Big Issue Vendor

The best books about magic… that aren’t Harry Potter

Paddington 2 writer Simon Farnaby recommends some great books about magic, with no boy wizards in sight.
Simon Farnaby recommends books about magic on a video call with The Big Issue

Storytelling is a form of sorcery, so it should come as no surprise that since the dawn of printing, we have always loved books about magic. In recent years, Harry Potter may have come close to a magical monopoly – but there are many other mysterious stories out there for those craving a dose of the mystic.

Writer, actor and comedian Simon Farnaby – famous for his appearances in Horrible Histories, Ghosts, The Mighty Boosh and Rogue One, as well as writing Paddington 2 – conjures up his recommendations for the best books about magic.

Books about magic… recommended by actor and writer Simon Farnaby

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Stone Junction by Jim Dodge

It’s about a guy called Daniel Pearse. His mum dies in the beginning and he gets all these mysterious people helping him to get over that loss. They’re all part of this group called AMO, which is the Alliance of Alchemists, Magicians and Outlaws. It’s an outlawed British group of magicians. He goes on an adventure, becoming a poker player, a bank robber and a safe cracker. But all the time, he’s trying to achieve this magical feat of becoming invisible. It’s totally bizarre. It really stretches your imagination.

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

There’s a lot of magic in Murakami’s books. Kafka on the Shore is, again, very bizarre story. There’s this character who’s a serial killer, of cats and he dresses like Johnnie Walker, from the whiskey label, with this weird hat and boots and stuff. His plan is, he’s going to make a flute out of cats’ souls. And it’s just very, very odd.

The Lunch Witch by Deb Lucke

This book is more child friendly. It’s a graphic novel about a witch. She loses her job as a witch, and she becomes a dinner lady. When I was at school, the dinner ladies always seemed like witches to me, the food was so bad.

Magic Kingdom For Sale – Sold! by Terry Brooks

Magic Kingdom For Sale  Sold! is about a lawyer, who sees an advert in the paper saying ‘Magic kingdom for sale, $1 million’. He’s just intrigued. He can’t stop thinking about it and he buys it. He ends up in a magic kingdom, and he’s the king. But everything’s a bit broken, nothing works properly, the castle’s all run down, and he starts to regret having bought it. What’s great about this book, is it’s not written like a fantasy. It’s got funny bits in it. But it’s really real.

The Wizard In My Shed by Simon Farnaby

I was really influenced by E.T. and Stig of the Dump. It’s a sort of wish fulfilment for a kid to become friends with a magical creature and in my book, Rose becomes friends with this wizard, Merdyn, who’s from the Dark Ages. She wants to be a singer, so they strike a deal where he says he’s going to give her a singing spell, to make her the best singer in the world and in return she’s going to help him get back home to the Dark Ages. So it’s really seeing the world from the point of view of someone from the Dark Ages. If that appeals to you, then you’ll like this book. It’s pretty funny, I think, and you might even shed a tear.

The Wizard In My Shed by Simon Farnaby is out now.