10 Best Authors Like Yann Martel Who Navigate the Realm of Fantasy Fiction

Discover our list of authors like Yann Martel who blend reality and fantasy, mirroring Martel’s signature storytelling style.

The genre of adventure fiction, or fantasy fiction, is open to many different variations, much to the delight of its fans. Adventure and fantasy fiction often include storylines with heroic exploits, perilous journeys, and thrilling escapades that take readers out of the everyday and into a fantasy world. It’s escapism at its finest for those who seek thrills from the comfort and safety of their homes.

The fantasy fiction book that launched Canadian novelist Yann Martel into the public spotlight was Life of Pi, specifically when it was adapted into a movie. The book, winner of the Man Booker Prize for fiction, has spent over a year on the New York Times and The Globe and Mail bestseller lists and sold well over 12 million copies in over 50 worldwide territories. Before Life of Pi came several novels and a collection of four short stories. Like many of the best fantasy authors, Martel often uses animals as metaphors for people and personalities.

Best Authors Like Yann Martel Ranked

1. David Mitchell, 1969 –

David Mitchell
David Mitchell

British author David Mitchell tends to combine different genres to produce unique stories and unusual perspectives. His narratives often have multiple layers and intricate plots that withstand numerous reads; there is always something in there that might have been missed the first time. Two of his nine published books have been shortlisted for the Booker Prize, and he has also written or co-written scripts for Netflix.

Cloud Atlas, a multiple-award winning book, is arguably Mitchell’s most well-known work, which was also adapted into a film. Typical of Mitchell’s style, the story has several plots and multiple timelines. This book demands focus to keep track of all the nuances and intricate layers and one that most likely requires more than one read-through to grasp fully. You might be interested in exploring more fantasy books, such as best books by Kristin Hannah.

“In an individual, selfishness uglifies the soul; for the human species, selfishness is extinction.”

David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas
Cloud Atlas
  • David Mitchell (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 509 Pages - 08/17/2004 (Publication Date) - Random House Trade Paperbacks (Publisher)

2. Haruki Murakami, 1949 –

Haruki Murakami
Haruki Murakami

Haruki Murakami is a Japanese author who has received numerous awards, including the Jerusalem Prize, the Franz Kafka Prize, and the World Fantasy Award. His writing style has a surrealistic element that often blurs the line between fantasy and reality. Murakami was raised in Kobe and later attended Waseda University in Tokyo. Western culture heavily influenced and criticized him in his home country for writing too “un-Japanese.”

The Wind-up Bird Chronicles has been described as dreamlike, the quintessential Murakami style. Beneath the haze, a detective story centers around a failing marriage. But it takes place against a backdrop of buried secrets from Manchuria during the Second World War, and mystical elements make this a compelling story that fans of Yann Martel are sure to appreciate.

“You’ve got to spend your money for the things that money can buy, not worry about profit or loss. Save your energy for the things that money can’t buy.”

Haruki Murakami, The Wind-up Bird Chronicles
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The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel
  • a visionary novel by one of Japan's greatest living novelists, Haruki Murakami.
  • Haruki Murakami (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 607 Pages - 09/01/1998 (Publication Date) - Vintage (Publisher)

3. Italo Calvino, 1923 – 1985

Italo Calvino
Italo Calvino

Born in Cuba to Italian parents, Italo Calvino moved to Italy and joined the Italian Resistance during World War II. Throughout his writing career, he explored various literary styles, including neorealism, postmodernism, and magical realism. Calvino received numerous awards for his contributions to literature, including the prestigious French Legion of Honor. His body of work stands out for its use of inventive storytelling techniques, a quality that makes his narratives even more fascinating to read.

Invisible Cities is one of Italo Calvino’s most popular books (and for a good reason). It has a simple premise – the Kublai Khan is sitting in a garden discussing with the famous explorer Marco Polo, who describes a series of cities he has experienced during his travels. Each of the cities has unique qualities and characteristics, and as Polo speaks, the emperor, who is soon to lose his empire, begins to understand that there is more to the tale than the words themselves. The cities in the book serve as metaphors for human experiences, desires, and memories.

