Creative Writing Sci Fi And Fantasy 2020-11-30 00:00

19 Best Magical Realism Books to Read in a Lifetime

You don't need to believe in magic to enjoy magical realism books. This genre of literature paints a realistic view of the world while adding a pinch of fantasy into the mix. The setting could be real-world and mundane, but the imbued magical and supernatural phenomena create an everlasting impression in readers.

In the recent years, magical realism genre has become popular, which is apparent in its influence in pop culture, such as novels and films. Alice Hoffman, Neil Gaiman, Salman Rushdie, and Haruki Murakami are known as magical realists.

When a book takes you to another place surrealistically with dream-like quality, you're said to have entered the magical realism realm. This genre was first introduced by Latin American authors, such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Jorge Luis Borges. Marquez, a Colombian author, was considered the father of this genre.

Historically, such literary movement was first inspired and triggered by the Surrealism art movement in the 1920s and 1930s. By post-World War II, it reached its height of popularity.

However, magical realism isn't synonymous with fantasy. It's true that it has some fantasy element, like the setting is realistic yet it's invaded by dream-like strangeness. Other common characteristics of this literary genre may include: hybridity, mystery, ghost-like creatures, political critique, humanity, telepathy, magic, aliens, and UFO.

Below are 19 best magical realism books to read in a lifetime, some of which are very popular and others are hidden gems. Enjoy these mesmerizing page turners.

  1. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Marquez's novels are recognized as the quintessential works of literary magical realism, including this one. Set in Macondo, it's an epic of multiple generations of the Buendia family that speaks volume about the ups and downs of life blended with the supernatural.

  1. The Dead Wife's Handbook by Hannah Beckerman

This debut novel by movie producer Hannah Beckerman speaks about death as a beginning. The story explores the stages of grief as experienced by Rachel who died at 36 and her husband and daughter she left behind. This novel touches the readers' hearts in a surreal and supernatural way that only a few distinguished authors could.

  1. The Cake Therapist by Judith Fertig

Claire O'Neil is a pastry chef with a supernatural talent. She can taste people's feelings. Whenever she "tastes" someone's innermost, she then customizes the cake to help them cope with whatever they're experiencing. After her husband's infidelity, she returns to her hometown and starts a bakery, where she uses her supernatural gift unexpectedly for others and herself.

  1. Beloved by Toni Morrison

This poetic novel by Toni Morrison is magical realism literary, which is a story about a woman's trauma during the slavery era. Protagonist Sethe is haunted by the ghost of her baby whose tombstone simply named "Beloved." In between her spiritual hauntings, readers are invited to observe the slavery in USA's past and its traumas.

  1. Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

Another Murakami's masterpiece for readers who are looking to escape from the ordinary of everyday living. It's the story of a teenage boy named Kafka Tamura who runs away from home in search of his mother and sister and an aging man Nakata who's still traumatized by the war. Their destinies are entwined in a mysterious way with animals and humans having conversations with each other and committing a murder.

  1. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

This family saga is considered one of the greatest literary works of all time. It's a story about a boy named Saleem Sinai born at the stroke of midnight of India's independence on August 15, 1947. He's telepathically linked to 1,001 other "midnight children" with a similar gift: their lives, including their health and all their actions, are irrevocably tied to India.

  1. Orlando by Virginia Woolf

It's one of Virginia Woolf's most influential novels published in 1928. It's semibiographical partly based on Woolf's lover Vita Sackville-West's fictional life. It's the story of a bisexual man who goes to sleep one night and wakes up a female in the morning. This novel marked an important milestone in the world's history of gender and women's studies.

  1. The Famished Road by Ben Okri

This blend of fabulism and realism won the prestigious Man Booker Prize in 1991. It's a fiction about the spirit of a boy named Azaro, who is an abiku that exists between life and death. He's born into the human world and must experience what it means to be mortal, yet he's often asked to leave all behind. Despite seeing a hard life ahead, he's willing to be born with a smile and a cry.

