The best fantasy fiction that makes you think way outside the box

Leslie Tall Manning Author Of Maggie's Dream
By Leslie Tall Manning

Who am I?

I don’t remember when books weren’t a part of the scenery in my family’s home, and I can’t remember what the first book was that I read, though I suspect it was steeped in fantasy. Stories of ordinary people being tossed into extraordinary circumstances—the more extraordinary the betterhave always been a part of my reading life and a built-in template for my career as a writer. After two decades of writing, I have discovered that I didn't choose to be a writerI was born with a need to share ideas; to make others think in a different way. Without creating stories, I’d be lost. Without sharing them, I’d be incomplete.

I wrote...

Maggie's Dream

By Leslie Tall Manning,

Book cover of Maggie's Dream

What is my book about?

When World War II drags Maggie Lerner’s husband off to Europe, Maggie joins the workforce as one of America’s Rosies. Though she savors her freedom, she is haunted by a dream that leads her to believe something terrible will happen to her husband. After the war, Sam returns home unscathed, and Maggie, who once again takes her place as a doctor’s wife, believes the dream will disappear. Instead, it evolves into an all-consuming world where Maggie can have whatever she wishes. But all is not as it seems: Beneath the dream’s flawless surface, a monster lies in wait. In an era of post-war feminism and the latest in psychoanalysis, Maggie will need to confront this evil—whether real or imagined—before it destroys both her worlds.

The books I picked & why

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The Talisman

By Stephen King, Peter Straub,

Book cover of The Talisman

Why this book?

Hands-down, this is Stephen King’s best novel to date, though it doesn’t get the same hype as his other books. Written with author Peter Straub, this magical story is one of the reasons I became a writer. Any fantasy reader will fall in love with the young male hero, along with all of the odd but fleshed-out characters. I have read it twice. And I just discovered it is now in production as a Netflix series!

Life of Pi

By Yann Martel,

Book cover of Life of Pi

Why this book?

Theology, science, love, fear, and death are delicately blended in this remarkable tale. The author, Yann Martel, urges the reader to hold sadness and joy in their hands at the same time and, in this particular story, you can’t have one without the other. Life of Pi is the perfect metaphor for ultimate sacrifice and courage, and how humans are capable of dealing with the deepest sorrow one can imagine.


By George Orwell,

Book cover of 1984

Why this book?

If you haven't yet dug into this uber-long, super dark dystopian novel by George Orwell, then now is the time. No other fantasy novel I can think of better mirrors how technology is our own worst enemy and how political structures use it for their own intent; hence the common comparison to an “Orwellian” society. After reading 1984, you may just agree!

The Five People You Meet in Heaven

By Mitch Albom,

Book cover of The Five People You Meet in Heaven

Why this book?

This adult fairy tale by Mitch Albom is akin to It’s a Wonderful Life. A man believes his life means nothing until after he dies, then learns how important each life truly is. Yes, this story has been done before, but Albom is a master at the art of magical thinking and reminding people that we are all connected. It’s a short and easy read, perfect for a book club, or even for a reluctant teen reader.

The Underground Railroad

By Colson Whitehead,

Book cover of The Underground Railroad

Why this book?

This Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Colson Whitehead seems to grow heavier and darker with each chapter, but it is an important read because it is steeped in real-life American slave history. If you have never read any type of Black magical realism, where one foot stands in the real world and another in a strange, almost parallel universe, then you might want to start with this one.

5 book lists we think you will like!

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