To start, fantasy is NOT science fiction. Although they are often grouped together, fantasy and science fiction are completely separate genres. Just because you don’t like Star Wars or Star Trek, does not mean that you won’t enjoy fantasy fiction. One very well known example of fantasy fiction is the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling. Harry Potter novels feature elements that are characteristic of fantasy: magic, magical or fantastical creatures, situations that could never really happen in our non-magical, science-based world, etc.
If you would like to read a book that takes you on an adventure in a world that is full of magic and wonder, fantasy books are a great choice. There is a subsection of the fantasy genre called urban fiction, where fantastical creatures are based in a normal, everyday society. An example of this would be the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer. However, for the sake of this post, I will be highlighting the more complete fantasy novels and authors.
Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson.
Speaking of entering a new world, Brandon Sanderson is an AMAZING writer. He considers even the tiniest details of worlds and how they work. By doing this he creates completely believable realities. Warbreaker is currently a standalone novel, though there is a sequel named Nightblood promised some time in the future.
Warbreaker takes the reader into a world of fantasy where “breath” is a personal power or magic and political alliances have the power to create or destroy societies. Select people are brought back to life because of a noble death, and are deemed gods, though their conduct often contradicts that title. This novel covers the interaction between different classes, and addresses what lengths some will go to for power. Throughout the novel you get to know many different and unique characters by virtue of Sanderson’s powerful writing skills. This novel hints at intimate content, though it is not explicit. It is in our adult section and is a great read for ages 16 and up.
Other awesome novels by Sanderson include the Mistborn series in our adult section, the Steelheart trilogy in the young adult collection, and Alcatraz and the Evil Librarians in our juvenile section.
The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien
The joke is that it takes about as long to read the series as it does to actually take the ring to Mordor. This might be true, depending on how fast you read. This is a hefty trilogy that is completely worth the time and effort. Tolkien takes world making to another level, even beyond that which Sanderson does. The trilogy begins by introducing the reader to Bilbo Baggins and his younger cousin(ish) Frodo Baggins. These two hobbits reside happily in the shire where they eat an enviable amount of food every day and enjoy smoking their pipes in peace. However, Bilbo has a secret from his past that threatens his family, the shire, and the entirety of Middle Earth, where the story is based. The complete trilogy follows Frodo and his companions on an amazing adventure to (spoiler) take the ring to Mordor.
Tolkien fills this amazing world with horrible and fantastic creatures alike. Often, Tolkien has even invented an entirely new language for these creatures. I LOVE The Lord of the Rings books and recommend them to all ages, though the length of the books may be intimidating for young readers.
If you aren’t quite ready to commit to this trilogy, the prequel The Hobbit is just as inventive and imaginative, but in much fewer pages.
Sabriel by Garth Nix
This is the first book in one of Nix’s young adult series that keeps the reader on their toes. The title character Sabriel lives in a world of magic and her father is the Abhorsen- someone with power over the dead. This heart-pounding series is full of magic, and power, and choosing the good while trying to vanquish evil. Sabriel is attended by Mogget, a cat with strong powers, and Touchstone, a Charter Mage. One of the wonderful aspects of fantasy that this novel exemplifies is the creation of a new world. This does not mean that there are no laws or that laws can be circumvented at the author’s pleasure. Rather, in fantasy novels, characters are bound by a set of laws unique to that world, including some that are similar to the laws we are familiar with.
Other novels in this series include Lirael, Abhorsen, and Clariel. I would recommend these books for ages 12 and up simply because of the reading level as well as some action and suspense.
The Keys to the Kingdom Series by Garth Nix
This is a young adult series, also by Garth Nix, which takes the reader into a world full of mystery. This book might be closer to urban fantasy than just pure fantasy as it begins in the normal world, but travels to another more fantastical one. Arthur is a young man who is supposed to die in the normal world but instead ventures into another world in order to unlock secrets and save himself, and others, through a series of keys. The series starts with Mister Monday, followed by Grim Tuesday, and so on until the seventh book Lord Sunday, which concludes the series and the fight for a kingdom with a surprising twist. Honestly, it is difficult to put these books down!
I would recommend this series to anyone 12 and older. As a side note, teenage boys might be more interested in this series because of the male main character.
