Behind the Sky: Stories That Transcend
My favorite stories in the world usually share a few common elements: solid prose, compelling characters, and an element of magic or fantasy. But when I really dig deep, a pattern becomes clear: what makes a book truly sing to me is when it feels like a worn spot in the tapestry. When it gives us a glimpse of the world behind the world, when it pulls back the curtain, when it creates a space where reality is thin and malleable. Though I didn't always realize it, I've been hunting these kinds of tales since I was a child. It started with kids books of unicorns and witches, and it has aged into a low and keening ache to travel far away within the pages of a book.
If you're the same as me -- and I have a sneaking suspicion if you're read this far that you are -- then please take a look at the list of books below. Though you're sure to be familiar with some, I hope you find a new one that makes your blood sing and your heart feel light. There's a special feeling to these kind of stories that goes beyond a fun fantasy or a hair-raising thriller -- they transcend reality itself, giving the reader a glimpse of what's behind the sky, on the other side of the rain.
Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
Susanna Clarke (also the author of "Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell) always manages to capture the ephemeral and the impossible, and "Piranesi" is no exception. This novel is both deft and murky at once, providing readers with a charming but unreliable narrator as a guide to the labyrinth. We follow his lantern willingly, happily, because Clarke has enchanted us enough to do so -- and what we find as we walk is an aching story that seeps into our bones. "Piranesi" is for all magic-seekers and would-be magicians, for everyone who has asked what it means to walk unseen paths, and for those who suspect it may cost more than we understand. Take a closer look here!
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
"The Starless Sea" speaks to all of us strange souls who want to see behind the curtain, glimpse the other side of the rain or go behind the sky. I could live in the world Morgenstern has created forever; it is far more lovely than our own, folklore dripping from its expansive combs like honey. This book is for dreamers, those always looking for doors and wishing they had the courage to walk through them. Though I did not find "The Night Circus" to be quite as compelling as others did, Morgenstern blew me away with "The Starless Sea." Take a closer look here!
The Magicians by Lev Grossman
This book was a lucky find before I had access to independent bookstores or fellow world-behind-the-world hunters like myself. A lot of reviews will tell you it's like Hogwarts in the real world, where people are complex and selfish. And that's absolutely true, but it doesn't do justice to the book or the series that follows it. Here, Grossman has created a cast of incredibly life-like (infuriatingly so) characters that make bad choices, have flawed logic and often disappoint the reader. And that's what is so incredibly lovely about it. Grossman gives us people who are more like ourselves that we'd like to admit, and they want the same thing we do: to pull back the curtain. PS - here's my hot take: the television series is trash, the books reign supreme. Take a closer look here!
PS - I'll be adding more to this list periodically! Check out our Instagram for more recommendations.