Magical realism is one of my favorite book genres because it seamlessly weaves magic into everyday life. Some people call this genre fantasy-light. When we were looking through our list of fantasy books, we were more than a little bit surprised at how many books fit into our magical realism book list.
What is magical realism? Well, in this list, you will not find faeries or vampires, hidden magic schools, or new worlds. The magic is woven into the story so realistically, that it leaves you wondering could it happen? Did it happen that way? What you will find, is a list of books that we have read and loved.
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Magical Realism Books
What Makes a Book Magical Realism?
The most important thing that makes a book magical realism is that it is set in the real world with an undercurrent of magic. Magical realism books will initially seem to be realistic fiction but will soon blur the lines between fantasy and reality.
One of the most well-known examples of magical realism is the book One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
Best Magical Realism Books 2023
The best thing about magical realism stories is how utterly unique they often are. Take Shark Heart – the magical element in this book is that some people can get a genetic disorder that will turn them into an animal later in life.
Lewis and Wren are head-over-heels for one another, but disaster strikes in the first year of their marriage when Lewis is diagnosed with a rare disorder that has him turning into a Great White Shark. As Wren and Lewis try to navigate the diagnosis and how his life, and their love, will change, we also learn about Wren’s childhood through dual timelines.
Breathtakingly original, I can’t wait to read whatever Habeck cooks up next. What a fantastic debut.
August 2023 Good Morning America Book Club Pick
This is the first adult book from National Book Award Winner Elizabeth Acevedo, whose YA novels we devour. #gifted
It’s about the women in a Domenican-American family, their special gifts, and the bonds they share with each other. It starts off with Flor, who has the ability to know the date of people’s death, informing everyone that she wants a living wake.
As her family grapples with what that means, Acevedo explores each woman’s special gift and how it has impacted their lives.
I was fascinated by the magical realism elements of the story, but it was the depth of the characters that drew me in. Rich in culture and exquisitely written, this family saga wove a magical realism story I never wanted to end.
I absolutely adored this magical realism book. It is a delightful magical realism book. Do not let the fact that it is a paranormal book throw you off if this is not your usual genre. The book is narrated by Julia Moore, a book editor who died at thirty-seven.
She follows her husband to Fire Island, her happy place, to spend one last summer with him and their friends on the Island. I absolutely loved this book. This is a powerful story about love, friendship, and happiness. It is one of the best picks for Ultimate Beach Reads 2023. This paranormal book is a heart-warming, feel-good book rather than spooky or creepy.
I was so excited about this new book written by the author of The Lost Apothecary, a book on our Ultimate List of Best Historical Fiction Books, and this newest book did not disappoint!
In 1873, The Seance Society is looking for answers about the death of their leader and turned to a renowned spiritualist for help. Out of loyalty and obligation, she leaves Paris and returns to London with her trainee, a woman seeking answers about her dead sister.
If you love magical realism books, this book is a perfect pick. The story takes twists and turns and kept me turning the pages. It was just too good not to include it in our list of best fantasy books for adults as well. If you are looking for a great fall read, this one is for you.
I absolutely loved Lang’s first book, Beast of Extraordinary Circumstance. When I saw that her sophomore novel was set to release I jumped at the chance to read it and, it did not disappoint. I absolutely loved this magical realism book. It felt like an adult fairy tale.
Five years ago, Nora wilder disappeared and left her two daughters with no one but each other. Zadie, who can see the future wishes she had seen it coming. Finn can see the echoes of other people’s memories. Now, with Finn in foster care, the one close sisters are estranged. When Finn suddenly sees an echo if her mother’s past, she is convinced she can follow the echoes and find their mother.
This book is truly magical and a wonderful pick from this list of the ultimate beach reads 2023.
Alice Hoffman has a place in our hearts with all of her books, including Practical Magic (one of our favorite series). So it is no surprise that her newest book is on our list of time travel romance books. This is the newest Alice Hoffman book and it is a book lover’s dream come true.
