9 Must-Read Novels That Will Add Magic to Your Literary Diet

October 4 2019

Sometimes, when real life gets a little too real, the perfect escape is a novel with just a touch of magic. Especially when the lazy days of summer fade and life picks up speed as fall begins, magical realism is my favorite way to bring some enchantment to the mundanity of daily life. If you’ve already devoured the books on our last magical realism list, here are some more staples of the genre to cuddle up with as the days get shorter and the breezes get chilly.

Like Water for Chocolate
by Laura Esquivel

In this romantic, magical family chronicle, Tita, the youngest daughter of the De La Garza family, has been fordibben to marry, condemed by Mexican tradition to look after her aging mother. But she falls in love with Pedro and seduces him with the magical food she cooks. Desperate to stay close to Tita, Pedro marries her sister, Rosaura. Only an unlikely chain of tragedies, bad luck, and fate can reunite them.

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Like Water for Chocolate
Laura Esquivel

Food and rampant emotion are melded together in this magical realist romance in which each of the twelve sections begin with a Mexican recipe, all of which are cleverly incorporated into the plot of the book itself.

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Ficciones
by Jorge Luis Borges

No magical realism list would be complete without Borges, and this collection of seventeen short stories demonstrates his brilliance, imagination, and sense of irony. These tales are a journey into a compelling, bizarre, and profoundly resonant realm; we enter the fearful sphere of Pascal’s abyss, the surreal and literal labyrinth of books, and the iconography of eternal return.

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Ficciones
Jorge Luis Borges

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MENTIONED IN:

9 Must-Read Novels That Will Add Magic to Your Literary Diet

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The World That We Knew
by Alice Hoffman

This harrowing novel of sacrifice, resilience, and love takes place in Berlin, 1941, when Hanni Kohn knows she must send her 12-year-old daughter Lea away to protect her from the Nazis. Ettie, the daughter of a renowned rabbi, creates a mystical creature, a golem, to protect Lea. Lea and the golem embark on a journey through France to find safety. Meanwhile, Hanni and Ettie struggle for survival as their world falls apart.

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The World That We Knew
Alice Hoffman

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Beloved
by Toni Morrison

Staring unflinchingly into the abyss of slavery, this spellbinding novel tells the story of Sethe, who was born a slave and escaped to Ohio. But eighteen years later she is still haunted by memories of Sweet Home, the farm where so many hideous things happened. Her new home is also haunted—by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved.

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Beloved
Toni Morrison

Staring unflinchingly into the abyss of slavery, this spellbinding novel transforms history into a story as powerful as Exodus and as intimate as a lullaby. Filled with bitter poetry, Beloved is a towering achievement.

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Neverwhere
by Neil Gaiman

A single act of kindness catapults Richard Mayhew, a young businessman, out of his workday existence and into a world that is at once eerily familiar and utterly bizarre: a city under the streets of London, inhabited by monsters and saints, murderers and angels—a city of the people who have fallen between the cracks. A strange destiny awaits him down there, in the Neverwhere.

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Neverwhere
Neil Gaiman

For the adult Harry Potter fan

When a young London businessman stops to help a bleeding girl, that simple act of kindness leads him to discover another reality. Neverwhere is a subterranean labyrinth, a London of shadows and darkness, monsters and saints, murderers and angels. But the only way that he can return to the London Above is if he helps the girl save her strange underworld kingdom from an evil agent.

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Mr. Fox
by Helen Oyeyemi

Celebrated writer Mr. Fox can’t stop himself from killing off the heroines of his novels and neither can his wife, Daphne. But then Mary, his muse, comes to life and challenges Mr. Fox to join her in stories of their own devising; in different times and places, the two of them seek each other, find each other, thwart each other, and try to stay together. Meanwhile, Daphne becomes convinced her husband is having an affair and finds her way into Mary and Mr. Fox’s game. Read the full review of MR. FOX.

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Mr. Fox
Helen Oyeyemi

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Lily and the Octopus
by Steven Rowley

A moving and magical novel about Ted, a single, gay, struggling writer who is unable to open himself up to anyone except his dog, Lily. When her health is in danger, he will do anything to save her. Read the full review of LILY AND THE OCTOPUS.

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Lily and the Octopus
Steven Rowley

Ted and his elderly dachshund are at the center of this story of steadfast companionship, loss, and longing that will break your heart and put it back together again. The two share a comfortable life spent chatting about boys, playing board games, and ordering pizza just so Lily can bark at the delivery boy. But then the Octopus arrives and their simple little world begins to change. By turns hilarious and poignant, LILY AND THE OCTOPUS is a book you’ll never stop talking (and crying) about.

Read the full review of LILY AND THE OCTOPUS.

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In the Time of the Butterflies
by Julia Alvarez

On November 25, 1960, three beautiful sisters were found dead near their wrecked Jeep. They were among the leading opponents of General Rafael Leónidas Trujillo’s dictatorship and become known as Las Mariposas—“The Butterflies.” In this extraordinary novel, the voices of the three martyred sisters and the fourth, surviving sister tell their own stories, from hair ribbons and secret crushes to gunrunning and prison torture, and describe the everyday horrors of life under Trujillo’s rule.

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In the Time of the Butterflies
Julia Alvarez

The Mirabal sisters, prominent opponents of Trujillo’s dictatorship in the Dominican Republic, are betrayed by their inner circle. After plotting to overthrow the government, three of the four sisters are found near their wrecked Jeep at the bottom of a 150-foot cliff.

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The Underground Railroad
by Colson Whitehead

Cora’s life as a slave on a Georgia plantation is hell, so when Caesar, a recent arrival from Virgina, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take the terrifying risk and escape. In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is a literal secret railroad running beneath the Southern soil. Their journey takes them on a harrowing state-by-state flight toward freedom. Read the full review of THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD.

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The Underground Railroad
Colson Whitehead

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The House of the Spirits
by Isabel Allende

This magical, expansive novel chronicles three generations of the Trueba family. Patriarch Esteban is a volatile, proud man who relentlessly pursues political influence while also caring for his wife, Clara, who has a connection to the spirit world. Their daughter Blanca goes against her father’s wishes and embarks on a love affair that brings the family a new member: her daughter, Alba, who has a great destiny. Read the full review of THE HOUSE OF THE SPIRITS.

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The House of the Spirits
Isabel Allende

“It was an enormous pleasure for me to reread this book three decades after it first made its mark on me. I found myself still enraptured by the words of these women, still dazzled by the magic potion that is Isabel Allende’s gift for storytelling. And as I reached the final page, I smiled in wonderment at the forces that led me to where I am today, and was thankful for the reminder that our future is written in the stars.”

Read Johanna Castillo’s review here.

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