The great folks at The Broke and The Bookish have a feature they call Top Ten Tuesdays. I’ve wanted to join in for a couple of weeks, and since today’s theme is “Choose Your Own Topic,” I decided to whip something up. These are the ten fantasy books/series that I find most memorable.
J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion. Hands-down my favorite fantasy book of all time. It’s packed with beauty, tragedy, altruism, and hubris. It’s the book that made me want to write fantasy.
Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series. It’s a series of stories about Dream of the Endless, known to some cultures as Morpheus 😉 Dream has six siblings: Destiny, Death, Destruction, Despair, Desire and Delirium. Destiny’s as old as the universe, and the rest are only slightly younger. As you might imagine, their family dramas can be intense.
George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire doesn’t need much of an introduction. I’m eagerly awaiting the next installment. I like the intrigue and the elements of realism he brings in, such as having a lot of maimed and disfigured characters. You’d totally expect that in a world that’s wracked by war and plague, but not all fantasy is this well-drawn.
Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. My mother read these to me before I was old enough to handle them myself. I’m grateful for that, and it’s one of the things that helped me learn to love reading and fantasy.
Terry Pratchett’s Guards! series. Pratchett’s one of my favorite fantasy authors, but he’s definitely an acquired taste. He comes across as just silly at first glance, but he’s the sort of writer that can make you laugh out loud on one page and bring tears to your eyes on the next one. The Guards! series is collection of novels that follow the exploits of the City Watch of the great city Ankh-Morpork.
Margaret Weiss’ and Tracy Hickman’s Dragonlance Trilogy. These books spawned a whole series of spinoffs and role-playing merchandise. I don’t like much of the later Dragonlance stuff, but the first trilogy is fantastic. I read them in high school, and have re-read them three or four times over the years.
Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber. Amber and The Courts of Chaos sit at opposite ends of the axis of reality. All other worlds are reflections of them. Magic works in Amber, gunpowder doesn’t. The royal family of Amber has the ability to visit other worlds by traveling – walking, riding, whatever – and changing reality bit by bit as they travel until the find the world they’re looking for.
Thieves’ World. This is a series of short story collections written in a shared setting by various fantasy authors who were popular in the 80’s. As the title suggests, it’s a dark and edgy world. The idea of a shared setting has always intrigued me. I encountered it before darker-and-edgier became cool, and it seemed innovative to me at the time.
Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. This is the trilogy that begins with The Golden Compass. It’s very well-written, the story is gripping, the characters are interesting, and it has armored bears.
C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. I read them several times when I was a lad, and my favorite volume is The Horse and His Boy. If you’re looking to explore the fantasy genre, these books are required reading. They’re also short, quick reads.