10 Memorable Fantasy Books and Series: Top Ten Tuesday

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.

top-ten-tuesday

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.

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29 thoughts on “10 Memorable Fantasy Books and Series: Top Ten Tuesday

  1. Great list of books!

    I was bummed that the movie made first book in the Dark Materials trilogy, the Golden Compass, didn’t end up getting a sequel, since the series is pretty amazing, with more than it’s fair share of mind-blowing ideas.

    Seeing Thieves World on the list really made me smile. I remember reading the original waaay back in the day. I think I might still have the role-playing supplement which had stats for all the main characters, for D and D, Runequest, Tunnels and Trolls, even Chivalry and Sorcery (this was waaaaay back in the day.)

    I think TW was the first shared-world series that I’d encountered.

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    • We typically just read right through typos on the comments threads here, so no need to correct unless it’s a mistake that changes the sense of what you’re saying. And thanks for not pointing out on the thread that I identified The Amber Spyglass as the first book in that series when I first posted. I appreciate that. I just caught it a few minutes ago, hehe. Was in a hurry. 🙂

      stop by anytime!

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  2. Good call on these—although there are some that I haven’t read, the ones I have read are fantastic, and the others I suspect to be, too. I think the Oz books are some of my favorite fantasy books, as are the Wrinkle in Time books.

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    • I thought about the Wrinkle in Time Ones, but no space for them. Haven’t actually read the Oz books, strangely enough.

      Zelazny is important to the genre. We’ll discuss him more once you read Sandman. There’s a cool story there.

      Also, Fritz Lieber is only not on this list because I didn’t have time to track down his titles. He’s the grandfather of low fantasy, and all the punk genres owe a huge debt to him. He’s also problematic in a lot of ways, but I’d have included him here instead of Pullman if I’d had more time.

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      • Fair points, all. The Sandman series is definitely one that I’ll be discussing with everyone once I’ve read it. I’ll finally be able to talk about it. lol

        The Oz books, I’d argue, are also pretty important, culturally speaking. The Marvelous Land of Oz and Ozma of Oz are standouts because they have a lot to say about gender and culture. They’re fast reads, too.

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        • I have no doubt about their importance. Baum is as influential to fantastical literature, overall, as Carroll, is what I think just looking from the way his ideas are continually re-mixed. I just haven’t read them. (Which is a delicious irony, really. I’ve been called the man behind the curtain here by at least one blogger other than us.)

          Also more influential than is generally recognized: Dahl.

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          • hahahaha…That’s true. They should be on your TBR list.

            And in some circles, yes. One of the things I enjoy about studying children’s literature is that I work with people who get the importance of these writers and books. 🙂

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  3. Wow, I never really saw myself as a ‘big’ fantasy lit fan, but these really struck a chord with me. Especially Pratchett’s Night Watch series, my definite favourite in the Disc World. And Gaiman and Tolkien go without saying, really.

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  4. Back in the day, Fantasy was pretty much all I read… until it got repetitive and a bit boring. Haven’t touched it for a couple of decades. So fascinated to read your list of recent works peppered with classics.

    The Thieves World series were one of the last I read and really enjoyed; nice to have those memories prodded.

    Narnia, though utterly wonderful, should really come with a religious doctrine warning, don’t you think?

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    • I almost added that warning to Lewis and an anti-religious warning to Pullman. Took them out at the last minute because I needed to make the paragraphs shorter.

      I agree, though. I don’t really care to have those sorts of messages mixed in with my fantasy.

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  5. I only recently started reading Terry Pratchett, and his Night Watch books are my favorite too. I like the others as well – the Unseen Academy is a close second – but Sam Vimes, Angua, and Detritus are too great not to love.

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  8. A friend recommended the Amber chronicles to me – haven’t made the decision yet as to whether to read, but you’ve pushed me a bit farther toward the ‘yea’ column. I tend more toward stories like those written by Ellison, Dick, Bradbury when I read fantasy, but I am intrigued.

    You have a nice blog.

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    • Thanks! I’ve been away from it a bit these last couple of weeks. I’m glad you found this post. I like the Zelazny. Definitely not your typical fantasy, and especially not for the time it was written. It gets a bit surreal at times.

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