The best fairy tales for adults

Who am I?

I’m an American author and writing teacher both at Harvard and Oxford’s online programs. I've mostly written poetry and nonfiction, then in 2021 I published my first novel, She Never Told Me about the Ocean. I started writing the book when my daughter was born as a way to explore the complicated feelings and fears that suddenly washed over me. The book—like a daughter—outgrew my plans and expectations for it. It became, unexpectedly, a mythology of mothers and daughters. For two decades I've studied fairy tales and myths. Fairy tales deal in fears and the stories we tell ourselves to feel safe—which is why I read them and use them in my writing.


I wrote...

She Never Told Me about the Ocean

By Elisabeth Sharp McKetta,

Book cover of She Never Told Me about the Ocean

What is my book about?

Magic. Mothers. Daughters. Birth, love, and death. Enchanted islands. Underworlds. Plant medicine. Generations learning to understand each other through the stories we tell and hear. In the words of one of my favorite authors, Arthur Golden, “She Never Told Me about the Ocean is a heroine's journey through forgiveness, birth and rebirth, all the while treading the line between honoring the dead and feeling paralyzed by them. She has offered us a complicated portrait of mothers and daughters, cupped inside one another like nesting dolls.” 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Folk

Elisabeth Sharp McKetta Why did I love this book?

I just discovered this book and want to teach it in every one of my classes! Folk is a series of stories about the villagers in a tiny, closed-off island filled with strange rituals and a cacophony of alliances and grudges. Her language is simply thrilling, and the fairy tales are shocking in all different ways. We hear a different perspective in each story, so the book results in a fairy tale about how small communities work and what the ‘folk’ in them must do—and believe—in order to get along.  

By Zoe Gilbert,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Folk as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A captivating, magical and haunting debut novel of breathtaking imagination, from the winner of the 2014 Costa Short Story Award LONGLISTED FOR THE 2019 INTERNATIONAL DYLAN THOMAS PRIZE 'That rare thing: genuinely unique' OBSERVER 'Will win you over ... Magical' THE TIMES 'Absolutely stunning. I loved it' MADELINE MILLER, AUTHOR OF CIRCE On the remote island of Neverness, the villagers' lives are entwined with nature: its enchantments, seductions and dangers. There is May, the young fiddler who seeks her musical spirit; Madden Lightfoot, who flies with red kites; and Verlyn Webbe, born with a wing for an arm. Over the…


Book cover of Boy, Snow, Bird

Elisabeth Sharp McKetta Why did I love this book?

This book is almost too beautiful for words, and reading it you feel like you are falling into a haunted magic mirror where identity and race are explored alongside a host of deep simmering emotions: anger and forgiveness, fear and vanity. A sort of dizzying intergenerational retake on Snow White.

By Helen Oyeyemi,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Boy, Snow, Bird as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As seen on the cover of the New York Times Book Review, where it was described as “gloriously unsettling… evoking Toni Morrison, Haruki Murakami, Angela Carter, Edgar Allan Poe, Gabriel García Márquez, Chris Abani and even Emily Dickinson,” and already one of the year’s most widely acclaimed novels:

“Helen Oyeyemi has fully transformed from a literary prodigy into a powerful, distinctive storyteller…Transfixing and surprising.”—Entertainment Weekly (Grade: A)

“I don’t care what the magic mirror says; Oyeyemi is the cleverest in the land…daring and unnerving… Under Oyeyemi’s spell, the fairy-tale conceit makes a brilliant setting in which to explore the alchemy…


Book cover of St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves

Elisabeth Sharp McKetta Why did I love this book?

Russell has written many books that traffic in underworlds, weirdness, and magic, but for me this book—her first—takes the cake. Written when the author was just twenty-five, St. Lucy’s Home is a collection of magical coming-of-age stories—my favorite one features the children of werewolves who are sent to a rigid school with impossible rules. Russell is a poet at the sentence level—her verbs constantly do acrobatics! In these stories, she portrays adolescence as a sort of sieve in which we must leave all our wonderful weirdness behind in order to become adults.

