The best books slippaging between worlds

Why am I passionate about this?

I want to write about the magic of the everyday and often this is seen in the slippages between worlds like the worlds of the living and the dead. Ghosts and spirits feature heavily in my work and fascinate me as a reader too. This is not in the realm of fantasy to me, ghosts are real and actual.


I wrote...

The Other Shore

By Hoa Pham,

Book cover of The Other Shore

What is my book about?

When the dead begin speaking to 16-year-old Kim Nguyen her peaceful childhood is over. Suddenly everyone wants to exploit her new talent—her family, the Vietnamese government, and even the spirits themselves.

The Other Shore is a delicate meditation on the nature of ghosts, belief, and how the future is shaped by the past.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

Hoa Pham Why did I love this book?

I first read The Wind Up Bird Chronicle at my first writing residency and it inspired me to keep writing stories that slip between worlds.

In Murakami’s story the protagonist searches for his missing cat after his wife disappears which leads him into a dark well where he slips into another world. Along the way he encounters a water diviner Malta Kano and a 14-year-old girl who surveys bald men for a living.

The story is woven with the recollection of Mr. Honda, a Japanese war veteran of atrocities in Manchuria. The otherworldliness of the worlds he encounters is described in everyday ordinary prose, in Murakami’s worlds these things are normal. It’s what I aspire to.

By Haruki Murakami, Jay Rubin (translator),

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

INCLUDES A READING GUIDE

Toru Okada's cat has disappeared and this has unsettled his wife, who is herself growing more distant every day. Then there are the increasingly explicit telephone calls he has started receiving. As this compelling story unfolds, the tidy suburban realities of Okada's vague and blameless life, spent cooking, reading, listening to jazz and opera and drinking beer at the kitchen table, are turned inside out, and he embarks on a bizarre journey, guided (however obscurely) by a succession of characters, each with a tale to tell.


Book cover of The Book of Form and Emptiness

Hoa Pham Why did I love this book?

This story is about Benny a teenager who can hear objects speaking and his mother, who is a compulsive hoarder.

Benny finds a group of people in a hidden wing of the local library which introduces him to a new world where he is accepted. He meets Aleph a drug user who leaves lines of poetry on paper in the books of the library and Slavoj a homeless drunk man who spouts much philosophy from his wheelchair. Ozeki makes the reality fantastic, the work is grounded in ordinary details.

The book is a beautiful portrait of a mix of characters you ordinarily would ignore and makes magic of the everyday. It's this everyday magic that I also wish to capture in my own fiction.

By Ruth Ozeki,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Book of Form and Emptiness as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"No one writes like Ruth Ozeki-a triumph." -Matt Haig, New York Times bestselling author of The Midnight Library

"Inventive, vivid, and propelled by a sense of wonder." -TIME

"If you've lost your way with fiction over the last year or two, let The Book of Form and Emptiness light your way home." -David Mitchell, Booker Prize-finalist author of Cloud Atlas

Longlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction

A boy who hears the voices of objects all around him; a mother drowning in her possessions; and a Book that might hold the secret to saving them both-the brilliantly inventive new novel…


Book cover of Anguli Ma: A Gothic Tale

Hoa Pham Why did I love this book?

Anguli Ma was a murderer from a Buddhist parable who collected his victims' fingers in a necklace.

The parable goes that he met the Buddha who converted him by emitting calm and mindfulness. Vu’s book transplants this fable into the eighties in the western suburbs of Melbourne, Anguli Ma being a war refugee from the Vietnam/American war. He joins a shared household of other refugees and encounters a monk meditating in a park. The monk brings another world of mindfulness to Anguli Ma.

I like this book because of the clever adaptation of the parable and the Buddhist themes throughout- any one of the refugees could resort to violence like Anguli Ma or find peace through mindfulness—they all suffer from war trauma. It’s also beautifully written with the other world of mindfulness poetry in motion.

