Under the Big Top

By Michelle HooSang

Compelling stories of life in the circus.

  • The Night Circus

    2011 by Morgenstern, Erin

    A mesmerizing tale of magic and love between two illusionists bound by their masters to compete against each other until the end. The intrigue of this circus is that it arrives in town without warning, and the black and white tents can only be visited at night.

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  • Circus of Wonders

    2022 by Macneal, Elizabeth

    Ostracized because of her birthmarks, Nell longs to belong in her small Victorian village. Content with spending the rest of her life as her brother’s servant, Nell’s life changes the instant her dad sells her to Jasper Jupiter’s circus. Now she must learn how to feel confident in her own skin as she becomes one of the star performers.

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  • The Circus


    This four hour miniseries follows the rise and fall of the traveling Railroad Circus. It explores how the Big Tent Circus gained popularity in the United States, often shutting down towns for the day.

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  • Water for Elephants

    2006 by Gruen, Sara

    A gritty drama set in the Depression about a drifter who joins a traveling circus and learns and uses his veterinarian skills to obtain a job with the circus. There he falls in love with the circus trainer’s wife and a beautiful elephant.

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  • The Orphan's Tale

    2017 by Jenoff, Pam

    The author weaves history and the wonderment of the circus in this novel set in World War II in Nazi-occupied territory. Through her detailed writing, the circus performers come to life, and we feel their unceasing dread performing and hiding in plain sight under the rule of the Reich.

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  • The Ladies of the Secret Circus

    2021 by Sayers, Constance

    Determined to find out why she was jilted at the altar by her fiancé, Lara’s search for answers leads her on a frightening yet exhilarating journey to Paris, where she discovers a history of magic in her female bloodline, a family curse, and a secret circus.

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  • Love in the Elephant Tent: How Running Away with the Circus Brought Me Home

    2015 by Cremonesi, Kathleen

    A fun, coming-of-age memoir about a woman who wanted a different life from her mother’s. Kathleen moves to Europe and joins the circus, where she falls in love with an elephant keeper and the animals.

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  • The Life She Was Given

    2017 by Wiseman, Ellen Marie

    A glimpse into the glamorous yet cruel world of the traveling circus. Locked in the attic because of her freakish nature as an albino, Lily’s mother sells her to the circus, where Lily endures the cruelty of circus life but also finds love and belonging.

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  • The Greatest Showman


    Winner of a Golden Globe for Best Original Song ("This Is Me"), this musical drama is a period piece starring Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron, Michelle Williams, and Zendaya. The movie is inspired by the story of P.T. Barnum as he pursues his dreams of creating a circus and providing a better life for his family.

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  • Harley in the Sky

    2020 by Bowman, Akemi Dawn

    Born into a famous Las Vegas circus family, Harley dreams of becoming a trapeze artist, but her parents want her to attend college. Determined to be an aerialist, Harley joins a rival traveling circus and must work hard to succeed and fight off her demons.

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