To recap, the fantasy genre is its own and not just another Star Trek science fiction genre. Fantasy takes the reader to another world where where the impossible is possible! Fantasy is a great genre to read in order to escape for a few minutes. Other popular fantasy authors include Robert Jordan, Terry Brooks, and Patrick Rothfuss (all adult authors). If you are looking for an adventurous book that takes you out of the ordinary and into something extraordinary, I would recommend reading one of the above listed fantasy novels!
A “classic” novel is basically a book that is widely accepted as the pinnacle of good writing and has been so for an extended period of time. Classics can vary widely between genre —such as horror (Bram Stoker’s Dracula) or romance (Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice). Classics also vary between cultures such as Mark Twain’s, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn set in the North American south during 1883, or Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment set in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1866. Classic romance novels are a personal favorite of mine.
When confronted by such intense books and such a wide variety of choices, it is easy to shy away from classics altogether. However, if you take the right approach and slowly begin to wade into the genre of classic romance novels, a whole new world can open up to you!
Disclaimer: While there are movie adaptations for many classic romance novels, the book is always better than the movie!!!!
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Jane Austen is a well-known writer of classic romances for good reason. Pride and Prejudice is a novel about a family of the five Bennet daughters whose mother is eager to marry them all off. The opening line of the novel reflects the mother’s view, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” Throughout the novel the reader gets to experience the heart breaks, scandals, and enjoyment of the Bennet sisters, especially Elizabeth and Jane.
This novel is appropriate for virtually any age, but is probably of the most interest to ages 12 and up. I would highly recommend checking out this book, as well as Jane Austen’s other novels including Sense and Sensibility and Emma.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame is not quite the same thing.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Emily is one of the Bronte sisters who wrote novels and poems in the mid 1800s. This particular novel can be a bit gloomy, and is probably best read on a dark and stormy night.
Wuthering Heights is written from a very interesting perspective of a tenant on Mr. Heathcliff’s property. The novel is told as this man learns the history of the property as well as experiences for himself the current situation and possible future. This novel is a rollercoaster of emotions including pity for the main character, disgust at his actions, sorrow for decisions, deep feelings of love, and satisfaction at an unpredictable ending.
Admittedly, this is not a very happy romance, but this novel packs a lot of feelings. I would advise this book for readers over the age of 15 because of some mature thematic elements such as violence. I would recommend checking out this book if you are tired of repetitive story lines!
My Antonia by Willa Cather
Published in 1918, this novel is slightly more contemporary (only 100 years old or so). Like Wuthering Heights, this novel is told from an interesting perspective. A man asks his friend Jim to recount to him all that he remembered about Antonia. Jim then gives his friend a manuscript of all he remembers about the girl, and the story begins.
Reminiscent of To Kill a Mockingbird, this novel is from the perspective of an adolescent Jim. He recounts his adventures and growing love for Antonia, a daughter in a Bohemian immigrant family that has come to live near him on the prairie. This book is sweet with surprising twists that truly reflect how life doesn’t always go as planned. Jim’s perspective is romantic and kind, and develops into something more as the story progresses.
I would recommend this book for almost any age, but more specifically 14 and older due to one scene regarding birth (though it is not explicit). This is a wonderful classic I would recommend to anyone!
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Last but not least is my absolute FAVORITE work of fiction! Just as full of heart as Wuthering Heights, but much less dreary, this book is a wonderful adventure! The novel follows Jane from her youth in an unloving home to a school for girls, and eventually to a job as a governess for Mr. Rochester’s young ward. As the book progresses from place to place and as Jane grows older there is fantastic character development! She learns to deal with tragedy and heartache without lashing out. While Jane is humble, she is strong in her beliefs and fights for what she knows is right. Jane is a heroine throughout the novel and loves more deeply than she was ever loved as a child or young adult. This book may look lengthy, but it is worth every second of reading! There is so much love and strength and perseverance as Jane learns to love the young girl she teaches as well as her foreboding benefactor. There is a surprising twist in this novel that had me in tears. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this book and recommend it for all ages! It promotes love, morals, and strength!
These are just a few of so many wonderful classic romance novels that will expand your mind and provide a break from the modern and popular story lines in most new novels.
Looking for some inspiration on what to read next? Who better to ask then the people who work around books for a living!? Each month we will post a "staff picks" blog post written by one of our staff members. These posts will vary in genre, theme, age appropriateness, etc. If you have any requests on a genre or age category you would like to see, submit a comment here and we will get it on the list!