Many people have dreamed of running off with the circus. After all, the circus is a magical place full of laughter and entertainment.
There are so many childhood memories to be made there, and one way to escape there is through the power of books. That’s why we’ve found some of the best books about the circus that will bring you new wonders to enjoy.
Keep reading to find out what I would recommend as the ten best books you need to read if you love the circus. Whether you’re young or old, there is something for everyone in this selection of best books about the circus.
10 Best Books About The Circus
The Night Circus By Erin Morgenstern
The circus is only open at night and arrives with no warning. In the black-and-white striped canvas tents are shows full of wonder, but no one is aware of the duel between two magicians taking place within.
Since childhood, Celia and Marco were trained for this moment, but only one of them can leave standing. What no one expected, however, was the love that would grow between them.
- New York Times bestseller.
- Winner of the ALA Alex Award and Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Favorite Book and Best Fantasy.
- It is an imaginative fantasy novel that interweaves a complex plot that will have you return to reread it.
- Written from multiple perspectives that readers either love or hate, as there are so many to keep track of.
Caraval By Stephanie Garber
Once a year, there is a show, a show where audience participation is key. This show is Caraval, and Scarlett has dreamed of being invited. But when she gives up all hope, she finally receives an invitation.
Her sister, Tella, takes her to the show, but when Caraval’s organizer kidnaps Tella, she must save her sister. Despite what she knows of Caraval, she needs to find Tella before the five nights are over, or she will lose her forever.
- New York Times bestseller.
- Nominated for the Goodreads Choice Award for Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction.
- The first book in a spellbinding trilogy that combines fantasy with love, heartbreak, and the relationship between sisters.
- Set in a fantasy world, it sometimes relies a little too much on spellbinding prose than an in-depth plot.
Cirque Du Freak By Darren Shan
When Darren and his best friend, Steve, get tickets to the Cirque du Freak, they sneak out to see it in the dead of night. However, Steve recognizes one of the performers as the vampire, Larten Crepsley.
Steve goes to confront the vampire, and Darren follows, but Darren’s not interested in vampirism, but Crepsley’s rare spider. Upon meeting Mr. Crepsley, their lives are changed, and Darren is dragged into a world of monsters and vampires.
- Winner of the Soaring Eagle Book Award.
- Adapted into a manga series and a feature film.
- The first in a young adult twelve-part horror series that is fast-paced and gory in a good way.
- It may have some scenes that may disturb sensitive readers.
Water For Elephants By Sara Gruen
From his retirement home, Jacob Jankowski thinks back to his youth in the Great Depression. With nothing left to lose, the penniless orphan joins a circus troupe where he works as a veterinarian for the animals there.
Here, he meets Marlena, her husband, August, and the untrainable elephant: Rosie. While here, Jacob embarks on a passionate affair that sets up a tragic chain of events that no one could have imagined.
- New York Times bestseller.
- Adapted into a feature-length film.
- Winner of the ALA Alex Award.
- A beautifully written romance between two people who overcome odds in a world where love is a luxury few can afford.
- If you want to be captivated by the circus, you may find a difficult time with romance taking center stage.
Geek Love By Katherine Dunn
Al and Lil Binewski run their own traveling circus, but when their business begins to fail, they come up with a disturbing plan. Using various drugs and genetic material, they breed their own freak show of children.
Told through the eyes of their daughter, Oly, she tells her daughter, Miranda, of their lives in the circus with her siblings, and notably, her megalomaniac brother, Arturo the Aquaboy.
- A finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction.
- Tells a horrific tale of sibling rivalry gone wrong in a family that runs a traveling carnival.
- While the book’s concept is terrifying, there are conflicting opinions about the characters and how developed they are.
The Museum Of Extraordinary Things By Alice Hoffman
The year is 1911. Coralie Sardie performs as the Mermaid in her father’s circus: The Museum of Extraordinary Things.
While swimming one day, she finds Eddie Cohen, a Russian immigrant who manages to catch the devastation of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire.
Soon, Eddie finds himself embroiled in a mystery behind a young woman’s disappearance. While investigating this mystery, Coralie and Eddie fall for one another.
- Nominated for the Goodreads Choice Award for Historical Fiction.
- A love story between two outcasts is brought together in a world of magical realism that inspires and disturbs readers.
- The romance is a little bit clichéd and falls into love at first sight territory.
Nights At The Circus By Angela Carter
Sophie Fevvers performs in the circus and is said to be part woman, part swan. The journalist Jack Walser runs to the circus and interviews her to discover whether the rumors are true.
Joining Sophie on a tour through London, St. Petersburg, and Siberia, Sophie embarks on a journey of self-discovery as she recounts the story of her life to Jack.
- Winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction and nominated for the British Fantasy Award for Best Novel.
- Adapted for the stage and as a radio play.
- A politically-driven fantasy that is beautifully written, offering a sunny spirit not typically found in Angela Carter’s work.
- Angela Carter fills in as much detail as she can in this small book; not everyone may appreciate that style.