  1. Things Invisible to See by Nancy Willard

It's the first novel by a Newbery award-winning author Nancy Willard. Sprinkled with magic and miracles, this wartime fiction is written to give a testament of faith and love. Clare, the protagonist, is paralyzed and can't talk, but she can talk to Death. On the other hand, Ben leaves Michigan for war deployment and Willies, his twin, stays. As a love story, it speaks about rediscovering life's miracles in ordinary lives.

  1. Fortune's Daughter by Alice Hoffman

Hoffman started this magical realism novel with two devastated women: an expecting single woman and a jaded fortune-teller who lost her child. With California's mythical earthquake season as the backdrop, these two women's lives are intertwined in a way that they could explore their pasts and decide on the futures. All and all, it's a surreal novel on change and hope.

  1. The Man Who Walked through Walls by Marcel Aymé

A man named Dutilleul has a unique gift: walking through walls, albeit he doesn't use it often. One day, he was driven by his bullying boss to start using it. This story was one of ten in this collection by Marcel Aymé, who also wrote for children during WW II. Today, in Montmartre district, a sculpture of The Man Who Walked through Walls has been erected in the Place of Marcel Aymé.

  1. Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat

Claire Limyè Lanmè, which means "Claire of the Sea Light" disappears when her father sends her away for a better future since many people have been dying every year on her birthday. The people of Ville Rose in Haitia search for her, when unexpected truths are revealed. This story of intertwined lives, author Danticat explores the bonds of the natural world and our own community.

  1. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a tale of survival and mystery. Sprinkled with memory and magic, the impossible is made real and possible. The pond at the old farmhouse is "the ocean" of the protagonist's childhood where many surreal events occur. Overall, this magical realism work is brilliantly imaginative and poignant, which is uniquely Gaiman, the master of terror and wonder.

  1. The Nose by Nikolai Gogol

This satire magical realism work by Nikolai Gogol is both brilliant and poignant. As a critique toward Soviet social and military issues, Gogol has both the literary mastery and social awareness to write a story about a deputy inspector who wakes up one morning only to find his nose is missing. Apparently, it's having a good time while taking a life of its own. The surreal ambiance is apparent from the beginning to the end.

  1. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

This is a story about former student Kathy who looks back at her years going to Hailsham, a private school in rural England. There, she and her friends were under the impression that they were isolated because they were special. Is it true? Apparently not, as secrets have started to reveal themselves.

  1. Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov

Vladimir Nabokov's works are known for dizzying narrative, mystery, and magic. The story starts with John Shade, a poet in New Wye, USA, who writes a 999-line poem about his life and the afterlife. The poet's scholar neighbor, Charles Kinbote provides extensive commentary on the poems. One day, Shade is urged to write about the northern kingdom of Zembla, which is merely Kinbote's imagination. Pale Fire is a masterpiece that would take all of us into the maze-like mind of the author.

  1. The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht

A young female doctor named Natalia investigates the mystery surrounding her grandfather's recent death. She tries to uncover what has happened at an orphanage and the stories he told her about "the deathless man." As she digs deeper, she unravels the reasons behind his choices.

  1. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

This work by Ruth Ozeki was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. It tells a story about a novelist named Ruth who finds a Hello Kitty lunchbox filled with mysteries. It belongs to a bullied 16-year old Tokyo teenager named Nao, who is considering suicide. However, before she takes her own life, she wants to first document her great-grandmother's life, who was a Buddhist nun. While the mystery is unfolding, Ruth is pulled into Nao's past and forward into the future leaving readers mesmerized with our own humanity, time, and the concept of home.

  1. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Set in the winter of the brutal homestead of 1920 Alaska, it's tale of a childless couple Jack and Mabel who are drifting apart until one night they create a little girl made of snow. The next morning, the snow girl has melted away, but they find a blonde-haired little girl named Faina running out of the woods. She seems to have survived the harsh Alaskan wilderness by hunting with a red fox. The couple come to love her as their own child before they find out the truth about her.

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