The Greatest "Coming of age, Magical Realism" Books of All Time

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This list represents a comprehensive and trusted collection of the greatest books. Developed through a specialized algorithm, it brings together 313 '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.

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Coming of age

The "Coming of age" category of books typically refers to stories that explore the transition from adolescence to adulthood. These books often focus on the challenges and experiences that young people face as they navigate the complexities of growing up, including issues such as identity, relationships, sexuality, and personal growth. Coming of age stories can be set in any time period or cultural context, and may feature protagonists of any gender, race, or background. Overall, the genre offers readers a glimpse into the universal struggles and triumphs of youth, and the process of becoming a fully realized adult.

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.

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  1. 1. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

    The novel explores the life of an African-American man, Macon "Milkman" Dead III, from birth to adulthood. Set against the backdrop of racial tension in the mid-20th century United States, it delves into his journey of self-discovery and understanding his heritage. As Macon embarks on a literal and figurative journey south to reconnect with his roots, he encounters various characters that help him understand his family history and the power of community. The narrative is deeply rooted in African-American folklore and mythology, offering a profound commentary on identity, personal freedom, and the destructive power of racism.

    The 195th Greatest Book of All Time
  2. 2. 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".

    The 460th Greatest Book of All Time
  3. 3. 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.

    The 593rd Greatest Book of All Time
  4. 4. Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko

    "Ceremony" is a novel that explores the life of Tayo, a World War II veteran of mixed Laguna Pueblo and white heritage. After returning from the war, Tayo struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder and alcoholism. The novel charts his journey towards healing, which involves embracing his Native American heritage and the traditional ceremonies of his people. Along the way, he must confront racism, poverty, and the destructive forces of Western culture, ultimately finding solace and redemption in the ancient rituals and wisdom of his ancestors.

    The 806th Greatest Book of All Time
  5. 5. 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.

    The 815th Greatest Book of All Time
  6. 6. 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.

    The 1001st Greatest Book of All Time
  7. 7. Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya

    The novel follows the story of a young boy in New Mexico in the 1940s who navigates the challenges of adolescence, faith, and identity with the guidance of a wise old woman named Ultima. Throughout the narrative, the boy grapples with moral dilemmas, the complexities of his Mexican-American heritage, and the clash between the Catholic faith and the traditional spiritual beliefs of his ancestors. The story is a rich tapestry of folklore, spirituality, and personal growth.

    The 1207th Greatest Book of All Time
  8. 8. Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

    The novel explores the journey of a 13-year-old boy, his drug-addicted mother, and his baby sister as they travel through Mississippi to pick up their white father from the state penitentiary. The story is steeped in the harsh realities of poverty, racism, and struggle, and is further complicated by the presence of a ghost from the family's past. It's a haunting tale about the legacy of trauma and the power of family ties.

    The 1429th Greatest Book of All Time
  9. 9. Fifth Business by Robertson Davies

    The novel follows the life of Dunstan Ramsay, a man haunted by a childhood accident that he believes he caused. The book explores his guilt and its impact on his life, as well as his relationships with others, including a woman he loves but cannot have, a brilliant but troubled friend, and a saintly fool. Throughout his life, Ramsay seeks redemption and understanding in the realms of history, mythology, and religion.

    The 1973rd Greatest Book of All Time
  10. 10. The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem

    The novel follows the lives of two boys growing up in Brooklyn, New York in the 1970s. Despite their racial differences, one being white and the other black, they form a deep friendship bonded by their shared interest in comic books, music and a magical ring that grants them superpowers. As they grow older, their paths diverge due to their racial and societal differences, with one becoming a successful music journalist and the other succumbing to a life of crime. The book is a profound exploration of race, identity, friendship and the impact of gentrification.

    The 1989th Greatest Book of All Time
  11. 11. Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer

    The novel is a richly layered narrative about a young man's quest to find the woman who saved his grandfather from the Nazis during World War II. The story is told from two perspectives: a Ukrainian translator with a unique grasp on the English language and the young man himself who is also a budding writer. The book explores themes of memory, history, and the power of storytelling, all set against the backdrop of a tragic and tumultuous period in world history.

    The 2017th Greatest Book of All Time
  12. 12. Kafka On The Shore by Haruki Murakami

    "Kafka On The Shore" is a surreal and philosophical novel by Haruki Murakami that follows two parallel storylines. The first is that of Kafka Tamura, a 15-year-old boy who runs away from home to escape an Oedipal prophecy and searches for his missing mother and sister. The second storyline follows Nakata, an elderly man who has lost his memory but possesses the ability to communicate with cats. As their paths converge, they encounter strange and mystical events that challenge their perceptions of reality and identity. The novel explores themes of fate, free will, and the human psyche, and is a captivating and thought-provoking read.

    The 2815th Greatest Book of All Time
  13. 13. Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina García

    "Dreaming in Cuban" is a multi-generational narrative that explores the lives of several women from a Cuban family, spanning from the 1930s to the 1980s. The story oscillates between Cuba and the United States, reflecting on the Cuban revolution, exile, and identity. Through the perspectives of each character, the novel delves into themes of political turmoil, family dynamics, and personal struggles amidst cultural shifts and geographical displacement.

    The 2988th Greatest Book of All Time
  14. 14. Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

    "Exit West" is a novel that follows the journey of two young lovers, Nadia and Saeed, who are forced to leave their war-torn city through mysterious doors that transport them to different locations around the globe. The couple navigate their relationship while grappling with displacement, loss, and the challenges of adjusting to new cultures. The novel explores themes of migration, identity, love, and the concept of home.

