The best surreal, magical, and mind-expanding books

Who am I?

Hello. My name is Mike Russell. I write books (novels, short story collections and novellas) and make visual art (mostly paintings, occasionally sculptures). I love art and books that are surreal and magical because that is the way life seems to me, and I love art and books that are mind-expanding because we need to expand our minds to perceive just how surreal and magical life is. My books have been described as strange fiction, weird fiction, surrealism, magic realism, fantasy fiction… but I just like to call them Strange Books.


I wrote...

Nothing Is Strange

By Mike Russell,

Book cover of Nothing Is Strange

What is my book about?

20 mind-expanding short stories. Inspiring, liberating, otherworldly, magical, surreal, bizarre, funny, disturbing, unique… all of these words have been used to describe the stories of Mike Russell so put on your top hat, open your third eye and enjoy… Nothing Is Strange!

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Fictions of Bruno Schulz: The Street of Crocodiles and Sanatorium under the Sign of the Hourglass

Mike Russell Why did I love this book?

Long ago, I watched a dream of a movie called Street of Crocodiles by the Quay Brothers. It was based on a story by someone called Bruno Schulz. I bought the book. Though there are only two Bruno Schulz books, it is as if there are a thousand Bruno Schulz books hidden between their words. His stories are often unable to contain themselves and his writing bursts out into reverie. Shot dead by a Nazi officer at the age of fifty, his writing displays a sensitivity that is the antithesis of something as brutal as firing a bullet into a human being. He creates a mood of receptivity. You may find the world more magical, wonderful, and deep after reading Bruno Schulz.

By Bruno Schulz,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The stories in these pages comprise all the surviving fiction of a man described by John Updike in the introduction as 'one of the great transmogrifiers of the world into words'. They portray the doom-ridden yet comic world of a small Polish town in the years before the war, a world brought vividly to life in prose as memorable and as unique as are the brushstrokes of Marc Chagall.


Book cover of The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman

Mike Russell Why did I love this book?

The door to Angela Carter’s imagination swung wide open, broke off its hinges, then flew away during the writing of this one. Never without meaning or serious intent, yet always surreal, fantastical, wild, and magical, Angela Carter helped me to realise how I wanted to write. Her anarchic spirit, compassion, and desire for a better world shine through as she pokes civilisation with a phantasmagorical finger.

By Angela Carter,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Desiderio, an employee of the city under a bizarre reality attack from Doctor Hoffman's mysterious machines, has fallen in love with Albertina, the Doctor's daughter. But Albertina, a beautiful woman made of glass, seems only to appear to him in his dreams. Meeting on his adventures a host of cannibals, centaurs and acrobats, Desiderio must battle against unreality and the warping of time and space to be with her, as the Doctor reduces Desiderio's city to a chaotic state of emergency - one ridden with madness, crime and sexual excess.

A satirical tale of magic and sex, The Infernal Desire…


Book cover of Metamorphosis and Other Stories

Mike Russell Why did I love this book?

I love stories that are many things at the same time. They can open a person up to a wider perspective, a greater awareness; that’s the kind of story I love to write. Kafka’s stories can be considered as absurd allegory, as surreal evocations of mystery and magic, as psychological study, as satire, as dark comedy… as all of these and more at once. Many of Kafka’s stories were considered by the author to be unfinished but to me they seem complete. Kafka famously tried to ‘finish’ all of his stories once and for all by instructing his friend to destroy them after his death. Thankfully, he was prevented from adding that final full stop.

By Franz Kafka, Michael Hofmann (translator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Metamorphosis and Other Stories as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This collection of new translations brings together the small proportion of Kafka's works that he thought worthy of publication. It includes Metamorphosis, his most famous work, an exploration of horrific transformation and alienation; Meditation, a collection of his earlier studies; The Judgement, written in a single night of frenzied creativity; The Stoker, the first chapter of a novel set in America and a fascinating occasional piece, The Aeroplanes at Brescia, Kafka's eyewitness account of an air display in 1909. Together, these stories reveal the breadth of Kafka's literary vision and the extraordinary imaginative depth of his thought.


Book cover of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Mike Russell Why did I love this book?

I prefer stories that are about life rather than about things that happen in life. PKD’s books are exactly that. Hollywood omitted the humour, spirituality, and craziness in their adaptations of his work and often inverted his meaning entirely; the books are so much better and far more radical. If you want literature that expands the mind try a PKD book, or at least an exact replica of one.

By Philip K. Dick,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As the eagerly-anticipated new film Blade Runner 2049 finally comes to the screen, rediscover the world of Blade Runner . . .

World War Terminus had left the Earth devastated. Through its ruins, bounty hunter Rick Deckard stalked, in search of the renegade replicants who were his prey. When he wasn't 'retiring' them with his laser weapon, he dreamed of owning a live animal - the ultimate status symbol in a world all but bereft of animal life.

Then Rick got his chance: the assignment to kill six Nexus-6 targets, for a huge reward. But in Deckard's world things were…


Book cover of The Dance of Reality: A Psychomagical Autobiography

Mike Russell Why did I love this book?

Discovering the art of Alejandro Jodorowsky helped me to remove limitations from my own art. It was a joy to discover his work and it was a further joy to discover that his life has been just as uncompromising, surreal, and magical as his art. He has hung out with circus people, shamans, great artists (Marcel Marceau, Leonora Carrington, Jean Giraud… the list goes on). His novels, autobiographies, comic books, movies, and pictures are all fantastic. 

By Alexandro Jodorowsky,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Not a traditional autobiography composed of a chronological recounting of memories, Dance of Realityrepaints events from Jodorowsky's life from the perspective of an unleashed imagination. Like the psychomagic and metagenealogy therapies he created, this autobiography exposes the mythic models and family templates upon which the events of everyday life are founded. It reveals the development of Jodorowsky's realization that all problems are rooted in the family tree and explains, through vivid examples from his own life, particularly interactions with his father and mother, how the individual's road to true fulfilment means casting off the phantoms projected by parents on their…


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Currently Away: How Two Disenchanted People Traveled the Great Loop for Nine Months and Returned to the Start, Energized and Optimistic

By Bruce Tate,

Book cover of Currently Away: How Two Disenchanted People Traveled the Great Loop for Nine Months and Returned to the Start, Energized and Optimistic

Bruce Tate

New book alert!

What is my book about?

The plan was insane. The trap seemed to snap shut on Bruce and Maggie Tate, an isolation forced on them by the pandemic and America's growing political factionalism. Something had to change.

Maggie's surprising answer: buy a boat, learn to pilot it, and embark on the Great Loop. With no experience, and knowing little about seafaring, diesel motors, or navigation, Maggie, Bruce, and the family dog decided to take on the six-thousand-mile journey down inland rivers, around the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, and across the Great Lakes. They would have to navigate canals, rivers, seas, and locks. But along the way, they made new lifelong friends and were forever changed.

For nine months, Bruce and Maggie navigated shallow rivers, bottomless lakes, joy, and loss. Against all odds, they conquered the Great Loop, and along the way, found common cause across political divides with new friends while blowing the walls off their world.

Currently Away: How Two Disenchanted People Traveled the Great Loop for Nine Months and Returned to the Start, Energized and Optimistic

By Bruce Tate,


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