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Photograph: Taschen Divica-Landrová

10 fairy-tale–inspired books

Beyond the Brothers Grimm, these authors take inspiration from classic tales to create their own masterful stories

By Tiffany Gibert

To quote the modern fairy-tale master Kate Bernheimer, “I read once that Andy Warhol, when asked which punk musicians he liked, answered, ‘I like them all.’ That’s how I am with fairy tales.” I wouldn’t be surprised if the authors below answered in the same way—because though fairy tales and fables may translate well to the stage and screen, their best form is on the page, as in these 10 inspired works.

The Last Illusion by Porochista Khakpour (Bloomsbury USA, $17.99)

Khakpour’s new novel retells a Persian myth about a boy raised as a bird, transposing the urgently spirited story to post-9/11 New York.

Get The Last Illusion on Amazon

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker (Harper Perennial, $15.99)

More candidly magical than many modern fables, this debut portrays a mystical friendship between a golem, crafted of clay, and a jinni, born of fire.

Get The Golem and the Jinni on Amazon


Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi (Riverhead Books, $27.95)

Brilliantly reimagining the familiar tale of an evil stepmother—and adding a girl named Snow Whitman—Oyeyemi’s novel examines the power of modern aesthetic obsession.

Get Boy, Snow, Bird on Amazon

Duplex by Kathryn Davis (Graywolf Press, $24)

Davis often favors the fabled in her work, and she takes this practice to the extreme in Duplex, filling the story with a sorcerer and robots, blending elements of both fairy tales and science fiction.

Get Duplex on Amazon


Autobiography of a Corpse by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky (NYRB Classics, $15.95)

The early-20th-century Ukrainian author harnesses all the blood and bleakness of old tales, giving us autonomous body parts, transmogrification and a man compelled to bite his own elbow.

Get Autobiography of a Corpse on Amazon

Fairyland series by Catherynne M. Valente (Feiwel & Friends)

Valente has created her own “mythpunk” genre, weaving together steampunk, mythology and folklore; her still-in-progress Fairyland series follows the adventures of a young Nebraskan girl who, after meeting the Green Wind, travels to a magical land. For a taste, read a novella set in the same world here.

Get book 1 of the Fairyland series on Amazon


The Color Master: Stories by Aimee Bender (Doubleday, $25.95)

Bender skillfully mingles the mythic, tragic and comic in these stories. In one, for example, an ugly woman has her heart broken after her ogre-husband is conned into eating their children.

Get The Color Master: Stories on Amazon

The Seamstress and the Wind by César Aira (New Directions, $12.95)

An adventure tale through Buenos Aires and Patagonia, Aira’s small hilarious novel begins when a seamstress is kidnapped and the wild Southern wind falls in love with her.

Get The Seamstress and the Wind on Amazon

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