12 Best Magical Realism Authors and Their Works

There are plenty of excellent magical realism writers and books to explore. Let’s take a look at a few of the best magical realism books and short stories you may want to check out.

Growing up, many people have a favorite fairy tale. There is no reason why people have to leave that behind just because they get older. Throughout the 20th century, many talented Latin American and American authors created beloved magical realist works that spoke to people in the real world. 

For those wondering, “what is magical realism,” this literary genre describes the real world as having a fantasy undercurrent. It was common in postcolonial society, and there are numerous elements of magical realism that persist throughout American and Latin American literature to this day.

Please take a look at a few of the top magical realism authors below, and consider picking up one of their works.

Best magical realism authors

1. Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie is one of the most popular magical realism authors. One of his most popular books, Midnight’s Children, focuses on the impacts of British imperialism. The book takes place in India and follows a character who lives during the time when India breaks away from the rule of the British crown. Because of the time of his birth, the main character is given supernatural powers. The novel focuses on the personal impacts of political strife, turning this book into a gripping story. 

“Reality is a question of perspective; the further you get from the past, the more concrete and plausible it seems – but as you approach the present, it inevitably seems more and more incredible.” – Salman Rushdie, Midnight’s Children

Consider checking this book out on Amazon.

Midnight's Children: A Novel (Modern Library 100 Best Novels)
  • Random House Trade
  • Rushdie, Salman (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 536 Pages - 04/04/2006 (Publication Date) - Random House Trade Paperbacks (Publisher)

2. Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Without a doubt, one of the greatest magical realism authors is Gabriel Garcia Marquez. One of her most popular works is called One Hundred Years of Solitude. The book tells the story of a family clan in Colombia, where Marquez is from. As the story unfolds, it is evident that the clan is dealing with ghosts and spirits from various points in the country’s history. In addition, the family has to deal with political violence, technological changes, and unusual conflicts. 

“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice…” – Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

If you want to pick up a copy of the book for yourself, you can find it on Amazon.

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One Hundred Years of Solitude (Harper Perennial Modern Classics)
  • HarperCollins Publishers
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 417 Pages - 02/21/2006 (Publication Date) - Harper Perennial Modern Classics (Publisher)

3. Yann Martel

Magical realism authors: Yann Martel
Shane Lin from Seattle, WA, USA, aka ‘About Malenkov in Exile’ on Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.5 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

If you love animals, you will love the book The Life of Pi by Yann Martel. The story focuses on a zookeeper’s son involved in a shipwreck on the waves of the Pacific Ocean. He is stuck on a lifeboat, but his animals keep him company. He comes into contact with a hyena, an orangutan, a zebra, and even a tiger. This is an amazing book about inner strength and creativity, but it has plenty of humor to keep you interested as well.

“Life is so beautiful that death has fallen in love with it, a jealous, possessive love that grabs at what it can. But life leaps over oblivion lightly, losing only a thing or two of no importance, and gloom is but the passing shadow of a cloud…” – Yann Martel, Life of Pi

You can find a copy of this book on Amazon.

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Life of Pi
  • Great product!
  • Martel, Yann (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 326 Pages - 05/01/2003 (Publication Date) - Mariner Books (Publisher)

4. Haruki Murakami

Haruki Murikami is regarded as one of the greatest Japanese writers of all time. One of his most famous works is Kafka on the Shore, which puts together dreams, pop culture, and unparalleled attention to detail. The novel tells the story of two characters who seem to have their journeys intertwined. One character supports himself by tracking lost cats while the other runs away from home to escape a curse.

“Every one of us is losing something precious to us. Lost opportunities, lost possibilities, feelings we can never get back again. That’s part of what it means to be alive.” – Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

You can learn more about the stories of these two characters die picking up a copy of the book on Amazon.

Kafka on the Shore
  • Vintage
  • Murakami, Haruki (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 480 Pages - 01/03/2006 (Publication Date) - Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group (Publisher)

5. Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison is considered the queen of African American literature. One of her top works is Beloved, which tells the story of a character who escapes slavery and crosses the border into Ohio. She encounters a lot of tragedy along the way, as there was a child that she couldn’t save. A toddler was killed and laid to rest. Her tombstone says, “Beloved,” thus the name of the work. With supernatural undercurrents, this book will grip the reader from start to finish.

“Let me tell you something. A man ain’t a goddamn ax. Chopping, hacking, busting every goddamn minute of the day. Things get to him. Things he can’t chop down because they’re inside.” – Toni Morrison, Beloved

You can check out Morrison’s book on Amazon.

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Beloved
  • Vintage
  • Toni Morrison (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 321 Pages - 06/08/2004 (Publication Date) - Vintage (Publisher)

6. Franz Kafka

Magical realism authors: Franz Kafka
AnonymousUnknown author (see talk page), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Franz Kafka is a popular writer, and he is also one of the most powerful authors of magical realism. One of his most famous works is The Metamorphosis. Creative but controversial work at the time, it is now seen as one of the landmark books in literature. The story focuses on a salesman who wakes up one day to realize he has been transformed into an insect. But, of course, his physical transformation also comes with a psychological one, which will have the reader guessing throughout the story.

“The sister played so beautifully. Her face was tilted to one side and she followed the notes with soulful and probing eyes. Gregor advanced a little, keeping his eyes low so that they might possibly meet hers. Was he a beast if music could move him so?” – Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis

You can find a copy of this famous book on Amazon.

