These are arguably the best Alice Hoffman novels out there. Check them out to add a little spark of magic into your quarantine life.
It’s April 22nd, do you know what that means? It’s time to celebrate Earth Day! While this year it will be a little harder to celebrate what with everyone in quarantine, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stop to appreciate the planet we call home. In honor of having some extra time to read in quarantine, here are some books that one can read to connect more with nature.
1. ‘Braiding sweetgrass’ by Robin Wall Kimmerer
image via amazon
In this memoir, Robin Wall Kimmerer uses her experiences as a woman, a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, and a scientist, to express the relationship between people and nature. Kimmerer unifies these perspectives to show us how to strengthen our relationships with other living beings. Kimmerer emphasizes the importance of other living things, including the small animals we find in the forest, and how much we can learn from the workings of nature when we choose to listen. This is an inspiring read that expertly knits together identity, science, and spirit.
2. ‘RAIN’ by Cynthia Barnett
image via amazon
If you are interested in history or the study of humans, this book is the one for you. Cynthia Barnett tells the story of rain and how humans have tried to control it, from rain dances to levees. This book takes you on an anthropological journey from the beginning of time to now, and how we as humans have changed rain for the worse. This book speaks about climate change and rain; how it benefits, how it damages, and ultimately leads to a conversation about how we as a society treat the Earth.
3. ‘The Hidden Life of Trees’ by Peter Wohlleben
image via amazon
This book shares the case that the forest is a social network. Drawing on scientific discoveries, Wohlleben describes how trees are like human families – complete with tree parents and children. Wohlleben explains how they live together, communicate and support each other as they grow, share nutrients when one is struggling, and even warn each other when danger is near. This book helps you dive into the amazing processes of nature, how much we know, and how much we can’t possibly understand. While this life of trees seems like a different world, Wohlleben explains the importance of sharing this world and how we can learn from their processes of life, death, and regeneration.
4. ‘The Peace of Wild Things’ by Wendell Berry
image via amazon
The Peace of Wild Things is a collection of poems written by Wendell Berry. These poems will instantly transport you into a mindset of gratitude towards the interworking of nature. Using simple yet powerful language, Berry notes his love for nature while also commenting on his inner peace, relationships, and life philosophy. Want a taste? Here is an excerpt from one of Berry’s poems, ‘The Peace of Wild Things’
“When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”
5. ‘The Overstory’ by Richard Powers
image via amazon
This novel by Richard Powers won the Pulitzer Prize and there are quite a few good reasons why. One reason is its beautiful prose, and another is the connection of our lives to the natural world. This story intertwines eight lives from antebellum New York, to the late twentieth-century Timber Wars of the Pacific Northwest, and even beyond. Throughout the novel, Powers weaves together these lives to trees. This connection drives us to see the world in a whole new lens that makes us look to nature with admiring eyes.
6. ‘The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating’ by Elisabeth Tova Bailey
image via amazon
The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is a memoir of Bailey’s observation of nature while dealing with a life-threatening illness. One of the species she studies is the Neohelix albolabris -a common woodland snail. Bedridden from her illness, Bailey discovers comfort and admiration from a creature whose new home is on her bed stand, from both being confined to a small place in the world. This memoir holds many lessons and observations that inspire us to appreciate being fully alive.
7. ‘The Shell Collector’ by Anthony Doerr
image via amazon
This collection of short stories was one of my favorite books I read last year. it is filled with magical realism and themes of how we interact with nature. These stories are imaginative with a wide range of characters and settings. From the African coast, to the pine forest of Montana, Doerr explores how nature reflects the delicacy, beauty, and crushing realities of both humanity and nature.
I hope these nature centered books inspire you to celebrate the complex and beautiful inter-workings of our planet!
featured image via Smithsonianmag.com
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Okay, okay, before you @us, we do know the difference. But what goes better with your favorite dessert than a good book and some mediocre word play? Here are three books to embrace on #nationaldessertday.
This story follows a family of banished saints, perched high in the Colorado desert where supplicants must travel far for a miracle. These saints can help you, but they can’t save you from yourself, as many pilgrims learn to their dismay. Still, there’s much to be gained by braving the miracles of Bicho Raro. Enthralling, luminuos, and with enough Mexican and Native southern states folklore to keep you from wandering the sand alone at night. At once grim and terribly hopeful, this is an exploration of love, family, and growth, set to pirate radio and the rushing wings of owls.
New York, magic, the turn of the century – what more could you want? Unlikely friendships? Varied mythology? This book has it all, weaving a lush and surprising tale out of a premise that asks more questions than it answers. A golem and a jinni meet in New York. It’s more likely than you think! I love fantasy being laid over history like velum, especially more modern history. New York, and only a hundred years ago, is not where you most expect to encounter myth, but weaving it in seamlessly can make a world close enough to imagine, both in time and in possibility. goodr
Street smart and clever, Dara bites off more than she can chew when she summons an ancient and magical creature to her side, soon discovering that she has magic and an ancient legacy drawing her as well. She will have to travel to the city of the djinn itself, where struggles for power, purity, and prestige rage in the streets, if she hopes to find the truth of her past. Opulent, adventurous, and deeply ruted in folklore, this is a must read for anyone who wants a world that breathes with magic, prophecy, and intrigue. If you’re seeking mythology that often gets overlooked, pick this up.
