Top Ten Books That I’d Recommend to Someone Who Doesn’t Read Fantasy

Let’s face it, I am a ridiculous fantasy geek. The first novel that I read, at age 6, was The Hobbit. This was quickly followed by the Lord of the Rings series, C.S. Lewis’ Narnia books, and the first two Harry Potter books, and that was that. However, I’ve run into a lot of people who don’t read fantasy at all, or even folks who have a serious aversion to it. Some of this is a difference of opinion, I know, but I happen to think that quite a lot of it stems from the fact that there is so much bad fantasy and sci-fi out there, and it can be difficult to trawl through the bad stuff in order to find the good.

So for Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by The Broke and Bookish), my topic will be Top Ten Books That I’d Recommend to Someone Who Doesn’t Read Fantasy. I’m also going to take a leaf out of Miss Anderson’s book and separate my top ten list into two lists, one featuring YA and one for adult fiction.

So, without further ado, allow me to present Top Five Books That I’d Recommend to Someone Who Doesn’t Read FantasyYA Edition.

1.) The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke

The Thief Lord has always been one of my favorite books, and it has a cross-genre appeal that’s undeniable– I even got my anti-fantasy younger brother to read it, and he loved it. I consider this one a fantasy, but I know people who would say that it’s action-adventure or mystery, and who I am to argue? The point is that it is both fantasticAL and fanTASTIC. (The movie’s not bad either, even though it suffers from the usual  “overblown romance” issue that tends to be so prevalent in YA/MG movie adaptations.)

2.) Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

This book reads like a fairytale, and in a way it is. It is also a romance, a mystery, and a cozy-afternoon-and-tea kind of book. Even though there are so many fantasy elements, the central story and characters are all very realistic– who doesn’t know someone like Howl or Sophie or even Calcifer? Also, Jones’ sense of comedic timing is impeccable, and who doesn’t want to read a funny book every once and awhile? (Again, there’s an anime movie out there that’s worth a watch as well; Miyazaki took definite creative liberties, though, and after the first half, the movie is not much like the book at all.)

3.) White Cat by Holly Black

Again, this is definitely a genre book, in that magic is central to the plot. Again, however, this story is also much more than a fantasy; the complex family dynamic of the Sharpes and the dark romance that exists between Cassel and Lila would be enough to lift it up, but throw in the criminal element and the political issues that Black handles, and you have a satisfyingly thrilling and complex story with just a sprinkle of magic. (The sequel, Red Glove, is even better, and I am eagerly awaiting the third and final installment, Black Heart, which will be released April 3rd.)

4.) Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

This series is just fun. It’s hilarious, action-packed, and the main character grows exponentially over the course of the series without ever whacking us upside the head with his burgeoning morality. At its heart, ironically enough, this story is about friendship– not something you’d believe with the cold and callous Artemis as the main character, but it’s true. Also, it will ensure that you never look at fairies in the same way again.

5.) Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

If you love books, then you need to read this book. It doesn’t matter who you are or what your normal reading fare is.  (You might consider reading the sequels and watching the movie as well, but nothing tops this first book. It is transcendent.)

Annnd the Top Five Books That I’d Recommend to Someone Who Doesn’t Read Fantasy– Adult Edition

1.) Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

The Apocalypse is given a hilarious and strangely insightful treatment by Gaiman and Pratchett in this cult classic, and so far, I haven’t really come upon anyone resistant to its charms. Some might balk at the irreverent tone, but that’s about it.

2.) Palimpsest by Cat Valente

This book is just gorgeous. If you’re squicked by sexual content, then you shouldn’t pick it up, but otherwise, this is definitely a book I’d recommend. Cat Valente has an elegant, lyrical prose style that reads like a a song, and that alone makes this book worth a read.

3.) The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

This is high fantasy, but with a literary twist. Jemisin’s prose style, like Valente’s, is lovely, and while her plots progress extremely slowly, they are complicated enough to keep even fantasy snobs coming back for more. I’m currently finishing up the sequel, and it is just as good if not better, so I think we can look forward to seeing this sort of intelligent, well-constructed mythology from Jemisin in future.

4.) The Privilege of the Sword by Ellen Kushner

Kushner’s qausi-Regency world should appeal to fans of historical fiction and romance as well as fantasy fans. Her grasp of politics and society– along with her wit-filled treatment of these subjects– is astounding, and a true pleasure and privilege to read. Her characters feel very real and present, and overall, this is just a truly awesome book.

5.) Od Magic by Patricia McKillip

Again, McKillip has a lovely prose style. Add to this a compelling plot, beautifully understated magic, and wonderful characters, and you have a total winner.

What is YOUR Top Ten? Comment or link to your own blog to let me know!

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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Alexandra Corinth
    Jan 17, 2012 @ 22:01:27

    I love this list. All of it. Very good choices that fantasy-dislikers (and even some haters I think, with Good Omens) would really enjoy. Bravo!

    Reply

  2. Lauren (@Lauren817)
    Jan 18, 2012 @ 01:46:40

    I’m a huge fan of the The Thief Lord! I’ve read at least a dozen times and still manage to enjoy it even more with every read. I also love the Curseworkers series! I’ll have to check some of the rest of these out… Great list!

    Reply

    • Em
      Jan 18, 2012 @ 03:15:13

      The Thief Lord is one of those books that never loses its touch, and Curseworkers… I just love it. SO excited for Black Heart 😀

      Thanks, I’m glad you liked it!

      Reply

  3. diaryofateenagereader
    Jan 23, 2012 @ 00:32:16

    Thank you for the great list! I’m just starting to get more into fantasy, and I’m excited to try some of these out!

    Reply

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