Best Fantasy Books Of All-Time, According to Experts: Top 4 Novels Most Recommended By Reviewers

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.”  

Sources

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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.

Comments

  1. I cannot believe you have bot GRRM and Patrick Tothfuss on this list when they haven’t even finished their series. They are not even the best fantasy books. The best ones in my opinion are written by Robert Jordan. Robert Jordan’s best novel was book six of the wheel of time:Lord of Chaos. If you haven’t read Robert Jordan you must also please do not judge Robert Jordan’s series by the lackluster amazon tv show using the Wheel of Time’s name, it isn’t good and it isn’t the Wheel of Time.

    1. I second Josh’s warning. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all the SoFaI series books, but the series is not finished, so it seems premature to include it on any “greatest ever” list without an ending. We all know how the lack of a GRRM ending soured feelings about the otherwise excellent TV series…

  2. With all due respect to GRRM, Joe Abercrombie has surpassed his writing skills. Action, dark humour, philosophy, religion and downright ugliness of the truth, LordGrimark has mastered the art of dark fantasy.

    I should also mention NK Jemisons Broken Earth series. The closest you can get to Tolkien in terms of beautiful poetic prose with an unimaginable, out of this world storyline and no dragons. NK Jemisons is the JRR Tolkien of our time.

  3. No fantasy fan worth their salt would fail to include the Raymond Feist series, that starts with Magician. This is second only to Lotr

  4. I bet whomever made this list never read any of them. LOTR is a timeless classic, but GOT is a drawl that reads like a history book. Name of the Wind protagonist is a total Mary Sue, whom at the end when one thing doesn’t work out at the end gets depressed and gives up. Never had a book infuriate me more. Terry Pratchett’s books meanwhile are comedic satire genius

    1. I love the story line of the books. The Wheel of time movie. I don’t like the way they charge the storyline. The name of the people, places are the same. The storyline of the TV show is very bad.It so sad. Why did they not use the real story line. They took a wonderful story line and change it to trash.

    2. Not counting Lord of the Ice Garden by Polish author Jarosław Grzedowicz is a crime. This is one of the greatest fantasy novels, easily on the level of LOTR and much better than Pratchet’s work

  5. Any Clive Barker book is better then Lord of the Rings which only became popular due to the movies.
    And best writers are:
    Clive Barker – Dan Simmons – Weis and Hickman – Raymond E. Feist.

    1. I agree with those authors (mostly) love lotr way before the movies Raymond e feist weis and Hickman and barker

    2. The claim that The Lord of the Rings “only became” popular because of films from just 20 years ago is absurd and demonstrably false.

    3. Incorrect. Tolkien’s LORD OF THE RINGS was a best seller looooong before Jackson’s beautiful films. Tolkien has influenced many, many fantasy writers.

    4. I gather you weren’t around in the 70s, when everyone knew LOTR , FRODO LIVES was chalked on walls and the Silmarillion – hardly all that readable – was a best seller in 1977. The films were a success because they captured the books as faithfully as one could hope.

  6. The peer of all SF and Fantasy writers with so many awards to his name never gets a mention.
    Jack Vance and his Dying Earth novels,headed up by the Cugel books,knocks the rest into a distant second place or less. Humour and adventure awaits those who have yet to find him.

  7. I feel like Joe Abercrombie deserves a place on this list.

    His stuff can be a bit grim but I’d take him over GRRM and Rothfuss.

    1. Joe Abercrombie packs more action and morality tales into a chapter than any of the bland poetry foisted upon Tolkien’s poor readers. The Bloody Nine is a far better developed character than any character created by George R. R. (Not done yet) Martin whether they are having sex with their siblings or not.

  8. Having just reread the first GoT book after a long while, it is indeed a masterpiece of world building. The work is so approachable and not bogged down by it’s world, it’s enhanced by it. Each character has remarkable depth, and intrigue. Having read Tolkien, Moorcock, Jordan, Pratchett I think Martin belongs near the top of any list. He is a legendary storyteller.

  9. It’s cruel to recommend the name of the wind without the disclaimer that the series might never be finished. Your going to be teased with greatness only to be left with a sour taste in your mouth as you realise the authors “writer’s block” has been going on for nigh on 13 years.

    1. It seems that he belongs to the same block as George R Martin who keeps teasing his fans that the next book is coming.

  10. I’m not quite sure anyone should trust a “top” fantasy list that doesn’t have Wheel of Time in it, let alone it not being at the top! Wheel of Time is most definitely 1 of the top 3 fantasy series of all time and in my opinion it should come in, if not 1st, at the very least 2nd!

