The best books about fairies

The Books I Picked & Why

The Coming of the Fairies

By Arthur Conan Doyle

The Coming of the Fairies

Why this book?

This is Doyle’s version of Elsie and Francis’s story, a book in which he argued that the existence of fairies had been proven, at last, by the modern technology of photography. To me, it’s a fascinating look at how events told from one point of view (a powerful man’s) can be entirely different from the same events told from less powerful players in the same drama. It’s also surprisingly timely, given the current state of polarization in our country: a case study of how people often believe what they want to believe, no matter how crazy it seems to others. 


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The Fairies in Tradition and Literature

By Katharine M. Briggs

The Fairies in Tradition and Literature

Why this book?

For a serious look at English fairy lore, try The Fairies in English Tradition and Literature by K.M. Briggs. It’s only one of the author’s many books on fairies, so if you’re interested in English fairy lore, the work of Katharine. Briggs is a gold mine.


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Irish Fairy and Folk Tales

By W.B. Yeats

Irish Fairy and Folk Tales

Why this book?

Yeats, a mystic poet, travelled across Ireland in the late 1800s and early 1900s, asking country people if they’d ever seen fairies and taking down their stories. “I believe when I am in the mood that all nature is full of people whom we cannot see,” he wrote in an earlier book, The Celtic Twilight. “Even when I was a boy I could never walk in a wood without feeling that at any moment I might find before me somebody or something I had long looked for without knowing….” Yates believed the songs and stories "handed down among the cottages” were “Folk art [which]… because it has gathered into itself the simplest and most unforgettable thoughts of the generations… is the soil where all great art is rooted.”  His own poetry bears this out. 


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Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

By Susanna Clarke

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

Why this book?

The fairies in this strange and gripping novel are taken straight from the folk traditions of fairies not as cute, butterfly-like creatures flitting around the garden but as powerful, heartless beings who steal people and take them to another world where they dance their lives away.  Despite being more than eight hundred pages long, the book was a New York Times bestseller—a testament to the author’s powerful imagination, wry sense of humor, clever plotting, and towering writing skills.


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Artemis Fowl

By Eoin Colfer

Artemis Fowl

Why this book?

This book, too, mines the rich lode of fairy lore to create…well you might not call it Great Art, but it’s a great read. Who can resist a story about a twelve-year-old criminal mastermind who takes on the fairies? 


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