50 Excellent Fabulist Books Everyone Should Read

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Fabulism, it seems, is having a moment — although whether it’s truly a trend is up for debate. Some might say it’s been right there, purring along all this time, while others might blink and wonder what you’re talking about. Such is always the case with magic. But whether you’re a newbie or an old hat, there are always new corners of the fantastic to discover.

Before we begin, take note: I say fabulism, but there’s really no single term that works for all of these books, or even for more than a few of them. There’s Robert Scholes’s fabulation, Todorov’s fantastic, there’s plain old fairy tale or fantasy, there’s the much-discussed magical realism, but none of these really work as blanket terms, at least not for what we think of when we consider contemporary literary works with, er, unrealistic elements. And maybe that’s a good thing — maybe that’d tether these books too close to earth, keep them too cemented in our imaginations.

So, here you’ll find 50 excellent novels and short story collections by fabulists, fantasists, and fairy-tale-tellers, literary books that incorporate the irreal, the surreal, and the supernatural, which have no unironic dragons, very few (if any) self-serious necromancers, but lots of delightful, magical, humane, real-as-all-get-out storytelling. Better get started, and if any of your own favorites are missing here, add them to the list in the comments.