This fantasy is a story of love, heartbreak, and the magic of books. Mia Jacob is on the verge of sinking herself into a river when the book The Scarlet Letter saves her. The words seem to tell her story of growing up in an oppressive cult where contact with the outside world is forbidden and reading books is a heinous crime.
Even more daunting is the inscription on the inside of the book that is inscribed to her. This is a time travel romance book as only Hoffman could do it. I loved the audio version of the book- it brought life and depth to this story.
If fantasy books are your favorite books, then these are the perfect book lists for you. We carefully divided them into sub-genres.
The Best Magical Realism Books
Rebecca Serle has done it again with this book set in Italy. Katy’s mother, Carol, has died and left Katy to take their trip to Positano alone. When Katy leaves she is uncertain about everything and whether she will return to her marriage.
Then, the impossible happens, and Carol appears at Katy’s hotel. She is in perfect health and thirty years old. She is not the woman Katy thought she knew. As she gets to know her mother, she realizes more about herself.
This beautiful contemporary fiction book set in Italy is well-written and a must-read book about grief. However, the touch of magic in this book puts in on our best magical realism books as well. This is one of our favorite books about mothers and it is a perfect book club book. Can you tell we love this book?
For the record, I read this book BEFORE Oprah picked it! We spent a semester learning about this family saga during my Senior Year. Each person was assigned a symbol to report on throughout the book each week.
Mine was goldfish -part of the symbolism of amnesia and the duality between amnesia and nostalgia. Yep. I still remember the lesson. Maybe is was the teaching that contributed but, this remains one of my favorite books ever. This is a perfect example of a literary fiction book that is also a magical realism book.
Linus Baker works as a caseworker in the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. He is sent on a mission to a secret orphanage isolated on an island where 6 of the world’s most dangerous youth live. Linus is sent to determine if the children are being cared for properly. Linus, who lives his life by the book, will have to look deeper to try and find the real answers to his questions.
This story was so much more than the sum of its parts. It’s one of the books about friendship that would be a perfect book for book clubs.
The magic and the orphan aspect are all reminiscent of Harry Potter. The story has just a touch of magic but somehow seems completely relevant to our society now. This magical realism book is a must-read for anyone who needs a feel-good book.
Where do I start? I love this magical realism book so much. The prose are beautiful, the story is so clever and the audio narration from Julia Whelan is perfect.
Addie LaRue is trying to escape a life of marriage to a man she doesn’t know or love. She makes a deal with the devil to live a life free and unknowingly gives away the ability to be remembered by anyone.
For three hundred years people forget her the minute she is out of sight until she meets Henry. I loved this magical realism book from the first sentence. It’s a total must-read.
As full cast audiobooks go, this book about music is the best one I have ever listened to. This magical realism book is also one of my favorite books of all time. It is narrated by “music” who is telling the story of a magician named Frankie Presto.
There are multiple people who narrate this book and it is more like a play. I could listen to this contemporary fiction book over and over so it no wonder that it is one of my all-time favorite books. I loved this book and bought a copy which I lent to an unnamed person who loved it and did not return it. My second copy has met the same fate. Third time’s a charm?
Literary Fiction Books with Magical Realism
When a boat sinks in the Pacific, the only survivors are a 16-year-old boy named Pi, an orangutan, a hyena, a Bengal tiger, and a zebra. And while this book was written less than 20 years ago, it is already a modern classic.
This is not a sailing novel that once read can be forgotten. I know that some people look at the story as an extended metaphor in which each animal represents a person but personally, I like the book exactly the way it was written, one of the best magical realism books I have read.
There is magic in the pages of this book in all meanings of the word. First, read this book, then, rethink everything. This is a perfect example of a thought-provoking book because no two people view it the same way. If you are looking for animal fiction books, this one is a must.