    The 3112th Greatest Book of All Time
  15. 15. Boy's Life by Robert R. McCammon

    Set in the 1960s in the fictional town of Zephyr, Alabama, the novel follows the life of 12-year-old Cory Mackenson, whose life takes a mysterious turn when he witnesses his father attempt to save a man from a sinking car. The man is already handcuffed to the steering wheel, dead by strangulation. This event triggers a series of adventures and mysteries that Cory must unravel, all the while dealing with the challenges and joys of growing up. The book is a rich blend of nostalgia, magic realism, and the dark undercurrents of life in the American South.

    The 3128th Greatest Book of All Time
  16. 16. Swamplandia! by Karen Russell

    "Swamplandia!" is a darkly humorous and poignant story about a family of alligator wrestlers living in the Florida Everglades. The family's way of life is threatened when their mother dies, their tourist attraction business starts to fail, and a rival theme park opens nearby. The novel follows the three children as they struggle to keep their family together and their world intact, embarking on perilous journeys through the swamp and into the underworld.

    The 3206th Greatest Book of All Time
  17. 17. The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter

    After the sudden death of her parents, a young girl is sent to live with her tyrannical uncle who runs a toyshop. In this strange new world, she finds herself in a house filled with life-sized toys, a mute aunt, and her eccentric cousins. As she navigates through this bizarre and sometimes terrifying environment, she begins to experience the complexities of adult relationships and sexuality, eventually leading to a climactic confrontation with her oppressive uncle.

    The 4461st Greatest Book of All Time
  18. 18. Stone Junction: An Alchemical Pot-Boiler by Jim Dodge

    This novel follows the life of Daniel Pearse, a young boy who becomes an apprentice in a secretive organization of outlaws, magicians, and gamblers known as AMO (the Alliance of Magicians and Outlaws). As Daniel learns the ways of the AMO, he embarks on a quest for a diamond rumored to possess magical properties. His journey is filled with a series of bizarre encounters and eccentric characters, blending elements of magic, mystery, and adventure.

    The 5019th Greatest Book of All Time
  19. 19. Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

    The book follows the lives of the Owens sisters, Sally and Gillian, who come from a long line of witches. Raised by their eccentric aunts after their parents' death, the sisters grow up learning about love and magic. However, they face an age-old curse that any man who falls in love with an Owens woman will meet a tragic end, leading them on a journey of self-discovery, acceptance, and a struggle to overcome their family's dark past.

    The 5148th Greatest Book of All Time
  20. 20. Life is a Carawanserai Has Two Doors I Went in One I Came out the Other by Emine Sevgi Özdamar

    This novel follows the life of a young Turkish girl growing up in the 1950s and 60s, exploring her experiences in a rapidly changing society. The protagonist navigates the complexities of her family life, her struggle with her identity and her eventual emigration to Germany. The book explores themes of female empowerment, cultural clashes, and the immigrant experience, all told through a unique narrative style that blends reality with dreams and folktales.

    The 5243rd Greatest Book of All Time
  21. 21. City of the Beasts by Isabel Allende

    A 15-year-old boy is forced to move in with his eccentric grandmother after his mother falls ill. Together, they embark on a journey to the Amazon rainforest in search of a legendary, healing beast. Along the way, they encounter various challenges, including dangerous animals, harsh environments, and a group of indigenous people with mystical powers. The boy learns to overcome his fears and prejudices, forming a strong bond with the indigenous people and the rainforest itself.

    The 5265th Greatest Book of All Time
  22. 22. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

    The protagonist, a middle-aged man, returns to his childhood home for a funeral and is drawn to the farm at the end of the road where he encounters a pond that was once an ocean in his childhood memories. He recalls a series of strange and terrifying events that occurred when he was seven, involving the mystical Hempstock women who live on the farm and their battle against malevolent supernatural entities that threatened his existence. The book explores themes of memory, magic, and the darkness that lies beneath the surface of everyday life.

    The 5365th Greatest Book of All Time
  23. 23. The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

    This novel weaves together the lives of diverse characters through a narrative that spans decades, centering on a teenage runaway with psychic abilities. As she becomes embroiled in a covert war between immortal factions, the story explores themes of mortality, power, and the interconnectedness of human lives. The intricate plot moves through different times and places, revealing a hidden world of mysticism and a looming apocalyptic crisis, all while examining the impact of our actions on the future of the planet.

    The 6089th Greatest Book of All Time
  24. 24. A Tale For The Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

    In this introspective novel, a diary washes ashore on a remote Canadian island, bridging two disparate worlds. The journal, written by Nao, a troubled Japanese teenager, chronicles her life, her contemplation of suicide, and her relationship with her great-grandmother, a Zen Buddhist nun. The diary is discovered by a novelist, who becomes engrossed by Nao's story and is compelled to unravel the mysteries of Nao's fate and her own connection to the young girl. As the novelist reads, the boundaries between writer and reader, past and present, fiction and reality blur, creating a meditation on time, loss, and the intricate threads that connect human lives across the globe.

    The 6143rd Greatest Book of All Time
  25. 25. Pet by Akwaeke Emezi

    The book unfolds in a society that believes it has eradicated all monsters, but when a creature named Pet emerges from a painting, a young girl named Jam learns that monsters still exist. Pet has come to hunt a monster hiding in plain sight, and Jam must confront the reality that not all dangers are as visible as they seem. As Jam navigates this revelation with Pet's guidance, she embarks on a quest to protect her best friend and uncover the truth in a world that prefers to deny the existence of such horrors. The story challenges the concepts of good and evil and the complacency that can arise in a community that believes it has overcome its darkest elements.

    The 6165th Greatest Book of All Time

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