What fantasy and science fiction books should I read?
Science Fiction and Fantasy Books
The books (and series) I list below are, in my opinion, the best Science Fiction and Fantasy books available. I do not go into the plot on this hub, but simply tell you why I think they are the best; however I do provide links to hubs and external sites should you wish to find out more about the books / series I list.
I have split these books into several categories as I am sure you will think that some of them do not belong on a 'best' list - these other books are listed either because they are popular and bring children back into reading, or because they are influential and create many similar copy cat books.
I know I have left out a lot of series and books – feel free to add books you think should be on the list, and if I’ve read them and agree, I’ll add them to this hub.
These are books that are brilliantly written, influential and contain all the elements that make a great sci-fi book.
If you only read one fantasy series in your life then start out with The Hobbit and finish off with Lord of the Rings. It truly is the 'grandfather' of Fantasy!
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Although this list isn’t a top 10 (20 or 100) list, there’s no doubt that Lord of the Rings would be number one fantasy book. Tolkien’s ability to create a realistic world endowed with diverse characters, amazing places and frightening monster is unequalled.
The writing itself sets it above most fantasy; some of the descriptions are simply stunning and bring the places to life in your imagination; the songs and poems are superb; the character descriptions leave nothing unknown about a character, by the time you’ve finished Lord of the Rings you know everything (good and bad) about the major characters.
Lord of the Rings has probably influenced more writing than any other book out there; take a look at 90% of fantasy and you’ll see much that has been influenced, and at times much that has simply been copied out of the imagination of Tolkien.
Lord of the Rings created the genre of Fantasy, while there were books before that could be classed as fantasy, such as The Worm Ouroboros, Tolkien really established the genre.
Other Lord of the Ring sites
- The Lord of the Rings - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Lord Of The Rings
There are not many books with a science fiction or fantasy theme that are classics. The only one that really comes to mind is perhaps the Grandfather of them all: Lord of the Rings.What sets this book aside from the rest of the genre, and in fact fro
THE EARTHSEA SERIES by Ursula K. LeGuin
What is interesting about the Earthsea Trilogy is that it doesn’t follow the traditional tenets of fantasy. Instead it focuses more on the journey of a young wizard who grows and learns by making mistakes; it’s this interesting look into the human character that sets the series aside and makes it a classic. It’s one of those series that make you think, rather than being an exciting page turner. It has its moments of excitement, but these are more to compliment the growth of the character rather than to shape the character.
Earthsea is one of those fantasy books that focus more on magic and prophecy, and that is a nice change from the ‘hack and slay’ type fantasy that is very prevalent in the genre. The books are very long, and at times the story does move away from ‘favorite’ characters, but overall they work very well.
OK so you may notice that this isn’t about a book or series, but about a writer. Terry Pratchett is one of the most amazing writers I’ve read; he’s not the best writer, but somehow combines a well written story with a monty-pythonesque comedy act to produce often hysterical novels. There are so many of his books that are excellent that it is really difficult to pick out one or two.
Fantasy is supposed to be serious isn't it? Pratchett’s ability to find the ugliest, meanest and vilest characters and somehow get the reader to love them is amazing – if you read closely, he really has a lot to say about society and how we perceive each other.
More sites about Terry Pratchett
- Terry Pratchett - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Terry Pratchett reviews
"As far as I'm aware I'm not specifically banned anywhere in the USA, and am rather depressed about it. Surely some of you guys can do something?" -- Terry Pratchett, alt.books.pratchett Terry Pratchett is...
ENDER'S GAME by Orson Scott Card
I’ve read quite a few books by Orson Scott Card and find his style to be varied and at times entirely different. I wasn’t impressed with some of his work, so I was pleasantly surprised when I picked up Ender’s Game, and progressed to his other works in the series.
The Enders Game is a science fiction series at its best; with excellent (and perhaps a bit too perfect) characters, some really decent social commentary and a huge smattering of philosophy and speculative science, Card has produced a very intriguing series. There are so many elements, and so many challenges in this series that it really should be read several times to get the best out of it.
THE CHRONICLES OF THOMAS COVENANT by Stephen Donaldson
I like fantasy that challenges the norms accepted by the Genre. Stephen Donaldson introduces us to a very flawed character who lives in our world, but due to leprosy and other problems ends up in an alternate fantasy world. In the first trilogy Donaldson shows us how Thomas Covenant thinks this world is simply his own ‘crazy’ mind and therefore he becomes cynical and at times evil despite being the hero of the series. As we progress through the Thomas Covenant chronicles (there are 8 books so far) we see a struggle going on that really parallels many of the struggles we all deal with each day; the main character is hugely flawed and therefore makes many errors and mistakes along the way.
