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?
Magical realism combines realistic depictions of the physical world with fantasy and the supernatural, creating a dreamlike mood.
The goal is to combine the magical and the mundane to reveal human realities. It began in Latin America in the mid-20th century and uses symbolism and fantasy aspects to represent poverty, political oppression, and social inequity.
Salman Rushdie, Isabel Allende, and Gabriel García Márquez wrote magical realism.
What are the Benefit of Magical Realism Books
Magical realism books offer several benefits, including:
- Escape from reality: Magical realism provides a window into a different world, allowing readers to escape from their daily lives and experience something new and fantastical.
- Deeper understanding of reality: By blending the everyday with the fantastical, magical realism books can provide a deeper understanding of the complexities of the world and the human experience.
- Emotional connection: The dreamlike atmosphere and imaginative elements of magical realism can evoke strong emotional responses from readers, creating a deep connection between the reader and the story.
- Cultural representation: Magical realism often reflects the cultural values, traditions, and beliefs of a particular community, providing a unique and rich representation of different cultures.
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
One Hundred Years of Solitude tells the Buendía family’s story. A century ago, Márquez’s imaginary Colombian city’s founding family The Buendías are drawn into history by spirits and hunger for experience.
The country’s fortunes reflect the household’s struggles with violence, political turmoil, and technological change. The most robust Latin American literature, this epic family play was rich in characters and symbolism.
Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter
Sophie Fevvers, an aerialist with shoulder blade wings, keeps her circus afloat.
After being abandoned in a brothel as a baby, she works as a living room until adolescence gives her wings.
However, journalist Jack Walser doesn’t believe her. He follows Sophie’s carnival from London to Siberia.
Nights at the Circus is known for its magical realist sensibility and two characters: Jack is real, Sophie is magical. They’re enchanting.
What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi
Helen Oyeyemi’s debut series deals around secrets and locks. There’s a cryptic journal, a blossoming garden, a library with live books, and a house where the doors won’t close without the lock.
We enjoy the magical realism and the common thread in each impressionistic story.
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.
Doña Barbara by Rómulo Gallegos
Former Venezuelan president Rómulo Gallegos is well known. He also pioneered magical realism.
The magical realism tale follows Doña Barbara, a beautiful woman with attraction powers, in a property battle. Her uncle Santos Luzardo arrives to the plains to reclaim his farm and cows, sparking a brutal, captivating conflict.
The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston
A memoir in a magical realism list? Another reason to consider Maxine Hong Kingston, a clever leader.
This memoir, an American classic, violates genre conventions. It creates new ways to tell stories about memory and make-believe. She writes about her family, Chinese legend, and her adolescence in a bad autobiography.
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.
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
Water for Chocolate, a monthly story about poor, neglected, youngest kid Tita who is forbidden from marrying, is a notable example of magical realism with food.
Unfortunately, she falls in love with Pedro, who marries Tita’s older sister Rosaura to keep near her.
Tita’s delicious cuisine gently impacts those who eat it, with unforeseen results. This magical realism introduction includes recipes.
Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell
Karen Russell, a MacArthur Fellow, wrote Vampires from the Lemon Grove. Russell’s eight stories are large and cinematic because she creates weird, convincing, and cruel characters and settings.
In Reeling for your Empire, young girls are deceived into drinking an effective tea that turns them into human-silkworm hybrids, rendering them vulnerable to callous, reedy guys.
In 1979’s The Seagull Army Descends on Powerful Beach, an adolescent kid grows up amid seagulls and a group of bullies who are punished at The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis. Vampires from the Lemon Grove will restore your faith in fiction.
The Grass Dancer by Susan Power
The Grass Dancer by Susan Power is a touching epic poem about family, love, injury, and endurance.
On a North Dakota reservation, Dakota Sioux performances struggle with background, poverty, romance, and ancestral magic.
Power’s compelling eloquence and thickness weave millennia of struggle and accomplishment into her audience’s hearts and thoughts. The Grass Dancer is an underrated gem.
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 Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Circus appears unexpectedly. No preamble. It’s there now. Tents offer spectacular wonders under the black-and-white canvas. Le Cirque des Rêves opens at night.
Behind the scenes, two young magicians, Celia and Marco, have been groomed by their mercurial tutors to compete. Unbeknownst to them, this is a sport where one may be left position, and the circus is just the start of a great struggle of inventiveness and will.
Despite themselves, Celia and Marco fall in love—a profound, mystical love that makes the lights flicker and space grow arms whenever they touch palms.
True love or not, the match must play, with the fates of everyone from the superb circus actors to the clients hanging as precariously as the courageous acrobats overhead.
This spell-casting novel has rich, fascinating prose.
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
Ava Lavender, like many 16-year-olds, wants to discover her place on Earth. She’s different from other women. For starters, most of her family females seem doomed to fall in love with the worst people.
She was born with wings. Ava’s odd appearance makes a young man assume she’s an angel, but she’s just a teenager.
First-time novelist Leslye Walton writes a captivating family saga. This YA book, with “sorrows” in the title, is not a light read. Ava’s resilience and Walton’s beauty will appeal to mature and adolescent readers.
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.
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.
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.
Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
A magical realist confronts British empire. Midnight’s Children follows Saleem Sinai, a young telepath with an animal-like sense of smell. He is not the only character with weird powers.
The newly independent state is full of healthy Midnight Children, Indian children born between 12 and 1 am on Saleem’s birthday with miraculous talents.
One Hundred Years of Solitude draws an intriguing political-private link. As Saleem’s twin, India, gradually ages, the Sinai family struggles with imperialism’s repercussions.
The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
The House of the Spirits, Isabel Allende’s creative breakthrough, began as a letter to her dying grandfather. Three generations of the Trueba family return home in her captivating tapestry.
Despite Clara’s clairvoyance, the family cannot avoid the disaster that seems to be its fate: revolution, dictatorship, or jealously and hate.
The Trueba girls star in The House of Spirits. As different as they are, Clara takes “white” as a familial heritage in their titles.
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).
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 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.
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 2024
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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!
Last update on 2024-02-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API