As we’re on day ??? of quarantine and a big day out consists of going to the grocery store, there has never been a better time to let a book take you on a journey to fantastical realms. I have subsequently been streaming a lot of scary movies lately ;). Why I love taking a break from Netflix and enjoying a good book is because it allows me to engage the creative part of my brain even while relaxing to imagine what is being described in my own way. If reading just doesn’t work for you, remember there are always audiobooks too! Below are some of my all time favorite supernatural stories to get you started.
The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo
Speaking of Netflix, I was excited to learn this book had been made into a series earlier this year, and will definitely be checking it out soon. A young girl with no inclinations of settling down (definitely a pretty strong feminist before feminism was a thing) has a chance to save herself and her struggling father who was cheated in business from crippling poverty when a strange proposition is made … That she marry a wealthy family’s dead son to placate his restless spirit after he dies of questionable circumstances. She is pulled into a series of surreal adventures in the parallel world of the afterlife that are rich with history and Chinese lore. The vivid descriptions of ghost cities and the spirits she meets along the way are absolutely fascinating. This is one of my favorite books that I’ve read within the last year.
The Hummingbird’s Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea
This is another interesting story that though fantastical is rooted in real history and spiritual beliefs. It is based on the real life person Teresa Urrea, who was the great aunt of the author and allegedly got sick and passed away temporarily, then came back to life, after which she obtained the power to heal. Urrea spent 20 years writing this novel and researching the life of this Teresa, who was and is revered as the “Saint of Cabora” but was never recognized by the church, who instead referred to her as “the most dangerous woman in Mexico”. Taking place in the late 19th century during the beginnings of Mexico’s civil war, there is a lot of history woven throughout the supernatural facets that add to the realism and make you question what actually happened back then …
This novel meditates on a lot of heavy themes: familial dysfunction, mental health, guilt, loss, grief … All through the connection between female family members, and parallel worlds and time travel. This is one of the most unique books I’ve ever read and really defies a specific genre. When I found this novel at a used book sale, the teaser synopsis didn’t really tell me much about what the story was actually going to be about. I ended up giving it a try due to being sucked into the cover art, a gorgeous, bleeding watercolor and ink illustration of crying eyes on a stark white background. I guess sometimes you can judge a book by its cover ;).
House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
This is another book that really defies description and you just have to check it out for yourself. It is an experience. I will be honest, you will probably either love it or hate it. The pages sometimes look like this …
There are stories on top of stories in a way, but the main story focuses on a family living in an ever shifting house that seems to be impossibly larger on the inside, the text often shifting visually with us as we read. Love it or hate it, it definitely will leave you feeling odd and maybe questioning reality a bit.
The Book Of Strange New Things by Michael Faber
This book is quite literally about an outer space missionary. A man of faith is called by a mysterious corporation to minister to an alien race looking for answers. As he is celebrated and thrives among them, he finds things are crumbling at home as his wife and he communicate back and forth. Natural and governmental disasters abound on earth, and his sense of responsibility is understandably torn. Both an odd sci-fi tale and a drama, I found this novel itself to be quite strange, but also incredibly moving and thought provoking. The focus really isn’t so much on purely religious faith, but the idea of how we determine the hierarchy between our passions and the people who depend on us.
The Hearing Trumpet by Leonora Carrington
First off, this novel was penned by a well known artist that was a part of the surrealist movement, even more remarkable that she was a woman in a time when people still thought women couldn’t possibly be good painters. Insert eye-roll here. Her work shown above was used as the cover for this story. The main character of this tale is a hilarious nonagenarian with a good bit of attitude who is about to be sent to an institution for the elderly. She is understandably displeased, but all is not as it seems … Her new home has apartments shaped like cupcakes and igloos, and some lively leaders. It’s like Alice In Wonderland but in a nursing home, and is one wild ride with some interesting occult spiritualism thrown in at the end.
The Golem and The Jinni By Helene Wecker
This book is based in Middle Eastern and Jewish mythology and features two mythical creatures that form an unlikely bond. A golem, made of clay and brought to life through occult magic, is created to be the devoted and unquestioning wife of a lonely (and let’s face it, lazy) man who ends up dying on the oversea voyage they take together to their new life. Golems traditionally have a master whom they are bound to forever obey, and without she is quite adrift. A fire-born Jinni, created and encased in a flask in Syria and released in the middle of New York city, crosses her path and these now unbound entities form a strong bond as they try to navigate together a life in which they do not belong. Similar to many of these other stories, history and myth are pivotal which makes this book all the more interesting.
The King In Yellow and Other Horror Stories by Robert W. Chambers
This book of short stories stuck with me long after finishing. They aren’t really scary in the traditional sense, just very odd leaving the reader with both a sense of subtle discontent but also fantastical inspiration. Though less well known perhaps, I actually enjoy this author far more than H.P. Lovecraft.
Are there any supernatural books you love? Please please please leave a comment! I am in desperate need of new suggestions. Happy adventuring (in your mind)!