The Greatest "Fiction, Magical Realism" Books Since 1980

Click to learn how this list is calculated.

This list represents a comprehensive and trusted collection of the greatest books. Developed through a specialized algorithm, it brings together 280 'best of' book lists to form a definitive guide to the world's most acclaimed books. For those interested in how these books are chosen, additional details can be found on the rankings page.

Filter by: Genres Dates Countries
Follow on:

Genres

Fiction

Magical Realism

Magical realism is a literary genre that weaves elements of fantasy into realistic settings, creating a narrative that exists in a harmonious balance between the ordinary and the extraordinary. In magical realist literature, the supernatural is not presented as something to be questioned or explained, but rather as an accepted part of everyday life. Characters might encounter ghosts, engage in telepathy, or experience time in non-linear ways, yet these occurrences are treated as mundane aspects of the world. This genre often explores complex themes such as identity, time, and the interconnection of reality and illusion, blurring the lines between the conceivable and the incredible. Magical realism is rooted in Latin American literature but has become a beloved and diverse genre worldwide, offering readers a lens through which the complexities of life are viewed with wonder and a subtle touch of magic.

Add additional genre filters

Countries

Date Range

Filter

Reading Statistics

Click the button below to see how many of these books you've read!

Download

If you're interested in downloading this list as a CSV file for use in a spreadsheet application, you can easily do so by clicking the button below. Please note that to ensure a manageable file size and faster download, the CSV will include details for only the first 500 books.

Download
  1. 1. Beloved by Toni Morrison

    This novel tells the story of a former African-American slave woman who, after escaping to Ohio, is haunted by the ghost of her deceased daughter. The protagonist is forced to confront her repressed memories and the horrific realities of her past, including the desperate act she committed to protect her children from a life of slavery. The narrative is a poignant exploration of the physical, emotional, and psychological scars inflicted by the institution of slavery, and the struggle for identity and self-acceptance in its aftermath.

  2. 2. Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie

    The novel tells the story of Saleem Sinai, who was born at the exact moment when India gained its independence. As a result, he shares a mystical connection with other children born at the same time, all of whom possess unique, magical abilities. As Saleem grows up, his life mirrors the political and cultural changes happening in his country, from the partition of India and Pakistan, to the Bangladesh War of Independence. The story is a blend of historical fiction and magical realism, exploring themes of identity, fate, and the power of storytelling.

  3. 3. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

    This novel follows the story of Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza, who fall passionately in love in their youth. However, Fermina eventually marries a wealthy doctor, leaving Florentino heartbroken. Despite this, Florentino remains devoted to Fermina for over fifty years, patiently waiting for her husband's death to have another chance at her love. The story is set against the backdrop of a cholera epidemic, serving as a metaphor for the transformative power of love and the destructive power of obsession.

  4. 4. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

    "The House of the Spirits" is a multi-generational saga that explores the lives of the Trueba family, set against the backdrop of political upheaval in an unnamed Latin American country. The narrative is driven by the family's strong and magical women, including clairvoyant Clara and her granddaughter Alba. The story spans over three generations, weaving together personal, social, and political threads, and is rich in elements of magical realism. The novel explores themes of love, violence, social class, and the struggle for power.

  5. 5. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

    A young Andalusian shepherd named Santiago dreams of finding a worldly treasure and sets off on a journey across the Egyptian desert in search of it. Along the way, he encounters a series of characters who impart wisdom and help guide his spiritual journey. The novel explores themes of destiny, personal legend, and the interconnectedness of all things in the universe. The boy learns that true wealth comes not from material possessions, but from self-discovery and attaining one's "Personal Legend".

  6. 6. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

    A man's search for his wife's missing cat evolves into a surreal journey through Tokyo's underbelly, where he encounters a bizarre collection of characters with strange stories and peculiar obsessions. As he delves deeper, he finds himself entangled in a web of dreamlike scenarios, historical digressions, and metaphysical investigations. His reality becomes increasingly intertwined with the dream world as he grapples with themes of fate, identity, and the dark side of the human psyche.

  7. 7. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

    "His Dark Materials" is a fantasy trilogy that follows the journey of a young girl named Lyra Belacqua and her daemon, Pantalaimon, across parallel universes. Throughout their adventures, they encounter a variety of mythical creatures, confront religious and political systems, and grapple with complex themes such as free will, original sin, and the nature of consciousness. The series also delves into the mysteries of Dust, a strange particle integral to the multiverse's function.

