Jack is your actual, Sophie is your magical. Together, they are a pure charm.
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake seems like a metaphor. Still, in these magical realism books, it is both figurative and literal, since the protagonist, a young woman, eats feelings that are not her own.
With each bite of food she chooses, she communicates the sentiments of whoever left it. It not only observes them but ingests the pain, boredom, glee, and panic.
Talk about a bad taste in your mouth. As anticipated, it contributes to trouble. If she bites into a lemon cake lovingly roasted by her mom, she finds that behind the façade of cheer, then there is profound despair.
Aimee Bender brings us to individuals’ inner worlds by describing the very mundane items with such poignancy (so much that you’ll probably shout).
What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi
Every brief story in the debut series of Helen Oyeyemi revolves around a secret and the lock it opens. There is a cryptic and mysterious journal, a flowering garden, a library with living books, and also a home where the rooms will not shut unless you’ve got the lock to close them.
It is the ideal dose of magical realism, and we love that there is a frequent thread to every short impressionistic narrative.
Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
The Japanese king of magical realism, the king of Japanese magic, takes on the Oedipus legend at Kafka on the Shore, approaching it using his usual blend of pop culture and dream-like happenstances and fine-grained detail.
Half the chapters of Kafka on the Shore unfold the narrative of a young runaway named Kafka who leaves home to escape a curse, although the other half revolves around an elderly guy who has left the house for the first time discovering a missing cat. Their lives become entangled, though obscurely so.
You can find allusions to Oedipus, a murder investigation, many references to pop culture, and talking creatures. Haruki Murakami is a professional storyteller, a good one, to begin with, if you have not read any of his work.
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
Relentlessly brilliant, beautiful, and tragic, this narrative has a bit of everything. There’s dreamily tried, forbidden enjoy, political unrest, and alliteration galore, which means you are going to love it if you’re on the lookout for something literary, even if you are in the mood to get a plot-driven book.
As the name suggests, the reader witnesses the interconnection between mundane particulars and lofty, large-scale phenomena, both positive and negative. Though not a magical realism book, it plays the genre. By way of instance, everything has a character, while it’s the home, a sense, the nation, the personalities, a coffin, or a deceased kid from the coffin.
The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston
Who knew a memoir could be contained in a listing of magical realism books? That is only one more reason to consider Maxine Hong Kingston, an ingenious leader.
Today considered an American classic, this memoir challenges the traditions of this genre. It provides new ways to tell tales that represent the ways that memory and make-believe often predominate. Neither good autobiography nor amusing, she writes about her family’s past, Chinese legend, along with her youth.
The Famished Road by Ben Okri
The Famished Road has been lauded by critics and readers alike as an epic feat of imagination. Set in post-colonial Nigeria, the book’s use of African folklore and fantastical imagery depicts the chaos of a country emerging from the violence of colonial rule.
Tropic of Orange by Karen Tei Yamashita
Tropic of Orange is set between Los Angeles and Mexico and follows seven distinct plot lines that are intricately interconnected, exploring the intersections of race, identity, place, and belonging.
The Salt Roads by Nalo Hopkinson
The Salt Roads follows three women whose lives become intertwined after being possessed by the consciousness of the Ginen fertility god, Lasirén.
The Tartar Steppe by Dino Buzzati.
This novel is devastatingly unreal. Giovanni Drogo arrives at a fort where all soldiers are expecting a foreign invasion that never materializes. Despite his intention to leave, Drogo discovers that years have passed him by.
The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino.
As an act of rebellion, Cosimo, a young Italian nobleman in the 18th century, decides to climb into the trees and stay there forever. The reader is told fable-like stories about the mysterious Baron who lives in the trees—his life, his learnings, and his love affairs.
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Morrison’s classic novel tells the story of Sethe, who was born as a slave. She escaped to Ohio eighteen years later, but she is still not free.
Too many of her memories are associated with Sweet Home, the idyllic farm where many horrible things took place. The ghost of her baby, who has since died without a name, haunts her new home. Her tombstone bears the single word, Beloved.
This unforgettable narrative is much more than only a ghost story it shows the ways that slavery’s heritage maintains a powerful, haunting existence across the Reconstruction and to the current.
Additionally, it highlights the transformative undefinable, ability of intimate, maternal, and self-love. In a lot of ways, it reads just like a love story.
Doña Barbara by Rómulo Gallegos
You will know Rómulo Gallegos since the former president of Venezuela. But he is also responsible for one of the first examples of magical realism.