It’s this type of social commentary that really makes you think that sets this series aside – I note that at times it is a difficult series to read, due to the darkness and some of the dark and sinister subjects touched, but the effort really is worth it.
More Thomas Covenant sites.
SWORD OF TRUTH by Terry Goodkind
Now a major TV series, this series of books is one of the better fantasy series out there. It has many of the elements that make a great fantasy series, but above all deals with a lot of human issues; like many books I read, I like books that challenge me, and often force me to look at things differently; this series did that at many instances, and while some of the books were perhaps I little long, I thoroughly enjoyed the read, and feel that despite the flaws the underlying ‘humanity’ of the books make them stand out.
More Sword of Truth sites
THE DARK TOWER series by Stephen King
I’ve always loved Stephen King books; not just for the horror and darkness, but also for the character elements he always embeds into them. The DarkTower was an intriguing series for me; it has elements of horror, fantasy, science fiction and classic gun-toting westerns. While at times it simply didn’t make sense, and I must say that the ending was a huge disappointment, I liked the way King moved us back and forth between realities; not only that, the way he did it was real.
It’s this merging of different realities that somehow tie together that make this series worth the read – it’s a long slog, but at times some of the writing is simply brilliant – again the key is the characters, and the fact that you come to love them and worry about them tells you how good the story is.
Some Dark Tower sites
WATCHMEN by writer Alan Moore, artist Dave Gibbons, and colorist John Higgins.
I’m not usually a super-hero fan, but there’s something about The Watchmen that sets it apart from other super hero books, and almost brings it into the realms of classic science fiction. It’s probably my love of ‘flawed’ characters that appeals to me; so many of the heroes in The Watchmen have deep and dark flaws making it very intriguing to say the least. It’s probably the fact that the heroes are normal people that set it aside from every other super-hero book I’ve ever read.
More Watchmen sites
ELRIC by Michael Moorcock
Wow, flawed hero after flawed hero. Moorcock’s writing has always intrigued me; his ability to shift between universes, characters and worlds is amazing, and to somehow link them all together, and make this link work is amazing. Elric is Moorcock’s most famous hero, and his flawed character combined with the demonic sword he possesses make him one of the best heroes I’ve encountered over the years. Elric is classic fantasy at its best.
More Elric Sites.
LEGEND by David Gemmell
David Gemmel was one of my favorite fantasy / science fiction writers (he sadly passed away a couple of years ago). His first book Legend was one of the best ‘first books’ I’ve ever read – technically it was brilliant, detailing a lot of ‘war’ workings, but somehow while technical, it wasn’t overbearing. The plot was fairly simple if you really get down to it, but it was the way he showed how people deal with adversity, whether they crack or excel, and how attrition has an effect on people that made it unique and special. Throughout all of Gemmel’s books, you always know what he’s talking about, even when there are complicated issues going on – he had a way of explaining complex issues very clearly.
More Legend sites
MAGICIAN by Raymond E Feist
Raymond E Feist is one of the best traditional writers of fantasy; when I first bought Magician, I simply devoured the book in hours. Out of all the Tolkieneque books I have read, the Magician series is by far the best. What I like most about Feist’s books are his ability to create detailed plots while introducing a lot of interesting and technical information and ideas. Additionally, I love the way that the series continues on, characters dying of old age etc, forming a history of the world, rather than a history of one event – this keeps the world alive for me, and even though some of my favorite characters are gone, I can identify with events that affect the whole series.
More Magician sites.
RING WORLD by Larry Niven
Science fiction is often hard to read and I have to admit that when I first picked up this book I put it down within minutes and didn’t pick it up for several months – out of all the books I’ve read, it had one of the worst introductions and I was thoroughly lost very quickly; however, luckily for me I persevered and I am glad I did. What I found was a very interesting and well thought out book, that explores many real issues we have today, and many issues that we could face in the future.
I found it particularly interesting in how different alien races were incorporated into the series, and how humanity adapted and changed the more they began to understand these races (As a side note, this was also what attracted me to the Ender’s game series).
More Ring World links
THE WORM OUROBOROS by E.R. Eddison
This is really a blast from the past for me and formed part of my early interest in science fiction and fantasy; I read this book probably 25 years ago and while it isn’t really traditional fantasy, it forms part of the foundation of the genre we now see today. It is an intriguing mix of Norse Saga and medieval tale with plenty of fantasy elements. It is a difficult book to read in many ways, as the English is very ‘heavy’ but it really kept my attention with Eddison’s story telling abilities, and the characters he has created.
