30+ Magical Realism Books to Read Now
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.
Looking for more Fantasy Fiction? Check out our Ultimate List of YA Fantasy!
Ultimate List of YA Fantasy
If fantasy books are your favorite books, then these are the perfect book lists for you. We carefully divided them into sub-genres.
This post fulfills a prompt for the 2023 reading challenge! It’s not too late to join!
The Beyond The Bookends’ 2023 Reading Challenge
For more reading challenge fun, check out our 2023 Reading Challenge.
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Magical Realism Books
Best Magical Realism Books 2023
The London Séance Society by Sarah Penner
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 turn 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.
The Wilderwomen: A Novel by Ruth Emmie Lang
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.
The Best Magical Realism Books
One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle
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?
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
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.
House on the Cerulean Sea by T.J Klune
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.
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.
Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
Where do I start? I love this 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.
The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Album
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
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
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.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
This is a 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.
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
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 book.
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.
Beloved by Toni Morrison
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. This is the definition of a magical realism book at its finest.
Celebrity Book Club Picks with Magical Realism
The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
September 2019 Oprah’s Book Club Pick
When I started this book, I was unsure how I felt about the writing. The prose is lyrical and poetic but I wasn’t sure where the story was going.
I felt it winding a lot rather than developing. As the story progressed, I became invested in Hiram and wanted to see where the story went. The element of magic reminded me a little bit of The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, both of which are brilliant examples of magical realism books. Have you read this book? What did you think?
The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris
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.
The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister
February 2020 Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick
I snagged a copy of The Scent Keeper because Reese Witherspoon told me I should. I did not know that this celebrity book club pick would be a magical realism book.
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
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
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.
Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson
November 2019 Read by Jenna Book Club Pick
There is so much that I loved about this book. 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.
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
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
Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop by Roselle Lim
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.
In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren
Do you love Christmas movies? Are you obsessed with 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.
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.
There is a reason this time travel book made our best books of 2020 list! This is an adorable magical realism book and a real must-read.
How to Stop Time by Matt Haig
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 but fantastical twist.
Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance: A Novel by Ruth Emmie Lang
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
Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Book Store by Robin Sloan
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.
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
I loved Matt Haig’s Last Book and was so excited to read this one. I loved it even more- it is definitely one of my favorite books of the year.
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.
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
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
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
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.
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.
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
This book is an award winner and the writing is undeniably wonderful. The story itself has elements of magic that added 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, when added to the wonderful writing, this book in our list of ghost books is a worthwhile read.
Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan
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 Book Lists for 13-Year-Olds. This is a magical realism book everyone should read.
Magical Realism in Short Stories
The Curious Case Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitgerald
I listened to this one while doing the laundry the other night, it’s only an hour long but I really rather 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 reversed – born as a 70-year-old and ending his life as a newborn.
Land of Big Numbers by Te-Ping Chen
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.
The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans
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.
Historical Fiction Books with Magical Realism
The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix. E Harrow
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 has a feel of historical fiction about it that 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.
Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield
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.
The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
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.
Thanks for the suggestions. Also loved “The Tiger’s Wife” by Tea Obrecht and “The Wive’s Tales” by Alix Wilbur