Recommendations by Karen B

Books based on fairy tales, myths or legends

Now that my children are essentially young adults, I am more curious about what they are reading, hoping that some of our reading interests will overlap. But alas, this is rarely the case. They both enjoy a good book, but tend toward fantasy and super-heroes, whereas I keep my feet firmly planted in realism, bolstered by the occasional mystery. However, one genre that marks the sweet spot of our overlapping interests might be in fairy tales or myths written for adults.

Fairy tales are an area of shared knowledge and culture and are the basis of many popular Young Adult series such as The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer  or television shows like Once Upon a Time. They make us nostalgic for stories of our youth, while tantalizing us with mature tales infused with romance, mystery or violence. If you are craving a fresh spin on a familiar theme, these adult selections might tempt you or your adult children into a fresh forest of reading and adventure.

Beauty by Robin McKinleyBeauty by Robin McKinley jacket cover

This classic retelling by Newbery Medalist Robin McKinley has been charming readers for over 40 years. When Beauty's father comes home with a tale of an enchanted castle in the forest and the terrible promise he had to make to the Beast who lives there, Beauty knows she must travel to the castle, a prisoner of her own free will. Her father insists that he will not let her go, but she responds, "cannot a Beast be tamed?"


Uprooted by Naomi NovikUprooted by Naomi Novik jacket cover

Novik introduces a bold new world rooted in folk stories and legends, as elemental as a Grimm fairy tale. This fast-paced story includes humour, dramatic battle scenes and ecological challenges.

Agnieszka and her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep the powers of the corrupted Wood at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows--everyone knows--that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn't, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her. But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

The Tiger's Wife by Tea ObrehtThe Tiger's Wife jacket cover

I read this mesmerizing story several years ago and remember thinking it was unlike anything I'd read before. A magical, haunting tale, both lyrical and tragic.

In a Balkan country mending from war, Natalia, a young doctor, is compelled to unravel the mysterious circumstances surrounding her beloved grandfather's recent death. Searching for clues, she turns to his worn copy of The Jungle Book and the stories he told her of his encounters over the years with "the deathless man." But most extraordinary of all is the story her grandfather never told her--the legend of the tiger's wife.

Boy, snow, bird by Helen OyeyemiBoy, snow, bird by Helen Oyeyemi jacket cover

A reimagining of the Snow White story recast as a story of family secrets, race, beauty, and vanity set in the United States during the 1950s and 1960s.

The protagonist, Boy Novak, is a girl, and a beautiful one at that. Her father, Frank, is a professional rat catcher in New York. In 1953, tired of Frank's mistrust and physical abuse, 20-year-old Boy takes a bus to the end of the line, which turns out to be Flax Hill, a manufacturing town in eastern Massachusetts. She catches the eye and the heart of Arturo Whitman, a widower with a young daughter, Snow. When Boy and Arturo's daughter, Bird, is born, a family secret is revealed. Bird's dark skin is evidence that the Whitmans are light-skinned blacks who have been passing for white. Though Boy never imagined that she'd become a wicked stepmother, she sends Snow to be raised by her mother's sister in the city.-Library Journal

Some more tales you might enjoy:

Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

The True Story of Hansel and Gretel by Louise Murphy

The Book of Lost things by Cynthia Voigt