  8. 8. Nights At The Circus by Angela Carter

    "Nights at the Circus" is a fantastical tale set in the late 19th century, centering around a trapeze artist who claims to be a swan princess with wings. A journalist is intrigued by her story and joins the circus to uncover the truth. As the troupe travels from London to Siberia, the journalist becomes increasingly enchanted by the strange world of circus performers and his relationship with the trapeze artist deepens. The book explores themes of love, freedom, and the blurred lines between reality and illusion.

  9. 9. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

    This novel is a unique blend of six different stories, each set in a different time and place, spanning from the 19th century South Pacific to a post-apocalyptic future. Each tale is written in a different style, reflecting the time and setting it represents, and they are all connected through shared themes and recurring motifs. The stories are nested within each other, with each interrupted by the next, only to be concluded in the second half of the book. The novel explores themes of predacity, civilization, reincarnation and the eternal recurrence of the same behaviors throughout history.

  10. 10. Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie

    The novel follows two Indian actors who miraculously survive a plane explosion, and as a result, find themselves embodying good and evil. As they navigate their new identities, the story also delves into the life of a prophet and his creation of a new religion in a city of sand. The narrative is a blend of fantasy and reality, exploring themes of identity, religion, and the immigrant experience, while also providing a controversial interpretation of Islamic faith and the life of Prophet Muhammad.

  11. 11. Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich

    "Love Medicine" is a novel that explores the lives of several generations of a Native American family living on a reservation in North Dakota. The narrative is presented through a series of interconnected stories, each told from the perspective of different family members, and spans over 60 years, from 1934 to 1999. The book explores themes of love, family, identity, and the struggle between tradition and modernity. It provides a deep and poignant look into the complexities of Native American life and culture, and the challenges faced by the community.

  12. 12. Life of Pi by Yann Martel

    A young Indian boy named Pi Patel survives a shipwreck and finds himself adrift in the Pacific Ocean on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. Over the course of 227 days, Pi uses his knowledge of animal behavior and survival skills to coexist with the tiger, ultimately leading to an unusual and deeply spiritual journey. The story explores themes of faith, survival, and the interpretation of reality.

  13. 13. Lanark by Alasdair Gray

    "Lanark" is an unconventional narrative that combines elements of fantasy, dystopia, and realism. The protagonist, a man named Lanark, moves through two parallel existences. In one, he's a young man named Duncan Thaw in post-war Glasgow, struggling with his artistic ambitions and personal relationships. In the other, he's Lanark in the grim, bureaucratic city of Unthank, suffering from a mysterious skin condition and grappling with his identity and purpose. The novel explores themes of love, alienation, creativity, and the human condition, presenting a complex and thought-provoking portrait of life and society.

  14. 14. Little, Big by John Crowley

    "Little, Big" is a complex tale that weaves together elements of magical realism, fantasy, and family saga. The story follows the Drinkwater family who live in an eccentric house known as Edgewood, which is somehow bigger on the inside than the outside. The family is connected to the realm of Faerie, and the narrative explores their interactions with this magical world. The book spans multiple generations and intertwines the lives of its characters with the cycles of history and myth, creating a multi-layered narrative about love, family, destiny, and the nature of storytelling itself.

  15. 15. Like Water For Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

    This novel is a romantic, magical realism tale set in turn-of-the-century Mexico. It chronicles the life of Tita, the youngest daughter in a traditional Mexican family, who is forbidden to marry due to a family custom that mandates the youngest daughter must care for her mother until death. Tita falls in love with Pedro, who in turn marries her elder sister to stay close to her. The story is uniquely structured around the twelve months of the year, each beginning with a traditional Mexican recipe. The protagonist's emotions become infused with her cooking, leading to strange effects on those who consume her culinary creations.

  16. 16. The Passion by Jeanette Winterson

    "The Passion" is a historical novel set during the Napoleonic Wars and told from the perspectives of two unique characters: a French soldier who serves in Napoleon’s army and a Venetian woman with webbed feet who works as a casino worker. The narrative explores themes of love, passion, identity, and fate as the two characters' lives intertwine in unexpected ways. The book is renowned for its magical realism and lyrical prose, offering a poetic exploration of human desire and the nature of love.