By Chi Vu,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Anguli Ma is the central figure in a traditional Buddhist folktale, a deranged killer who wears his victims’ fingers in a garland around his neck. Chi Vu presents him as a menacing abattoir worker who carries bloody chunks of meat home to his lodgings in plastic bags, in this suburban Gothic tale set in 1980s Melbourne, when the flight of Vietnamese refugees to Australia was at its height.

The gathering fear, the prevailing darkness, the strange contours of the house which has been divided and sub-divided to accommodate its female occupants, the macabre humour and surreal effects, mark Chi Vu’s…


Book cover of The Swan Book

Hoa Pham Why did I love this book?

This amazing book is about Oblivia a girl who survives gang rape living in a swamp with thousands of black swans who is promised to Warren Finch the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia an indigenous man.

In her journey we meet many out there characters told in mythic style in a future Australia devastated by climate change. This book is a potent mix of speculative fiction and magic realism featuring indigenous communities and characters. I admire it for the breadth of its vision and the intimacy of Oblivia and of course the swans.

By Alexis Wright,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A hypnotic and “astonishingly inventive” (O, The Oprah Magazine) novel about an Aboriginal girl living in a future world turned upside down—where ancient myths exist side-by-side with present-day realities.

Oblivia Ethelyne was given her name by an old woman who found her deep in the bowels of a gum tree, tattered and fragile, the victim of a brutal assault by wayward local youths. These are the years leading up to Australia’s third centenary, and the woman who finds her, Bella Donna of the Champions, is a refugee from climate change wars that devastated her country in the northern hemisphere.

Bella…


Book cover of The Crystal Messenger

Hoa Pham Why did I love this book?

The Crystal Messenger is a delicate melancholy tale about a girl who observes from her window the comings and goings of her family and the community around her.

Her sister is the local beauty who is wooed by many but cannot find the poet that she truly loves and she is courted by a dwarf who is a member of the communist party. The prose of this novella is like candy floss, it can melt on your tongue and I aspire to use language this way.

By Pham Thi Hoai, Ton-That Quynh Du (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This award winning book has been described as the 'renaissance of Vietnamese literature'. Written by a young woman in her twenties at the end of an era when Vietnam closed itself off from the world, it is widely regarded as one of the most important works of fiction ever to come out of that country. Ostensibly, The Crystal Messenger is a magical and moving story of two sisters' journeys to emotional and sexual maturity. But it is also a powerful allegory about the fate of North and South Vietnam, the struggle with reunification after the war, and the effect of…


You might also like...

The Strange Case of Guaritori Diolco

By Bill Hiatt,

Book cover of The Strange Case of Guaritori Diolco

Bill Hiatt Author Of Different Lee

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Insatiable reader English teacher Life-long learner Hiker Webmaster

Bill's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Guaritori awakens from a coma to find that he's lost twenty years--and his entire world.

Fiancée, family, and friends are all missing, perhaps dead. Technology has failed, and magic has risen, leaving society in ruins. Most survivors are at the mercy of anyone who has strong enough magic. Guaritori has none. He finds a protector, but his troubles are far from over.

The new society in which he finds himself is superficially friendly but surrounded by enemies and full of secrets. Guaritori doesn't know it yet, but the biggest secret is his. If his protector knew who he truly was,…

The Strange Case of Guaritori Diolco

By Bill Hiatt,

What is this book about?

Coming out of a coma after twenty years, Guaritori--Garth to his friends--discovers that the world he knew no longer exists.

Advanced technology has failed. Magic, which he didn't know even existed, has become much more powerful. Supernatural groups battle for supremacy, forcing human beings to seek shelter wherever they can find it.
Garth's only hope for survival lies with a varied group including a shape-shifter, an alchemist, a tarot card reader, a blacksmith with a flaming sword, and others. But a prophecy foretells that he will bring about the downfall of their leader, the mysterious Ms. M.

Even worse, Garth…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in romantic love, magical realism, and mindfulness?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about romantic love, magical realism, and mindfulness.

Romantic Love Explore 892 books about romantic love
Magical Realism Explore 432 books about magical realism
Mindfulness Explore 112 books about mindfulness