The best magical realism books for escapists

Kevin Ansbro Author Of In the Shadow of Time
By Kevin Ansbro

Who am I?

As well as being a full-time writer, I’m also an avid reader and, despite having six bookcases dotted about the house, my loft is brimming with books that I can’t let go of! My writing style veers towards the rich and linguistically playful and I endeavour to elicit strong emotions in my readers. Magical realism allows me to blur the lines between our real world and that which is imagined, and I get a kick out of making the absurd seem entirely probable. Adding to the mix, I see no reason why humour cannot rub shoulders with evil and trepidation. Happy reading, everyone!  

I wrote...

In the Shadow of Time

By Kevin Ansbro,

Book cover of In the Shadow of Time

What is my book about?

“I was in Mexico City for three months, and yet returned to England on the same day that I left…”

Through her time-travel research, physicist Dr. Sofia Ustinova has attracted the interest of higher beings from a distant galaxy. Meanwhile, Hugo Wilde, a British secret agent, embarks on a mission to kill a Russian assassin, unaware that his life is about to change in ways he could never have imagined…

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The books I picked & why

One Hundred Years of Solitude

By Gabriel García Márquez,

Book cover of One Hundred Years of Solitude

Why did I love this book?

Set against a backdrop of civil war, this fantastical novel tells the story of seven generations of the Buendia family, who effectively live in a remote Colombian swamp. 

I first read this unrestrained epic more than thirty years ago and was blown away by its beautiful absurdity. Gabriel García Márquez, the architect of el realismo mágico, turns reality upside down and shows his readers the magic and depravity that lurks underneath. Its poetic secrets have remained in my authorial psyche ever since and influenced the way in which I write.

It’s the most translated Spanish-language book after Don Quixote and is the quintessential magical realism novel. Rushdie said that Márquez was ‘the greatest of us all,’ and who am I to argue?  

By Gabriel García Márquez,

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked One Hundred Years of Solitude as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One Hundred Years of Solitude tells the story of the rise and fall, birth and death of the mythical town of Macondo through the history of the Buendía family. Inventive, amusing, magnetic, sad, and alive with unforgettable men and women -- brimming with truth, compassion, and a lyrical magic that strikes the soul -- this novel is a masterpiece in the art of fiction.

The Master and Margarita

By Mikhail Bulgakov, Richard Pevear (translator), Larissa Volokhonsky (translator)

Book cover of The Master and Margarita

Why did I love this book?

This is an astonishingly good read! A magical realism book initiated in the 1920s—long before the term had even been invented—by an author who risked his life to write it. 

Satan and his murderous crew breeze into 1930s Moscow with the intention of turning the place on its head. To give you some idea of what we’re dealing with here, one of Satan’s sidekicks is a talking cat the size of a fully-grown pig. Yeah! Now you’re interested! 

In his riotous novel, Bulgakov sets out to lampoon the Stalinist regime that he, along with millions of other Russians, was oppressed by.

The book is altogether philosophical, Faustian, allegorical, satirical, and a whole lot of fun!

By Mikhail Bulgakov, Richard Pevear (translator), Larissa Volokhonsky (translator)

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked The Master and Margarita as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Bulgakov is one of the greatest Russian writers, perhaps the greatest' Independent

Written in secret during the darkest days of Stalin's reign, The Master and Margarita became an overnight literary phenomenon when it was finally published it, signalling artistic freedom for Russians everywhere. Bulgakov's carnivalesque satire of Soviet life describes how the Devil, trailing fire and chaos in his wake, weaves himself out of the shadows and into Moscow one Spring afternoon. Brimming with magic and incident, it is full of imaginary, historical, terrifying and wonderful characters, from witches, poets and Biblical tyrants to the beautiful, courageous Margarita, who will…

A Christmas Carol

By Charles Dickens,

Book cover of A Christmas Carol

Why did I love this book?

Who would think of A Christmas Carol as a magical realism story?

Barely anyone, that’s who!

But it is. Of course it is, and “Bah, humbug!” to anyone who says otherwise.

No writer since has written a Christmas tale that can hope to compete with this timeless classic. It has everything: it’s fanciful, it’s allegorical, it’s totally magical, it’s socially aware, and it boasts more chain-clanking than a dominatrix’s sex dungeon.

A delightful, life-affirming read!

By Charles Dickens,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked A Christmas Carol as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Tom Baker reads Charles Dickens' timeless seasonal story.

Charles Dickens' story of solitary miser Ebenezer Scrooge, who is taught the true meaning of Christmas by the three ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future, has become one of the timeless classics of English literature. First published in 1843, it introduces us not only to Scrooge himself, but also to the memorable characters of underpaid desk clerk Bob Cratchit and his poor family, the poorest amongst whom is the ailing and crippled Tiny Tim.

In this captivating recording, Tom Baker delivers a tour-de-force performance as he narrates the story. The listener…

Midnight's Children

By Salman Rushdie,

Book cover of Midnight's Children

Why did I love this book?

Along with Gabriel García Márquez, Sir Salman Rushdie has had a profound impact on the way I write. He doesn’t know this of course, as he very likely hasn’t the faintest idea who I am!

I grant you that he looks like a crusty old apothecarist from an Arabian Nights story, but Sir Salman always brings the fun, and his rascally playfulness is evident on every page.

Rushdie’s picturesque writing style is revered the world over; so, if you are in love with the alchemy of words and are willing to stargaze at the brilliance of a magical realism author at the height of his powers, this Booker-winning triumph might just be the thing you need!

By Salman Rushdie,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked Midnight's Children as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?



'A wonderful, rich and humane novel... a classic' Guardian

Born at the stroke of midnight at the exact moment of India's independence, Saleem Sinai is a special child. However, this coincidence of birth has consequences he is not prepared for: telepathic powers connect him with 1,000 other 'midnight's children' all of whom are endowed with unusual gifts. Inextricably linked to his nation, Saleem's story is a whirlwind of disasters and triumphs that mirrors the course of modern India at its most…

The House of the Spirits

By Isabel Allende,

Book cover of The House of the Spirits

Why did I love this book?

Inspired by Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, Isabelle Allende lets loose with her own Chiléan version of el realismo mágico.

Here, she chronicles the astonishing lives of the Trueba family, an unconventional bunch who’d give The Addams Family a run for their money.

Dichotomies are dusted down by Allende and given their moment to shine: love and hate, good and evil, triumph and tragedy. And I can guarantee that the dastardly male lead, Esteban Trueba, will cause flames to come shooting forth from your nostrils!

This is a sweeping novel, beautifully written by the leading light of female South American authors. And in her capable hands, the mainstays of magical realism—absurdity and realism—are used to great effect.

By Isabel Allende,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked The House of the Spirits as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Spectacular...An absorbing and distinguished work...The House of the Spirits with its all-informing, generous, and humane sensibility, is a unique achievement, both personal witness and possible allegory of the past, present, and future of Latin America.” —The New York Times Book Review

Our Shared Shelf, Emma Watson Goodreads Book Club Pick November/December 2020!

The House of the Spirits, the unforgettable first novel that established Isabel Allende as one of the world’s most gifted storytellers, brings to life the triumphs and tragedies of three generations of the Trueba family. The patriarch Esteban is a volatile, proud man whose voracious pursuit of political…

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