The Metamorphosis
  • Franz Kafka (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 44 Pages - 09/12/2009 (Publication Date) - Classix Press (Publisher)

7. Laura Esquivel

There is a saying that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. That is precisely what the book, Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel takes to heart. The book focuses on a teenager who works in a kitchen. She has a neighbor named Pedro, whom she cooks for from time to time. He falls in love with her because of her amazing cooking, but sadly the two can never be together.

“It was very pleasant to savor its aroma, for smells have the power to evoke the past, bringing back sounds and even other smells that have no match in the present. -Tita” – Laura Esquivel, Like Water for Chocolate

You can learn more about the amazing story by picking up a copy on Amazon.

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Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies
  • Great product!
  • Esquivel, Laura (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 256 Pages - 10/01/1995 (Publication Date) - Anchor (Publisher)

8. Alejo Carpentier

Alejo Carpentier is a prominent author in the world of magical realism, and one of his most famous works is titled The Kingdom of This World. The book focuses on the struggles that developed between the native population that lives in Haiti and their French colonial rulers. It is filled with powerful stories, vivid images, and an undercurrent of fantasy that follows the twists and turns of the story.

“Geese were orderly beings, with principles and systems, whose existence denied all superiority of individual over individual of the same species” – The Kingdom of This World, Alejo Carpentier

You can find this book on Amazon.

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The Kingdom of This World: A Novel (FSG Classics)
  • Carpentier, Alejo (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 160 Pages - 11/07/2017 (Publication Date) - Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Publisher)

9. Angela Carter

Angela Carter is a talented magical realism writer. One of her most popular works is called Nights at the Circus. The story focuses on the main character, who keeps her amazing circus going using her aerial techniques. She was born with wings on her shoulder blades, but her unique features also led to a lot of tragedy in her life. She spends a lot of time working in a brothel, but her story turns into a whimsical adventure.

“The harder the bargain men must strike with nature to survive, the more rules they’re likely to have amongst themselves too keep them all in order” – Angela Carter, Nights at the Circus

Consider checking out this book for yourself on Amazon.

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Nights at the Circus
  • Penguin Books
  • Carter, Angela (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 304 Pages - 03/04/1986 (Publication Date) - Penguin Books (Publisher)

10. Neil Gaiman

Magical realism authors: Neil Gaiman
nrkbeta, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Neil Gaiman is one of the most versatile writers of all time, and one of his top magical realism books is titled The Ocean at the End of the Lane. The book is somewhat of a fairy tale, following a narrator who returns to his childhood hometown when he gets older. He is there for a funeral but runs into an old friend. The narrator learns more about his past as the story unfolds, creating an interesting adventure.

“Monsters come in all shapes and sizes. Some of them are things people are scared of. Some of them are things that look like things people used to be scared of a long time ago. Sometimes monsters are things people should be scared of, but they aren’t.” – Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane

You can find this book on Amazon.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane: A Novel
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Gaiman, Neil (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 259 Pages - 06/18/2013 (Publication Date) - William Morrow (Publisher)

11. Aimee Bender

If you enjoy food, you will love the book The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aime Bender. The book focuses on the rich emotions that are evoked by food. The book focuses on Rose, who can sense the emotions in other people depending on what they cook. Instead of this power being a gift, it is a curse. Based on her mother’s food, she realizes that her mom is not happy.

“Many kids, it seemed, would find out that their parents were flawed, messed-up people later in life, and I didn’t appreciate getting to know it all so strong and early.” – Aimee Bender, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

You can learn more about this interesting power by picking up a copy of the book on Amazon.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
  • Anchor Books
  • Bender, Aimee (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 304 Pages - 04/19/2011 (Publication Date) - Anchor (Publisher)

12. Isabel Allende

Isabel Allende is considered one of the top Chilean writers of all time. Her book, The House of the Spirits, catapulted her to the top of the list of Latin American writers. The book focuses on three generations of the same family that come to life. One of the main characters has clairvoyant powers, but the family encounters tragedy along the way due to political upheaval and dictatorial rulers. If you like a book with powerful women, you will enjoy this work.

“Just as when we come into the world, when we die we are afraid of the unknown. But the fear is something from within us that has nothing to do with reality. Dying is like being born: just a change” – Isabel Allende, The House of the Spirits

You can find a copy of it on Amazon.

The House of the Spirits: A Novel
  • Atria Books
  • Allende, Isabel (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 496 Pages - 12/15/2015 (Publication Date) - Atria Books (Publisher)

Final Word on Magical Realism Authors

There are numerous examples of magical realism throughout literature, with many works from Latin America creating surreal stories that just about everyone will love. There is also a lot of crossover between this genre and science fiction. Consider checking out a collection of short stories by one of these famous authors, and dive into a world that will have you questioning society around you. 

Further reading: 

Check out our article looking at the impact of literary realism on American authors. 

This article offers advice on the best books for those looking to start writing fiction.

FAQs About Magical Realism Authors

Are there any other magical realism authors I should check out?

Yes, there are several other authors you may want to explore, including Franz Roh, Juan Rulfo, Alice Hoffman, and Jorge Luis Borges.

What are the biggest elements of magical realism? 

The biggest elements of magical realism include fantastical elements that take place in a real-world setting, along with increased awareness of an element of mystery. Many magical realism books also have a political undercurrent that drives the story forward. 

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