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TOP THREE BOOKS: FANTASY

This post was originally scheduled for next Monday.  However, some exciting things (like my new novel’s release) are taking precedence on Monday, so instead of bumping this one back further I decided to push it up to today.  I hope you will not mind.

The problem with fantasy, like the problem with science fiction, really, is that defining the genre is so blasted difficult.  Then there is the problem that these fantasy books often come in long series.  This makes it exceedingly difficult because a series can be over-the-top great but within the series there is not a single stellar book that would be the best.  I hope that makes sense to you, because it makes sense to me but I’m not sure it makes sense.  And yes, I realize the ridiculousness of that sentence, it accentuates my problem.

Okay, now having said that, here are my top three fantasy books.  As you read, please keep in mind these are not in any particular order.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Book Five of the Chronicles of Narnia), C. S. Lewis
C. S. Lewis

Lewis hard at work

I know that I will get push back on this one.  The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is everybody’s favorite.  I love it too, but there is something about Dawn Treader that is marvelous.  I don’t know if it is the rag tag crew, their odd discoveries, dragons, the speculation about heaven or that it is a tribute to The Odyssey but there is something about this book that makes it my favorite in the set.  Plus, it has one of the greatest first lines ever:  “There once was a boy called Eustace Clarence Srubb, and he almost deserved it.”

The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien

If you didn’t like my first pick, I know you’ll not like this one.  The world is filled with Lord of the Rings aficionados, including some of my very best friends, but for my money The Hobbit is a better book than any of those three.  Here are my reasons.  One, it is shorter.  The eventual finished product was longer than the first release, I grant that.  This demonstrates Tolkien’s perfectionist tendencies.  Shorter is better because it skips all that blasted elfin poetry.  Second, its more playful.  The Hobbit is really just a treasure quest tale.  Compare Gandalf  in The Hobbit with Gandalf in LOTR.  He is far funnier and whimsical in The Hobbit.  Third, LOTR is slightly predictable.  You can see it all coming.  The Hobbit, not so much.  These three differences is why I think The Hobbit movies are failing, they are trying to reduplicate LOTR but The Hobbit is a completely different kind of tale.

The Singer Trilogy, Calvin Miller

I will not have a “Christian Fiction” book category in these lists.  The main reason is my strong conviction that Christian literature doesn’t exist.  There is only literature.  Christian writers should strive to create works of art that stand on their own merit as they reflect a biblical worldview.  The Singer Trilogy (originally released as  three small books, The Singer, The Song, and The Finale) does that.  It is outstanding artwork and poetry that casts Christ as a troubadour singing an eternal song.  Calvin Miller was a teacher and hero of mine, but that is not why this book is on my list.  It is on my list because it is a great work.  That it is biblical is a bonus.

So these are my three fantasy book favorites.  What are yours?  What do you think of mine?  I’d love to know.

The Most Influential Books

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9 replies »

  1. “I will not have a “Christian Fiction” book category in these lists. The main reason is my strong conviction that Christian literature doesn’t exist. There is only literature. Christian writers should strive to create works of art that stand on their own merit as they reflect a biblical worldview.”

    For this line alone, you have my undying gratitude, dear friend. Yes, yes, yes!! I could not agree more. THANK YOU for stating it so eloquently.

    As for my favorite fantasy novels, this is so painfully hard! As much as I love Narnia, I honestly would probably not list the books in my favorites. The main reason is that I really only re-read them when I periodically feel like I should. But if I were to choose one, I think it’d be a toss up between The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Voyage of the Dawn Treader. You are right–that is one of the most epic opening lines ever. 🙂

    I also would not list Tolkien among my favorites. And personally, my favorite of the four book LOTR arc (including The Hobbit) is The Two Towers. Perhaps because it’s where things finally start really moving forward, or perhaps it’s because I just tend to love darker narratives–I don’t know.

    As for my favorites . . .

    American Gods, by Neil Gaiman: I just love Gaiman. American Gods will push buttons and boundaries, but it’s so seamlessly woven that when it all catches up with you at the end, you walk away feeling profoundly and deeply satisfied.

    Song of Albion trilogy, by Stephen Lawhead: I read this trilogy around the same time I took a Celtic mythology course, and it just drew me in so completely that it’s never left me. I love Lawhead anyway, but his take on Celtic myth in this trilogy is beautiful, haunting, and original. I don’t recall which of the three was my favorite, but given my propensity for choosing the dark before the dawn, it was probably book #2, The Silver Hand.

    Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, by J. K. Rowling: Okay, you could list the whole HP series here, but if I have to pick one, it would be this one. And I know there’s some debate as to exactly where to classify Harry Potter, but I think general fantasy is probably the closest place. Yes, it’s YA, but the story is ultimately a very grown-up story. Order of the Phoenix is where Harry starts happening to stuff rather than just reacting to everything, and it’s also the book where, I think, Rowling really came into her own as a writer.

    This is such a fun series of posts. I could list a dozen more favorites and still not be done. So enjoying this discussion!

    Best to you on the release of your new book!

    Amy

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    • thank you for the kind words and for sharing your fantasy list. also, thanks for the mention on facebook–i appreciate that very much.
      i really think you hit the nail on the head with the series issues, because so much fantasy (and i do include HP as fantasy rather than YA because my understanding is that YA is not what j.k. was shooting for) comes in long epic sequences.

      i look forward to the rest of the series too. i’ve got at least a half dozen more of these posts, maybe as many as 8 before i’m done.

      thanks for the good wishes on the book. i appreciate that too!

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  2. Have you read the Silmarillion, Jamie? It is a bit disjointed, being a series of stories packaged together. But it explains much of the origin of Middle Earth and is becoming my favorite Tolkien book, even though it came into its final form under the hand of Christopher Tolkien.

    Most anything by Lawhead is good as well.

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    • yeah, the silmarillion is good too ed. i like all of tolkien’s stuff, its just that the hobbit is more fun to me. it seems you and amy agree on lawhead.

      thanks for reading and commenting.

      Like

  3. I think I’d have to agree with you on the Hobbit. Loved Lord of the Rings but the story gives you a little bit of everything from the other books, and it feels more fanciful to me.

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