New books come out all the time, and that can make it seem like keeping up with your backlog is tough enough. You might think you don’t have time to add anything new to your list.
That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth revisiting classics, or even reading them for the first time!
It’s nice to go back to the roots of fantasy, which can be rather old, but here we’re talking about books that read like a modern novel.
Note that many of these are part of a series. In these cases, I’m just going with the first title of a series even if it isn’t necessarily the best book in that series.
If you prefer novels that read like a forgotten history of a place that never actually existed, The Silmarillion is for you.
Famously more dense and difficult than Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, this isn’t a breezy read. That said, it’s one that Tolkien superfans love.
Fantasy isn’t all swords and sorcerers, which is something Ray Bradbury understood very well.
This is fantasy on the dark side, but it certainly isn’t horror. Something Wicked This Way Comes actually has a fair amount in common with what readers now refer to as urban fantasy.
This is the first volume in White’s series The Once and Future King. You probably know parts of this story, or even most of it…
…but Arthurian Legend isn’t referenced in fiction as much as you might image. If you’ve only seen the Disney movie, be prepared for something fairly different.
We’ve talked about Pratchett’s Discworld series before when we looked at sci-fi and fantasy authors with humor. The Color of Magic is Pratchett’s first novel in this setting, and while it isn’t as brilliant as some of his later works, this is where it all began.
Just note before you read it that it ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, so be ready to read the follow-up, The Light Fantastic.
If you’re a fan of military fantasy in the vein of Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen series, you’ll probably like Glen Cook.
Cook’s The Black Company series was a major influence on several fantasy authors, but Erikson acknowledges Cook’s influence on his own work. Grim and dark, but not quite grimdark.
Magician: Apprentice is the first installment in Feist’s longrunning Riftwar saga. This is epic fantasy at its most epic, which means that things might take a little while to get going…
…but you’ll be sucked in pretty quick. This is also only the first half of a long novel, so be ready to get the sequel, Magician: Master.
7. The Hobbit
Yes, I’m including Tolkien on this list twice, because much of modern fantasy owes a debt to his influence.
While The Fellowship of the Ring might have been a better inclusion, there are already so many long series here that a short standalone novel is a nice palate cleanser.
The first volume in Eddings’ epic series The Belgariad, this novel might seem derivative at first, until you realize it’s probably the other way around. This is not especially deep, but there is plenty of fun to be had throughout the entire series.
While plenty of people are aware of the film version of The Princess Bride, far fewer have read the book. If you’ve seen the movie, the plot is largely the same, even down to the frame story, but if you’re a fan of the movie, it’s well worth a read.
And the Best Fantasy Book Series
There is plenty here to get you started reading older fantasy novels, especially considering how long some of these series run.
But fantasy has come a long way since these classics were penned. Not only are there incredible worlds to experience, but many of them are truly epic and span many books—much longer than traditional trilogies!