“You take delight not in a city’s seven or seventy wonders, but in the answer it gives to a question of yours.”

Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities
Invisible Cities
  • Calvino, Italo (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 176 Pages - 05/03/1978 (Publication Date) - Mariner Books Classics (Publisher)

4. Paul Auster, 1947 –

Paul Auster
Paul Auster

After completing his studies at Columbia University, Paul Auster worked many jobs, including as a merchant mariner and translator, to support his writing. In the 1970s, Auster moved to France, where he immersed himself in French culture and literature. This continued to influence his writing and philosophical beliefs for the rest of his life.

In City of Glass, one of Auster’s most famous works, a reclusive crime writer named Daniel Quinn finds himself unexpectedly thrust into the heart of a mysterious and unsettling thriller. A late-night phone call seeking a private detective catapults Quinn into a world where the boundaries of fiction and reality blur. As he delves deeper into his mission, Quinn becomes increasingly consumed by his role, leading to an alarming unraveling of his own sanity. If you like Paul Auster, you’ll be happy to know he’s releasing a new book with Faber.

“He had continued to write because it was the only thing he felt he could do.”

Paul Auster, City of Glass
City of Glass (New York Trilogy, 1)
  • Auster, Paul (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 208 Pages - 04/07/1987 (Publication Date) - Penguin Books (Publisher)

5. Jonathan Safran Foer, 1977 –

Jonathan Safran Foer
Jonathan Safran Foer

Jonathan Safran Foer graduated from Princeton University, studying philosophy and literature. During his first year, he took a writing course taught by Joyce Carol Oates, who took a special interest in his writing. Foer later said that Oates was the first ever to make him think he should seriously pursue writing as a career. He has since received critical acclaim and several awards, including the National Jewish Book Award and the Guardian First Book Award.

In his debut novel Everything is Illuminated, Foer weaves two narratives. In one thread, a young man named Jonathan embarks on a journey to uncover his family’s history during World War II. Accompanied by a quirky translator named Alex and his grandfather, they navigate the complexities of the country’s past. The other narrative delves into the fictional history of Jonathan’s ancestors, showcasing the intertwined fates of Jewish communities in Eastern Europe.

The book became a New York Times bestseller, putting Foer on the literary map. You might be interested in exploring more fantasy books, check out our round-up of best JK Rowling books.

“It was not the feeling of completeness I so needed, but the feeling of not being empty.”

Jonathan Safran Foer, Everything is Illuminated
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Everything Is Illuminated: A Novel
  • Foer, Jonathan Safran (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 276 Pages - 04/01/2003 (Publication Date) - Harper Perennial (Publisher)

6. Michael Chabon, 1963 –

Michael Chabon
Michael Chabon

Michael Chabon, a recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, has led a distinguished literary career since he first became a writer at age ten. Interestingly, Chabon is also known for his work as an executive producer for a well-known television series, Star Trek: Picard. Chabon also holds a Master of Fine Arts from the University of California at Irvine.

Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is set against the backdrop of the Second World War and tells about the journey of Josef Kavalier and Sammy Clay. Josef, a young artist who has escaped Nazi-occupied Prague, and Sammy, a Brooklyn native, create a comic book character called “The Escapist.” The narrative weaves around their endeavors, personal battles, and transformations in an America grappling with war.

“Never worry about what you are escaping from,” he said. “Reserve your anxieties for what you are escaping to.”

Michael Chabon, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
  • Audio CD – Audiobook
  • Chabon, Michael (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 08/20/2013 (Publication Date) - Brilliance Audio (Publisher)

7. Julian Barnes, 1946 –

Julian Barnes
Julian Barnes

Julian Barnes, a winner of the Man Booker Prize, is recognized for his significant contributions to contemporary literature. In addition to his acclaimed writing, Barnes has a background in lexicography and has utilized his linguistic expertise to translate various works from French into English. As a passionate Francophile, Barnes has also served as a member of the Anglo-French arts jury.