This is a magical realism book that is narrated by Death. And in this haunting magical realism book, he tells the story of Liesel, a young girl in Nazi Germany in 1939. Liesel is living with her foster parents and learning to read from stolen books.
She also shares these books with the Jewish man who is hiding in her basement. This book is brilliant, powerful, poignant, and unforgettable. While technically a YA historical fiction book, this book is fiction at its finest and is a must-read from our list of WWII books for kids. This is one of my favorite thought-provoking books.
I have so many thoughts about Exit West by Mohsin Hamid but, I am not sure how to express them all. I am not even sure that I can express them coherently. This is an amazingly written literary fiction, magical realism
This is not a long book but it doesn’t need to be to make a profound statement about the world that we live in. Part love story, part melancholy of a war-torn world, and part magical realism, this story will carry the reader through a rainbow of emotions before the end.
HOW HAVE I NEVER READ TONI MORRISON BEFORE? I swear I thought I had read this book, but after reading The Toni Morrison Book Club, I realized I hadn’t. When my library hold finally came up for this one, I realized I was so excited to read this book about motherhood.
Morrison is easily one of the most gifted writers I’ve ever read. Beloved haunted me while I was reading it. I can’t wait to read more of her work. It is crazy to think that award-winning books can be paranormal books as well. This is the definition of a magical realism book at its finest.
Celebrity Book Club Picks with Magical Realism
June 2021 GMA Book Club Pick
Wow. I’m still processing this genre-defying novel. It’s a social commentary and a thriller all in one. It makes me want to sit down and discuss it with everyone.
Nella is the only black girl at her publishing house until Hazel is hired. Thinking she’s found an ally, instead, she begins to wonder if Hazel might be an enemy instead.
As Hazel’s career soars, Nella is left questioning her identity, her ideals, and what it means to be a black woman in the business world while trying to uncover who is behind the scary notes she keeps receiving.
February 2020 Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick
I usually love her picks and this was no exception. I’ve seen many mixed reviews on this one, but for me, it was a reflective read about what is means to be loved, and the memories that scents hold. And with a touch of magic, this book hit the mark.
The premise of a little girl, Emmeline, growing up on an isolated island learning about scents had me picking up the book, but the hard-life lessons she learned along the way kept me flipping the pages.
Magical Realism Books with Family Drama
This is easily one of the most unique magical realism books I’ve ever read. Myra Malone blogs about a dollhouse mansion and has thousands of followers. But the mansion is more than it seems as rooms disappear and reappear overnight.
Across the country, Alex is shocked to see someone recreating the rooms of his home in miniature form. Alex and Myra correspond to determine their connection and in the process feel a pull to each other.
What would you do if you knew the day that you were going to die? Would want to know? The four Gold children find out the information that will shape their lives in this amazing magical realism book.
Beautifully written, the Immortalists follows Simon, Klara, Daniel, and Varya through their lives. Ms. Benjamin does a superb job of creating different voices for each of these characters. They are so vivid and unique. This family saga book about grief is un-putdownable and stays with you long after you have finished reading the last page.
If you want to host an Immortalists book club, we have a post that will help you make it spectacular.
November 2019 Read by Jenna Book Club Pick
There is so much that I love about this family drama novel. It is such a feel-good book that is more than what it seems. It is well-written and funny and made our top books of 2019 list.
This magical realism book is about a woman who becomes a nanny for two children who start on fire when they get mad. There is wonderful humor in this book that is centered around strong and beautiful relationships. I cannot recommend this family drama story highly enough.
This masterful work by Kate Atkinson is a family drama, historical fiction, and magical realism all rolled into one fantastic book.
Ursula Todd is born one night in 1910 and died before taking her first breath. She is born again on the same snowy night in 1910 as so the story continues. Ursula lives her life over and over hoping that she can get it right and change her story.
Romance Books with Magical Realism
Clementine has had her heart broken one too many times. She has inherited her beloved aunt’s apartment and is constantly mourning her loss. When she comes home one day and finds a man sitting there, she realizes that he exists seven years in the past. And, the more time they spend together, the more she realizes she is falling for him.