An unbelievable story about a dispute on a property, the magical realism novel follows the titular character, Doña Barbara, a gorgeous woman famous for her attraction powers. When her uncle Santos Luzardo returns to the plains and attempts to recover his land and cows, it sets off a violent, enchanting battle between both.
Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link
They escape our reality for a single where witches are full of ants that take time on their backs. Or at which a village thrives within a handbag made from a puppy. Kelly Link’s nine-story anthology is an exercise in creativity and mild terror, although its name calls upon amateurs, all ability levels are welcome.
I’m currently really enjoying the Top 24 Best Magic Books of All Time Review In 2022
The Other Side of the Sun by Madeleine L’Engle
Set in the Antebellum South just after the Civil War, Madeleine L’Engle’s supernatural narrative plays excellent and evil. At its heart is Stella, who’s sent to live with her husband’s aristocratic family along with their dark secrets. Although it had been printed decades back in 1971, its subjects -greed, and power, despise -stay pertinent decades afterward.
Things Invisible to See by Nancy Willard
Newberry winner Nancy Willard constructs a wartime dream that plays with death and life. The story unfurls through Clare, paralyzed but can speak to Departure, Ben, that leaves Michigan to the warfare, and Willie, Ben’s twin who stays put. Their fates? Inspired by America’s favorite pastime: a sport of baseball.
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
With Satanic chunks, vampire attacks, and cryptic storms, Bulgakov’s variant of Soviet Moscow is composed of a peculiar, circus-like quality.
The Master and Margarita are just some of the previous examples of this magical realism genre. It was completed in 1940, but not released until 1966 thanks to somebody “Stalin” any efforts at cultural expansion from the Soviet Union.
After two different stories, one in 1930s Moscow, another in Jerusalem during Jesus’ time, this story is ideal for people who enjoy broad agendas, vodka-swilling black cats, and that the devil looks like a gentleman magician.
The Girl with Glass Feet by Ali Shaw
Things are odd and whimsical from the literary archipelago of St. Hauda’s Land. Snowbound and filled with strange creatures, it attracts outsider Ida Maclaird, that, following a previous trip, has gradually started to change into the glass.
She matches Midas Crook, a native photographer that decides to help her find a remedy. Slowly, they fall in love as her illness gets worse.
The Girl with Glass Feet is equivalent to portions of fairy tale and body terror (I’d love to offer you a heads up beforehand about one specific sex scene), but it’s also touching, tragic, and bewitching.
Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin
New York City has always maintained a particular degree of literary fascination. Still, it doesn’t get the Big Apple as gloriously fascinating as it’s a Winter’s tale.
Or those of you that understand it like a film starring Lady Sybil of Downton Abbey, the book is nothing like the movie (and in the very best manner).
The narrative starts in the early 1900s when middle-aged thief Peter Lake falls in love with youthful, consumptive Beverly Penn. The remainder is complex.
Clocking in at nearly 800 pages and crossing over a century, it is epic in scope, including a flying horse, mysterious swamp people residing in Bayonne, New Jersey, along with a stunning New York City trapped indefinitely in a winter snowstorm. This book could be daunting to see, but the entire world is fantastic.
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
An equal components detective story, historical novel, and something unique, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami tells the narrative of Toru Okada.
A Young guy who participates in Tokyo’s netherworld to find his wife’s missing cat. Murakami has no lack of lovers, but this novel is where to start for novices. His precious planet is equal parts beautiful and menacing will welcome one personally in.
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
Among the most significant examples of magical realism and its relationship with meals, such as Water for Chocolate, is a narrative told in monthly installments and facilities on poor, unloved, youngest kid Tita, which has been prohibited from marrying.
Regrettably, this doesn’t prevent her from falling desperately in love with Pedro, who ends up marrying Tita’s older sister Rosaura so he can stay near the girl he loves.
Channeling her feelings to the superb food she creates, Tita’s cooking lovingly affects anyone who eats it, with unexpected consequences. Also featuring recipes, this book is a heartwarming and sometimes delicious entrance to the magical realism genre.
The Ice Queen by Alice Hoffman
Whenever a small-town librarian is struck by lightning and yells, she discovers she is freezing from the interior. Baffled by this evolution, she hunts for a man aptly called Lazarus Jones, who also has gone through precisely the same ordeal and yet is now her ideal reverse.
He is continually burning off, while she is frozen. The two embark on a romance equivalent of enthusiastic and hurtful portions, and every one of these is obsessed with concealing their two primary keys: what changed them at the first Location.
Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell
Vampires from the Lemon Grove is a stirringly ingenious short story collection by MacArthur Fellow, Karen Russell. Despite just featuring eight tales, Russell’s eloquent narratives are grand and cinematic due to her ability to craft characters and worlds that are equally strange, persuasive, and brutal.
In Reeling for your Empire, young girls are tricked into drinking an effective tea, transforming them into human-silkworm hybrids, making them vulnerable to being exploited by heartlessly, reedy guys.
Back in The Seagull Army Descends on Powerful Beach, 1979 a teenaged boy comes of age as his city is teeming with seagulls, along with a bunch of teenage bullies who are made to deal with the consequences of their activities at The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis. Whichever story you start with, Vampires from the Lemon Grove will renew your faith in fiction’s ability to enthrall.
Get in Trouble by Kelly Link
The award-winning Kelly Link has been astonishing readers along with her 2015 short story collection Get In Trouble. A glimpse of why Lin’s name is now synonymous with magical realism, Get in Trouble turns the familiar on its mind in a refreshingly surprising manner. Like an alchemist, Connect transforms the ordinary into the otherworldly with every vivid sentence.
The pages of getting in Trouble are a fair equilibrium between comedy, terror, and folklore in which romances coincide with phantasms, evil twins are actual, and some other messages divined from an Ouija board ought to be taken with a grain (or two) of salt. From start to finish, Lin’s numerous strengths as a storyteller glow brightly. It is hard to read this set without getting swept away.
Land of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique
Tiphanie Yaniqu’s dazzling Property of Love and Drowning follows descendants of Captain Owen Arthur Bradshaw. The submerging of the latter boat and destructive habits change the fate of his household because they grapple with the past and the current.
As adults, Leona, Annette, and their half-brother Jacob are faced with their inner demons as their family history overshadows the route each sibling has selected for themselves.
Together with the mesmerizing saga of a family attempting to make sense of the collective past, Yanique intertwines Caribbean lore, and stories of this Duane, along with a timely review of colonialism with ceaseless heart and lively prose.
As satisfying as it’s fantastic, Yanqiue’s book is a deserving successor to the literary heritage of Isabel Allende, Gabriel García Márquez, and Bessie Head.
The Grass Dancer by Susan Power
In its own right, an epic poem, The Grass Dancer by Susan Power, is a fun and heartrending book about family, injury, adore, and durability.
Power’s book occurs on a reservation in North Dakota, where productions of Dakota Sioux wrestle together with all the burden of background, the sting of poverty, and the erratic nature of romance, and the boundless power of ancestral magic.
With riveting speech and thickness, Power’s narrative deftly intertwines centuries of struggle and success with an immediacy that sinks deep into the hearts and minds of her audience. The Grass Dancer is an under-celebrated classic worthy of praise.
Heart of Aztlan by Rudolfo Anaya
You have learned about explorers’ tales looking for their missing cities in the Amazon and mortals looking for a utUtopianaradise from the Kunlun Mountains. That is a story about a blind seer that happens upon a barrio at Albuquerque, recruiting a household to an elusive mirage in the core of Aztlan.
Mrs. Caliban by Rachel Ingalls
What might be considered a feminist novella and most certainly considered “one of the top magical realism books since WWII,” we meet Dorothy, a forgotten housewife. Her acute despair is washed off from her love affair with a six-foot sea monster. This is one quickie that will stick with you long after its closing page.
The Man with Two Arms By Billy Lombardo
In a heartfelt story that unites magical realism with baseball, ambidextrous Danny grows up to be a celebrity athlete, partly because his dad Henry, a teacher, and baseball enthusiast, educated him from a young age. However, their success might be short-lived if a former pupil of Henry’s exaggerates his saying for the sake of promoting a narrative.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
The circus arrives without warning. No statements precede it. It’s just there when yesterday it wasn’t. Inside the black-and-white striped canvas, tents are also a completely distinctive experience filled with breathtaking amazements. It’s named Le Cirque des Rêves, and it’s only open in the nighttime.
However, behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway-a duel involving two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who’ve been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose with their mercurial teachers. Unbeknownst to them, this is a sport where one could be left position, and the circus is but the point for a remarkable battle of creativity and will.
Despite themselves, nevertheless, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst to love-a deep, magical love, which makes the lights flicker as well as space grows arm whenever they so much as brush palms.
