Truth be told, this list could alternately be titled "Books Melissa Loves and Wanted an Excuse to Talk About." I'm an absolute nut for magical realism books. I have a hungry imagination, and the best way to feed it is with books that step over the edge, bringing unknown creatures and forces back with them. For those hours when you're in the pages of a good magical realism read, our boring little universe seems full of infinite possibilities.
The phrase "magical realism" immediately calls to mind a lot of old school Latin American authors: Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Octavio Paz, Jorge Luis Borges — I love these guys. Yet, lucky for us, magical realism didn't stop with them. I'd even go as far as to say we're in a Golden Age of magical realistic fiction. Contemporary authors are continually pushing the borders of what can exist within a reality and what realities can exist within ourselves.
These books have the strange, the bizarre, the otherworldly, and the out-right weird, all co-existing in the world we live in. They'll unfold the origami of your brain and put it back together in an entirely new shape. They'll make everyday life spark and sparkle and burn. I dare you to crack one open and see what finds you.
1. Three Scenarios in Which Hana Sasaki Grows a Tail by Kelly Luce
This debut collection of short stories by Kelly Luce features imaginative tales set in Japan. From a toaster who can tell the future to a woman who grows a tale, Luce's stories will fiddle with your heart as well as your brain.
2. Gutshot by Amelia Gray
This short story collection has got a bite to it. Featuring pieces with titles like "50 Ways to Eat Your Lover," Gray's writing is intricate, powerful, and stomach-wrenching, pulling at the strings of what makes us human.
3. Get in Trouble by Kelly Link
Fantastical, humorous, and bewitching, Kelly Link's short stories will tie you up in all kinds of knots. From slumber parties to swamplands, Link can turn any setting into a literary playground. An explorer at heart, Link will show you new dimensions to humanity.
4. The Color Master by Aimee Bender
Aimee Bender is the queen of pushing past fiction's comfort zone. In this, her latest collection of short stories, the reach of Bender's pen spans from fairy tales to sexual fantasies. Absolutely brilliant, Bender's writing is bright, larger-than-life, and unafraid of itself.
5. The Miniature Wife by Manuel Gonzales
An airplane stays in the air above a city for 20 years. A man is at war with his wife, whom he accidentally shrunk. A composer speaks through his ears. Manuel Gonzales delivers a menu of strange and rich stories about people thrown into bizarre situations. This is a book that you will gobble up.
6. Daydreams of Angels by Heather O'Neill
A pro at balancing the delightful with the dark, Heather O'Neill will make your day with her quirky and outrageous short stories. From insane science experiments to shipwrecks, the tales O'Neill spins are modern fairytales, minus any cliches.
7. Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
From the beloved author of The Time Traveler's Wife, this breathtaking novel is centered around the Highgate Cemetery in London. When their aunt, Elspeth, dies of cancer, her two estranged American nieces, twins Julia and Valentina, move into her apartment, befriending not only Elspeth's neighbors, but also her lover, Roger. The twist: Elspeth's spirit still haunts the apartment, yielding a collision of the spirit world and the living.
8. Two Years, Eight Months, and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie
It would be impossible to have a list like this without including Salman Rushdie. Frankly, his new book is just cool. Told from the point-of-view of our descendants 1,000 years from now, this is the story of the War of the Worlds that begins with strange happenings worldwide. When a storm hits New York and cracks the universe, the destructive djinnis of myth are let into our world (along with some superheroes). One djinni defends humankind in a battle that lasts 1001 nights, aka two years, eight months, and 28 nights.
9. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
If you haven't read any Murakami, this is my No. 1 recommendation to start with. The story of a Japanese man searching for his missing wife, this book exists in a dream-like state, and as a reader, you're never totally sure what's real. Beautiful and intense, filled with mesmerizing characters, you're not going to let go of this one ever.
Image: Morgan Sessions/Unsplash