The best fairy tale books

43 authors have picked their favorite books about fairy tales and why they recommend each book.

Soon, you will be able to filter by genre, age group, and more. Sign up here to follow our story as we build a better way to explore books.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission (learn more).

Beauty and the Beast (Timeless Fairy Tales)

By K.M. Shea,

Book cover of Beauty and the Beast (Timeless Fairy Tales)

I love when an author takes a character you think you know and adds layers of depth you never would have imagined. That’s what Shea does with Elle here. We all picture the Disney Belle--smart but with that feeling of needing to be rescued. This Elle is not that kind of beauty. I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but I really appreciated the heartbreaking strength this woman had. She literally gives everything for her family, and once she knows his heart, Prince Severin.


Who am I?

I’ve always loved fairytales. What little girl with a growing romantic heart doesn’t? By the time I was eight, I told people I was Cinderella because of all the work I did at home. An exaggeration, even for the oldest child, but still. My first prom dress, during a year I won’t mention, was reminiscent of Cinderella’s blue ballgown. As I became a writer myself, I noticed my stories held themes I learned from fairytales. Love, loyalty, courage, and a dose of magic. I simply add space or aliens to the mix.


I wrote...

Fade Into Me

By Charity Bradford,

Book cover of Fade Into Me

What is my book about?

A modern-day fairytale with a science fiction twist. Aliens live among us. Their purpose: to protect and nurture their greatest mistake—mankind.


Abhithian. Caedan doesn’t believe humans will evolve to see the magic, much less control it. Even so, he has two months to marry one or face the wrath of the High Council. Bitter about a responsibility he thinks prevents him from marrying for love, he figures any human girl will do. Then his soul mate stumbles into—and right out of—his arms.

Human. Ryanne might be Caedan’s one shot at happiness while still fulfilling his duty. Unfortunately, she’s determined to push Caedan away to protect him from her past and a dark secret.

Zel

By Donna Jo Napoli,

Book cover of Zel

Napoli is a master at rewriting fairy tales and other classic stories, and Zel might just be my favorite of her works. A young adult retelling of Rapunzel from three perspectives, it sticks to the original tale’s basic plot points but deeply expands the reader’s understanding of each character, particularly Rapunzel’s mother, whose feelings and motivations are written with exquisite nuance. Though it’s written for a YA audience, I still enjoy this story as much now as I did when I first read it at age 13, and now that I’m a mother myself, I experience it on an entirely different level. This is a deceptively simple book that really has layers upon layers to unwrap. 


Who am I?

“All stories have two sides,” my fifth-grade teacher said to us one day. “Sometimes, they have more than that.” She told us to rewrite a scene from the book we were reading from the perspective of a different character. What was meant to be a quick writing exercise turned out to be the start of my lifelong fascination with retellings. I love that retold tales show the fundamental truth that everyone has a story, no matter how peripheral they might seem in the original. I’ve written two Pride and Prejudice continuations, and my forthcoming novel is a historical retelling of Beauty and the Beast. 


I wrote...

The Heiress: The Revelations of Anne de Bourgh

By Molly Greeley,

Book cover of The Heiress: The Revelations of Anne de Bourgh

What is my book about?

As a fussy baby, Anne de Bourgh’s doctor prescribed laudanum to quiet her, and now the young woman must take the opium-heavy tincture every day. But she comes to see that what she has always been told is an affliction of nature might in fact be one of nurture – and one, therefore, that she can beat. She throws away her laudanum and seeks refuge at her cousin’s London home. Suddenly wide awake to the world but utterly unprepared, Anne must decide what matters more: society’s approbation, or the pull of her newfound sense of self.

An extraordinary tale of one woman’s liberation, The Heiress reveals both the darkness and light in Jane Austen’s world, with wit, sensuality, and a deeply compassionate understanding of the human heart.

The Little Prince

By Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Richard Howard (translator),

Book cover of The Little Prince

Such a wonderful and endearing story, with so much wisdom embodied beneath its deceptively simple surface. It offers memorably sublime perspectives on love, loss, friendship, hope, and the human condition—to name just a few. 

I reconnected with this beautiful classic after receiving it on my 18th birthday from my mother, who had read it to me when I was a young child. I climbed a tree and read the whole book in that one (elevated) sitting, returning to earth several hours later with the special kind of uplifting sadness which the book evokes. Aware that some people will never be scared of hats, nor hear the tinkling laughter of the stars. As Kahlil Gibran once wrote: "Keep me away from the wisdom which does not cry, the philosophy which does not laugh and the greatness which does not bow before children."


Who am I?

