Reddit's 15 Best Fantasy Books Are Essential Reads

Reddit‘s 15 Best Fantasy Books Are Essential Reads

Fantasy is one of literature‘s most beloved and enduring genres, inviting readers into realms of magic, myth and imagination. For decades, fantasy fans have gathered on Reddit‘s many book-focused communities to passionately discuss their favorite series and characters. Across subreddits like r/books, r/fantasy and r/suggestmeabook, Redditors have compiled lists of fantasy novels no fan should miss.

In this guide, we‘ll be spotlighting Reddit‘s 15 most highly-upvoted and discussed fantasy book recommendations. From timeless classics to modern favorites, these captivating tales truly represent the best this genre has to offer.

The Origins of Fantasy Literature

Before diving into Reddit‘s picks, let‘s examine the evolution of fantasy and why it continues to entrance modern audiences. The genre‘s roots stretch back millennia in the form of mythologies and epic sagas that were passed down orally. These primordial tales of gods, monsters and brave heroes laid the foundation for all fantasy literature to follow.

Written fantasy fiction as we know it today emerged in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Authors like George MacDonald, Lord Dunsany, E.R. Eddison and H.P. Lovecraft pioneered the modern genre by crafting original imagined worlds. But it was the 1937 publication of J.R.R. Tolkien‘s The Hobbit that truly popularized the form.

In the decades since, fantasy has exploded into pop culture ubiquity and mainstream recognition. Blockbuster film franchises, binge-worthy TV adaptations and record-breaking book sales have proven fantasy‘s irresistible appeal.

So what draws us to tales of magic swords and faraway kingdoms? Beyond escapism, the best fantasy books also reflect real human truths. By crafting heroes who overcome grave adversity, they offer messages of hope and resilience we can apply to our own lives. And skillfully-built fantasy realms let our imaginations run wild.

Now let‘s examine the 15 fantasy novels Redditors simply insist are required reading for any fan of mystical adventures!

  1. The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

"It‘s nostalgic and beautiful and melancholy and hopeful all at the same time." – Reddit user secondlead

A cornerstone work that gracefully straddles children‘s and adult fantasy, Peter S. Beagle‘s The Last Unicorn follows the eponymous unicorn on a quest to discover what has happened to the rest of her kind. With elegant prose and unforgettable characters like the bumbling magician Schmendrick, this timeless fable profoundly moved generations of fantasy lovers.

Upon its 1968 debut, The Last Unicorn received immediate critical acclaim and won the prestigious Nebula Award. In the decades since, its bittersweet exploration of belonging, mortality and the redemptive power of love has cemented its status as an undisputed fantasy classic.

  1. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

"It sparked my imagination as a kid and was a gateway to fantasy literature." – Reddit user Niflrog

The first published entry in C.S. Lewis‘s acclaimed Chronicles of Narnia saga, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe needs no introduction. Since its 1950 debut, countless young readers have walked through the wardrobe with Lucy, Peter, Edmund and Susan into the magical land of Narnia.

With beguiling characters like the heroic lion Aslan and the villainous White Witch, Lewis crafted an enchanting fantasy universe that captured children‘s hearts for generations. His elegant fusion of mythological archetypes, Christian themes and coming-of-age adventure resulted in a timeless story for all ages. 70 years later, the tale remains profoundly influential.

  1. Assassin‘s Apprentice by Robin Hobb

"It tells an incredible personal coming-of-age fantasy story." – Reddit user riancb

Launching the beloved Farseer Trilogy and Realm of the Elderlings saga, Assassin‘s Apprentice established Robin Hobb as one of fantasy‘s most skilled storytellers. Through the eyes of FitzChivalry Farseer, a young bastard raised to serve the royal family, Hobb immerses readers in the inner workings of court politics and intrigue.

With its flawed-yet-sympathetic hero, dynamic worldbuilding and plot twists that astonish seasoned fantasy fans, Assassin‘s Apprentice kicks off an addictively immersive series spanning 16 novels to date.

  1. The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett

"It‘s hilarious satire that flips tired fantasy tropes on their heads." – Reddit user PlaceboJesus

The premiere entry in Terry Pratchett‘s enduringly popular Discworld franchise, The Color of Magic subverts common fantasy clichés with brilliant tongue-in-cheek humor. Bumbling tourist wizard Rincewind guides the incompetent sorcerer Twoflower through Pratchett‘s absurdly entertaining world perched atop four massive elephants standing on a giant star turtle.

Alongside side-splitting gags skewering genre mainstays like overly-complicated magic systems, the novel also incorporates thoughtful commentary on racism, injustice and environmentalism. Later Discworld books expertly blend hilarity with philosophical insight. But The Color of Magic remains most Redditors‘ top introduction to Pratchett‘s signature wit.

  1. The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

"It‘s an immersive, character-driven adventure with incredible worldbuilding." – Reddit user wRAR_

In The Eye of the World, Robert Jordan breathes life into one of fantasy‘s most sprawling and intricately-crafted worlds. When villager Rand al‘Thor and his friends flee their home pursued by terrifying forces, they are swept into an epic struggle against a rising Dark One.