Dead Romantics (GMA Book Club Pick July 2022) was one of my favorite books last year and this book did not disappoint! This is such an adorable time travel romance book and is perfect for our ultimate beach reads 2023. I needed to include it in our list of adult fantasy novels as well! And if you are not a fantasy lover, you can definitely call this a magical realism book!
Oh, how I loved this matchmaking book. What could be better than a love story set in a Paris tea shop with a little magic sprinkled on top? This magical realism book is not a complicated or unexpected story. But what it is, is delightful, fun, and lighthearted.
Vanessa Yu never wanted to see people’s future in tea leaves and spent her entire life fighting it. She also knows that this “gift” will stand in the way of having a successful relationship because she cannot stop blurting out truths whether she wants to or not.
When Vanessa’s aunt offers to bring her to Paris to hone her skills and get her life in order, Vanessa goes. As she finally gets to experience Paris, she wonders if she can change her destiny as well. When it comes to matchmaking books, this one is a favorite! And be sure to check out our delectable books about tea.
Do you love Christmas movies? Are you obsessed with Christmas Romance books? Do you need to swoon? If you answered yes to any of those questions, stop everything and order In a Holidaze. This is possibly my favorite Christmas novel of all time and was a must for best holiday books.
I adored Mae and Andrew’s love story. It’s set up like Groundhog’s Day with Mae repeating the same Christmas vacation until she gets it right. Time travel romance at its best. And man… does she get it right. Peppermint kisses, sexy sledding, snowball fights, Christmas Tree trimming… this book is oozing with cheer-filled holiday goodness with a few scenes that are steamier than a cup of cocoa.
Tom has a rare condition that makes him age very slowly. Although he looks like he is in his 40’s, he is actually centuries old. What do you do with unlimited time?
I love that the story doesn’t glamorize long life but, portrays it as simultaneously poignant and beautiful. Tom is moving through life mourning the loss of his true love who died hundreds of years ago. The story follows Tom back and forth between the present as he searches to find his purpose. However, the book isn’t “heavy”- I couldn’t put it down! It’s a historical fiction with a fantastical twist and is one of the books about secret societies that are also on our list of 30+ Magical Realism Books.
This book is a magical love story that is reminiscent of Charlotte’s Web for grown-ups. I could not put it down.
Weylyn Grey was orphaned and raised by wolves and this is not the only way that he is not like other people. He has a connection to animals and nature that manifests when he least expects it. Unlike any book that I have read, this book with a touch of magical realism makes it all the more special.
Magical Realism Books About Books
This book was totally not what I was expecting. There was a lot more mystery and action than I thought and a little more magic as well. The characters developed and changed and the story moved quickly.
This was a really light and enjoyable magical realism book. When Clay takes a job in a bookstore, he thinks he will be selling books. He doesn’t realize that the “wayback’ of the store is more like a library to an elite group of readers.
Mr. Penumbra’s bookstore is exactly the type of store that you will never want to leave.
This is a library that has books filled with the infinite possibilities of the lives not lived. Have you ever wondered about a choice, or a path not taken?
When Nora finds herself in the library she is forced to face the choices that she made in her life- relationships, education, profession…This is a magical time travel book and I loved every minute of it. Matt Haig is a master of magical realism.
To say that I was excited about Erin Morgenstern‘s new book might be the understatement of the year. How to describe this book that is an ode to storytelling…..it’s a love story to books, a fantasy within a love story within a fairy tale.
The writing is beautiful- Erin’s signature style of vivid imagery left me completely captivated. I truly loved every minute of this book. It was pointless to predict the story. So, I let it take me away with the lyrical prose. It made our Best Books of 2019 list and I recommend it to anyone that loved The Night Circus. It’s one of my favorite full cast audiobooks as well. If you love magical realism books, this pick is for you.
