The best fantasy books that explore love, loss, family, healing, and redemption

The Books I Picked & Why

One Hundred Years of Solitude

By Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Book cover of One Hundred Years of Solitude

Why this book?

This book inspired me to write novels. It was thrilling to discover an author who weaves magical elements and events into otherwise ordinary and realistic situations, treating both as equally natural. Few other authors have done this so masterfully and in such an urgent and amusing way. I often re-read parts of this book to remind myself that it’s not only acceptable but crucial for me to form stories out of playfulness, in order to depict a multi-dimensional view of reality.

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Laurus: The International Bestseller

By Eugene Vodolazkin, Lisa C. Hayden

Book cover of Laurus: The International Bestseller

Why this book?

This book is brimming with themes that are super meaningful to me—love, loss, healing, the nature of reality, time travel, spirituality, faith, and redemption. He does this through language that waxes poetic in a formal, archaic voice, dropping into and out of time, occasionally lapsing into a hilarious, modern tone. Laurus, the protagonist, reminds me of myself, a holy fool, who believes in the healing power of mercy and compassion. As well, he keeps one foot in this world and the other in a mystical realm to which he longs to return.   

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Every Heart a Doorway

By Seanan McGuire

Book cover of Every Heart a Doorway

Why this book?

A girl named Nancy is on a quest to return to her “true home,” a place where she feels she belongs. She starts out by visiting the opposite, the land of the dead. When she returns, her parents don’t believe her story. So, they send her to a boarding school for wayward children. There, she and the other students visit other worlds, which instigates a process of inner discovery and transformation. The theme of leaving home to discover one’s true home—which I believe has less to do with location than self-realization—is rich and always compelling.  

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Kafka on the Shore

By Haruki Murakami

Book cover of Kafka on the Shore

Why this book?

A fifteen-year-old boy runs away from an abusive father, but in truth, he cannot escape his shadow self which relates to feelings about his physical body. As he journeys through time, he is visited by a ghost and a talking cat, and the riddles of life are presented to him through various characters. Although plot points and timeline may be difficult to follow at times, the narrative takes you on a surreal journey that is more visceral than prosaic. I love that Murakami presents puzzles having to do with the nature of consciousness, self-identity, and transformation. And he refrains from answering them for the reader!

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The Ten Thousand Doors of January

By Alix E. Harrow

Book cover of The Ten Thousand Doors of January

Why this book?

What struck me first was the author’s language. It’s fresh and sometimes freefalling as it depicts a young girl’s stark reality and complex inner world. This book has the markings of a number of my favorite books: themes of love, identity, family, alternate worlds, redemption, the healing power of stories, and imagination. It may move too slowly for some, but I appreciate the carefully wrought coming of age journey where protagonist, January Scaller, grows through limitations and emotional challenges thrust upon her. 

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