29 books like Magic for Beginners

By Kelly Link, Shelley Jackson (illustrator),

Here are 29 books that Magic for Beginners fans have personally recommended if you like Magic for Beginners. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Tenth of December: Stories

Giselle Leeb Author Of Mammals, I Think We Are Called

From my list on genre-bending stories to fire your imagination.

Why am I passionate about this?

I had no expectations about what the first short stories I wrote would end up being like. Although I’d read mostly realistic literary fiction before starting to write, most of my stories included fantastical elements. This set me off reading and writing stories categorised as weird, cross-genre, slipstream, magical realist, fantastic, fabulist, horror, soft sci-fi, and surreal. The thing that struck me was how slippery these categories are. But what unites them is their openness to unbounded imagination. Like a lens concentrating a fire, their strange and fantastical techniques amplify feelings and reality in unique ways, while always paying attention to language. It’s been a thrilling, exciting ride!

Giselle's book list on genre-bending stories to fire your imagination

Giselle Leeb Why did Giselle love this book?

One of my top short story writers, the word ‘unique’ was invented for Saunders. Selling in the literary category, he has a vernacular style all his own. His stories comment on American society and the horrors of capitalism but never shove a message down your throat. Saunders is simply immersed in these concerns and it comes out naturally in his writing. His stories contain sci-fi and futuristic elements, and use these, as well as a deadpan surrealism, to comment on the now. The story I will never forget from this collection is "The Semplica Girl Diaries", in which ‘Semplica Girls’, women from ‘third-world’ countries, are trafficked to be used as human lawn ornaments. Saunders faces things head-on, with dark hilarity.

By George Saunders,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Tenth of December as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

**ESCAPE FROM SPIDERHEAD NOW STREAMING ON NETFLIX - STARRING CHRIS HEMSWORTH AND MILES TELLER** The prize-winning, New York Times bestselling short story collection from the internationally bestselling author of Lincoln in the Bardo 'The best book you'll read this year' New York Times 'Dazzlingly surreal stories about a failing America' Sunday Times WINNER OF THE 2014 FOLIO PRIZE AND SHORTLISTED FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD 2013 George Saunders's most wryly hilarious and disturbing collection yet, Tenth of December illuminates human experience and explores figures lost in a labyrinth of troubling preoccupations. A family member recollects a backyard pole dressed for…


Book cover of Things We Lost in the Fire: Stories

Giselle Leeb Author Of Mammals, I Think We Are Called

From my list on genre-bending stories to fire your imagination.

Why am I passionate about this?

I had no expectations about what the first short stories I wrote would end up being like. Although I’d read mostly realistic literary fiction before starting to write, most of my stories included fantastical elements. This set me off reading and writing stories categorised as weird, cross-genre, slipstream, magical realist, fantastic, fabulist, horror, soft sci-fi, and surreal. The thing that struck me was how slippery these categories are. But what unites them is their openness to unbounded imagination. Like a lens concentrating a fire, their strange and fantastical techniques amplify feelings and reality in unique ways, while always paying attention to language. It’s been a thrilling, exciting ride!

Giselle's book list on genre-bending stories to fire your imagination

Giselle Leeb Why did Giselle love this book?

I lived in Buenos Aires, Argentina, for a year in 1988, five years after the last military dictatorship ended. I remember seeing the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo holding vigils in front of the Casa Rosada presidential palace for los desaparecidos, their children who 'disappeared' during the last dictatorship. Enriquez creates strange, dense worlds of horror in these stories, with dark, unexplained, and sometimes magical undercurrents. The stories are not directly about the events, but reference them obliquely, only adding to the terror. Enriquez’s writing style blew me away, and her stories defy easy categorisation.

By Mariana Enriquez,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Things We Lost in the Fire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A portrait of a world in fragments, a mirrorball made of razor blades' Guardian

Sleep-deprived fathers conjuring phantoms; sharp-toothed children and stolen skulls; persecuted young women drawn to self-immolation. Organized crime sits side-by-side with the occult in Buenos Aires - a place where reality and the preternatural fuse into strange, new shapes. These stories follow the wayward and downtrodden, revealing the scars of Argentina's dictatorship and the ghosts and traumas that have settled in the minds of its people. Provocative, brutal and uncanny, Things We Lost in the Fire is a paragon of contemporary Gothic from a writer of singular…


Book cover of The Illustrated Man

Patrick Barb Author Of Pre-Approved for Haunting: And Other Stories

From my list on single-author weird and horrifying short stories.

Why am I passionate about this?