Being a slightly different, forty-year-old version of my novel’s narrator – Zoofall – I've spent a large part of my life exploring other worlds. Accepted, grown-up methods such as reading, imagination, and research have naturally been used to reach these lesser-seen places, together with daydreaming, Lucid Dreaming, astral clairvoyance, and other ways of which I must not speak. With a keen interest in mythology, folklore, urban legends, and all things mystical, I've come to believe that there exists a grey area between fantasy and reality that, when properly and honestly tapped, embodies a familiar and long-forgotten essence of truth. In the end, our perspective is nothing more than the mirror and melting candles we hold.


I wrote...

Steggie Belle & the Dream Warriors

By Elias Pell,

Book cover of Steggie Belle & the Dream Warriors

What is my book about?

“What if our understanding of dreams is just a poor reflection of another place… a real place?” During a storm, a man who calls himself Zoofall has barricaded himself inside an attic. He has only seven candles worth of time to reveal his extraordinary secrets. How, when he was a boy, he discovered a wild other world, where Reality and Mythology meet, beyond the limits of Lucid Dreaming.

There he found a group of other young dreamers, and together they tried to unravel the terrifying mysteries of this dream world. He must finish his story before the candles run out, then face the nightmarish demons of his past, and the question which has haunted him for most of his life: “What really happened to Steggie Belle?”

James and the Giant Peach

By Roald Dahl, Quentin Blake (illustrator),

Book cover of James and the Giant Peach

Bizarre, misshapen, and sweet, this is the Roald Dahl book I find most alluring. A much-beloved tale, the plot sounds phantasmagoric in distillation: a house-sized peach sprouts overnight from a tree outside the shack where young James is essentially kept imprisoned by two cruel aunts; the boy tunnels into the fruit’s pit, befriends the band of enormous talking insects within, and the whole gang embarks on an adventure where the peach bobs out to sea, is carried through the air by hundreds of seagulls, is attacked by creatures who live on clouds, and eventually comes to rest on the spire of the Empire State Building. Intrigue, humor, and rambunctious versifying abound—and the once-forlorn James is not only unvanquished but happy. Nice ending.


Who am I?

I’ve always been drawn to stories that feature mysterious locales and secret objects and strange or magical occurrences, so books with these elements—particularly when the main characters in the books are young people learning about themselves and the world around them—are often very satisfying to me. There’s something naturally engaging, I believe, in tales where someone is thrust into a disorienting situation and has to make sense of the uncertainty he or she faces. The books I’ve written for young readers all tend in this direction, and so I’m always on the hunt for stories along these same lines.


I wrote...

Winterhouse

By Ben Guterson, Chloe Bristol (illustrator),

Book cover of Winterhouse

What is my book about?

Orphan Elizabeth Somers’s malevolent aunt and uncle ship her off to the ominous Winterhouse Hotel, owned by the peculiar Norbridge Falls. Upon arrival, Elizabeth quickly discovers that Winterhouse has many charms―most notably its massive library. It’s not long before she locates a magical book of puzzles that will unlock a mystery involving Norbridge and his sinister family. But the deeper she delves into the hotel’s secrets, the more Elizabeth starts to realize that she is somehow connected to Winterhouse. As fate would have it, Elizabeth is the only person who can break the hotel’s curse and solve the mystery. But will it be at the cost of losing the people she has come to care for, and even Winterhouse itself?

The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins

By Dr. Seuss,

Book cover of The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins

I was captivated by this picture book. The first two illustrations I have never forgotten: Bartholomew living at the bottom of a hill looks up at King Derwin's Castle at the top of the hill -- a mighty view, and it makes Bartholomew feel mighty small. King Derwin in his castle looks down at Bartholomew sees the houses down below: a mighty view, that makes King Derwin feel mighty important. Bartholomew is told to obey a stupid rule made by the King which leads to surprising consequences.

I learned from this story about the difference between riches and poverty, and the power that riches bring. Later I realised that King Derwin was a Dictator.


Who am I?

Two books that I read as a young child were very important to me. The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins by Dr. Seuss made me think about riches, poverty, and the power that rich people have to make stupid rules; and poor people have no choice but to obey them. The Japanese Twins from Lucy Fitch Perkins' series on twins from different cultures gave me a life-long interest in cultural differences. Not only did they think differently, depending on their culture, they also had different skin colours. Later I learned about racism when I worked with unhappy displaced children and interpreted for asylum-seekers. I write from a child's perspective, making books accessible to all ages.


I wrote...

Christophe's Story

By Nicki Cornwell,

Book cover of Christophe's Story

What is my book about?

