There’s absolutely nothing else like losing yourself in a book. Some people might point out that movies can also suck you in, but there’s just nothing like a book to spark your own imagination.
When I’m reading a great novel — one where the author has created a world that truly captures your mind — it stays with me long after I’ve finished reading. You know the kinds of books I’m talking about: the ones where you can see the world in your head. The ones that really amaze me are the inventive and immersive fantasy worlds that some authors build — places you’d like to visit, even if they’re quite scary. Here are a just a few of my favorites (and there are many, many more great fantasy books I’d list if I had the time!).
by Clive Barker
The incredible world of Abarat was born first in pictures, not words. Besides being an accomplished author (and a very interesting guy; I chatted with him on the phone for an hour once for an interview and he is just seriously cool), Barker is also a great painter. The richness and wildness of his paintings (think multi-headed fellows and all kinds of craziness) comes through in his story. Abarat is a world of islands, each one representing a different hour of the day, each one more bizarre than the last.
by Garth Nix
This book combines two loves of mine: a strong female heroine and a well designed fantasy world. It is the first book in a series (and I love the rest as well) and wakes up the nether reaches of your mind as you descend into a world of necromancy, magic, and the undead.
by Anne McCaffrey
Okay, this is kind of cheating since technically this is three books bound up into one: Dragonflight, Dragonquest, and The White Dragon. But it would be very hard to pick just one Pern book (and heavens, there are so many of them to choose from now!). My personal favorite is probably The White Dragon, but they are all wonderfully detailed glimpses into a world that touches on both the science fiction and fantasy sides of the fence. And there are dragons. What else could you ask for?
by Frank Herbert
Two (rather horrible) movies have been made of this book and honestly, the rest of the series doesn’t thrill me (though I haven’t tried his son’s prequel books). But Dune is practically an archetype now. The world Herbert created of the barren desert planet Arakis, war-torn and desolate but capable of a stark beauty... ah, it’s the stuff classics are made of.
by Piers Anthony
I imagine some would groan at the inclusion of a Xanth book in a “serious” list since the entire series is the stuff of puns and silliness (though, hey, there are messages in there too). But millions of readers have found themselves laughing and giggling their way through the world of Xanth time and time again. A Spell for Chameleon is the first book, but there are many, many more.
by J.R.R. Tolkien
I realize I should probably be listing The Lord of the Rings, rather than The Hobbit, but I’m going with this one because it was the first book that I (and many others) read set in Tolkein’s masterwork: Middle-earth. And you have to list Tolkein in any list of fantasy worlds because he created the world; the world that other writers crib from every day. Geez, the man even came up with a whole Elven language!
by C. S. Lewis, illustrated by Pauline Baynes
The Narnia Chronicles also have to be present on any list of influential fantasy worlds. (There might be a law to that effect somewhere.) Countless children (and adults) now dream of stepping into a normal, humdrum piece of furniture and coming out the other side into a world of magic and wonder.
by Robert Sabuda
This book (and Through the Looking Glass) are so ingrained in our consciousness now that references appear to it everywhere: movies, music, and in other books. And no wonder (ha, punny). Wonderland is simply amazing and utterly fantastical. Entered into via a mirror, everything is in reverse and you’d best know how to play chess if you want to get around.
Recommending books so good, they'll keep you up past your bedtime. more...
About Kimberly Pauley
Kimberly Pauley loves a good book you can sink your teeth into. As her alter-ego, the Young Adult Books Goddess of yabookscentral.com, she's devoured more books than she can count. Sucks to Be Me is her first novel, with a sequel coming out in Fall 2010. She lives in Illinois with her husband and the cutest little boy ever. You can find out more than you ever wanted to know about her at kimberlypauley.com.
Newest book lists
All our categories