Fantasy is one of the oldest and largest genres of fiction. In a very broad sense, any book with a fantastic element fits into this genre. Its focus on other worlds, magic, and mythical creatures often results in a blurring of the lines between adult and children fiction. Many fantasy books which were originally intended for a younger audience have subsequently been published for adults. The opposite is also true.
The problem with this is that, in the past, fantasy fiction has not been taken very seriously because it was for kids. Recently, however, fantasy has had a massive jump in popularity and has seen a variety of sub-genres, which vary greatly. For this book list we are going to focus on high fantasy primarily, although I have included a few titles in the other sub-genres for variety.
A large number of the current fantasy novels being published today could fall into the paranormal and/or contemporary sub-genre. Think Twilight – vampires in the real world. We are going to skip this sub-genre for now because I can see us creating a whole booklist just for it.
Due to the epic nature of many fantasies, it is not uncommon for fantasy writers to create series. For this list, stand-alone titles are in bold.
High Fantasy (heroic, quest): Plots occurs in a different world. Hero fighting against monumental odds (evil going to destroy the world) and learns about himself in the process.
- Sabriel – Garth Nix
- The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien
- His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
- Wheel of Time – Robert Jordan
- Lightbringer – Brent Weeks
- Pendragon – D.J. MacHale
- Eragon – Christopher Paolini
- The Liveship Traders – Robin Hobb
- The Earthsea – Ursula K. Le Guin
- The Dragonriders of Pern – Anne McCaffrey
- Death Gate Cycle – Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
- Sword of Truth – Terry Goodkind
- Magician – Raymond E. Feist
- Tigana – Guy Gavriel Kay
- American Gods – Neil Gaiman
- Tears of Artamon – Sarah Ash
- Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone – Greg Keyes
Comic/humorous fantasy: these titles will often fall into any of the other sub-genres
- Xanth – Piers Anthony
- Myth Adventures – Robert Asprins
- Discworld – Terry Pratchett
- The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
- Fluke – Christopher Moore
- Low Fantasy/Contemporary Fantasy: Set in the real (could be modern) world but with magical elements.
- The House of the Scorpion– Nancy Farmer
- The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde
- The Dark is Rising – Susan Cooper
- The Green Mile – Stephen King
- Black – Ted Dekker
- White Cat – Holly Black
- Harry Potter – J.K. Rowling
- Reckless– Cornelia Funke
- The Replacement – Brenna Yovanoff
Retold fairy tales or mythology remixes: the author revisits a tale or legend and updates it.
- Princess Bride – William Goldman
- Dealing with Dragons – Patricia C. Wrede
- The Summer Tree – Guy Gavriel Kay
- The Sandman –Neil Gaiman
- Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister – Gregory Maguire
- The Alchemyst – Michael Scott
- Percy Jackson and The Olympians- Rick Riordan
Science fantasy: hybrid of fantasy and science fiction. To fit into this category there must be an element of magic or the supernatural.
- A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle
- Doctor Who – Paul Magrs and Jeremy Hoad
- The Chrysalids – John Wyndham
- Star Wars
Historical fantasy: can include alternate history and parallel universes that do not include the magical element, although most do have magic or elements of the supernatural.
- Island in the Sea of Time: S.M. Stirling
- Belisarius: Eric Fint and David Drake
- American Empire: Harry Turtledove
- A Crack in the Line: Michael Lawrence
- His Majesty’s Dragon: Naomi Novik
- Epic of Gilgamesh
- The Book of a Thousand Nights and a Night
- Le Morte D’Arthur
- Through the Looking Glass