With refreshing takes on chosen one prophecies, dark lords and more, Jordan spins an enormous tapestry exploring war, politics, gender dynamics and culture. Despite its daunting length, fans call the Wheel of Time saga one of fantasy‘s most rewarding journeys. The Eye of the World‘s towering 400,000+ word count barely scratches the surface of this richly detailed universe.

  1. Sabriel by Garth Nix

"Sabriel herself is one of fantasy‘s best heroines – she‘s competent, brave and relatable" – Reddit user KristaDBall

Australian author Garth Nix made waves in 1995 by framing necromantic magic through a distinctly feminist lens. In a genre sadly lacking three-dimensional female protagonists, Sabriel stands out as a refreshingly capable heroine determined to rescue her father from death itself.

Blending dark supernatural forces with steampunk flair, Sabriel defined the young adult fantasy genre for a new generation. Beyond featuring a praiseworthy heroine, Nix‘s Old Kingdom series marries thrilling action with emotional resonance for an unforgettable adventure.

  1. The Neverending Story by Michael Ende

"This book sparked my imagination more vividly than almost anything else I‘ve read." – Reddit user HeLiBeB

Though better known today through its 1984 film adaptation, Michael Ende‘s The Neverending Story remains a fantasy classic in its own right. When timid Bastian discovers a mysterious book, he finds himself drawn into its pages on a metafictional journey of self-discovery.

With a message promoting the importance of imagination, this ingeniously-constructed modern fairy tale has inspired millions worldwide since its 1979 debut. While accessible for younger readers, its philosophical themes resonate deeply with adults as well. Suffused with hope and wonder, Redditors call it the ultimate "feel-good fantasy."

  1. The Princess Bride by William Goldman

"It‘s a perfect mix of romance, adventure, humor and whimsy!" – Reddit user RedditStrolls

Be it through William Goldman‘s popular 1973 novel or Rob Reiner‘s iconic 1987 film adaptation, The Princess Bride remains an enduring fan-favorite romantic fantasy. Presented as an abridged version of a fictional classic romance novel, the tale recounts the misadventures of Westley and Buttercup as they confront kidnapping plots, revenge schemes, giant rodents and more.

Equal parts cheeky comedy and thrilling love story, The Princess Bride brilliantly parodies fairy tale clichés. Yet amidst all the witty mocking, a genuinely heartwarming central romance emerges that explains its lasting crossover appeal. Fun for fantasy fans of any age!

  1. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

"It sparked a lifelong love of fantasy through its bold worldbuilding and fierce protagonist." – Reddit user SpectrumDT

Kicking off Philip Pullman‘s genre-redefining His Dark Materials saga, The Golden Compass whisks young readers away to fantastical parallel worlds of witches, armoured bears and daemon companions. At age 11 protagonist Lyra Belacqua becomes an unlikely hero when her friend is kidnapped, sparking a dangerous journey across magical realms.

With rich social commentary on religion, authority and more woven into an enthralling adventure, The Golden Compass marked a more mature turn for YA fantasy fiction. Two decades later, its pioneering original worldbuilding and fierce heroine still feel refreshingly bold.

  1. Storm Front by Jim Butcher

"It blends hardboiled detective stories with wizards, fairies, vampires and more." – Reddit user Taco_Shed

Mixing magical mayhem with Chandleresque detective noir, Jim Butcher‘s Dresden Files franchise centres on Harry Dresden, Chicago‘s only professional wizard. In Storm Front, Harry tackles a grisly series of murders with unsettling occult implications.

Dresden‘s sardonic narration brims with humor as he contends with trigger-happy fae mobsters, violated laws of magic and meddling police sergeants. Blending gritty crime drama withCOUNT wacky urban fantasy, Butcher strikes genre gold. With over 20 million copies sold, his Dresden books prove wizard detectives never go out of style!

  1. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

"It‘s a gorgeously written coming-of-age story that deftly handles complex themes." – Reddit user genteel_wherewithal

Before Harry Potter enrolled at Hogwarts, Ursula K. Le Guin‘s Ged was mastering wizardry on the sweeping archipelago of Earthsea. Published when high fantasy primarily fixated on evil overlords, A Wizard of Earthsea instead framed magic through a philosophical lens.

When brash young wizard Ged loses control of his power, he plunges Earthsea into chaos. His ensuing quest models self-discipline and personal accountability with poetic eloquence. Both timeless and forward-thinking, Le Guin‘s introspective approach sent ripples throughout fantasy writing for decades to come.

  1. A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

"It revolutionized fantasy by placing complex, flawed characters at the forefront." – Reddit user registrant

Few modern fantasy authors have achieved the meteoric mainstream success of George R.R. Martin. And it all began with A Game of Thrones, introducing readers to Westeros‘ noble houses secretly scheming to claim the kingdom‘s coveted Iron Throne.

