Looking for some sweet, sweet escapism? There’s nothing quite like getting lost in a book so immersive that, as you turn the last page, it takes you a moment to adjust back to your own reality. Books so captivating you’re daydreaming about them long after you’ve recommended them to everyone else you know.
All of the books here are otherworldly in some way. Some present fantastical worlds full of high-stakes adventure, others are set in a world similar to our own, but where something is off-kilter, and there are a couple in this list that explore themes so profound they can only be described as transcendental.
Whether you’re looking to travel to Italy, Japan, or a whole other world or time, each of these reads transports you somewhere else entirely. There are some that will make you laugh, others that will make you cry. One thing’s guaranteed, every read on this list will make you look at our own world differently.
So what are you waiting for? Dive in and find your next favourite read.
Paper Girls by Brian K Vaughan
Love Stranger Things? Then you’ll love this comic by the bestselling writer behind the Saga and Y The Last Man comics. The story follows four 12-year-old “paper girls” – Erin, Mac, K.J and Tiff – as they start a journey in the early hours after Halloween 1988. Amid the chaos of the night, our protagonists are thrust into an adventure of time-travelling shenanigans. The series has recently been adapted for TV by Amazon Studios, but for those keen to experience the magic of the books first, there’s no better time to devour this mind-bending comic.
Siren Queen by Nghi Vo
Were you mesmerised by the enchantment of Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus and the glamour of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo? Then you’ll fall in love with this. Siren Queen transports readers to a reimagined old Hollywood, a place where bargains can be made in blood, and monsters are real. We follow Luli Wei, a Chinese-American girl as she comes of age, longing for stardom. But at what cost? While Luli wants to be immortalised by the big screen, this spellbinding tale ensures she’ll live forever in readers’ minds.
If Cats Disappeared From The World by Genki Kawamura
An essential addition to the bookshelf of anyone who loves fiction in translation. Our narrator is a 30-year-old Japanese postman who discovers his days are numbered. But then the Devil appears and makes a special offer: he will grant him one extra day of life in exchange for making one thing from the world disappear. This short but mighty book is the kind that offers something new to the reader each time they pick it up. But it will always make you question – and appreciate – the things that make life worth living.
Legendborn by Tracy Deonn
Filled with Black Girl Magic, this young adult urban fantasy offers a modern reimagining of the King Arthur legend. Grieving the loss of her mother our protagonist, Bree, uncovers a secret society of ‘Legendborn’ that hunt down demons who feed on human energies. There kicks off an epic quest as a magical war brews. This fast-paced book is full of thrilling twists and world-building whilst managing to explore themes of love, grief and ancestral pain. With the highly anticipated sequel Bloodmarked set for release this November, there’s no better time to pick this one up.
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
This is a love story that follows Nadia and Saeed, who are opposites in almost every way, but find each other as their country teeters on the brink of war and disaster. As violence escalates, mysterious doors start to appear that can transport people away to unknown locations, but they come with a price. This poignant tale mixes reality with fairytale, offering up an unforgettable story about love and hope. If you’re looking to have your faith in humanity restored, you’ll definitely want to pick this one up.
Lakelore by Anna-Marie McLemore
This fantastical tale comes from the award-winning author who brought us The Mirror Season, and is told through the dual perspective of two non-binary, neurodivergent Mexican-American teens as they navigate living in an ableist world. Their lives become intertwined when they are pulled into a magical realm under a lake. But will they be able to keep their heads above water in the world outside of the lake? This is a dazzling read about friendship, love and self-acceptance.
From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home by Tembi Locke
Get your tissues ready. This memoir follows the love-at-first sight romance between Tembi and her future husband Saro on a street in Florence and the life they build together with their daughter (despite his Sicilian family’s disapproval of their interracial relationship). We follow Tembi from Tuscany to Los Angeles to Sicily – the latter is where she unexpectedly finds healing at her mother-in-law’s dinner table. This story proves that love, grief and food are languages which transcend barriers and reminds us to savour the taste of life.
Bitter by Akwaeke Emezi
Whether you fell in love with Emezi’s hit YA debut novel Pet or it fell under your radar, you’ll want to pick up its prequel Bitter. In this novel, we follow our titular character trying to get by in the city of Lucille, a place which holds many parallels to our own but with a magical realism twist. It’s full of injustice – where youngsters are dying in the fight for a better world. As an artist, Bitter doesn’t think she has a role to play in the revolution, but art can be a form of resistance, too.
The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin
This is the first book within The Broken Earth trilogy, which won the Hugo Award three years in a row. It’s perfect reading for fans of Octavia E Butler and Ursula K Le Guin.We follow Essun, a mother on a quest to find her daughter as the world falls apart. Through masterful world-building and an unreliable second-person narrator, Jemisin weaves a post-apocalyptic sci-fi/fantasy novel that transports readers to The Stillness. This is a world that always meets catastrophic endings. A page-turner from start to finish.
Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction by Jeff Vandermeer
This one’s for any aspiring authors reading. Instead of typical writing guides which are bogged down with rigid formulas, this book is jam-packed with maps, illustrations and exercises which ignite the reader’s imagination and gives them the tools to create their own worlds from scratch. Vandermeer also shares examples from his own fiction in both draft and finalised versions. This guide remains practical while also keeping things playful – making it an essential companion for all those wanting to nurture their own love of writing.