Award Winning Books with Magical Realism
August 2016 Oprah’s Book Club Pick
I absolutely loved this book and it was one of the first reviews we ever did on the blog. I love the way this book examined the underground railroad with a touch of magical realism. If you are looking for thought-provoking books, look no further.
The story is about Cora and Caesar, two run-away slaves in the South who run away to the underground railroad which, in this book, is an actual railroad.
Each stop along the way is reminiscent of a different place in history and it is interlaced with actual ads placed for runaway slaves. This book is profound and beautiful and a must-read.
This book is an award winner and the writing is undeniably wonderful. The story itself has elements of magic that add to the difficult subject matter. The story deals with drugs, violence, and poverty- all of which are completely relevant in today’s society.
The characters did not develop throughout the story as much as I would have liked, but this ghost book is a worthwhile read when considering the wonderful writing. The paranormal aspect makes this a great book for fall.
I listened to this feel-good book and it was unreal. I want my son to read this so badly but, I also want him to listen to it as well. The full-cast audiobook plays music so it is a full sensory experience.
The story is three tales woven together in one with a magical harmonica at the center. The story follows a harmonica as it lands in the hands of Freidrich in Germany, Mike in Pennsylvania, and Ivy in California set during WWII.
Part fairy tale and part historical fiction, this is one of the novels about music that is amazing for middle grade and adults alike. We even included it on our list of Books for 13-Year-Olds. This is a magical realism book everyone should read.
Magical Realism in Short Stories
I listened to this one while doing the laundry the other night. It’s only an hour long but I really liked it! I liked it so much that I was frustrated that it wasn’t a full-blown novel. That’s my problem with short stories. They are never satisfying enough! This one revolved around a man who aged in reverse – born as a 70-year-old and ending his life as a newborn.
This short story collection is utterly captivating. Te-Ping Chen vividly showcases life in China and its nuances, political and otherwise. Some stories are straight fiction while others have a touch of magical realism. My favorite involves a new fruit that inspires strong emotions in the eater.
Each story is engaging and could lead into a book of its own. It’s a wonderful debut from a writer known for her work as a reporter for the Wall Street Journal.
Thanks to Libro.Fm and Riverhead books for my review copy. All opinions are my own. This collection of short stories was a thought-provoking delight.
The titular novella was my favorite of the bunch. It gave me chills and had me thinking it was over much too soon. This award-winning short story collection is magical realism at its finest.
Historical Fiction Books with Magical Realism
I’ve never read a book quite like this and I have to say that I was very pleasantly surprised. The writing is subtle, the plot is driven by character and intrigue rather than action-packed suspense. It also has a feel of historical fiction about it. Lovers of this genre may love this book as well.
When January is seven years old, she stumbles upon a door that leads her to a different place. When she is reprimanded for lying about the door, she eventually forgets about it until she finds the book “The Ten Thousand Doors of January” years later. January becomes intrigued and the real story begins.
The story alternates between the story of January and the book. The concept is such a fun way to narrate the plot. At times, the plot moved a little bit slowly as one storyline stopped and another began in the alternating chapters. This is such a unique and wonderful magical realism book and is a must-read from fall books.
Diane Setterfield has been a must-read author for me since I first read The Thirteenth Tale. Her latest was just as captivating, with a bit of magic and mystery mixed in.
When an almost drowned child is found in the river, three separate families lay claim to her. This story is filled with drama, love, and loss. The story is compelling, but the writing is spectacular and it is a magical realism book that is a must-read.
This historical fiction is also a story of love and betrayal. When Nella arrives at her new home with her new husband, he presents her with a cabinet-sized replica of their home.
He also introduces her to the miniaturist who gives her the freedom to decorate however she wants with extraordinary tiny creations that are so much like their real-world counterparts. This is one of the magical realism novels in which the magic is subtle, yet you will not forget this book.
What is your favorite magical realism book?
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