I’m always a fan of a clever reimagining, and the tale of Scheherazade was neglected for far too long. You’ve got a lot of classic fairytale beats, like the murder of wives, along with a clever heroine, an unfathomable mystery, and gutting revelations. Scheherazade volunteers herself after her best friend’s murder, intent upon revenge against the cruel monarch who weds and murders so many young girls. But it’s not so simple as it appears, and though Scheherazade makes it to the morning and more, with each dawn she is less certain of her hatred.
Images via GoodReads
Featured image via ThoughtCo
It’s important, especially in these turbulent times, to appreciate what makes each day special, and what better way to do that than through reading! We’ve rounded up five authors who invite a touch of magic into the everyday world. So read on! And invite a little magic into your day.
KERRY ANNE KING
Kerry Anne King is exactly the sort of writer who unleashes the extraordinary in the ordinary. Best known for her acclaimed novel Whisper Me This, which was an Amazon Charts and Washington Post bestseller, King is back with the life-affirming Everything You Are.
Barbara O’Neal, author of The Art of Inheriting, “loved every magical word,” of Everything You Are, while Terri-Lynne DeFino, author of The Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (and Their Muses) notes that “Love and sorrow, regret and hope are woven into every aspect of the story by music—not just any music, but the magical kind that leaves both creator and listener, for better or worse, irrevocably changed.”
“Kerry Anne King writes with such insight and compassion for human nature,” says Barbara Taylor Sissel, bestselling author of Crooked Little Lies, and she’s right!
One tragic twist of fate destroyed Braden Healey’s hands, his musical career, and his family. Now, unable to play, adrift in an alcoholic daze, and with only fragmented memories of his past, Braden wants desperately to escape the darkness of the last eleven years.
When his ex-wife and son are killed in a car accident, Braden returns home, hoping to forge a relationship with his troubled seventeen-year-old daughter, Allie. But how can he hope to rescue her from the curse that seems to shadow his family?
Ophelia “Phee” MacPhee, granddaughter of the eccentric old man who sold Braden his cello, believes the curse is real. She swore an oath to her dying grandfather that she would ensure Braden plays the cello as long as he lives. But he can’t play, and as the shadows deepen and Phee finds herself falling for Braden, she’ll do anything to save him. It will take a miracle of forgiveness and love to bring all three of them back to the healing power of music.
Don’t forget to enter our giveaway to win Everything you Are, an amazing pair of headphones and more magical prizes!
So, okay— Tana French may be best known for her Dublin Murder Squad series, and that may not sound too magical, or too ‘everyday’, for that matter. However, while the wider DMS series is about detectives solving murders, each book is about something more than that. I want to talk specifically about her novel The Secret Place, which is the fifth DMS novel, but focusses heavily on a group of teenage girls who are potentially involved in the murder of a boy on the grounds of their boarding school. The girls have a strangely supernatural bond, one the hardened detectives haven’t seen before, and the tender and raw exploration of this magic and the girls’ relationships with each other, is wonderfully woven together with all the page-turning suspense of a good murder mystery.
Not all of French’s books contain magical elements, but the ones that do are imbued with an extra spark that will hook you from the start.
Check out the blurb of The Secret Place and get excited!
The photo shows a boy who was murdered a year ago.
The caption says, ‘I KNOW WHO KILLED HIM’.
Detective Stephen Moran hasn’t seen Holly Mackey since she was a nine-year-old witness to the events of Faithful Place. Now she’s sixteen and she’s shown up outside his squad room, with a photograph and a story.
Even in her exclusive boarding school, in the graceful golden world that Stephen has always longed for, bad things happen and people have secrets. The previous year, Christopher Harper, from the neighbouring boys’ school, was found murdered on the grounds. And today, in the Secret Place – the school noticeboard where girls can pin up their secrets anonymously – Holly found the card.
Solving this case could take Stephen onto the Murder squad. But to get it solved, he will have to work with Detective Antoinette Conway – tough, prickly, an outsider, everything Stephen doesn’t want in a partner. And he will have to find a way into the strange, charged, mysterious world that Holly and her three closest friends inhabit and disentangle the truth from their knot of secrets, even as he starts to suspect that the truth might be something he doesn’t want to hear.
If you read Angela Carter’s feminist reimaginings of fairytales, The Bloody Chamber for school, then you’ll know that the 80s surrealist and feminist writer took a vivid delight in imbuing the everyday with a twisted magic all of her own. When I first read her novel The Magic Toyshop at sixteen, I nearly lost my mind I was so excited by her strange descriptions of a girl climbing an apple tree at night in her mother’s wedding dress, of her uncle’s toyshop, her mute aunt, the lifesize chess set and the giant swan puppet… Throughout the book, nothing distinctly magical happens, everything is possible, but so fascinating, imaginative and unlikely as to add up to much the same thing as magic.
