Whether it’s a beautiful, sunny day outside or cold, wet and rainy — there’s never a bad time to cozy up inside with something fun to read, like fantasy books that can take your imagination to places its never been. If you’re just getting started in the world of fantasy, it’s never a bad idea to begin your journey with the best fantasy books on the shelves.
And just in case you need an excuse for escaping into a world full of swords, elves, and dragons: Reading fiction isn’t only a way to keep yourself entertained while you try to avoid the dreaded winter blues – it also helps improve your verbal skills.
“It’s always very positive and heartening to give people permission to delve into the series that they like. I liken it to research that says chocolate is good for you: the guilty pleasure of reading fiction is associated with positive cognitive benefits and verbal outcomes,” says Sandra Martin-Chang, professor of education at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada.
“Guilty pleasure” readers are in the majority: According to Oxfam, “over half [of their] poll (58%) read to relax, while 46 percent usually read as a break from the real world. More than three in 10 like to read as a means of learning something new and 39 percent read to feel happier.” The majority of readers also seem to prefer reading paper books over reading on their devices.
However you prefer to read your books, we’re here to help you find the best fantasy books to add to your list. We visited 10 expert reviews and looked for their most frequent listings across these pages, coming away with these four titles. If you’ve got your own suggestions to add, please add them to the comments section at the bottom of the page!
The List: Best Fantasy Books, According To Expert Reviewers
1. The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
One book to rule them all! J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy is a fantasy classic, has been adapted into a successful movie trilogy, and – of course – ranks high on Best Fantasy Books lists. According to Fantasy Book Review, there are no excuses for skipping this one: “There’s no salvation for a fantasy fan who hasn’t read the gospel of the genre. The influence of The Lord of the Rings is so universal that everybody from George Lucas to Led Zeppelin has appropriated it for one purpose or another. Not just revolutionary because it was groundbreaking, The Lord of the Rings is timeless because it’s the product of a truly top-shelf mind […], creating in The Lord of the Rings a universal and all-embracing tale, a justly celebrated classic.”
Oprah Daily agrees that “The Lord of the Rings is required reading for fantasy fanatics, notable for its rich and detailed world, satisfying story of loyalty and courage, and fanciful characters,” as does The Art of Living, which calls The Lord of the Rings “the greatest, genre-defining, high-fantasy trilogy of all time.”
2. Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
Game of Thrones is actually the title of the first book of the A Song of Ice and Fire series that HBO adapted into the highly popular show also named Game of Thrones. It is no surprise that GoT follows LotR as a close second on this list: “I have only come across two authors who have come close to envisioning and successfully carrying out their literary creations to match Tolkien; Steven Erikson and George R. R. Martin,” raves Fantasy Book Review.
The A Song of Ice and Fire series “sets itself apart by telling the story of medieval politics in the background of fantasy,” says Software Testing Help. Martin drew inspiration from actual historical events for many of his storylines. While we recommend this series, we don’t recommend that you get too attached to its protagonists, though.
Spoiler alert, A Song of Ice and Fire is infamous for “a cast of characters where none is safe from death,” hints ProWritingAid.
3. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
This coming-of-age story of a wizard may not be as well-known as the Harry Potter series but is nonetheless a highly-praised fantasy novel. Reviewers point out the outstanding quality of Rothfuss’s writing. “Rothfuss’s debut novel showed us that an epic fantasy novel could feature not only good writing, it could showcase beautiful prose,” states Book Riot.
For Fantasy Book Review, “Rothfuss is […] one of the better storytellers around at the moment. Too early in the game to give him full marks or list him amongst the nobility of fantasy, but his place there is almost assured.” And The Art of Living writes that “superb characters, plot, and pacing make this a fantasy must-read.”
4. Discworld by Terry Pratchet
Discworld is a series of no less than 41 fantasy books. While the reviewers don’t quite agree on which of the 41 should be at the top, no Best Fantasy Books list is complete without Terry Pratchet. If you’re new to his world, it doesn’t really matter where you start: “Terry Pratchett’s hilarious, inventive, and rich Discworld novels are an interconnected series of 41 books that can pretty much be read in any order,” explains Oprah Daily.
Still not sure if Discworld is for you? “The Discworld series is so expansive, and covers so many different ideas and themes, that there really is a story in there for everyone,” assures The Azrian Portal. Another plus: While Fantasy as a genre tends to employ pathos, this is not the case for Pratchett’s books.
As Fantasy Book Review puts it, “Terry Pratchett takes the seriousness from the fantasy novel and replaces it with wicked humor. […] Be careful! Once you have read and enjoyed one Discworld novel you may find yourself making your way through the whole series.”
- Oprah Daily
- Fantasie Book Review
- Book Riot
- Reader’s Digest
- The Art of Living
- Reedsy Discovery
- The Azrian Portal
- Software Testing Help
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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.