The History of the World in 10-1/2 Chapters is like a collection of seemingly unrelated stories, all told in varying styles and perspectives. From an alternative account of Noah’s Ark to the journey of a woodworm to a contemporary story of love and loss, Barnes offers a unique perspective of history that challenges standard perceptions of truth and reality.

“They put the behemoths in the hold along with the rhinos, the hippos and the elephants.”

Julian Barnes, The History of the World in 10-1/2 Chapters
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A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters
  • Barnes, Julian (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 320 Pages - 11/27/1990 (Publication Date) - Vintage (Publisher)

8. Salman Rushdie, 1947 –

Salman Rushdie
Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie is a highly-respected author honored with the Man Booker Prize, among other writing awards. Aside from his literary accolades, Rushdie was famously involved in a global controversy, which resulted in him living in hiding and under police protection for several years while there was a price on his head. In recognition of his contributions to literature, Rushdie was knighted by the Queen of England in 2007. Rushdie has held several teaching positions, most recently at New York University.

In Midnight’s Children, Rushdie writes about Saleem Sinai, who is born at the exact moment India gains independence. He and the other 1,000 children born within that same hour are endowed with supernatural abilities. Saleem, who has telepathic powers, attempts to unite these midnight children. In paralleling the lives of the children with the political and social events in India, Rushdie weaves an intricate tapestry of the personal and the political, blurring the boundaries of fact and fiction.

“To understand just one life, you have to swallow the world. I told you that.”

Salman Rushdie, Midnight’s Children
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Midnight's Children: A Novel (Modern Library 100 Best Novels)
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Rushdie, Salman (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 536 Pages - 04/04/2006 (Publication Date) - Random House Publishing Group (Publisher)

9. Jeanette Winterson, 1959 –

Jeanette Winterson
Jeanette Winterson

An influential literary figure who writes in a way that may appeal to fans of Yann Martel, Jeanette Winterson has been awarded the Lambda Literary Award twice. Before becoming an acclaimed writer, Winterson worked in retail, once operating an organic food shop in London’s Spitalfields Market. She served as a professor of creative writing at the University of Manchester and has held the position of New York Public Library’s Library Lion.

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is a semi-autobiographical novel about Jeanette, a young girl adopted by a fiercely religious mother in a small English town. Jeanette’s mother intends for her to become a missionary, but as the young girl grows and eventually discovers her sexuality, she clashes with her mother’s expectations. This coming-of-age story is both heartfelt and humorous. The book covers themes of religion, love, and the search for self-identity.

“Once, when I was collecting the black peas, about to about to go home, the old woman got hold of my hand.”

Jeanette Winterson, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit
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Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Winterson, Jeanette (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 176 Pages - 08/20/1997 (Publication Date) - Grove Press (Publisher)

10. Margaret Atwood, 1939 –

Margaret Atwood
Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood is a distinguished author, recipient of the Arthur C. Clarke Award and the Governor General’s Award. Aside from her award-winning literary career, Atwood is a well-known environmental activist. She was a founding member of the Writers’ Trust of Canada, a non-profit organization that seeks to encourage Canada’s writing community. Atwood has taught at multiple universities and has served as the President of the International PEN, an association of writers.

The Handmaid’s Tale is set in a dystopian future where a totalitarian regime has overthrown the United States government; the novel follows Offred, a Handmaid assigned to bear children for elite couples that have trouble conceiving. It’s an exploration of gender, power, and the various ways in which women can resist oppressive systems.

“Better never means better for everyone, he says. It always means worse, for some.”

Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale
The Handmaid's Tale
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Atwood, Margaret (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 325 Pages - 02/17/1986 (Publication Date) - Ecco (Publisher)

Looking for more? Check out our round-up of authors like Patrick Rothfuss!

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  • Kate has been writing since she was 10 years old, tapping away on an old typewriter in her childhood bedroom. Today, Kate is a seasoned freelance writer with over 10 years of experience writing for print and online media. She’s an avid reader and believes in the power of words to transport readers to new worlds, and inspire and nurture creativity. Kate is also a published author and is currently working on her next project.