The Bookshelf

“Some who have read the book, or at any rate have reviewed it, have found it boring, absurd, or contemptible, and I have no cause to complain, since I have similar opinions of their works, or of the kinds of writing that they evidently prefer.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales.
If you want your children to be more intelligent,
read them more fairy tales."
– Albert Einstein

"Deeper meaning resides in the fairy tales told to me in my childhood
than in the truth that is taught by life."
– Friedrich Schiller

"Everything you can imagine is real." – Pablo Picasso

(This list includes only those books that I have read and liked; the few rejects were/are removed)
(This - randomly ordered - list is continually updated, the pace of these updates depending on what book I am currently reading and, of course, how long it is)


 The bolded books are those I recommend for beginning readers of Fantasy. (A recommendation based heavily on the fact that, for the most part, they were how I got started.)


  • The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Book of Unfinished Tales by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini
  • The Abhorsen Series by Garth Nix
  • The Noble Warriors by William Nicholson
  • The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
  • The Sea of Trolls trilogy by Nancy Farmer
  • The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series by Michael Scott
  • The Earthsea Cycle by Ursula K. Le Guin
  •  Hexwood by Diana Wynne Jones
  •  Deep Secret and its sequel-companion[1] The Merlin Conspiracy by Diana WynneJones
  •  Archer’s Goon by Diana Wynne Jones
  •  The Bartimaeus Sequence by Jonathan Stroud
  •  Heroes of the Valley by Jonathan Stroud
  •  The Starcatcher Trilogy by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
  •  The Ranger’s Apprentice Series by John Flanagan
  •  The His Dark Materials trilogy and its companion The Book of Dust trilogy by Sir Philip Pullman
  •  The Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Copper
  •  The Belgariad series by David Eddings
  •  The Children of the Lamp series by P.B. Kerr
  •  The Twelve Houses series and its sequel-companion Fortune and Fate by Sharon Shinn
  •  The Chrestomanci Novels by Diana Wynne Jones
  •  The Books of Pellinor by Alison Croggon
  •  The Chanters of Tremaris trilogy and its sequel-companion The Taste of Lightning by Kate Constable
  •  A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine Lengle
  •  A Tale of Time City by Diana Wynne Jones
  •  The Power of Three by Diana Wynne Jones
  •  The Dark Lord of Derkholm and its sequel The Year of the Griffin by Diana Wynne Jones
  •  The Annals of Drakis by Tracy Hickman
  •  The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander
  •  The Elenium series by David Eddings
  •  Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones
  •  The Homeward Bounders by Diana Wynne Jones
  •  The Green Rider series by Kristen Britain
  • The Time of the Ghost by Diana Wynne Jones
  • Graceling Realm Series by Kristin Cashore
  • The Eight Days of Luke by Diana Wynne Jones
  • The Echorium Sequence by Katherine Roberts
  • Stardust by Neil Gaiman
  • The Annals of the Western Shore by Ursula K. Le Guin
  • Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrlees
  • Black Maria by Diana Wynne Jones
  • Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
  • The Dalemark Quartet by Diana Wynne Jones
  • The Original Shannara Trilogy by Terry Brooks
  • The Whispering Knights by Penelope Lively
  • The Wild Hunt of Hagworthy by Penelope Lively
  • Vows and Honor Trilogy and its companion By the Sword by Mercedes Lackey
  • The Bards of Bone Plain by Patricia A. McKillip
  • Alphabet of Thorn by Patricia A. McKillip
  • The Spiderwick Chronicles and its companion series Beyond The Spiderwick Chronicles by Tony Diterlizzi and Holly Black
  • The Bell at Sealey Head by Patricia A. McKillip
  • The De Danann Tales by Michael Scott
  • The Book of Atrix Wolfe by Patricia A. McKillip
  • Dogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones
  • Ombria in Shadow by Patricia A. McKillip
  • The Seraphina series by Rachel Hartman
  • The Golden Key by George Macdonald
  • Song for the Basilisk by Patricia A. McKillip
  • Song of the Lioness by Tamora Pierce
  • Od Magic by Patricia A. McKillip
  • The Heralds of Valdemar trilogy by Mercedes Lackey
  • East by Edith Pattou
  • The Riddle-Master trilogy by Patricia A. McKillip
  • The Islands of Chaldea by Diana Wynne Jones
  • The Healer and Seer series by Victoria Hanley
  • The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge
  • The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip
  • The Hero and the Crown and its companion The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
  • The Game by Diana Wynne Jones
  • The Mage Winds Trilogy by Mercedes Lackey
  • Tales of the Bard series (also called The Culai Heritage) by Michael Scott
  • The Thessaly Trilogy by Jo Walton
  • The Ghost of Thomas Kempe by Penelope Lively
  • In the Forests of Serre by Patricia A. McKillip
  • Dragonworld by Byron Preiss and Michael Reaves
  • The Neverending Story by Michael Ende
  • The Crown and Court Duet by Sherwood Smith
  • The Tower at Stony Wood by Patricia A. McKillip
  • Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer
  • The Castle Behind Thorns by Merrie Haskell
  • The Colors of Madeleine trilogy by Jaclyn Moriarty
  • Kingfisher by Patricia A. McKillip
  • Wizard's Hall by Jane Yolen
  • The Howl Series by Diana Wynne Jones
  • The Changeling Sea by Patricia A. McKillip 
  • The Cygnet Duology by Patricia A. McKillip
  • The Witch's Boy by Kelly Barnhill
  • The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan
  • The Princess Curse by Merrie Haskell
  • Enchanted Glass by Diana Wynne Jones
  • Winter Rose and its companion Solstice Wood by Patricia A. McKillip