By Karen Russell,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Charting loss, love, and the difficult art of growing up, these stories unfurl with wicked humour and insight. Two young boys make midnight trips to a boat graveyard in search of their dead sister, who set sail in the exoskeleton of a giant crab; a boy whose dreams foretell implacable tragedies is sent to 'Sleepaway Camp for Disordered Dreamers' (Cabin 1, Narcoleptics; Cabin 2, Insomniacs; Cabin 3, Somnambulists. . . ); a Minotaur leads his family on the trail out West, and finally, in the collection's poignant and hilarious title story, fifteen girls raised by wolves are painstakingly re-civilised by…


Book cover of The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure

Elisabeth Sharp McKetta Why did I love this book?

Seriously, no list of adult fairy tales can be complete without this one. One of the only instances where the movie and the book are equally delightful, in endearing and different ways. The movie—which I can quote in its entirety (true fact)—is more romantic than the book. The book is snarky and hilarious, a fairy tale that makes fun of fairy tales, while also hinting at why we as humans perennially need them.

By William Goldman,

Why should I read it?

17 authors picked The Princess Bride as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

William Goldman’s beloved story of Buttercup, Westley, and their fellow adventurers.

This tale of true love, high adventure, pirates, princesses, giants, miracles, fencing, and a frightening assortment of wild beasts was unforgettably depicted in the 1987 film directed by Rob Reiner and starring Fred Savage, Robin Wright, and others. But, rich in character and satire, the novel boasts even more layers of ingenious storytelling. Set in 1941 and framed cleverly as an “abridged” retelling of a centuries-old tale set in the fabled country of Florin, home to “Beasts of all natures and descriptions. Pain. Death. Brave men. Coward men. Strongest…


Book cover of Circe

Elisabeth Sharp McKetta Why did I love this book?

A gorgeous underdog story about an immortal who is never properly valued by her extensive, dysfunctional family. All the classic elements of memoir exist in this novel—accepting what she must, changing what she can about the life she is born into—but with the fascinating backdrop of living a life as an exiled goddess with a knack for magic.

By Madeline Miller,

Why should I read it?

32 authors picked Circe as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The international Number One bestseller from the author of The Song of Achilles, shortlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction

Woman. Witch. Myth. Mortal. Outcast. Lover. Destroyer. Survivor. CIRCE.

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. Circe is a strange child - not powerful and terrible, like her father, nor gorgeous and mercenary like her mother. Scorned and rejected, Circe grows up in the shadows, at home in neither the world of gods or mortals. But Circe has a dark power of her own: witchcraft. When her gift threatens…


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Winter Solstice in the Crystal Castle

By Jennifer Ivy Walker,

Book cover of Winter Solstice in the Crystal Castle

Jennifer Ivy Walker Author Of Winter Solstice in the Crystal Castle

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author French teacher Avid reader Lover of medieval romance European traveler

Jennifer's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

A medieval romance between a flame haired, fire hearted French princess descended from Viking Valkyrie and the chivalrous knight who suffers an impossible love for her-- the daughter of the king he is sworn to protect.

A Yuletide Joust will determine who wins Princess Gabrielle's royal hand in marriage and her valuable dowry, the Breton kingdom of Finistère. Without a title of nobility, the man she loves--Sir Bastien de Landuc-- is ineligible to compete in the tournament, and she will be forced to marry a man she loathes.

Will Yuletide wishes make impossible dreams come true? Can the valiant knight win the coveted hand of his Viking Valkyrie?

Winter Solstice in the Crystal Castle

By Jennifer Ivy Walker,

What is this book about?

Gabrielle is a flame haired, fire hearted French princess who dreams of becoming a Valkyrie warrior queen like her Viking ancestors from Normandy. Sent to Paris to learn the proper etiquette for a future French queen, she is called home to le Château de Beaufort for a forced marriage to a man she loathes when her father the king's precarious health takes a sudden turn for the worse. Chivalrous, solitary knight Sir Bastien de Landuc suffers an impossible love for Gabrielle, the unattainable princess he can never have. Without a title of nobility, he is ineligible to compete in the…


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