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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)
Eternity's Reach (The Sword of Eternity)
This one isn't technically part of the main list, but since it's mine, I still recommend it.

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