    1. I absolutely agree! The series becomes more dynamic and fulfilling with each rereading. Such a rich and expansive fantasy which has been mutilated by Amazon Prime. A sad loss to us fantasy lovers was the death of R
      obert Jordan. Now Brandon Sanderson should take the giant leap and give us a massive epic too.

      1. Seriously would’ve thought any fantasy list would have wot on there. It’s one of the most popular fantasy series in modern times —-

      1. The Farseer Trilogy has the most rushed, disconnected ending of any series I’ve ever read. While the series is great until then, that end is ridiculously bad and nonsensical, in ways that undermine everything before it.

    1. Seriously no Stormlight Archive/Way of Kings..?
      Or Mistborn?
      I’ve liked asoaif and Lotr for 20 years but Sanderson is light-years better haha, best goddamn series around.

  11. I clicked on this article expecting to have to complain about Sir Terry not making the list. I was pleasantly surprised.

    1. I agree. A wonderfully gently layered fantasy. Le Guin is a skilful aithor. The whole series needs to be read.
      I might also add Philip Pullman’s HIS DARK MATERIALS.

  12. Even setting aside The Chronicles of Narnia, one series that definitely belongs on this list is Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast trilogy. Tolkien himself considered it as good as LOTR in its own way.

  13. While a lot of the books here in the comments are important works of fantasy the title is aboutost recommended series and I would not recommend a lot of these to new fantasy readers.
    The most recommended books I know more ssing from this list is anything by Brandon Sanderson.

    1. If u want to start easy with fantasy,I thought The hobbit a good place to start,then LOTR and the Sillmarillan which explains a lot of the hobbit and LOTR, you should really read the Sillmarillan as it explains the 2 books I’ve mentioned, HAPPY READING

      1. It seems that he belongs to the same block as George R Martin who keeps teasing his fans that the next book is coming.

    2. Here’s my cosmere buddy hahaha.
      Seriously, mistborn era 1/2, stormlight..elantris, Warbreaker..
      He’s got the best stuff around by far, plus once you realize they’re all set in the cosmere it pulls you in even more.
      I grew up on Lotr but it’s definitely not an exciting read, and asoaif is great, loved it since 2005, but once you read Sanderson GRRM just doesn’t come close.

    3. Sanderson’s books are decent but Terry Mancour’s Spellmonger series blows him away. And how did the Dresden Files not make the list?

  14. Wheel of Time and Malazan are the pinnacle of available fantasy today. Coupled with Lord of the Rings then pick whatever else. I have read A LOT of fantasy and it is laughable that either WoT or Malazan is omitted while Kingkiller Chronicles is here. I loved Kingkiller Chronicles but it is a shadow of the ones I mentioned.

  15. As much as I love the Name of the Wind… Why is it here? The KKC is not even finished, and as of now, the NotW is just bait for a trap of endless waiting. No hard feelings for Rothfuss tho, tho. We all know what he was through and he jas my wholehearted support.

    I’d rather see more classic fantasy or Sanderson, instead of NotW.

      1. I really wished that the Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman was on this list, It’s one of the greatest fantasy series ever.

        Also I recommend the Thorn of Breland series by Keith Baker. It’s based on the Ebberon D&D Universe.

  16. I agree that this tells us a lot about the writer of the article, little about fantasy. No sign of anything by Ursula Le Guin, not even “Earthsea!), Not a sniff of Michael Moorcock (without his “Elric” saga, GOT and definitely The Witcher simply wouldn’t exist. Nothing mould breaking by China Mieville? M John Harrison’s “Viricinium” not worth a mention? Sigh……. Vexatious! 😂

    1. How does this list tell us anything about the author? It’s an aggregation list of most recommended books, not the author’s personal recommendations.

      Commenting without reading is…vexatious.

  17. Lists like this reveal more about the author than the items listed. “Fantasy books” include Le Morte d’Arthur, Gulliver’s Travels, Alice in Wonderland, and the Wizard of Oz. And that doesn’t include the supernatural Gothics, which (even excluding science fiction like Frankenstein and Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde) includes Dracula, the Picture of Dorian Gray, and the Haunting of Hill House. And how are we to classify A Christmas Carol?

  18. A bit sad to see GoT at the same level of the other mastodontes of the century. Not at all the same level. Plus it’s still unfinished. Not saying it’s a bad book, but it is not at the same level as the other 3!

    1. Don’t know what worse: GoT in this list or people actually believing Jordan or Sanderson works should be there. Moorcock and Le Guin far exceed WoT and Sanderson. No issue with people liking them but feel they are very overrated when it comes to lists like this.

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