Circus Mirandus By Cassie Beasley
Micah has always believed the stories told to him by his grandfather about the Circus Mirandus. When his grandfather is dying, Micah is finally given proof that the circus is real and that the powerful magician, the Lightbender, owes him a miracle.
With the help of his friend Jenny, they go to find the Lightbender to save his grandfather, but the Lightbender has no plans to keep his promise.
- Nominated for the Award for Best Debut Goodreads Author and the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature.
- A moving adventure for children that will make them laugh and cry.
- It’s a cute little story with not too much depth but plenty of adventure for children to enjoy.
Mechanique: A Tale Of The Circus Tresaulti By Genevieve Valentine
The Mechanical Circus Tresaulti continues to perform, regardless of the dystopian war going on outside. Patrons continue to gather on the benches to escape the horrors outside and lose themselves inside.
But when two performers find themselves in a secret standoff, the Circus may be torn apart. The situation only worsens as the war outside finally reaches their doorstep.
- Nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novel and the Locus Award for Best First Novel.
- A poetic yet dark dystopian circus that tells the tale of war from within and outside the circus.
- Despite its beautiful descriptions, Valentine struggles to build the plot in an unclear world.
Something Wicked This Way Comes By Ray Bradbury
Something Wicked This Way Comes is one of Ray Bradbury’s best-known works. When Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show comes to Green Town, it brings Halloween a week early.
Visitors to the show will be touched by the strange and sinister mysteries that come with it when it arrives at midnight. Two boys go to visit the show and learn about the cost of their wishes and the nightmares that can come with them.
- An influential fantasy-horror novel that has influenced an entire generation of authors.
- Adapted into a film, theater performance, and radio play.
- The second novel in the four-book series Green Town.
- Something Wicked This Way Comes is written at a different time, so it won’t be as immersive to all readers.
Best Books About The Circus Buyer’s Guide
In order to help readers understand how I made this selection of Best Of books, I’ve compiled this helpful guide to help you decide which book to choose.
One way to gauge fan reception is by examining how well the book sold. However, there are other ways to gauge this. For example, how much influence did this novel have on other authors?
I chose to include any influence and how well the book sold to determine how well-received each novel was.
The influence of other authors can also tie into the critical reception, but there is no better analysis than seeing the accolades each book receives. Many of these novels are known for being the best books about the circus for a reason.
I felt including their accolades would reassure readers who may be concerned about what they were reading.
Not all novels have received an adaptation, but that doesn’t make them bad. Likewise, most books have an adaptation due to how widely successful they were.
If you’re curious about seeing another viewpoint on a novel, then an adaptation can be the best way to do so. In some ways, it can actually help you appreciate the original work more.
Writing style can significantly impact how much a reader enjoys a book. I’ve read many novels where the writing style has impeded my enjoyment of a good book.
For example, many readers may hate books with multiple perspectives, as it can be difficult to write well. In writing style, I’ve included whether a work may seem dated or if it’s just written in a way other readers have been taken out of the immersion.
I’m aware that not everyone looking at this list will want to read a light-hearted novel. After all, there are numerous novels that focus on the horrific and fantastical.
If you’re looking for a specific genre, I thought it best to include whether you would be interested. For example, not everyone wants to read a romance set in the circus and may prefer an escapist fantasy.
Admittedly, not all books on this list will be written for adults, so I’ve included a few children and young adult novels too. Many of these books are for different audiences, so I hope you will find one that suits your tastes.
In many cases, this aligns with the genre of the novel, but I also tried to include whether a book would be suitable for younger ages, especially if it’s a young adult novel.
Series Or Standalone
Most of these novels are standalone, but a select few are part of a larger series. I decided to include whether a novel was part of a series in case you only wanted a standalone to read.
After all, not everyone wants to be hooked on a series if they’re not sure whether they like the first book. Whether you want a new series or just a quick read, there’s something for everyone here.
These are the ten best circus books that have been written. I’ve selected a range of books that should be suitable for different ages, and have tried to consider everyone’s tastes.
I hope this guide has helped you find a new circus novel that you will love. If you want any more advice to help you find a new book to read, then consider checking out some of my other posts.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you have any questions, feel free to consult my frequently asked questions below.
What Should I Read If I Liked The Night Circus?
If you enjoyed The Night Circus, I recommend you read Caraval or Mechanique: A Tale of The Circus Tresaulti.
However, if you want to read another novel by Erin Morgenstern, I recommend The Starless Sea, even though it is not about the circus.
What Are Other Novels In The Caraval Series?
The Caraval series is a trilogy containing the other novels, Legendary and Finale.
What Should I Read If I Liked The Saga Of Darren Shan?
Cirque du Freak is the first book in The Saga of Darren Shan and is followed by a prequel series: The Saga of Larten Crepsley, which begins with Birth of a Killer.
You may also enjoy Darren Shan’s Demonata series of books, which begins with Lord Loss.
What Other Books Are In The Green Town Series?
The Green Town series consists of four books: Dandelion Wine, Something Wicked This Way Comes, Farewell Summer, and Summer Morning, Summer Night.
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