Good Starting Places in the Fantasy Genre

by Anthony Chatfield - Date: 2007-01-19 - Word Count: 656 Share This!

I'm a bit of a hypocrite when it comes to my reading. I will deride and verbally mutilate anything on which the writer's name is written larger than the title. I hate the supermarket slush machine that is the publishing industry, and for no real good reason. Probably just because truly brilliant writers like Auster or Lethem are left to play computer games at home while their dumb older jock brothers are out fooling around with all the cheerleaders. True, the dorky little brothers change the world, but what's a writer gotta do to get a little action around here.

But, I have to admit that I have carved out a little niche in the pop-fiction corridors in which I spend a percentage of my time devouring less than perfect prose. I'm not ashamed of it. Everyone deserves to read something that's pure entertainment, no messy exposition or thinking, just good old fashioned fun. We hate the guys who make $60 million to throw a ball into a basket, but we still go and watch and root for them because it's fun to watch.

That said, I'm a Fantasy reader. I like the escapist, epic, otherworldliness of the genre, and have since I was eight years old and my mom introduced me to Anne McAffrey and the Pern series, shortly preceding the granddaddy of them all, Tolkien. I've probably read more fantasy than anything else in my life (thank you awkward teen years) so I think I'm in a decent position to throw out what I think is an essential reading list for all Fantasy readers. These are high fantasy, epics. I'm not including Sci-fi or speculative fiction (yes there is a difference) because the list would be too long. Here we go:

1. Eye of the World - Robert Jordan

It's the first in the now 11 books series (supposedly ending with the next one...sure). No matter what's said about this series, the first four books or so are incredible - epic, gripping, and must reads. After that, it's up to you.

2. The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R Tolkien

The first, and still the best. And by far the greatest film adaptation of all time. That's all.

3. A Game of Thrones - George R.R. Martin

The first in Martin's super huge fantasy-politico-epic. He's the best at what he does. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

4. Sabriel - Garth Nix

I don't care if they put it in the young adult section. It's a great book, and the start of a great series. He manages to weave in the mythos of half a dozen different cultures and perspectives and still stand strong on his characters. A necromancer was never so lovable.

5. His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman

The whole thing, yup. This is a modern classic, sure to go up there with Tolkien in the long run, already with the crossover in genre, age, and sales. And the movies coming out starting next year will put it up on the map where it belongs. The characters are key here, and you'd never have thought a bear could be so damn awesome.

6. Changing Planes - Ursula K. LeGuin

One of the newer short story collections from LeGuin. I know I'm not listing Earthsea, but that's for a reason. These are incredibly good stories, tightly bound together and exploring the human perspective by repeatedly destroying it. She visits the intangible greater than any fantasy writer around.

7. Sandman - Neil Gaiman

A comic book? Hell yes. The greatest comic book ever written to be precise. Gaiman's exploration of the mythos of the God of Dreams is spot on Fantasy perfection, and each volume just gets better than the last. He visits Shakespeare, Hell, and Death regularly, and they all tremble before him.

8. Discworld - Terry Pratchett

The funniest fantasy around. Pratchett has mastered the genre he helped to invent, and by doing so made himself one of my favorites. Every book is a little different, but they all manage the same endless chuckling, and two night speed reads.

Related Tags: fantasy, novels, jordan, tolkien, robert

I'm a self avowed unemployed writer, working on semi-constant basis to try and overcome the need to go and work a real job. I've written more than 200 articles and reviews and am constantly scouring the internet for any and all excuses and methods to make myself less dependent on corporate pay days. Visit my website at

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