Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who died on April 17 aged 87, made magic realism famous with his novels. But the style, which weaves elements of fantasy and magic into otherwise mundanely realistic, kitchen sink scenarios, is popular with authors all over the world. There are plenty to choose from. But we recommend five books to read if you want to explore other writers.
1. Toni Morrison's Beloved (Vintage/352 pages/paperback/$19.21 from Books Kinokuniya) American Nobel laureate Toni Morrison is much lauded in her homeland for her body of works. And the most harrowing, magic tale in her formidable bibliography is her 1987 novel. The book is a dense, lyrical read and central to the story is the relationship between escaped slave Sethe and the two-year-old baby she kills in an attempt to keep her from falling back into the hands of slave-owners. Years later, a mysterious 20-year-old woman shows up at Sethe's doorstep, calling herself Beloved, and is taken in by the family. The power of the book lies in its casual interlacing of real and otherworldly - and each aspect reinforces the other in Morrison's masterful hands. The horrors of the system of slavery is made more real by the fantastical nature of the tale, and the ghost haunting the family embodies, literally, the burdens of guilt, sorrow and love of Sethe, who never escapes the terrible choices she is forced to make.
2. Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children(Vintage/672 pages/paperback/$19.94 from Books Kinokuniya) Before British novelist Salman Rushdie became, in the public imagination, that novelist with a fatwa hanging over his head, he was celebrated as the author of this Booker Prize-winning 1981 book. Like most books written in the magic realism style, this is a challenge to read. The narrator is one Saleem Sinai, born at midnight, at the moment India becomes independent. Saleem is blessed with telepathic powers as well as, it seems, an inability to tell a straight story. The narrative meanders, detours and takes off in a confusing multitude of directions, engulfing in its generous embrace no less than the history, culture, politics and social ills of India. By the way, this not only won the 1981 Booker prize, it also won the Best Of the Booker Prize, twice. In 1991 and 2008.
3. Haruki Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle(Vintage Books/607 pages/paperback/$28.51 from Books Kinokuniya)Japanese Haruki Murakami was a literary superstar in his homeland long before he registered on the world literature radar of literati and hipsters beyond Japan's shores. This ambitious 1995 novel tackles the big themes, everything from romantic love to Japan's World War II legacy. The story opens with a seemingly classic Murakami protagonist - Toru Okada, an apathetic, unemployed young man whose cat runs away. But the narrative soon spirals into a hallucinatory jumble as his wife leaves him, he consults psychic sisters who invade his dreamscape, and he spends more time holed up in either a well or a hotel room. There are also detours into other stories by characters who wander, seemingly at random, into the narrative. By the end of it, you will either be a convert to the legions of devout Murakami fans, or you will think he's an overrated, ill-disciplined author who needs dire pruning. Either way, you will not be bored.
4. Angela Carter's Nights At The Circus(Vintage Classics/304 pages/paperback/$26 from Books Kinokuniya) This late British writer has pretty much been packed away tidily by academics and mainstream readers as belonging in the feminist and theoretical drawers of fiction writers. But beyond her famous short story remakes of fairy tales, her now mostly neglected novels are vibrant entertainment in their own right, despite their relegation to university reading lists. Nights At The Circus is a big rambunctious book that, despite its academic and theoretical underpinnings, works as simply as a rip-roaring read. It follows the life of one Sophie Fevvers, a tall blonde circus performer with wings, and the interview subject of journalist Jack Walser, who eventually also joins the circus as a clown. As the circus journeys through Europe and Russia of the 19th century, the story traverses multiple genres, theories and themes.
5. Laura Esquivel's Like Water For Chocolate (Anchor Books/256 pages/paperback/$24.74 from Books Kinokuniya) This is one for the food porn lovers, the ones who go gaga over movies like Babette's Feast (1987). In fact, Mexican author Laura Esquivel's 1989 debut was so screen-ready it received a film adaptation in 1992. But do not hold it against this luscious book, in which each chapter opens with a recipe. At its heart is a doomed love story, between youngest daughter and fabulous cook Tita, and her neighbour Pedro, who is forced to marry her sister Rosaura instead. Food becomes Tita's means of expression and her weapon as the couple's affections are thwarted by her tyrannical mother Mama Elena. Some might deride this book as diluted magic realism, but it is an easy entry level into the genre for readers who might otherwise be intimidated by the denser literary jungles of the writers listed above.