Whether it’s campfire tales told with the moon high or bedtime fables told to get children to stay in their beds after lights out, I believe horror fiction is at its purest, most effective form as short prose. These collections of horror, fantasy, sci-fi, and Western tales are all touched by the weird and terrifying. The twin sensations of being unsettled by something you’ve read and of being unable to resist reading on are guiding lights in my own writerly pursuits. These collections and many more played a defining role in shaping my own debut dark fiction collection Pre-Approved for Haunting and Other Stories. 

Patrick's book list on single-author weird and horrifying short stories

Patrick Barb Why did Patrick love this book?

Blending sci-fi, fantasy, and horror, Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man takes readers to places they’ve likely only seen in their dreams or, more likely, their nightmares.

From heartbreaking tales of space disasters (“Kaleidoscope”) to frightening tales of a VR nursery gone wild (“The Veldt”), the strength of Bradbury’s legendary fiction is found in the way he brought humanity to even the wildest, most out-of-this-world premise. In addition, his immaculate prose is as much a joy to appreciate on the word-by-word, sentence-by-sentence levels, as it is on the story level.

The Illustrated Man was one of the first short story collections I ever read. The fact that so many of the tales included within its pages still stick with me to this day is proof of its power and legacy.

By Ray Bradbury,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Illustrated Man as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A classic collection of stories - all told on the skin of a man - from the author of Fahrenheit 451.

If El Greco had painted miniatures in his prime, no bigger than your hand, infinitely detailed, with his sulphurous colour and exquisite human anatomy, perhaps he might have used this man's body for his art...

Yet the Illustrated Man has tried to burn the illustrations off. He's tried sandpaper, acid, and a knife. Because, as the sun sets, the pictures glow like charcoals, like scattered gems. They quiver and come to life. Tiny pink hands gesture, tiny mouths flicker…


Book cover of Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology

Giselle Leeb Author Of Mammals, I Think We Are Called

From my list on genre-bending stories to fire your imagination.

Why am I passionate about this?

I had no expectations about what the first short stories I wrote would end up being like. Although I’d read mostly realistic literary fiction before starting to write, most of my stories included fantastical elements. This set me off reading and writing stories categorised as weird, cross-genre, slipstream, magical realist, fantastic, fabulist, horror, soft sci-fi, and surreal. The thing that struck me was how slippery these categories are. But what unites them is their openness to unbounded imagination. Like a lens concentrating a fire, their strange and fantastical techniques amplify feelings and reality in unique ways, while always paying attention to language. It’s been a thrilling, exciting ride!

Giselle's book list on genre-bending stories to fire your imagination

Giselle Leeb Why did Giselle love this book?

I’d been writing for a few years, when I came across this book. It was an exciting discovery because it introduced me to a type of story I’d never read before, stories that did weird things I hadn’t thought possible, and included brilliant writers I hadn’t heard of, like Kelly Link and Aimee Bender. I was also excited by the inclusion of writers who were considered literary, who no one would usually put in the strange category, like George Saunders and Michael Chabon. The sheer range of stories and styles was mindblowing. It broadened my ideas about what stories could be, and what I could do in my writing. The introduction by the editors is titled "Slipstream, the Genre That Isn’t," and for me that says it all.

By James Patrick Kelly (editor), John Kessel (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Feeling Very Strange as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

If it is true that the test of a first-rate mind is its ability to hold two contradictory ideas at the same time, then we live in a century when it takes a first-rate mind just to get through the day. We have unprecedented access to information; cognitive dissonance is a banner headline in our morning papers and radiates silently from our computer screens. Slipstream, poised between literature and popular culture, embraces the dissonance.

These ambitious stories of visionary strangeness defy the conventions of science fiction. Tales by Michael Chabon, Karen Joy Fowler, Jonathan Lethem, Carol Emshwiller, George Saunders, and…


Book cover of Black Water: The Book of Fantastic Literature

Giselle Leeb Author Of Mammals, I Think We Are Called

From my list on genre-bending stories to fire your imagination.

Why am I passionate about this?

I had no expectations about what the first short stories I wrote would end up being like. Although I’d read mostly realistic literary fiction before starting to write, most of my stories included fantastical elements. This set me off reading and writing stories categorised as weird, cross-genre, slipstream, magical realist, fantastic, fabulist, horror, soft sci-fi, and surreal. The thing that struck me was how slippery these categories are. But what unites them is their openness to unbounded imagination. Like a lens concentrating a fire, their strange and fantastical techniques amplify feelings and reality in unique ways, while always paying attention to language. It’s been a thrilling, exciting ride!

Giselle's book list on genre-bending stories to fire your imagination

Giselle Leeb Why did Giselle love this book?

