If you search through any bookstore, you will find hundreds, if not thousands of fantasy novels. Honestly, a lot of these novels aren’t very good. Some are just reiterations of Lord of the Rings, while others are worth reading over and over again. The list I put together here are ones that I have read through my youth. They may not be on your list of favorites, but they are highly enjoyable even if you haven’t tried looking at fantasy literature in the past.
Lord of the Rings (including the Hobbit and the Silmarillion): This is THE fantasy novel that started a generation of loving this genre. It follows the adventures of a hobbit (Bilbo Baggins) in the first book, “The Hobbit” and his nephew, Frodo Baggins, who takes on an adventure to save the world as he knows it. JRR Tolkien, the author of these books, went into great detail with the character’s lives and backgrounds, even so far as to create a fantasy language (Elvish) that people still use today. His intention was to write a fantasy history for Britain, but what he succeeded in doing was to create the great story for the world. His follow-up book, the “Silmarillion”, is a history that fills in all the details that you might have missed from the other books.
The Chronicles of Narnia: This series of seven fantasy novels written by author C.S. Lewis (a contemporary of JRR Tolkein) follows the adventures of four children and relies heavily on Christian, Roman, Greek, British and Irish mythology. Animals talk, there are creatures from all sorts of tales, and the theme of good vs. evil is held very strong. The books were initially written for children and the first of the series (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe) might seem a bit simplistic for adult readers, but the series is outstanding. Written between 1949 and 1954, the series bounces back and forth between war-torn England (World War Two) and a fictional land called, Narnia. These two worlds are similar in many ways, as political intrigue mesh with a world that children are unfolding in magical Narnia.
Dragonlance: This series of books were written by Laura and Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis for TSR, Inc. (Tactical Studies Rules, Inc.) – the makers of Dungeons and Dragons. The first six books in the series follows the adventures of old friends as they try to rid their fictional world of Krynn from evil and mayhem. Since its’ inception in 1984, over 190 Dragonlance books have been released under different authors and continue on to this very day.
Guardians of the Flame: This is a series of 10 books by Joel Rosenberg. The series is about a group of college students sent into a supposed fantasy role-playing game by their DM. After the events of the first book, The Sleeping Dragon, the students shift from merely surviving in the world to destroying the flourishing slave trade. These books are sometimes humorous to downright gritty enough to make you feel dirty as you come to like the characters as if the people around your own table. Rosenberg pulls no punches as to what he does to his protagonists and you grow with the characters and feel their love, pain, and ambitions.
Shannara Series: This epic tale written by Terry Brooks is best known for its blend of magic and primitive technology woven into a story that is set on earth long after the world as we know it is destroyed by nuclear and chemical holocaust. The name of Shannara is taken from the Elven family that many of the protagonists in the books are descended from. Currently, there are 20 books in the series ranging from present-day Illinois and finishing up in a far-fetched time period in the world of druids, demons, and heroes.