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Would You Like a Side of Magic with Your Reality?

Linda Stevens
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Magical realism

Linda Stevens from Harris County Public Library recommends books in the category of magical realism, including Octavia E. Butler’s Kindred. 

Book Buzz is a blog produced in collaboration with neighborhood librarians from Houston Public Library, Harris County Public Library and the Bellaire Library.

Anyone who recommends a lot of books (especially for a living), soon realizes that reading tastes have as many flavors as ice cream – and not everyone likes Tutti Frutti. One area that is tricky for book recommendations is in the realm of magical realism. According to the good old Encyclopaedia Britannica, magical realism is a “narrative strategy that is characterized by the matter-of-fact inclusion of fantastic or mythical elements into seemingly realistic fiction.” Some readers happily make that journey and others run from anything that suggests fantasy or magic.

My book club read a book called The House at the End of Hope Street by Menna Van Praag, which we all found to be a charming novel about an enchanted house that offers refuge to women in their time of need. I suggested it to my sister-in-law, who hated it because “portraits of great authors on the wall are not supposed to talk.” That was my favorite part! I find it fascinating to look at the personal preferences and boundaries we set to enjoy works of fiction.

If you are like me and relish a dose of magic in your fiction, here are some you might enjoy. For the classics, you can’t go wrong with The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende, a multigenerational Latin American family saga that tells stories both political and magical. Octavia E. Butler’s Kindred is a powerful and realistic depiction of slavery that matter-of-factly uses time travel to bring stories and characters together – an exciting new graphic novel version was just adapted by Damian Duffy and John Jennings, if you are a graphic novel fan.

If you prefer something lighter in tone, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender features a heroine who can actually taste emotions and Sarah Addison Allen’s Garden Spells contains people and plants with special powers. David Almond’s Skellig is a beautiful children’s story about a strange man living in a family’s new garage who is not quite what he seems.

Obviously, there are many different flavors even within this one kind-of genre. What flavors of reading magic do you enjoy?

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