Published in 1983, I only recently came across this anthology. A Sunday Times review says: “As an introduction to the delights of fiction about “the impossible seeping into the possible” Black Water has not been surpassed.” This book is on my indispensable reading list. It includes seventy-two stories that span a broad range of writers, many of whom would not be considered writers of the fantastic, from D.H. Lawrence and Edith Wharton to Julio Cortázar and Ray Bradbury. An eye-opening book that demonstrates a myriad of techniques for using strangeness to illustrate reality, and is an absolute reading feast of wonder and imagination. My favourite story is "The Third Bank of the River" by João Guimarães Rosa.

By Alberto Manguel (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Short stories by authors including Julio Cortazar, Saki, Edgar Allan Poe, and Ray Bradbury deal with hauntings, time warps, prophetic dreams, strange creatures, and bizarre occurrences


Book cover of The Ones That Got Away

Patrick Barb Author Of Pre-Approved for Haunting: And Other Stories

From my list on single-author weird and horrifying short stories.

Why am I passionate about this?

Whether it’s campfire tales told with the moon high or bedtime fables told to get children to stay in their beds after lights out, I believe horror fiction is at its purest, most effective form as short prose. These collections of horror, fantasy, sci-fi, and Western tales are all touched by the weird and terrifying. The twin sensations of being unsettled by something you’ve read and of being unable to resist reading on are guiding lights in my own writerly pursuits. These collections and many more played a defining role in shaping my own debut dark fiction collection Pre-Approved for Haunting and Other Stories. 

Patrick's book list on single-author weird and horrifying short stories

Patrick Barb Why did Patrick love this book?

No one writing horror fiction today is better at punching the reader in the guts (or ripping those guts out and showing them to you) like Stephen Graham Jones. While he’s been touted more recently for his novel-length works, I first came to know SGJ’s writing via short stories. This collection is one of several stand-outs from his catalog.

When it comes to horror and weird fiction writing, SGJ’s versatility knows no bounds. Whether it’s the literary strangeness of “Father, Son, Holy Rabbit,” or the freaky folk horror of “Raphael” (elements of which SGJ has revisited in his Indian Lake novel trilogy), there are all kinds of scares in this collection. He even pulls off a shocking jump-scare fright in “Crawlspace” that has to be experienced first-hand.

By Stephen Graham Jones,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Ones That Got Away as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

These thirteen stories are our own lives, inside out. A boy's summer romance doesn't end in that good kind of heartbreak, but in blood. A girl on a fishing trip makes a friend in the woods who's exactly what she needs, except then that friend follows her back to the city. A father hears a voice through his baby monitor that shouldn't be possible, but now he can't stop listening. A woman finds out that the shipwreck wasn't the disaster, but who she's shipwrecked with. A big brother learns just what he will, and won't, trade for one night of…


Book cover of A Collapse of Horses

Patrick Barb Author Of Pre-Approved for Haunting: And Other Stories

From my list on single-author weird and horrifying short stories.

Why am I passionate about this?

Whether it’s campfire tales told with the moon high or bedtime fables told to get children to stay in their beds after lights out, I believe horror fiction is at its purest, most effective form as short prose. These collections of horror, fantasy, sci-fi, and Western tales are all touched by the weird and terrifying. The twin sensations of being unsettled by something you’ve read and of being unable to resist reading on are guiding lights in my own writerly pursuits. These collections and many more played a defining role in shaping my own debut dark fiction collection Pre-Approved for Haunting and Other Stories. 

Patrick's book list on single-author weird and horrifying short stories

Patrick Barb Why did Patrick love this book?

While his stories might be some of the shortest word-count-wise from the tales featured in these listed collections, Brian Evenson’s prose does not lack for the weird and terrifying.

With many pieces going no further than the flash fiction of 1000 or so words, Evenson’s writing has taught me that it’s not about how many words you use, but how you use them.

In this collection, he adds Westerns to the mix of genres where horror and the weird can take seed and bloom into something mind-bendingly unsettling. “Black Bark” is one such story. At first, it seems to be a tale of two Wild West bandits on the run but as the nightmarish end arrives, readers will find they’ve been reading a very different tale all along.

By Brian Evenson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Collapse of Horses as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A stuffed bear's heart beats with the rhythm of a dead baby, Reno keeps receding to the east no matter how far you drive, and in a mine on another planet, the dust won't stop seeping in. In these stories, Evenson unsettles us with the everyday and the extraordinary the terror of living with the knowledge of all we cannot know.

Praise for Brian Evenson:

"Brian Evenson is one of the treasures of American story writing, a true successor both to the generation of Coover, Barthelme, Hawkes and Co., but also to Edgar Allan Poe." Jonathan Lethem

"One of the…


Book cover of Clive Barker's Books of Blood 1-3

David E. Gates Author Of The Wretched

From my list on horror books that changed my life and could change yours.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have loved horror since my early teens, when I first discovered The Rats and Lair and other horror stories by James Herbert. The thing I like about horror, in particular, is that there are no holds barred, no censorship, as to what can be written. I grew up on movies like The Exorcist, Friday the 13th, Jaws, Alien, The Thing, etc., but horror writing takes you deeper and gives a more visceral experience than anything any film can do.

