Magical Realism Recommendations

While I pride myself on reading almost all genres, except romance. I don’t mean to offend, but I don’t get it. However, I will admit that I do have a couple of favourite genres and sub-genres. One of them is Magic Realism.

Magic realism or magical realism is a style of story that contains fantastical elements in an otherwise realistic setting. The focus in magical realism isn’t on the fantastical, but the more mundane. Take, for example, Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic. While magic is a prominent element, the real focus and heart of the story are with the sisters. Her book is about family and love, which just so happens to have witches and magic. I hope I explained that well.

It’s a genre that doesn’t seem to get as much love, so I decided to do something about that. I thought it would be fun to recommend some of my favourite magical realism novels to you. Hopefully, one of them calls out to you.

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez

Of course, I had to start this list with this classic.

It’s a classic love story, a boy falls in love with a girl, then they start a secret love story, only for the girl to grow up and realise how unhealthy this “love” is, so she breaks it off and marries a more stable man. The boy then waits over fifty years for her husband to die for one more chance to prove his love for her and start their love story again.

Well, maybe not a classic love story, but it is a classic. Heck, it isn’t even really a love story. It’s a story of obsession, about refusing to move on from the past and idolisation. 

I will warn you, Love in the Time of Cholera is the darkest book on this list. It contains a lot of disturbing subject matters and is a bit of a challenging read. 

The Cat Who Saved Books by Sōsuke Natsukawa

Love secondhand bookshops, cats and magic? Then this is the novel for you. 

Rintaro’s life as he knew it is at an end. With the death of his guardian and loving grandfather, he now has to move in with a different relative and say goodbye to the beloved secondhand bookshop his grandfather owned. Rintaro is deep in his grief, neglecting school and trying to prepare for what comes next.

Then a talking cat named Tiger shows up, claiming that only Rintaro can help him save abused books. 

The Cat Who Saved Books is a heartwarming tale about compassion and the glorious power of books.

Before the Coffee Gets Cold and Before the Coffee Gets Cold: Tales from the Café by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

A good cup of coffee can sometimes do the world of good, but can your local coffee shop send you back in time?

This one can.

In a small coffee shop tucked away in a back alley in Tokyo, if you sit in the right seat, at the right time, you can travel back in time. While you can’t change the past, it affords customers the chance to get answers, closure or even say hello. 

Both books are short stories interlinked with one another. All of them are equally heartbreaking and heartwarming. It addresses subjects like Alzheimer’s, guilt and grief. A hopeful book that reminds us to look forward but also to enjoy what we have now. I may or may not have cried a few times while reading them.

It seems that there are two more books in this series, but heartbreakingly they aren’t available in English yet. You better believe that I will be running to my local bookshop to buy them the second they get translated. 

The Night Circus and The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

I will admit, these two books will always have a special place in my heart.

The Night Circus is an excellent example of magical realism in action. The story follows two young magicians locked in a duel-like game, in which neither knows the rules, but the outcome for the loser looks grim. The two end up falling in love, but can their love save them from their fate?

This enchanting novel truly transports you to the mystic circus, where everything seems possible.

The Starless Sea is a more dreamlike take on magic realism. Leading our protagonist, Zachary Ezra Rawlins, and the reader into magical worlds and realms where nothing is ever as it seems.

Zachary was looking for some new books in his University library, only to find a book much older than him that describes an event from his childhood. Little does he know that soon he is brought into a hidden society, and he might have a vital role to play.

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