Christophe and his family are asylum-seekers in the UK. Christophe has a story inside him - and this story wants to be told. But with a new country, a new school, and a new language to cope with, Christophe can't find the right words. He wants to tell the whole school why he had to leave Rwanda, why he has a scar made by a bullet from a soldier's gun, and what happened to his baby brother, but has he got the courage to be a storyteller? Christophe must find a way to break through all these barriers so he can share his story with everyone.

The Bloody Chamber

By Angela Carter,

Book cover of The Bloody Chamber: And Other Stories

Several reviewers of my book referred to Angela Carter, so I decided to revisit my collection after many years.

A rich and chilling retelling of my childhood nightmare story Bluebeard heads Angela Carter’s collection. Carter delights in the gruesome and gory detail, the blood-soaked keys, the dripping corpses. When I was a child I was terrified of the illustration in my fairy tale book of a hanging row of girls in beautiful blood-stained gowns, I couldn’t read the actual story, I was too frightened, but time and again I returned to that vivid illustration, horribly fascinated. Now, many years later, I read The Bloody Chamber and understood the compulsive near-madness of the heroine. All of these retellings of fairy tales are well worth visiting.


Who am I?

Much of my writing is influenced by Fairy Stories. Sometimes I retell the stories in my own words, sometimes I create my own, and sometimes, as in Rose Doran Dreams, I weave them into the narrative so that they shape the central character in a way that affects or explains her development. There is a darkness about Fairy Stories that fascinates me, that gives psychological depth to a character or a narrative as I write. I am dizzy with the notion that Fairy Stories don’t belong to the teller or the writer, the listener or the reader; they transcend time and place. 


I wrote...

Rose Doran Dreams

By Berlie W. Doherty,

Book cover of Rose Doran Dreams

What is my book about?

As a child, Rose was fed fairy stories by her brother, and then her teacher. Her favourite was The Fisherman and His Wife, about the magic fish and the woman who rejects all that her wishes bring. But it is Rose who faces rejection, from her parents, her teacher, her lover the dancer, her stolen child, her husband. Her strange, exotic neighbour Paedic is a fantasist, and in their shared stories and dreams Rose finds a kind of fulfillment. As their stories become darker and more disturbing she begins to lose touch with reality.

Mistress Masham's Repose

By T. H. White,

Book cover of Mistress Masham's Repose

My inner child is still captivated by the Lilliputian world of T.H. White's Mistress Masham's Repose every time I read it. I don't know why the idea of discovering a secret miniature kingdom is so alluring: I think it may have something to do with my love for dollhouses when I was a child. T.H. White was best known for The Once and Future King and The Sword in the Stone, based on the Arthurian legends; he was a master at taking an old story (Gulliver's Travels in the case of Mistress Masham's Repose) and making it truly his own.

Who am I?

At the age of seven, already a devoted bookworm, I came upon a large stack of early-20th century children's magazines filled with stories, poems, and especially fairy tales, some the classic kind, and some weird, scary or unfamiliar. I don't know where those dog-eared, well-thumbed annuals came from, or what happened to them afterward – they were lost or given away when our family moved, I suppose. But I have never forgotten them, or the effect they had on my imagination and longings. I've been searching for those long-lost tales ever since... and it finally led me to decide I would just have to write a few of my own.


I wrote...

Slipper

By Hester Velmans,

Book cover of Slipper

What is my book about?

Slipper is the history of a poor orphaned stepchild, a would-be princess, whose search for one true love or another takes her all over 17th-Century England, France, and the Low Countries. Born under mysterious circumstances, she grows up to be a dreamer, a cinder sweep, a runaway, a camp follower, a kisser of frogs, a beggar, a mother, and an artist. Along the way, she finds a mentor, Charles Perrault, the original author of the world's most beloved fairy tales, and tells him her story. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that hers is a fairy tale come true.

The Light Princess

By George MacDonald,

Book cover of The Light Princess

The 19th-century Scottish writer George MacDonald is said to be the father of the modern fairy tale, inspiring C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, and many others. I chose The Light Princess because I find it his most charming tale: it's about a princess under a wicked spell who has been made weightless, unable to obey the laws of gravity. As in all good fairy tales, a prince eventually comes along to drag her back down to earth. He must sacrifice himself for her, but in the end, it is she who rescues him – from a feminist perspective, a most gratifying conclusion.

Who am I?

At the age of seven, already a devoted bookworm, I came upon a large stack of early-20th century children's magazines filled with stories, poems, and especially fairy tales, some the classic kind, and some weird, scary or unfamiliar. I don't know where those dog-eared, well-thumbed annuals came from, or what happened to them afterward – they were lost or given away when our family moved, I suppose. But I have never forgotten them, or the effect they had on my imagination and longings. I've been searching for those long-lost tales ever since... and it finally led me to decide I would just have to write a few of my own.


