Beyond Bestsellers: Magical Realism

By Kristi S.

October is over, the magic of the holiday season is upon us, and we are just beginning the magic of a new Beyond Bestsellers theme. If my pointed clues weren’t enough for you to guess, this month’s theme is Magical Realism!

If you need a reminder of what Beyond Bestsellers is all about, here’s a quick recap. Each month we read books from different themes and you all can participate by creating lists in the catalog or offering suggestions for us in the comments. I’ve found some of my favorite reads by browsing through lists, so I encourage you all to share your finds!

When I was a child, I was obsessed with fantasy novels. This is because my sister was an aspiring novelist/Medieval knight and would recite fantastic tales while allowing me to play the part of damsel in distress. I lived for these stories, and I still do, but when I hit my teen years, I felt like I needed to branch out to more realistic “adult” territory. I was quickly bored. I already live life every day, why do I want to read about other people living their boring lives? Enter magical realism. Thanks, again, to my sweet sister who was the first person to introduce me to Gabriel García Márquez, I found a genre that has remained my favorite to this day.

Magical realism is a genre of fiction characterized by elements of fantasy combined with a realistic setting. The fantasy elements are treated as commonplace, often inserted into the story without comment by the characters or narrator. The genre is all about noticing the marvelous in the everyday or showing an alternative to what is accepted as reality. I think we could all use a little help with that these days.

Magical realism is quite a contentious genre. Is it fantasy? Is it literary fiction? Can it be both? It can certainly be a powerful way to handle difficult topics. Whatever magical realism is, there is a rich world out there and I’ve spent the last few months reading across the globe to find diverse and exciting titles.

I discovered many gems in my preparation for this month, including our title with many copies, LaRose by Louise Erdrich. In this compelling, fast-paced, and suspenseful novel, two Ojibwe families grapple with a devastating loss and tradition. It is a deeply moving story with beautiful prose that kept me reading all night.

So, are you ready to bring some magic into your life? I’ve got a sampler list ready for your perusal. If you’re ready for more, take this quiz to find out where you should travel with your magical realism reading. See you on the other side!

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