The best books to take you on a fantastical adventure

The Books I Picked & Why

Peter Pan

By J. M. Barrie

Book cover of Peter Pan

Why this book?

Peter Pan was one of the first books that made me want to write and create my own worlds. Neverland was an escape, not only for the Darling children but for my earliest stories. It was a place to be anyone, and go on endless adventures, without the limitations of adult expectations. The characters will always be special to me. We may have to grow up, but we can always keep special places like Neverland in our hearts and strive to create worlds that generations of readers will enjoy. 

One note is that while I will always love this book, it was published in 1911 and I cannot endorse the racist portrayals of Native Americans/Indigenous People. As the historical costume community says, ‘vintage style, not vintage values.’

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Howl's Moving Castle

By Diana Wynne Jones

Book cover of Howl's Moving Castle

Why this book?

Howl’s Moving Castle is a magical gem of a book full of some of the best western fantasy tropes. Curses, an evil witch, character transformations, a visit to Wales, magical riddles, and lots more. Sophie is an endlessly relatable character, plain and ordinary with no allusions to greatness who ends up entangled in more magic than she could have ever dreamed. If you’ve seen and loved Studio Ghibli’s animated adaptation, take a few rainy afternoons to dive into the Kingdom of Ingary and meet the expanded, wacky, cast of characters.

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Xxxholic Omnibus 1

By Clamp

Book cover of Xxxholic Omnibus 1

Why this book?

I was introduced to CLAMP’s work through one of their most popular works, Card Captor Sakura when I was seven or eight, but I really grew to love their darker, more surreal projects such as xxxHolic. Not only is the artwork throughout the manga series gorgeous, but the story also introduces you to all sorts of Japanese folklore, explores time loops, and the thin barrier between the human world and spirits. xxxHolic has been at the top of my recommendation list for manga lovers and newbies to the medium for years. Any fan of dramatic twists and turns, the supernatural, and snarky, snappy dialogue will certainly love this series as much as I do.

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A Darker Shade of Magic

By V.E. Schwab

Book cover of A Darker Shade of Magic

Why this book?

I picked up this book solely based on the striking white, red, and black cover. The concept of traveling between different versions of London, a magical coat, and the grayness of trying to do what’s right even if it may not be the correct, or legal, thing hooked me. Kell and Lila are great examples of main characters that exist in the dirty middle of the good versus evil scale. They both make mistakes, try to fix them, and are moderately successful at doing so. But what they sacrifice and struggle with to do so is what makes them so interesting.

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The Song of Achilles

By Madeline Miller

Book cover of The Song of Achilles

Why this book?

The idea of a retelling of Greek mythology might not be everyone’s idea of an exciting read, but Miller takes the tragedy of Patroclus and Achilles and weaves a beautiful ballad that stretches the course of their short lives and adventures before and during the Trojan War. I’ve always been a proponent of sharing queer stories, and The Song of Achilles was the first piece of literary fiction that focused on queer characters that I had read. This is the book that really pushed me to unapologetically write queer stories. It’s a heartbreaking read, that immerses you in Patroclus’ Greece, you need to pick it up if you haven’t yet.

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