4 Must Reads in Magical Realism

By: Grace Carver

This list is a little love letter for one of my favorite genres that I think is so often underrated and overlooked. Magical Realism walks the line between Fantasy and Fiction, incorporating a realistic depiction of the world while displaying elements of magic. Where Fantasy is said to take you away from reality, Magical Realism uses its fantastical elements to ground you further in reality, defying “the real world” while representing it perfectly. It brings poetry to the novel. It paints a surrealist mural with only words. I just eat it up every time I come across a really good piece of Magical Realism. I’m a total sucker for it, and think everyone is but they just don’t realize it yet. That said, here is a list of four of the novels to add to your list and that have inspired my love for the genre.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

This novel has my favorite opening line I have ever read. 

“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”

When I first read that I was absolutely struck, and could tell that this book was going to be striking all the way through. As usual, I was right (please note that I am right most of the time). Mind you, this is only the first line, and to follow is even more brilliant and quotable prose. At times, Márquez’s descriptions and plot can only be described as absurd and nonsensical, but somehow it serves the story so very well. This is a story of family, fate, and time. 

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

This story is about a twelve-year-old boy named Douglas during a dreamy summer in 1928 in Green Town, Illinois. It’s about changing and growing, about living and dying, and about what summer used to be when we were all young once upon a time. The imagery in this story is fresh and earthy and transporting. I won’t lie to you, though I am tempted because I love lying, but this book had me crying. I’m sentimental, which didn’t help much. 

“Some people turn sad awfully young. No special reason, it seems, but they seem almost to be born that way. They bruise easier, tire faster, cry quicker, remember longer and, as I say, get sadder younger than anyone else in the world. I know, for I’m one of them.”

Are you kidding me? I’m crying right now. (And I love a book that can make me cry.)

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern 

Following a traveling circus, this novel centers around two magicians pitted against each other from childhood in a years-spanning game of magic. Morgenstern’s prose is the stand-out in the novel. Above all else, this novel is about the circus itself: this indescribable and imperceivable thing shrouded in mystery and wonder and the people within it.

“People see what they wish to see. And in most cases, what they are told that they see.”

This novel is just enchanting, original, and a lovely read that left me convinced that joining a circus is a viable option for me if college doesn’t work out. This delusion may not be entirely healthy for me, but really speaks to the influence of the book. 

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

This is one of my all time favorite novels across all genres. When I had finished this story it hung in my head for a very long time. I go about my days just trying to find ways to bring this book up in conversation. Like Water for Chocolate is about tradition, family, responsibility, love, regret, food, and femininity. Throughout this story, the reader is given the recipes from the beloved protagonist, Tita. When Tita cooks, she feels so deeply that it is imbued into her food, like when she baked a cake and left each wedding guest who took a bite sobbing. 

This novel is hard to explain but it is an absolutely brilliant and passionate romantic tragedy.

“Each of us is born with a box of matches inside us but we can’t strike them all by ourselves.”

This genre is made for anyone who reads for emotional prose and swoon-worthy imagery. For anyone with escapist fantasies who secretly are too attached to their real life to run away. If you take things very literally then you’re in for a bit of a trip, but I say it’s still worth it. 

Why aren’t you reading Magical Realism? Go! I gave you many beautiful options! 

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