David's book list on horror books that changed my life and could change yours

David E. Gates Why did David love this book?

I discovered Clive Barker's collection of short stories which gave me an introduction to one of the world's best horror writers and film directors. There are so many varied stories within the Books of Blood that it's difficult to highlight some over others.

The Midnight Meat Train was astounding in its detail of visceral butchery, whilst In the Hills, the Cities is fantastic in its imagery of something impossible, which Barker relates with such skill to make you believe the events within are entirely feasible. The Hellbound Heart lets you into a world of new villains and was made into one of my favorite horror films, Hellraiser. I was also lucky to meet and interview Clive, who inspired me to continue writing, saying, "Keep going; you will get better."

By Clive Barker,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Clive Barker's Books of Blood 1-3 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Book cover of The Year of Dangerous Days: Riots, Refugees, and Cocaine in Miami 1980

Gary Krist Author Of Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder, and the Battle for Modern New Orleans

From my list on narrative nonfiction involving murder and mayhem.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a former novelist who now writes historical narrative nonfiction, mainly about American cities and the people who give them life. Each book focuses on an important turning point in the history of a specific metropolis (I've written about Chicago, New Orleans, Los Angeles, and San Francisco), often when the city goes from being a minor backwater to being someplace of significance. And I try to tell this story through the lives of real individuals who help to make that transformation happen. My goal is to use the skills I developed as a fiction writer to create historical narratives that maintain strict standards of scholarship while being as compelling and compulsively readable as novels.

Gary's book list on narrative nonfiction involving murder and mayhem

Gary Krist Why did Gary love this book?

The Year of Dangerous Days is another of those city books that braid together several storylines into a single vibrant portrait. This time the city is Miami, and the year of crisis is 1980, when the Florida metropolis faced a toxic combination of racial unrest, cocaine-fueled gang violence, and an uncontrollable refugee crisis.

Nicholas Griffin anchors his narrative on a few central characters – a police captain, a prominent journalist, a drug lord, and the city's dynamic mayor – creating a cinematic account of a city that somehow managed to emerge from its annus horribilis scarred and chastened, but primed for an unlikely urban rebirth. 

By Nicholas Griffin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the tradition of The Wire, the "utterly absorbing" (The New York Times) story of the cinematic transformation of Miami, one of America's bustling cities-rife with a drug epidemic, a burgeoning refugee crisis, and police brutality-from journalist and award-winning author Nicholas Griffin.

Miami, Florida, famed for its blue skies and sandy beaches, is one of the world's most popular vacation destinations, with nearly twenty-three million tourists visiting annually. But few people have any idea how this unofficial capital of Latin America came to be.

The Year of Dangerous Days is "an engrossing, peek-between-your-fingers history of an American city on the…


Book cover of The Wife Before

Shan R.K Author Of Capo Dei Capi

From my list on crime fiction that will leave you breathless.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was always a peculiar child with no friends, so I found my friends in books. As I got older I turned to writing my own. I wrote many stories, until one night I wrote my first book. It was paranormal fiction. Quite horrid actually. However, it started my obsession with crime romance. I love romance, but I find them a bit dull at times, but a crime novel never leaves me wanting. I decided to join the two worlds, and create my own. It's the reason even after 20 books published, my books are all linked to the biggest crime of all. But that is a secret you need to figure out for yourself.

Shan's book list on crime fiction that will leave you breathless

Shan R.K Why did Shan love this book?

I read this book a few months ago. I was looking for a psychological thriller. And to an extent it was, but it is definitely a crime read that will leave you breathless. 

The story for me was just brilliant. It helps you understand the mind of a second wife to the point of obsession. How we tend to over analyse everything, scrutinize the very basis of what is real and not. 

There is a thin line between perception and misconception. I learned sometimes that the deeper you dwell on finding something that is wrong, the further away from the truth you go.

By Shanora Williams,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Samira Wilder has never had it easy, and when her latest lousy job goes south, things only promise to get harder. Until she unexpectedly meets a man who will change her life forever. Renowned pro golfer Roland Graham is wealthy, handsome, and caring, and Samira is dazzled. Best of all, he seems to understand her better than anyone ever has. And though their relationship moves a bit fast, when Roland proposes, Samira accepts. She even agrees to relocate to his secluded Colorado mansion. After all, there's nothing to keep her in Miami, and the mansion clearly makes him happy. Soon,…


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