More Worm Ouroboros sites.
FOURTH REALM TRILOGY by John Twelve Hawks
I found this science fiction / fantasy series (which is still unfinished) while searching for downloadable library books; what I liked about this series was the way that it made commentary on the ‘Big Brother’ type world we live in, and how insidious much of the technology that pervades our society is. It takes elements from some movies I have seen and explores them in a lot more depth – it also throws in a smattering of Dante’s Inferno, making this a lot more mystical than most sci-fi books. I also like that the main characters are not untouchable.
More Fourth Realm sites
Mostly these books are immensely popular - they often are not unique and not particularly well written but they somehow capture the imagination of the reader and become very popular (although not listed here, a great example of this would be the Twilight series).
ERAGON by Christopher Paolini
Eragon is one of those series that is not original at all; it has all the standard elements you’d expect from a fantasy series; love, fighting, dragons, magic and monsters. So why do I include on my list of best fantasy / sci-fi. Simply because despite the fact that it really isn’t too original, it is well written and the characters are intriguing and interesting; most strikingly it doesn’t show good and evil as simple black and white, but shows the shades of grey that exist in real life. It gives the good guys character flaws, as well as the bad guys.
ARTEMIS FOWL by Eoin Colfer
I have to admit that I found these books when I was in my 40s. While they are really aimed at a teenage audience they have much that will appeal to adults. In a similar vein to Harry Potter, this series focuses on one young boy who delves into a hidden world full of elves, dwarves and centaurs; they really meld the science fiction genre with the fantasy genre.
Rather than dwelling on the traditional fantasy elements, this series is more interested in high technology and has a more Sherlock Holmes feel to it than fantasy feel. It does possess many elements that are found in traditional fantasy though, and it’s this interesting combination of fantasy, sci-fi and detective novel that make it very interesting.
It’s definitely one of the better teen series out there; not only is it fast paced, but it is also very humorous.
More Artemis Fowl sites
More Wheel of Time sites
THE WHEEL OF TIME by Robert Jordan
There are similarities in this fantasy series to Sword of Truth but there are also some profound differences. Robert Jordan (who sadly passed away recently) brings his stories to life with vivid action, complex characters, and plots within plots within plots – the complexity of the plots is balanced with a high amount of humor, and yet darkness prevails most of the way through. Jordan took the standard format of high fantasy and twisted it just enough to make his books different and intriguing.
While these books may not be written that well or may even have borrowed themes from older books, they are very popular and have influenced other writers (Harry Potter for instance has created a whole new 'genre' of similar books)
DRAGONLANCE by Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis
After reading Tolkien and then having lots of fun playing ‘role playing games’ I found the Dragonlance books. This simply is fantasy at its purest. Out of all the fantasy books I’ve read over the years, this really captures the essence of fantasy. It has adventure, magic, fighting, back stabbing, deceit, love and betrayal. If you’re looking for traditional high-fantasy then there is none better than the Dragonlance series.
More Dragonlance sites
HARRY POTTER by J K Rowling
No fantasy or science fiction list would be complete without Harry Potter. This series is perhaps the most famous fantasy series out there, and while some say it will eventually fade away, it still has a place in history.
Rowling has taken the bones of many traditional fantasy and classical ‘myth’ elements and molded into a cohesive story that links them to modern day. While many say her stories are really not that original, she has the ability to tell a story in a way that makes you identify with the characters, including the ‘evil’ ones.
The ability to make you hate someone in a book is a huge testament to the writer’s ability. Harry Potter may not be a classic, but it certainly has re-introduced the skill of reading to many children around the world.
More Harry Potter sites
- Harry Potter - taking over the world.
Have you heard of Harry Potter? No? Then where have you been! Harry Potter is a phenomenon;
Other Authors worth reading.
The following authors write some decent books, and some will be added to the Hub soon:
- Douglas Adams
- Ray Bradbury
George R.R. Martin
H G Wells
Philip K Dick
Arthur C Clarke
And many many more....
More by this Author
- EDITOR'S CHOICE12
With the advent of the internet there are millions of amateur writers filling article based websites with their musings. While a lot of these writers have less talent than a hamster, some of these writers are actually...
What are the best topics for writing articles on the web? Find out what subjects are likely to be the most lucrative.
Picking an name for an orange cat isn't easy - hopefully this article will give you some good ideas.