The best magic realism books 📚

Browse the best books on magic realism as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

Coming Fall 2022: The ability to sort this list by genre (signup here to follow our story as we build a better way to discover books).

Book cover of Song of Solomon

Song of Solomon

By Toni Morrison

Why this book?

This book was probably my first exposure to the magical realism genre when I was in High School. Toni Morrison, a friend of my English teacher while they were both at nearby Rutgers, donated a class set to my classroom. It was one of the few times I remembered having an actual fresh new book that wasn’t scribbled in or torn up from school. The book opens with a man attempting to fly by jumping off a roof as a community watches. It is written in this fluid, poetic way that just blew my high schooler mind. I wasn’t even…

From the list:

The best books for young adults who love a touch of magic

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Book cover of Beloved

Beloved

By Toni Morrison

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 

From the list:

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

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Book cover of Shoeless Joe

Shoeless Joe

By W.P. Kinsella

Why this book?

This novel is less well-known, and much more accomplished, than the movie based on it – Field of Dreams. Where the movie is sappy, the book is lyrical and warmly nostalgic for a time and place – rural Iowa in the 1970s. There is a clear magical realism vibe to the whole thing. The plot structure of the novel is a very shaggy dog involving a baseball field in a corn field, the kidnapping of a famous novelist and numerous dead people coming back to life. The book is big-hearted and much of the writing is luminous.

From the list:

The best novels about baseball

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Book cover of Land of Big Numbers: Stories

Land of Big Numbers: Stories

By Te-Ping Chen

Why this book?

Drawing from her work as a journalist, Chen gives us unsettling stories crystallized by the ferocious competition that engulfs everyone in the vast anonymous landscape that is contemporary China. The endless micro-struggles of small-town individuals to escape poverty or gain an educational foothold reveal their warped understanding of society and life. Mindless mishaps, fears, and even cruelty are everyday experiences of people struggling to survive and protect their families. The great hidden human costs of China's rise are simply mind-boggling. 

From the list:

The best books on people's lives in contemporary China

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Book cover of The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts

The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts

By Maxine Hong Kingston

Why this book?

Most people think magical realism is limited to fiction, but Maxine Hong Kingston proves that it can be used for memoir, too. This was the first non-fiction form of magical realism that I ever read, and it broadened the genre for me. I think the biggest element of magical realism found in this memoir is her thematic use of ghosts. Readers might have a hard time figuring out if certain characters are really ghosts or not, and that vagueness is one of the most beautiful elements of magical realism. 

From the list:

The best magical realism books

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Book cover of Everybody Sees the Ants

Everybody Sees the Ants

By A.S. King

Why this book?

If you’ve never read an A.S. King book, well, all I can say is: fix that immediately. King’s brilliance shines through her witty dialogue and her ability to peel back the layers on the uncomfortable parts of life all while managing to use magical realism perfectly. Her books are that good. I’m not kidding. This book focuses on 15-year-old Lucky Linderman, who is the target of Nader McMillan’s relentless bullying. You’ll fall in love with Lucky. You’ll fall in love with this book.
From the list:

The best YA novels on bullying and depression

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Or, view all 73 books about magic realism

New book lists about magic realism

All book lists about magic realism

Bookshelves related to magic realism

Browse books by…