Fantasy Disguised as General Fiction
June 18, 2014 8:39 AM   Subscribe

Looking for fantasy books hiding out in the non-genre section of the bookstore.

This question about science fiction in the general fiction section basically sums up my book preferences. But it focuses on science fiction, whereas I lean more toward fantasy. Lately it seems like there’s been a surge of fantasy fiction hiding in other sections—The Tiger’s Wife, The Snow Child, The Golem and the Jinni, and no doubt plenty of others.

So, what other fantasy books (or authors) aren’t shelved in Fantasy?

(Already on the list: Isabel Allende, Aimee Bender, Roberto Bolaño, Jorge Luis Borges, T.C. Boyle, Mikhail Bulgakov, A.S. Byatt, Italo Calvino, Jonathan Carroll, Dan Chaon, Gabriel García Márquez, Haruki Murakami, Etgar Keret, Ben Okri, Helen Oyeyemi, Salman Rushdie, Karen Russell, José Saramago, George Saunders, Bruno Schulz, and Jeanette Winterson.)
posted by xenization to Media & Arts (27 answers total) 56 users marked this as a favorite
Little, Big
The Stolen Child
Several of Kevin Brockmeier's books would qualify.
posted by something something at 8:42 AM on June 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

Margaret Atwood.
posted by gaspode at 8:55 AM on June 18, 2014 [6 favorites]

Best answer: The Third Policeman
posted by Erasmouse at 9:02 AM on June 18, 2014 [4 favorites]

Angela Carter. Some Ursula LeGuin.
posted by suelac at 9:18 AM on June 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think the search term you're looking for is "magical realism."
posted by sillymama at 9:26 AM on June 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Justin Cronin's The Passage and its sequel probably fall into this category, or maybe scifi - it's about a vampire apocalypse, but reads very much like (very well-written) general fiction.
posted by lunasol at 9:31 AM on June 18, 2014

Kelly Link.
posted by inire at 9:44 AM on June 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Jo Walton's books are never in SF/F, where I expect them to be. Some go more in an alt-history than fantasy direction, but they all feel genre to me.
posted by tchemgrrl at 10:04 AM on June 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Jonathan Carroll's another author in this vein.
posted by tyllwin at 10:41 AM on June 18, 2014

Response by poster: I should have said so, but I'm pretty familiar with magical realism. I'm hoping for some under-the-radar fantastical recommendations (e.g. Ilie Ruby's The Salt God's Daughter, Jane Nickerson, Steven Millhauser, etc.).
posted by xenization at 11:39 AM on June 18, 2014

Best answer: Definitely found in the fiction section: Chitra Divakaruni. Some Kenzaburo Oe. Laura Esquivel. Alice Hoffman. Some Stephen King. Some Mark Twain, Charles Dickens. Some Meg Cabot (not terribly literary, but light and fun). Chloe Neill. Seth Grahame-Smith. Deborah Harkness. Elizabeth Kostova.

Sometimes found in fantasy, sometimes in fiction: Emma Bull. Cassandra Clare. Holly Black. Charlaine Harris. Neil Gaiman (how could I think of him this late in the game?). Octavia Butler (skews sci-fi, but has some fantasy works). Jacqueline Carey. Eoin Colfer. Tim Powers. Ilona Andrews. Patricia Briggs. Kelley Armstrong.

One can argue Diana Gabaldon.
posted by sazanka at 11:41 AM on June 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

The Talisman
posted by luge at 12:10 PM on June 18, 2014

Seconding Kevin Brockmeier HARD. I've never read anything by him that I haven't pretty much fallen in love with.

Dan Chaon, especially his short stories.

Mary Doria Russell's novel The Sparrow.

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard.
posted by augustimagination at 12:26 PM on June 18, 2014

Michael Chabon
Audrey Niffenegger
Haruki Murakami
posted by ereshkigal45 at 12:51 PM on June 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Nick Harkaway's The Gone-Away World. It's hard to classify this book, but I'd go with fantastic over fantasy.
posted by hooray at 1:04 PM on June 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Sarah Addison Allen.

Nthing Diana Gabaldon!

And Audrey Niffenegger!
posted by LaBellaStella at 1:35 PM on June 18, 2014

Best answer: It's very unlikely to turn up in a regular bookstore, but there are some older political stuff like Wyndham Lewis's The Human Age trilogy, but you're pretty much looking at rare books and high prices for that. And it's a weird reactionary fable as well.

Virginia Woolf's Orlando may or may not count, though it's not much of a fantasy beyond the central conceit of an immortal, gender-fluid protagonist.

Elizabeth Bowen's Collected Stories include a few gothic stories most notably "The Demon Lover."

Someone above mentioned The Third Policeman, but Flann O'Brian/Brian O'Nolan's other major work, At Swim-Two-Birds, goes even farther into fantasy in some ways.

Ishmael Reed's Yellow Back Radio Broke-Down also has quite a few fantastic elements.

Nikolai Gogol wrote quite a few stories with supernatural themes, including the comedic "The Lost Letter: A Tale Told by the Sexton of the N…Church" and its sequel, "A Bewitched Place," as well as "St. John's Eve," "A Terrible Vengeance," "Viy," "The May Night, or the Drowned Maiden," and "The Nose."

A fairly high-profile recent example would be Yann Martel's The Life of Pi.
posted by kewb at 1:59 PM on June 18, 2014

Gunter Grass' "The Tin Drum" is a winner. Magical realism set in 1920s and 1930s Germany. Also, Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse 5" might be appropriate for your list. And maybe Kazuo Ishiguro's "Never Let Me Go" (crappy movie, I hear, but I thought it was an extremely decent read).

posted by schooley at 2:40 PM on June 18, 2014

The City and The City by China Miéville. It's awesome, but don't read up on it to begin with — the less you know going in the better.
posted by you're a kitty! at 6:31 PM on June 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: A few I like that fit your criteria I don't often see recommended elsewhere:

Kate Atkinson, Human Croquet
Michel Faber, The Courage Consort (or Under the Skin, but it just got made into an arguably crappy movie with Scarlett Johansson)
Timothy Findley, Not Wanted on the Voyage

Also, in general, authors' short story collections are very likely to be this.
posted by dekathelon at 6:52 PM on June 18, 2014

Best answer: In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods by Matt Bell
posted by book 'em dano at 11:28 PM on June 18, 2014

Best answer: Chateaureynaud's stories have a great terrifying fairy tale vibe.
posted by speicus at 11:58 PM on June 18, 2014

Best answer: Mrs Caliban, by Rachel Ingalls.
posted by virago at 5:25 AM on June 19, 2014

I read mostly SF, but one book that i enjoyed that felt more like a fantasy book is Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny.
posted by escher at 9:02 AM on June 19, 2014

Response by poster: Marking the answers with new-to-me names as best, though you've all given terrific suggestions. Thanks!
posted by xenization at 11:31 AM on June 19, 2014

Stone Junction by Jim Dodge.
posted by talldean at 8:25 PM on June 24, 2014

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