Nothing beats the experience of immersing yourself in a world of fantasy. The best fantasy writers build such detailed worlds that readers come to know them inside out, almost as they would know their own neighborhood.
But fantasy books aren’t only about magical worlds: they also feature unique characters with complex motivations and emotions, drawing us deeper into their world and winning our sympathies.
20 Fantastical Reads
If you’re looking to escape with an unforgettable fantasy novel, here are 20 great books to consider for your reading list:
1. A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
This first book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series boasts intricate plots, characters threatened with death, and a world chock-full of wizards, knights, ladies, and bastards. The book follows three storylines: one set in the seven kingdoms, another on the wall, and the third across the sea.
2. The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
Frodo Baggins knows little about the ring that his uncle Bilbo leaves him as an inheritance, but when the wizard Gandalf tells him its history as the One Ring to rule all the others, Frodo knows he needs to bring the ring back where it was forged—and destroy it there. But the Dark Lord who created it has plans of his own. Will Frodo succeed?
3. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
Master storyteller C.S. Lewis introduces us to the magical world of Narnia as Lucy, Edmund, Peter, and Susan enter it through a wardrobe in their uncle’s house. Edmund encounters the White Witch, who convinces him to betray his siblings, but the Great Lion Aslan comes to their rescue—and that of the whole world of Narnia.
4. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter, a mistreated boy living with his Uncle Dudley and Aunt Petunia, discovers he’s a wizard and starts school at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
5. The Borrowers by Mary Norton
What if there were tiny people who lived in your house and were responsible for all the little things that you ever lost? This is the premise of The Borrowers: Pod, Homily, and Arrietty are a family of “Borrowers” living on scraps and anything they can “borrow” from the “human beans” living in the house where they also stay.
6. The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett
The first in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, The Color of Magic follows the wizard Rincewind as he serves as tour guide to insurance clerk Twoflower. The pair is forced to leave the city of Ankh-Morpork and start on a journey across the flat Discworld.
7. The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan
The first book in the 14-volume The Wheel of Time series follows the lives of Rand, Mat, Perrin, and Egwene, whose home is attacked by Trollocs. They flee in order to keep their village from further destruction, and are met with numerous adventures along the way.
8. The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie
An unexpected combination of characters makes this a compelling read: a barbarian who hates killing and likes thinking philosophically, a hero who’s scared to fight, and a torturer who actually has a very kind heart.
9. Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson
An epic fantasy, this first book in the Malazan Book of the Fallen follows the many bloody battles between ancient sorcerers. The absolute rule of Empress Laseen continues to expand, but little do they know that the gods themselves are preparing to get involved.
10. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
This young adult book, the first in The Golden Compass series, can also be considered an adult fantasy novel. It follows Lyra Belacqua and her animal spirit Pantalaimon as she looks into rumors that children are being removed from their spiritual companions.
11. Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Fantasy experts Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett team up for this fun story that follows a demon named Crowley and an angel named Aziraphale, who come together to stop Armageddon. The book has since inspired an Amazon Prime Video series starring David Tennant and Michael Sheen as the lead characters.
12. Storm Front by Jim Butcher
In this first book of The Dresden Files, professional wizard Harry Dresden is working as a private detective in modern-day Chicago, with fantastical creatures lurking just beneath the surface. As he solves cases, he battles with the mob, vampires, and werewolves.
13. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
This novel follows a fantastic story of nobles and criminals reminiscent of Robin Hood, with its main character, Locke Lamora, dodging death, slavery, and other troubles only to end up in the hands of con artist Chains.
14. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin
The young mage Ged shows great power from childhood, and upon joining the school of wizardry, he’s met with conflict because of his prickly nature. While in a duel of magic, Ged makes a spell that accidentally releases a creature that attacks Ged himself—a creature he struggles to be free from throughout the book.
15. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
The convict Shadow finds out just days before his scheduled release that a car accident has killed his wife. He starts working for a man named Mr. Wednesday, and encounters characters he never dreamed of—ultimately finding an epic war between folk gods and the idols of today.
16. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
Susanna Clarke offers a comedic take on what 19th-century England might look like if magic were around, as it is wielded by the daring Jonathan Strange and the reclusive Gilbert Norrell.
17. Assassin’s Apprentice (Book 1 of The Farseer Trilogy) by Robin Hobbs
This epic fantasy series follows Fitz, the illegitimate son of the crown prince. Because of this status, he grows up in a stable and is trained to be an assassin. He embarks on adventures involving magic, political intrigue, murder, and even a zombie curse.
18. The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
This fantasy book takes the mythical creature golem and the genie from Arabian Nights fame and sets them up to meet in New York in the 19th century. They become friends and need to work together against an evil sorcerer who is intent on enslaving them both.
19. Dune by Frank Herbert
This 1965 fantasy novel is set on Dune, a desert planet where everyone considers water more important than gold, and warring houses fight bloody battles against each other. This masterpiece reportedly helped inspire the Star Wars movies.
20. The Dark Tower (series) by Stephen King
Gunslinger Roland follows a strange, evil presence through a fantasy world connected to our real world. The series combines fantasy, science fiction, and westerns in a detailed epic that shows King’s specialty for horror.
What Is the Best-Selling Fantasy Book of All Time?
According to Money Inc., J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series takes top prize as the best-selling fantasy series of all time, having sold over 500 million copies.
The title of best-selling single volume, however, belongs to J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit from The Lord of the Rings series.
Best Fantasy Books
One of the great things about fantasy books is that many of them come in series form, so if you find one you love, you can easily find other books from the same series, or by the same author.
What are your favorite fantasy books? Share them in the comments below!