  17. 17. The Famished Road by Ben Okri

    The novel centers around the life of an abiku, a spirit child, who resides in the bustling city of Lagos. Despite numerous attempts to return to the spiritual world, the boy is tethered to the physical realm through the love of his mother. As he navigates through the political unrest and poverty of post-colonial Nigeria, he experiences a series of surreal and mystical encounters, all while wrestling with the pull of the spirit world. The narrative is a blend of reality and the supernatural, providing a unique perspective on the struggles and complexities of human life.

  18. 18. Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

    Set in a parallel 19th-century England, this novel tells the story of two practicing magicians, Mr. Norrell and Jonathan Strange. Norrell, who aims to restore magic to respectability in England, is initially thrilled by Strange's natural aptitude for magic, and the two form a student-teacher relationship. However, their partnership soon deteriorates into rivalry as Strange, driven by the loss of his wife to the fairy realm, seeks to reintroduce the old, wilder forms of magic that Norrell disdains. Their conflict escalates, culminating in a magical duel that has profound consequences for the future of magic in England.

  19. 19. My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk

    Set in the late 16th century Ottoman Empire, this novel explores the conflict between East and West, tradition and innovation, through the lens of miniaturist painters. When a renowned artist is murdered, his colleagues must solve the mystery while grappling with the changes in their art brought about by the western Renaissance. This complex narrative intertwines love, art, religion, and power, offering a deep exploration of the struggles between old and new.

  20. 20. The Bone People by Keri Hulme

    "The Bone People" is a complex, emotional novel that explores the lives of three characters - a reclusive artist, a young mute boy, and his adoptive father - in New Zealand. The narrative delves into themes such as Maori culture, love, violence, and isolation while showcasing the struggle of these individuals as they try to form a family unit despite their personal traumas and societal pressures. The book's unique blend of prose and poetry, along with its blend of English and Maori language, adds to its depth and richness.

  21. 21. The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis by José Saramago

    The novel is a metaphysical narrative about a doctor named Ricardo Reis who returns to Lisbon, Portugal after learning about the death of his friend. He finds himself in a society on the brink of dictatorship, and as he navigates through his daily life, he encounters his deceased friend's ghost and a hotel maid with whom he begins a love affair. The book explores themes of identity, love, and the nature of reality, set against the backdrop of political turmoil.

  22. 22. American Gods by Neil Gaiman

    A recently released convict discovers that his wife and best friend died in a car accident. He then meets a mysterious stranger who hires him as a bodyguard. As they journey across America, it is revealed that the stranger is an old god, traveling to rally his fellow forgotten deities to wage a war against the new American gods born from society's modern obsessions with media, technology, drugs, celebrity, and more. The story blends elements of fantasy, mythology, and Americana to explore themes of faith, belief, and the nature of American identity.

  23. 23. The Discovery of Heaven by Harry Mulisch

    "The Discovery of Heaven" is a philosophical novel that explores the relationship between mankind and the divine. The story revolves around two friends, an astronomer and a philologist, who are manipulated by heavenly forces to father a child who is destined to return the Ten Commandments to God. As the narrative unfolds, it delves into complex themes such as friendship, love, art, science, and the existence of God, presenting a thought-provoking analysis of the human condition.

  24. 24. The Land Of Laughs by Jonathan Carroll

    "The Land of Laughs" is a captivating novel that follows Thomas Abbey, a schoolteacher and aspiring writer, as he embarks on a journey to the hometown of his favorite childhood author. Alongside his girlfriend, they uncover the mysterious and unsettling truth behind the author's stories, blurring the lines between reality and fiction. As they delve deeper into the town's secrets, they are forced to confront their own desires and the consequences of their actions. This thought-provoking tale explores the power of storytelling and the complexities of human nature.

  25. 25. Wise Children by Angela Carter

    "Wise Children" follows the lives of twin chorus girls, Dora and Nora Chance, as they navigate the ups and downs of their theatrical family in south London. The narrative, told from Dora's perspective, weaves in and out of time, recounting their experiences with their illegitimate father Melchior Hazard, a renowned Shakespearean actor, and his legitimate family. The novel explores themes of family, identity, legitimacy, and the magic of theater, all while maintaining a humorous and irreverent tone.

Reading Statistics

Click the button below to see how many of these books you've read!

Download

If you're interested in downloading this list as a CSV file for use in a spreadsheet application, you can easily do so by clicking the button below. Please note that to ensure a manageable file size and faster download, the CSV will include details for only the first 500 books.

Download