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Recommended Reading for Fantasy

Updated on August 21, 2014
M. T. Dremer profile image

M. T. Dremer has been an avid reader for more than 20 years, with a preference for speculative fiction, and a minor in English.

One of the best things you can do if you’re looking to write genre fiction is to read some of the most famous, or influential books from your genre of choice. If you aren’t interested in writing it, then reading some of the greats can just be a fun way to see where it all began. Below I’ve compiled a list of recommended reading for the Fantasy genre. This list is not comprehensive, and all of my recommendations are based on my own experiences with these books and how they influenced me.

As a quick note about each recommendation; I won’t be going into great detail where synopsis is concerned. I feel like these books have been described thousands of times, and even if they hadn’t, you could easily find a much better description on Amazon or Barnes and Noble than anything I could write. So, for each one, I list why I’m recommending the book and a hook to get you to read it. The hook does not necessarily represent what the book is about; it is just a short statement to pique your interest.

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
Why I’m recommending it: You might be wondering why I would recommend The Hobbit over the Lord of the Rings trilogy. There are two reasons; the first is that I’ve read the hobbit, but as of yet, I haven’t finished reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I know, I should have finished them ages ago, but life happens and I haven’t. The second reason is because The Hobbit is a shorter story that introduces the reader to middle earth. Think of it as more of a stepping stone into Tolkien’s work so that you can get an idea without having to invest as much time. Middle earth is definitely the standard for modern fantasies and anyone interested in the genre owes it to themselves to check it out.
The Hook: A Hobbit, a Wizard and Thirteen dwarves walk in to a bar… I mean dragon’s lair.

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
Why I’m recommending it: George R. R. Martin is the closest thing we have to a modern day Tolkien. His Song of Ice and Fire series is so deep and character driven that you’ll find yourself wondering how one man could write such a story. The Stark family often takes center stage, as the rulers of Winterfell, but countless other characters share the limelight to create a vast and ongoing story. It can be a tough read at times, but if you finish it you’ll get more credibility among fantasy fans.
The Hook: Super strong zombies.

Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind
Why I’m recommending it: I’m addicted to the Sword of Truth series, I won’t deny it. I’ve enjoyed it since the first few pages of Wizard’s First Rule, to last of the Chainfire trilogy. While Terry Goodkind often slips into political commentary (not sure if it’s intentional or not) you’re sure to find a grand adventure that is very satisfying and a blast to read. Also, if you don’t mind wildly inaccurate television adaptations, then you can also watch Legend of the Seeker, which was based on the series.
The Hook: Frequent nudity.

The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett
Why I’m recommending it: Anyone who wants to get an understanding of fantasy, must also read comedy from that genre. Terry Pratchett is the go-to guy for fantasy comedy. The first two books in the series (The Color of Magic and The Light Fantastic) follow Rincewind and Twoflower as they are thrown from one hilarious situation to the next on the discworld. Comedy frequently uses cop-out solutions, which can be frustrating in a fantasy universe, but it doesn’t diminish from the British wit.
The Hook: A discworld on top of four elephants standing on a giant flying space turtle.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling
Why I’m recommending it: It doesn’t matter that this series is for children; you’re likely to find more depth than a lot of adult fantasy novels. Harry Potter has set the standard for generations to come. It is a classic tale of good versus evil and how it affects everyone involved.
The Hook: He lost his parents and is living in a cupboard under the stairs. He has no idea that he’s the most famous wizard of all time.

(This list is open-ended and I welcome all recommendations in the comments section below.)

Eternity's Reach (The Sword of Eternity) (Volume 1)
Eternity's Reach (The Sword of Eternity) (Volume 1)

This one isn't technically part of the main list, but since it's mine, I still recommend it.



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    • M. T. Dremer profile image

      M. T. Dremer 6 years ago from United States

      Chris Qu - I enjoy J. K. Rowlings writing style (even in the first novel), but it's more of a personal preference than anything; I enjoy books that get right to the point, rather that one filled with flowery language. I really do need to try reading the golden compass again. I started it a while back, but got distracted for whatever reason. A lot of lists recommend it very highly. Thanks for the comment and recommendations!

    • Chris Qu profile image

      Chris Qu 6 years ago

      "Frequent nudity," huh? Sounds interesting! XD

      In all seriousness, I recently picked up The Hobbit after planning to for a long time. And Harry Potter? Man. I'll say this. I love the overall story of the books, as a seven-part series. I made an attempt to re-read the first book though? She really wasn't a good writer at that point in time. She had brilliant ideas, and her writing developed over the course of the first two books, but when she started? She was bad. Just bad.

      I'd recommend The Golden Compass (the first book in a trilogy by Philip Pullman.) Also, for some diversity, I might recommend the fantasy works by Miyuki Miyabe: either Brave Story, or The Book of Heroes.

    • M. T. Dremer profile image

      M. T. Dremer 7 years ago from United States

      satomko - Earthsea has been recommended a lot to me. I own the book, but have struggled to get into it. However recently I watched the mini-series based on the book(s) and really enjoyed it, so I think I'll be giving it another try. Thanks for the recommendation!

      Rusty - Thank you, I wanted the hook to be something unique to my list. And you're right about Martin. I hope the television series is able to do justice to the books.

      Contour HD Camera - David Eddings is another author I have on my shelf, but haven't tried reading yet. I think I've avoided it because the first book is called pawn of prophecy and after reading/watching so much fantasy I'm annoyed with the over-use of prophecy as a plot device. I'll still give it another shot though, thanks for the recommendation!

      evvy_09 - It's interesting to think that the Hobbit was originally marketed as a children's book since now it is so heavily associated with the lord of the rings trilogy, which is regarded as adult fantasy. Funny how that happens over time. I've been meaning to read the Children of Hurin for some time now but after the Silmarillion I'm hesitant to delve into Tolkien's non-LOTR material. (Good but very dense with information.) Thanks for the comment!

      parrster - You're welcome. Nearly all of these books that I listed were complete mysteries to me until I started prodding fantasy fans for their recommendations. There are so many great ones out there yet to be discovered. Thanks for the comment!

    • parrster profile image

      Richard Parr 7 years ago from Oz

      Thanks for the heads up regarding A Game of thrones, I haven't read anything by this author before and may have been missing out on something.

    • evvy_09 profile image

      evvy_09 7 years ago from Athens, AL

      Originally the Hobbit was a bedtime story for Tolkiens kids. I was forced to read it in school and therefore hated the book until I reread it as an adult. It's now a favorite. Funny how that worked out :) The Children of Hurin is another of his books. Different writing style from the Hobbit, how he puts the words together is beautiful.

      A great list which presents the books in a unique way, thanks.

    • profile image

      Contour HD Camera 7 years ago

      Couldn't get into "The Hobbit" so I haven't bothered with Lord of the Rings. Love J K Rowling and Terry Goodkind. Haven't read the other two, although I did watch "The Color of Magic".

      David Eddings (Belgariad series) got me hooked on fantasy.

    • Rusty C. Adore profile image

      C Levrow 7 years ago from Michigan

      I enjoy your "hook" section. Martin is an amazing writer. I get lost in his world so quickly and I want to live there. You can't go wrong with Harry Potter.

    • satomko profile image

      Seth Tomko 7 years ago from Macon, GA

      This looks like a strong, well-considered list. I likely would have put Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea in place of The Color of Magic, but Pratchett is a giant in the genre.