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Staff Picks: Do You Believe in Magic?

There’s magic in the air of the Mechanics’ Institute Library. Wizards and witches are casting their spells on the shelves of the Staff Picks Display. There are some enchanting books waiting to be read by you. Inspired by Harry Potter’s 20th Anniversary, the staff recommendations focus on witches, wizards, alchemy and magic. If you haven’t read the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (the first in the series) start there and then check out the rest.

Taryn recommends:

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
A fascinating Arthurian tale that will keep you on the edge of your seat!

The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart
Another vivid Arthurian tale, this one following the magician Merlin's life story.

Magical Mathematics by Persi Diaconis and Ron Graham (793.8 D536)
Behind every good magic trick there's math - get the theory behind the magic!

Heather says:

I absolutely adore V. E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic series – start with A Darker Shade of Magic and read them in order (#2 A Gathering of Shadows; #3 A Conjuring of Light) – this series is compelling, stylish, and takes a refreshingly laissez-faire approach to gender. Its fluidity is part of its unrelenting charm, even as the world(s) crumble around the central quest of the novel. You might (over)simplify it categorically as the love child of Orlando and The Matrix – it’s far more complex than that though, so please don’t (simplify). However you describe it, it’s one of my favorite recent discoveries. Please enjoy!

The Magicians is the first in a trilogy by Lev Grossman, wherein young Quentin Coldwater attends Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy (in New York, not England). The book attempts to circumvent the comparison to Hogwarts by alluding to a Narnia-esque YA novel that Quentin and his friends are obsessed with, but this is definitely a “Hogwarts College” kind of novel, with a little Chronicles of Narnia thrown in, a hint of A Wrinkle in Time, and a soupcon of His Dark Materials… If that sounds appealing to you, dig in to this series!

Erik recommends:

The Dark Horse Book of Witchcraft : eight weird mysteries of powerful women and supernatural skill-- told in words and pictures (741.5 D219)

Lia says:

I LOVE this topic because I read a ton of fantasy books!  Here are some of my favorites featuring witches, wizards, and all that fun stuff:

Uprooted by Naomi Novik - In this Nebula Award winner, a young girl is chosen every 10 years to live with the cold, distant wizard called The Dragon.  Uprooted follows a young girl named Agnieszka, and she's sure that her best friend, Katia, will be chosen by the Dragon.  After all, Katia is the bravest, smartest, most beautiful girl in town.  But when the Dragon comes down from his tower, it's not Katia who he chooses.  In this clever, beautifully written novel Novik plays with traditional fantasy tropes, along with an interesting take on Baba Yaga stories.

Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines - Who could resist a book about a magical librarian?  Libriomancer follows the adventures of Isaac Vainio (librarian by day, wizard by night), who creates magic by pulling objects out of books.  In this fast paced urban fantasy, Isaac has to work together with a sword-wielding dryad to find the vampires who've kidnapped Gutenberg (yes, that Gutenberg).  This book is pure fun.

Storm Front by Jim Butcher - Butcher is one of my favorite authors, and I can't get enough of his novels about Harry Dresden, wizard and private investigator.  Working closely with the Chicago P.D., Harry Dresden investigates the oddball cases no one wants to deal with - or believe in.  In this first book of the series, the Chicago P.D. calls him in on a grisly double murder committed with black magic.  Storm Front is a beautiful marriage of urban fantasy and hard-boiled detective novels.

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin  - I firmly believe Jemisin is the best fantasy writer alive today.  In The Fifth Season she introduces us to a land called The Stillness, a continent rocked by apocalyptic earthquakes.  The only people who can stop the earthquakes are Orogenes, people born with the ability to control the near daily shakes.  In this Hugo Award winner, Jemisin confronts issues of race, power, and the things people will do to survive. 

Deb recommends:

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill (children's)
2017 Newbery Medal Winner
An enchanting book full of magic for those who love classic fairytales.

The Witch's Guide to Cooking with Children by Keith McGowan (children's)
"I love children. Eating them, that is. So begins this funny, nail-biting adventure."

Well Witched by Frances Hardinge (children's)
Ever wonder what happens to all those wishes made with a coin toss into a wishing well? 

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis (children's)
This classic tale by C.S. Lewis will entice you to read all of the books in The Chronicles of Narnia series.

Kristin recommends:

Alchemy of Herbs –Transform Everyday Ingredients into Foods and Remedies That Heal by Rosalee de la Foret (615.321 F718) - Create your own magic in the kitchen and put that extra garlic and ginger you may have on hand at home to good use. This book has easy straight forward recipes that will help cure what ails you.

Posted on Aug. 30, 2017 by Kristin McCarthy