I wrote...

Slipper

By Hester Velmans,

Book cover of Slipper

What is my book about?

Slipper is the history of a poor orphaned stepchild, a would-be princess, whose search for one true love or another takes her all over 17th-Century England, France, and the Low Countries. Born under mysterious circumstances, she grows up to be a dreamer, a cinder sweep, a runaway, a camp follower, a kisser of frogs, a beggar, a mother, and an artist. Along the way, she finds a mentor, Charles Perrault, the original author of the world's most beloved fairy tales, and tells him her story. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that hers is a fairy tale come true.

Zander (Heroes at Heart)

By Maryann Jordan,

Book cover of Zander (Heroes at Heart)

I always find it ironic (and amusing) when critics sneer that romance writing is formulaic, emotionally shallow, and focused on sex only. Thankfully, Jordan shows them how it’s done right: in every one of her 10+ series, she writes with gut-wrenching emotional depth and her characters are complex, imperfect human beings. Zander introduces us to a group of eight men raised together in a single foster home and who now consider each other brothers. Rough around the edges and on different life paths as adults, they’re all gallant heroes at heart. Zander is the gruffest, least-affable of the brothers, a man who seems unlikely to own up to a mistake or show emotion… but Jordan brings him to life in ways that are simultaneously beautiful and heartbreaking.


Who am I?

I’m the best-selling romance author of 29 books which span six series. I love creating whole worlds for readers to enter and spend time with smoking-hot bodyguards, motorcycle club members, ex-military bad boys, sexy cowboys, and MMA fighters. Although I love pretty much everything about writing for a living, I do get special joy from having characters from one series wander into a different series and interact with a totally different group of people – keeping track of all the relationships definitely keeps me on my toes! I have three new books coming out this year, so I’m really looking forward to sharing some new stories with my wonderful readers.


I wrote...

Enemy Within (Unseen Enemy Book 1)

By Marysol James,

Book cover of Enemy Within (Unseen Enemy Book 1)

What is my book about?

When Emma gets some very (very) bad health news, she heads to a bar, intent on having her first-ever one-night stand. There she meets Dean, whose life is all about ‘just one night’ and zero commitment. The next day, Emma sneaks away and they both assume that’s it: neither expects to see the other again. 

A month later, a chance encounter brings them back into each other’s lives, along with their private secrets and fears. It also brings together their groups of friends: Dean’s ex-military buddies and Emma’s girlfriends supporting her through her medical crisis. As they all grow closer, the realization comes to every one of them that truth, forgiveness, and love can arise from even the most horrible, life-altering events.

The Tale of Despereaux Trade Book

By Kate DiCamillo,

Book cover of The Tale of Despereaux Trade Book

The Tale of Despereaux is one of my favorite books because it has such a classic, timeless feel to it. This isn’t a retelling, but rather a brand new fairy tale, with Princess Pea, a heroic mouse on a quest, a servant girl whose father sold her for a handful of cigarettes and a table cloth, and a kingdom that has banned the eating of soup. Kate DiCamillo manages to weave these interconnected stories together in a way that not only creates a modern-day fairy tale that will leave you on the edge of your seat, but also comments on the power of storytelling itself.


Who am I?

I’ve been obsessed with stories and storytelling ever since I learned to read, which is probably why fairy tales, some of the oldest stories around, play a huge role in Unwritten. What I love most about fairy tales is how exciting they are: they have magic, wicked witches, abandoned children, magical transformations…. And yet, the original fairy tales are often simply “story skeletons” –some are only a few pages (or even paragraphs) long. Still, they have endured over hundreds of years and are constantly evolving. I love studying what makes these tales continue to resonate with readers and thinking about how I can use these elements in my own work.


I wrote...

Unwritten

By Tara Gilboy,

Book cover of Unwritten

What is my book about?

Twelve-year-old Gracie is living a normal life, but she is haunted by the fact that she is actually a character from a story, an unpublished fairy tale she's never read. When she was a baby, her parents learned that she was supposed to die in the story, and with the help of a magic book, took her out of the story, and into the outside world, where she could be safe. Despite her mother's warnings, Gracie seeks out the story's author, setting in motion a chain of events that draw her back into the forgotten tale. Inside the story, Gracie struggles to navigate the blurred boundary between who she really is and the surprising things the author wrote about her.

Or, view all 184 books about fairy tales

New book lists related to fairy tales

All book lists related to fairy tales

Bookshelves related to fairy tales