A Wrinkle in Time is an enduring classic of children/young adult literature. Its fantastical elements and playful language make it a delight for younger readers while its more complex ruminations on religion and philosophical quandaries leave adults with plenty to ponder. Following its initial publication in 1962, A Wrinkle in Time took home a slew of awards including the Newberry Medal and positioned Madeleine L’Engle as one of the most significant and thought-provoking children’s authors of her time. The novel, and its sequels, remain an oft-challenged and beloved classroom fixture. With Disney’s blockbuster Oprah-backed adaptation – helmed by Ava Duvernay – due to arrive in theaters today, our thoughts have once turned to Madeline L’Engle’s miraculous world. Whether you’re looking for something to whet your appetite before catching the film or something to sate your thirst for more after the end credits roll, the books below should do the job.
Whether you’re picking it up for the first time or revisiting the well-read classic, there’s nothing quite exploring Madeleine L’Engle’s Time Quintet as an adult. It should come as no surprise that the series, like all great literature, ages incredibly well. The adventures of Meg and Charles Wallace Murray, their friend Calvin O’Keefe, and eventually the Murray and O’Keefe families are as enchanting and thought-provoking today as on their initial publication.
This bestselling trilogy and basis for the hit Syfy show is a must-read. Blurring the lines between reality and fiction, The Magicians Trilogy centers around Quentin Coldwater – a brilliant but misanthropic high school student fascinated by a series of children’s fantasy novels set in the magical land of Fillory. Imagine Quentin’s surprise when he’s accepted to an elite, secret college of magic and discovers that Fillory may actually exist. It is an adventure that is equal parts fantastical and deeply human.
While not technically set in a magical or alternate realm, the Florida Everglades of Karen Russell’s Swamplandia! feel no less fantastical. The novel follows Ava Bigtree, a precocious young girl who has spent her entire life in her family’s gator wrestling theme park, Swamplandia. When a series of mishaps and misfortunes sends her family spiraling into chaos, Ava sets out into the everglades to make things right in this brilliantly imagined debut from Karen Russell.
Robert Jackson Bennett
What do you get when you mix in a traveling vaudeville troupe, a young man searching out his father, a bit of Lovecraftian Cosmicism, and a dose of weird fiction? The Troupe by Robert Jackson Bennett. While Bennett is best known for the Divine Cities trilogy, his earlier stuff is just as good, and this one might just be my favorite. Like A Wrinkle in Time, it centers around a child’s search for their parent, and The Troupe is home to a mesmerizing and bizarre cast of characters set against a turn-of-the-century vaudevillian backdrop teeming with magic and suspense.
Stephen King and Peter Straub
The Talisman and its sequel Black House, a collaboration between two of the most influential horror writers of their generation, span the life of Jack Sawyer. As a boy in The Talisman, Jack traveled to a parallel universe called “the territories” to save his mother from an agonizing death. Twenty years later, during the events of Black House, Jack is a retired homicide detective with no memory of his time in the territories until a series of gruesome murders pulls him inexplicably toward the past he’d long ago forgotten.
Charlie Jane Anders
This 2017 Nebula Award winner and Hugo finalist is a bizarre, humorous, and ultimately poignant tale of the clash of magic and science with the world’s end looming. It’s built around the conflict between an ancient order of witches and a hipster tech startup – each battling to prevent the world from tearing itself apart. At its center is the love story of Patricia, a brilliant witch, and Laurence, a engineering genius. It’s all told against the backdrop of San Francisco and a world well on its way to a crisis. It’s precisely as quirky and strange as it sounds, and Charlie Jane Anders holds it all together.
Like The Troupe, this one may not seem like an obvious choice. It’s a truly bizarre adventure that pulls from classic folk tales and video games to create decidedly weird, and oft-hilarious, concoction. It centers on a suburban family man who takes a hike in rural Pennsylvania and soon stumbles into an unsettling and dangerous world. It’s weird fiction. It’s an otherworldly adventure with an engaging cast of characters. It’s a deconstruction of the fairy tale form. It’s also utterly entertaining.
A child being whisked away to become the savior of a fantasy world is a common trope, but what happens to the family the child leaves behind? More importantly, what happens when the story ends? These questions are the bedrock of Joshua Williamson’s Birthright series. The Rhodes family is shattered when their young son mysteriously goes missing. A year later, a full grown sword-wielding man appears, claiming to be the young son they lost. Could that possibly be the case?
This Newberry Medal winner wears its inspiration firmly on its sleeve. Rebecca Stead has made no secret that A Wrinkle in Time was her inspiration for When You Reach Me; in fact, it is the protagonist’s favorite book. The story follows sixth grader Miranda, who begins receiving mysterious notes that seem to be able to predict the future. With each one, she is pulled into a deeper and seemingly more dangerous mystery. Much like A Wrinkle in Time, When You Reach Me is an intricately woven and thought-provoking tale that will to readers of all ages and linger long after the final page.