True love or not, the match has to play, and the fates of everyone involved, by the cast of outstanding circus actors to the patrons hanging in the balance, suspended as precariously as the fearless acrobats overhead.
Composed in rich, enchanting prose, this spell-casting book is a feast for the senses and the center.
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
A zookeeper’s son in Pondicherry, India, Piscine “Pi” Patel is a believer Hindu, Muslim, and Christian. He baffles his pandit, priest, and imam. If the three guys bump into one another and work out, the boy was triple-dipping.
However, Pi’s threefold faith is examined when this inventive story finds himself shipwrecked in the Pacific center. Stranded on a lifeboat, he keeps company with a menagerie of critters from the household zoo: a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan along with a tiger. Improbably called Richard Parker, the fantastic feline compels Pi to tap into his creativity and internal power.
Martel’s playful prose sparkles with humor as soon as he tackles the big questions – liberty, God, and the subjectivity of fact – to get a story as amusing as it is inspiring.
Orlando by Virginia Woolf
Orlando is a little bit of everything. Not very surrealism, not mere dream or sci-fi, this book involves unconventional storyline devices that extend our imaginations with no magic at the storyline.
The metafictional book presents itself as a biography since the narrator tracks a person’s adventures throughout the 300-year life. As it progresses, it will become an extremely ingenious story wherein the protagonist is both classic and gender-fluid.
Woolf uses this book as a room to encourage her viewers to steer away from conventional notions of fact as objective instead to argue that the significance of creativity and ambiguity from all sorts of storytelling, fiction, legend, and biography equally. Much like Woolf’s work, it is a brilliant masterpiece filled with wisdom beyond its moment.
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
Like so many different 16-year-olds, Ava Lavender would like to find her place on the planet. However, you may say she is not like other women. Most of the girls in her family appear cursed to fall in love with all the worst possible individuals for starters.
For another, she had been born with wings. Ava’s strange look arouses the obsession with a youthful man that thinks she is an angel, but she only needs to be a regular teenager.
First-time author Leslye Walton inscribes her narrative to a mentally stirring family saga, rendered in dazzling prose. Though promoted as a YA book, this is not a lighter, even joyful browse – it will have “sorrows” directly in the name! However, Ava’s resilience and the elegance Walton brings to her craft will proceed with readers mature and adolescent alike.
The Aleph and Other Stories by Jorge Luis Borges
Borges was one of the original creators of this genre. Yet, his magical realism is a genre all its own. The collection of Jorge Luis Borges contains several haunting stories, including a story about personal identity and the thoughts of a Nazi.
Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges
Borges’s most significant work is this collection of short stories. This collection includes his most beloved tales, such as “The Library of Babel” or “The Circular Ruins.” They will make you think and will haunt you.
Paradise by Toni Morrison
Toni Morrison tells the story of two promised lands: the patriarchal Ruby community and the small group of women who fled from despair, death, and heartache to find shelter. In the opening scene of mass violence, nine men from Ruby target the women. But the rest of the novel examines the reasons for that.
Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie
Young Haroun embarks on an adventure to find the cause of the poisoned sea of stories. He meets enemies on his way who want to drain the sea’s powers or tell tales.
Red Sorghum by Mo Yan
Red Sorghum is an East Asian interpretation of a Latin American tradition. It combines Chinese characteristics with magical realism.
It was another myth-infused, politically charged, multigenerational story that cemented Mo Yan’s stellar reputation and won him his Nobel Prize in Literature. This made him the first mainland Chinese author ever to win one.
Who is the most famous magical realism writer?
The most well-known magical realism authors from Latin America include Jorge Luis Borges, Isabel Allende, and Nobel Prize winner Gabriel Garca Márquez. His book One Hundred Years of Solitude became an immediate bestseller everywhere.
Is Harry Potter magical realism or fantasy?
J.K. Rowling, a British novelist, mostly writes fantasy novels in her Harry Potter series. On the other hand, the Harry Potter series also has elements of magic realism.
Who is the father of magical realism?
Franz Roh, a German art critic, coined magical realism in 1925. When Roh created the phrase, he intended it to designate a genre of work that deviated from the stringent rules of realism. Still, it wasn’t until the 1940s in Latin America and the Caribbean that the term came to identify an artistic movement.
The best magical realism books transport the reader to another world while remaining grounded in reality. They should make the reader believe in the impossible and feel like they are a part of the story. The best magical realism books are those that can straddle the line between fantasy and reality, creating a unique and unforgettable experience for the reader. Thank you for reading!