Harkness, a historian of science at the University of Southern California, was researching at Oxford University’s Bodleian Library when she discovered an ancient book of spells. That discovery inspired her first novel, A Discovery of Witches, about a young scholar named Diana Bishop who accidentally opens a magical manuscript, which threatens an underworld war involving demons, witches, and vampires. It became a huge bestseller in 2011. The new sequel, Shadow of Night, actually takes Diana back in time to Elizabethan England. Harkness picks her five favorite otherworldly reads.
The Mists of AvalonBy Marion Zimmer Bradley
This retelling of the Arthurian legend from the perspective of the women in the story, including the sorceress Morgaine, will sweep you into a half-mythical, half-magical time in British history. Its brilliantly drawn characters, epic scale, and family politics are enough to please even the most ardent Game of Thrones fans.
The Eyre AffairBy Jasper Fforde
This wonderful book will have you laughing out loud as heroine Thursday Next polices the line between fiction and reality to keep characters in the books where they belong. Set in a parallel universe where dodos are kept as pets, England is still fighting the Crimean War and Wales is an independent socialist state, this book is the first in a delightful series.
Neverwhere By Neil Gaiman
Explore the hidden world of “London Below,” a world of angels, monks, and lost souls, in this stunning work. Like many of Gaiman’s novels, Neverwhere defies easy categorization. After reading this book—part urban fantasy, part meditation on place and history, and part fairy tale—you will never see “London Above” in the same way again.
The RookBy Daniel O’Malley
Join up with her majesty’s supernatural secret service as they save the world from certain destruction. But our heroine, Myfanwy (“rhymes with Tiffany”) Thomas has her own problems: she woke up with no memory of who she is in a room full of corpses and has a colleague named Gestalt with a four-body problem. This is whimsical and smart storytelling, perfect for summertime or any time.
The Witching HourBy Anne Rice
No trip into an alternative world would be complete without Anne Rice. In this, the first book in the series dedicated to the Mayfair family of witches, Rice blends the natural and supernatural into a satisfying, Gothic tale with twists, turns, and her always-compelling blend of history, fantasy, and reality.