Top 10 Books for Adults Who Like Fairy Tales

WineI’m joining in on The Broke and the Bookish‘s Top Ten Tuesday again this week. The theme was “Ten Books for Readers Who Like. . .” so, as usual, I put my geeky spin on it.

I never read fairy tales as a kid. It wasn’t really until I was in college that started working my way through the Brother’s Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson.

I fell in love with the weirdness of them as an adult–I’m sure much more than I would have as a kid. (I don’t know if eight year old me would have been able to deal with the extremely bizarre ending to Anderson’s “Little Mermaid.”Spoiler Alert: There’s no happily ever after.)

In the past ten years or so, it’s become popular to retell fairy tales in film and book form. I’ve read plenty of retellings and am a bit obsessed with even the not-so-great film adaptations. Basically, I still love fairy tales and I thought I’d make a run-down list of some of my favorite fairy tale retellings (and just general fairy tale-ish books) for others like me who want to read more than just children’s books and YA adaptations of the tales–of which there are plenty.

Top 10 Books for Adults Who Like Fairy Tales

stardust-cover1. Stardust by Neil Gaiman ~ Magic, a falling star, and an unassuming man/boy? While I might just like the movie better (gasp!), the book’s very fun with all sorts of adventures and quirky characters. Best yet: It’s a standalone fantasy!

2. The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien ~ Unlike Lord of the Rings and even The Hobbit movies, I’ve always considered Bilbo’s story a fairy tale. If, for some reason, you don’t like the Lord of the Rings books, I’d recommend trying The Hobbit anyway because it’s a very different and a very cozy-ish sort of read.

3. The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly ~ Books! Journeys into other worlds! Boys on Adventures!  I’m using exclamations because, in truth, I can’t remember a lot of what this book is about (I haven’t read it since college). It’s definitely your “Boy going on a dangerous adventure in a weird world and growing up a bit story.” If that’s your type of fairy tale.

4. Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie ~ Okay, this technically may be more fable (about free speech) than fairy tale, but I still loved reading it with fairy stories in mind. There’s lots of bizarre creatures and magical happenings throughout–reminding me a lot of Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz.

the-hobbit-cover5. The Princess Bride by William Goldman ~ As much as I absolutely adore the film, the book is so much better! It’s still hilarious and sweet and the ROUS scenes are still my favorite.

6. While Beauty Slept by Elizabeth Blackwell ~ Now onto the fairy tale adaptations! Blackwell’s book is a retelling of “Sleeping Beauty” from the POV of a servant. I’m not always a fan of “below stairs” novels or Aurora’s tale, but I enjoyed this one.

7. Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi ~ Here we have a Magical Realism retelling of “Snow White.” The book is told from different points of view and is strange in the same way that most Magical Realism books are strange–which, if you think of it, fits in with how bizarre many fairy tales can get in their original states.

8. The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine ~ The Twelve Dancing Princesses in Prohibition Era New York! If that doesn’t sell you on reading Valentine’s book I don’t know what will.

9. Fables by Bill Willingham ~ Fables is a comic series about fairy tale characters stuck in the real world. It’s definitely an nifty read, but it’s a very long series (I’m only about a third of the way through it). If you ever need a something to binge read, this is a series that will keep you busy for quite a long time.

10. Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés ~ About two years ago, I went through a phase of reading Fairy Tale theory books. I loved this book in particular. It’s non-fiction, but it deals with the representation of women in fairy tales and what can be learned about “The Heroine’s Journey” from them.

Do you have a favorite fairy tale retelling?


24 thoughts on “Top 10 Books for Adults Who Like Fairy Tales

  1. Awesome recommendations! Loved reading the post and might have to pick up a few of these books. They’re all spins on stories that got me interested in fantasy literature as a whole.

  2. Have you read Neil Gaiman’s version of Snow White called Snow, Glass, Apples? It’s pretty bizarre!
    And The Little Mermaid is sooo sad! I much prefer the Disney version. 😉

    1. I think I have! I own a few of his short story collections so I might need to see if I have it on hand. I’m horrible at remembering all the short stories I’ve read.

      1. Haha! Totally understandable. I need to get some of his collections. The only reason I read that story was because I was taking a Children’s Lit course and the teacher wanted to show us different versions.

  3. Great choices! Have you ever read Jane Yolen’s Briar Rose? Tor is doing a re-issue soon. It’s Sleeping Beauty and the Holocaust. Really a heartwrenching tale.

  4. Great list! I’d also recommend Cinder with this group. I love fairy tales, so this list is right up my alley!
    My TTT (

  5. I know I’m obsessed with Neil Gaiman, but I’ve never read any of his adult novels, only Children’s books. I saw the movie Stardust & it’s one of my favorites. I neeeeeeeeeeed to read some Neil Gaiman! Give me an extra 24 hour day every week to devote to reading.

    1. Neil Gaiman is wonderful. If you like his children’s books, I recommend picking up Neverwhere first. It’s a quick read and has a lot of morbid humor in it (kinda like Coraline).

      1. Thanks! I actually bought The Ocean at the End of the Lane for my Kindle. I read the first 50 pages or so but couldn’t get into it & it genuinely upset me. I think I might just need somewhere else to start 🙂

      2. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is pretty different from his other adult novels. It’s much more literary. My favorite of his is actually Anansi Boys (Neverwhere’s a close 2nd).

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