The best books on magic realism where the real world is filled with mystical or supernatural phenomena

The Books I Picked & Why

The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse

By Louise Erdrich

Book cover of The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse

Why this book?

Poetic and mystical, The Last Report on The Miracles at Little No Horse is a fusion of unsentimental realism and profound spirituality. Possibly one of my favourite books ever, the novel is multi-themed, philosophical, and rich in both imagery and wisdom. Not so much about a loss of faith as about transcending the veils of misunderstanding complicating the connection between our human lives and Divine Love, this robust story superbly blends life and death, passionate love with deep sorrow, and the spiritual with the earthly. Perhaps because I live in a country with 11 (eleven!) official languages, the Native American influence — including Erdrich’s use of indigenous language — adds a densely layered and intriguing ambiance. What drives the heart of this story is what lies at the heart of human love.


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The House of the Spirits

By Isabel Allende

Book cover of The House of the Spirits

Why this book?

I first read Allende’s epic novel The House of the Spirits when I was a teenager living in apartheid South Africa; I’ve read it again since we’ve become a democratic country. The best of this story lies in the way mysticism, a rich cultural history, and political turmoil are woven together in a labyrinthine story as brutally realistic as it is magical. The novel dramatically explores the contradictions between good/evil, triumph/tragedy, and earthly/mystical power. Filled with gritty violence, and not always a pleasant read, this dazzling story captures both my imagination and my intellect with the beautifully realized individual characters and the poignant, yet necessary, depiction of a country transitioning from a traditional and insular way of life to becoming part of a more complex, global community.


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Beloved

By Toni Morrison

Book cover of Beloved

Why this book?

The literary greatness of Beloved lies in its infinitely rewarding lyrical voice and atmospheric elegance. While not easy to read, the stream of consciousness style involved me more deeply in the inner complexities of the characters’ lives and loves. More than a political statement, this intricate, powerful novel is thought-provoking and, at times, painfully brutal. Ultimately, though, this is a story more about perseverance than about suffering; more about the pain and flaws of the collective human race than it is about the haunting of any one individual. A truly sublime and magical book 


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Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies

By Laura Esquivel

Book cover of Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies

Why this book?

As I love chocolate almost as much as I love reading, Like Water for Chocolate was always going to be on my reading list. On the surface, the book is a simple love story set during the Mexican Civil War. Digging deeper, the story is an allegory for the suffering of the Mexican people, particularly women, under the strict rules and traditions of an elitist government. This book is a subtle, sumptuous feast in which the recipes Tita concocts magically transfer her passions into her food and from the food to those who eat her cooking. The final choice she must make between her passionate first love and a foreign love offering her safety and comfort has an emotional grandeur that reveals how intertwined collective history is with personal history.


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The God of Small Things

By Arundhati Roy

Book cover of The God of Small Things

Why this book?

The God of Small Things is a beautiful book filled with multi-layered characters, compelling prose as lyrical as poetry and complex, heart-breaking themes. The hint of an unknown threat looming over the story adds a melancholic tone to this book about post-colonial India. Perhaps that’s why this book resonated so deeply with me – because here too, in post-colonial and post-apartheid South Africa, our small lives are shadowed by larger forces than we can comprehend and yet hope and the beauty of love echo throughout our land. Switching timelines from present to past, often speaking in a “special” language, Roy’s intense narrative highlights how small acts can have tragic consequences


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