Journal of Mythic Arts Reading Lists
Please note that The Journal of Mythic Arts stopped publication in 2008. The Reading Lists, included here for archival purposes, do not include more recent works.
The field of mythic fiction consists of contemporary works that draw on the timeless themes and symbolism of world mythology, medieval romance, folklore, fairy tales, and the oral stoytelling tradition. Mythic fiction is set in the modern (or historical world), not in a far–off Nevernever land. But it portrays a world infused with mythic archetypes, mystery, and magic. Works of mythic fiction can be found on the mainstream fiction shelves in the form of magic realism and surrealism, as well as in genre fiction, Young Adult fiction, and other parts of the bookstore.
The prevalence of mythic fiction today is due, we believe, to several factors: the influence of Latin American magical realism, the renaissance of adult fairy literature fostered by feminist writers such as Angela Carter and Anne Sexton, a re–awakening of interest in world mythology due to the works of Joseph Campbell and other scholars, and a decrease of cultural prejudice against nonrealist forms of storytelling in generations weaned on C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and J.K. Rowling.
The following list contains 100 fine novels by 100 fine writers of contemporary mythic fiction. The books on our list range from charming, entertaining confections to powerful novels that rank among the best works of modern literature. The authors on our list range from promising first novelists to modern masters of mythic fiction. For more information, the title link will take you to the book's page on Amazon. (Please bear in mind that if you purchase a book through these links, a portion of the money you pay will be donated to our children's charity.)
For recommendations for younger readers, see Mythic Fiction for Young Adults by Julie Bartel.
The "adult fairy tale" is a literary form popularized by the Italian writers Straparola and Basile in the 16th century, by the French salon writers of the 17th/18th centuries, the German Romantics in the 19th century, and the Celtic Twilight writers of the British Isles at the dawn of the 20th century. At the end of the 20th century, a revival of this form began among three overlapping groups of writers: contemporary "mainstream" authors (such as Angela Carter and Robert Coover); contemporary fantasy authors (such as Tanith Lee and Robin McKinley); and feminist poets (such as Anne Sexton and Carol Ann Duffy). In addition, writers of Young Adult fiction (such as Jane Yolen and Donna Jo Napoli) created sophisticated fairy tale novels that could be read on several levels by readers young and old.
As a new century begins, we're pleased to see that the modern revival of fairy tale literature seems to be growing stronger than ever. Below, you'll find a list of recommended novels, stories, and poetry collections which make deft use of fairy tales, folktales, and folk ballads, re-envisioned for modern readers. We've also included a short list of books about the history of fairy tales, for readers who would like to explore the subject further. For more information on each book, the title link will take you to its page on Amazon.
Adult Fairy Tales
Fairy Tale Fiction Anthologies
Young Adult Fairy Tales