Her novel Nights at the Circus is also one of my favorites, following a journalist who goes on tour with a traveling circus, the star of which is a supposedly winged woman, Fevvers, who alleges she is half swan.
Here’s the blurb for The Magic Toyshop!
One night Melanie walks through the garden in her mother’s wedding dress. The next morning her world is shattered. Forced to leave the home of her childhood, she is sent to live with relatives she has never met: gentle Aunt Margaret, mute since her wedding day; and her brothers, Francie and Finn. Brooding over all is Uncle Philip, who loves only the toys he makes in his workshop: clockwork roses and puppets that are life-size – and uncannily life-like.
A woman and her little girl move to a French village and open an intoxicating chocolate shop which causes a stir in the village. Vianne’s mysterious arrival and the effect of the chocolate on the villagers are both imbued with an undefined magic that intrigues and delights.
Chances are, you’ve seen the Oscar-nominated movie starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp, but did you know the story continues in three more books featuring Vianne and her chocolate? Lollipop Shoes, Peaches for Monsieur le Cure, and The Strawberry Thief are all part of Harris’s gorgeous series that brings so much good and lighthearted magic to the everyday!
Check out the blurb for Chocolat!
When a mysterious stranger, Vianne Rocher, arrives in the French village of Lansquenet with her daughter and opens an exotic chocolate boutique directly opposite the church, Father Reynaud denounces her as a serious moral danger to his flock – especially as it is the beginning of Lent, the traditional season of self-denial.
As passions flare and the conflict escalates, the whole community takes sides. Can the solemnity of the Church compare with the sinful pleasure of a chocolate truffle?
Chocolat was Joanne Harris’ first book about Vianne Rocher,and was turned into a popular Oscar-nominated film with Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp. The story of Vianne and her daughters was continued in Lollipop Shoes, and then in Peaches for Monsieur le Cure, and now in her new novel, The Strawberry Thief.
Alice Hoffman is probably best known for her novel Practical Magic which was adapted for the big screen, starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman, but pretty much all her books, from old works like Property Of, to her latest novel, The World That We Knew, have magic woven into them. In their starred review of The World That We Knew, a holocaust novel featuring threads of magic realism, Booklist calls it “An exceptionally voiced tale of deepest love and loss…one of [Hoffman’s] finest. WWII fiction has glutted the market, but Hoffman’s unique brand of magical realism and the beautiful, tender yet devastating way she explores her subject make this a standout.”
Inspired by a true story told to Hoffman by a fan at a book signing, The World That We Knew explores the ‘hidden children,’ Jewish children sent to live with non-Jewish families to keep them hidden from Nazis during World War II.
In 1941, during humanity’s darkest hour, three unforgettable young women must act with courage and love to survive, from the New York Times bestselling author of The Dovekeepers and The Marriage of Opposites Alice Hoffman.
In Berlin, at the time when the world changed, Hanni Kohn knows she must send her twelve-year-old daughter away to save her from the Nazi regime. She finds her way to a renowned rabbi, but it’s his daughter, Ettie, who offers hope of salvation when she creates a mystical Jewish creature, a rare and unusual golem, who is sworn to protect Lea. Once Ava is brought to life, she and Lea and Ettie become eternally entwined, their paths fated to cross, their fortunes linked.
Lea and Ava travel from Paris, where Lea meets her soulmate, to a convent in western France known for its silver roses; from a school in a mountaintop village where three thousand Jews were saved. Meanwhile, Ettie is in hiding, waiting to become the fighter she’s destined to be.
What does it mean to lose your mother? How much can one person sacrifice for love? In a world where evil can be found at every turn, we meet remarkable characters that take us on a stunning journey of loss and resistance, the fantastical and the mortal, in a place where all roads lead past the Angel of Death and love is never ending.
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaku and His Years of Pilgrimage – Haruki Murakami
“The themes of finding closure for unresolved personal negativities really resonated with me.” – Nate
The Space Between – Brenna Yovanoff
“This is a book about being deeply flawed, and how even as you’re trying to be better, it’s honest to let those things stay a part of you.” – Kali
The Last Unicorn – Peter Beagle
“It Reminds me that there’s magic in the world even if you can’t see it.” – Becky
The Prisoner of Azkaban – J. K. Rowling
“I enjoyed it.” – Richard
The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemingway
“This is one of Hemingway’s most compelling books due to the religious themes and the focus on minority groups, at a time when prejudice in America was prevalent.” – Kyle
The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
“A good narrative that gives a view into the minds of the characters.” – Lexi
Gone – Michael Grant
“It’s very entertaining and has a mystery you want to solve.” – Heather
Ties of Shooting Stars – Keigo Higashino
“The mystery keeps you guessing, and the build-up for the plot twist has a great payoff.” – Derek
The Thief Lord – Cornelia Funke
“I found it really empowering as a child, with these kids taking care of themselves and fighting for good.” – Amy
The Lightning Thief – Rick Riordan
“I like Greek mythology, and the book’s funny, witty humor.” – Tim
Images via Amazon
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