Wrapping Up Beyond Bestsellers: Magical Realism

by Kristi S.

Well, the magic is gone and life is boring again. That may be a touch dramatic, but it is the end of November, which means it’s time to close the book on Beyond Bestsellers: Magical Realism. I’ve had so much fun reading around the world in this theme. I’ve never focused my reading on the country of origin before, but to prepare the quiz, I made a point of reading at least one book per region.

Starting in Latin America, I read The Hummingbird’s Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea. I was totally taken by the idea of magical realism based on a real person (and relative to the author, no less!) and I was not disappointed. It’s an epic drama of a woman who is rumored to have risen from the dead possessing the powers of healing. Urrea writes in a beautiful, earthy language and Teresita is an inspiring and fierce character. Check out my other picks from Latin American authors in this list:

By pure coincidence, I happened upon The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake barely poking out of a Free Little Library while walking my dog. Deciding this was preordained, I grabbed it and moved my reading on to North America. The next week, my coworker told me this was one of their favorite novels of magical realism. It’s a moving, offbeat, and somewhat pessimistic novel about a girl who discovers on her ninth birthday that she can taste a person’s deep emotions in the food they prepare. Dark family secrets are revealed as she struggles to cope with this gift. For more magical realism from North American authors, browse this list:

In another exciting twist of fate, I messaged my sister to tell her about my book choice from Africa, Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi, and she was reading it too. She lives in Liberia and we do not get to talk too often, so this felt especially magical. “Freshwater” is an unsettling novel, drenched in mysticism, about a woman whose mind is controlled by evil spirits. Both my sister and I loved the lyrical prose and unreliable narration. Magical realism from African authors might be my favorite; here are more of my picks in the genre:

At this point, I was ready for something a little lighter, so I hopped over to Europe and picked up The Girl With Glass Feet by Ali Shaw. This is an engaging, fairytale-like story about a girl slowly turning into glass. It weaves elements of romance, mystery, and magical realism in just the right balance to keep me turning pages. European authors offer a wide variety in the realm of magical realism; take a look at more options in this list:

I finished my journey in Asia, after countless recommendations to read Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami. It follows a young runaway and an elderly wanderer on separate journeys that eventually unite. This is a truly gorgeous and highly imaginative novel unlike anything I’ve ever read. For more magical realism from Asian authors, give this list a try:

Maybe it’s just my extensive reading in this genre, but this month was full of magical reading coincidences for me. There’s nothing like finding the extraordinary in your ordinary life.

Leave a comment letting us know what you read, and check back with us in January for our next Beyond Bestsellers theme.

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6 responses to “Wrapping Up Beyond Bestsellers: Magical Realism”

  1. Peter says:

    I would not have guessed it, but according to the quiz I need to get into African magical realism! For the rest: it’s been a long time but I was enamored of Borges when I was younger. The Shadow of the Wind was spellbinding. Bulgakov was another favorite, but who doesn’t love the great Russian novelists?

    • Kristi S. says:

      You never cease to surprise me, Peter! I would have guessed you’d get the Asian list. But, I could definitely see you liking some of the titles on the African list. You’ll have to tell me if you give any a try! Your love of Bulgakov, however, is unsurprising.

  2. Leah says:

    It seems utterly appropriate that magical coincidences would abound in this month, above all others. I love it when that happens.

  3. Andrew McClung says:

    Nice post! I like the way it’s presented by region. Quite apparent some work went into this. I want to give a plug to Brian Doyle’s Mink River for inclusion in your North American category. Brian Doyle had a real talent for writing magical realism with a distinctively Pacific Northwest flair. In my opinion Mink River is a masterpiece of the genre on any continent. Thanks again for your post!

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