Unlike traditional heroes, Martin‘s protagonists are deeply flawed products of a feudal society rife with injustice. From incestuous romances to heartbreaking assassinations, his ruthless plot twists subvert fantasy expectations. Despite spawning the pop culture behemoth we know as "Game of Thrones", Martin‘s sweeping saga remains compulsively readable.

  1. Alice‘s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

"It‘s weird and delightful. And inspiring too – so creative that it makes me want to write." – Reddit user blueoncemoon

1865‘s Alice‘s Adventures in Wonderland arguably pioneered modern surreal fantasy. When a curious Alice tumbles down a rabbit hole into Lewis Carroll‘s riotous Wonderland, she encounters a topsy-turvy realm where logic unravels.

Beneath the trappings of a lovably nonsensical children‘s fable, Carroll crafts enduring witty social satire skewering topics like philosophy, mathematics and etiquette conformity. And with its procession of eccentric characters like the Mad Hatter and Cheshire Cat, Wonderland feels more influential than ever 150+ years later. Fantasy today would look very different without it.

  1. The Once and Future King by T.H. White

"This retelling of King Arthur‘s legend is heartbreaking, thought-provoking and beautifully written." – Reddit user snowlock27

Sir Thomas Malory first chronicled King Arthur‘s tragic rise and fall in 1485‘s Le Morte D‘Arthur. In 1958, T.H. White revisited Camelot‘s emotional saga with a modern perspctive. Spanning Arthur‘s childhood education to the kingdom‘s eventual undoing, The Once and Future King marries medieval romance with biting political commentary.

White‘s introspective take adds psychological depth to iconic figures like Guinevere and Lancelot. Despite knowing Arthur‘s fate, watching his noble attempts to broker peace and justice never loses poignancy. A pinnacle of 20th century fantasy repackaging folklore for modern times.

  1. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

"It sparked generations of imaginations and laid the blueprint for modern fantasy as we know it." – Reddit user Werthead

The book that launched a thousand fantasy realms. When academic and linguist J.R.R. Tolkien published The Hobbit in 1937, he revolutionized speculative fiction forever. Reluctant hero Bilbo Baggins‘ treasure hunt with a band of dwarves popularized concepts like multi-race protagonists, detailed magic systems and immersive worldbuilding that define the genre today.

While later volumes of Tolkien‘s Lord of the Rings trilogy cemented his status as the father of high fantasy, The Hobbit holds a special place in Redditors‘ hearts. Brimming with charm, humor and childlike wonder, its sustained impact on fantasy writing earns it the top spot here.

Essential Fantasy Books – Final Thoughts

Fantasy‘s enduring popularity stems not just from fabulous escapism – though it excels at that department – but also from the way it reflects real human truths. Timeless coming-of-age sagas, flawed characters who demonstrate sacrifice and redemption in the face of darkness, reflections of how societies succumb to injustice; these resonant messages anchor fantastical tales.

The books spotlighted above particularly moved Redditors with their masterful storytelling, hopeful themes and genre-defining originality. For captivating journeys to magical realms that linger long after the final page, you can‘t go wrong by picking any of these essential fantasy reads. Just beware – plunging into intricately-built fantasy universes tends to ignite fierce book addictions!

Frequently Asked Questions About Fantasy Books

What are the main elements that define fantasy fiction?

  • Mythical/supernatural phenomena like magic spells, legendary creatures, divine beings
  • Fictional imagined settings, often medieval-inspired secondary worlds
  • Heroic quests, prophecies, coming-of-age journeys and epic good vs evil clashes

How does fantasy differ from science fiction?

Though some crossover exists, core differences include:

Fantasy – relies on magic and supernatural forces
Science Fiction – explores futuristic innovations and technologies

Fantasy – set in magical realms or mythical historic settings
Science Fiction – incorporates speculative technological/scientific advances

Who are considered the most influential/essential fantasy authors?

J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Ursula K. Le Guin and J.K. Rowling rank among the most cherished and seminal fantasy writers. More recent essential authors include George R.R. Martin, Patrick Rothfuss, Neil Gaiman, Robin Hobb and N.K. Jemisin.

What fantasy books are good for beginners?

Approachable introductions to fantasy for newcomers include The Hobbit, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer‘s Stone, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Ella Enchanted.

What are the main fantasy subgenres for different readers‘ tastes?

High Fantasy – sweeping sagas in intricately built magical worlds
Sword and Sorcery – faster-paced adventures focused on brave warriors
Epic Fantasy – war-torn realms with warring kingdoms and political intrigue
Comic Fantasy – infuses magic and humor
Dark Fantasy – horror/fantasy crossovers exploring the sinister
Historical Fantasy – magical realms layered over real history
Contemporary Fantasy – magical worlds hidden within modern settings
Magical Realism – fantasy elements subtly blended into literary realism

How can you find exciting new fantasy books to read?

Consult online fantasy communities (Reddit, Goodreads etc), explore best fantasy lists, check your public library‘s catalogue, follow favorite fantasy authors on social media, join SFF book clubs, browse bookshops‘ fantasy recommendations and sign up for fantasy book subscription boxes.

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