Fantasy Book Tiers


We all have our favorite books and it is no secret that mine is J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, yet what happens when one finds a book that is clearly in the same league even is it is not one's favorite? Take J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, for example: it is very different from LOTR yet is still similar in many ways and, while Rowling did not found the modern Fantasy genre as Tolkien did, Harry Potter was an undeniable literary classic that inspired another whole generation of readers and began the Golden Age of Fantasy. All of which is why I call Rowling the the Heir of Tolkien.

That being the case, though, what do I do? Do I call Harry Potter my second favorite book? I could, given my above praise of her, but would it really be true. Sure I love Harry, Ron, and Hermione, yet, emotionally, I am no less attached and invested in the tales of Lyra Silvertongue and Will Parry, Eragon and Sapphira, Sabriel and Lirael, and Will Treaty & Halt; from the His Dark Materials trilogy by Sir Philip Pullman, The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini, The Abhorsen Series by Garth Nix, and The Ranger’s Apprentice Series by John Flanagan. I love those books (and several others) just as much as Harry Potter, yet at the same time recognize that they are not quite in the same league as Tolkien and Rowling. Close to, but not quite.

Thus, in reaction to this, my Dad and I gradually created what we call Fantasy Book Tiers to measure both a Fantasy author's skill as well as story. Below I will try to articulate what each tier means along with adding a few authors Dad and I agree belong in that rank, but it is difficult to do as authors of the same tier often write quite dissimilar books.

1st Tier: Those Fantasy Masters who break beyond the ordinary conventions of the genre, possessing a unique skill and writing style that regularly shocks and delights even veterans of the Fantastic. (Tolkien ranks as the highest of this Tier for obvious quality reasons as well as the fact that none of the rest would have existed without him.)
Authors: J.R.R. Tolkien, Diana Wynne Jones, J.K. Rowling, Patricia A. McKillip, and The Neverending Story by Michael Ende.

2nd Tier: Books such as I mentioned above, acknowledged classics possessing both story and characters you love, but are not quite in the same league (or tier) as those such as Tolkien, Jones, and Rowling. However, like the Top Tiers, these are crossover books that can be enjoyed and young and old alike.
Examples: The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini, The Abhorsen Series by Garth Nix, and The Ranger’s Apprentice Series by John Flanagan, The Earthsea Cycle by Ursula K. Le Guin, The Bartimaeus Sequence by Jonathan Stroud, The Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Copper, The Noble Warriors by William Nicholson, and His Dark Materials trilogy by Sir Philip Pullman.

3rd Tier: Good page-turning books that leave you genuinely caring about the characters and awaiting sequels, yet are not what you would recommend to a friend trying to get into Fantasy. Average one might call them, though I think that term a tad harsh.
Examples: The Children of the Lamp series by P.B. Kerr, The Annals of Drakis by Tracy Hickman, The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander, and The Echorium Sequence by Katherine Roberts.

Here ends the tiers, as Dad and I use the term "4th Tier" to describe books we deem unworthy of our time. (After all, why read a lesser book when you could be searching for undiscovered better ones or re-reading classics?) More to the point, these rankings are not ironclad for the simple reason that every book is different and may be of varying quality even if they rest in the same tier. Dad and I, for example, describe The Dark is Rising and His Dark Materials as "upper 2nd Tier" as we judge them as good as it is possible to get without being Top Tier. Furthermore, Dad and I have been debating whether The Children of the Lamp is "upper 3rd Tier" or "lower 2nd Tier" for years. Hence these Fantasy Book Tiers are merely approximate categories we created to sort our favorite books into a more organized literary canon



[1] A sequel begins right where another book leaves off. A companion book takes place in the same world but may be about new characters or a different time in that world.

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