The Five Epic Fantasy Books I'm Reading Right Now (plus one epic collection of non-fiction)

"What should I read?" This is an oddly common question that I hear. I have never had a need for that question, my list always exceeds my ability to consume it. I have over five thousand books on my Amazon wish list. Currently, I am focused on six of them, and it's a pretty epic list.


Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling

I have conducted polls involving hundreds of people in multiple reading groups and there are a lot of inconsistencies, but the top two favorite series have always been the same: Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. They have always been in that order, with Harry Potter coming out with significantly more votes than Lord of the Rings, we are talking from double to quadruple the votes.

I always liked the movies and knew that I would like the story, the only real question was the style. Rowling has a style that is easy to digest, you can be very tired and still easily move through her writing. I love comparing it to these other styles of fiction writing.

I have noticed two things that I wonder about in her writing. I don't like the Dursleys, and in the early books they start off with the Dursleys. It makes me slow down, I get just slightly bored. The two great sins of writing are boredom and confusion. If you create either one then it becomes a waste of time for the reader. It hasn't been enough for me to stop, and in the later books the role of the Dursleys diminishes, but I have been thinking about it. The problem is that the Dursleys are important in the story of Harry and in the making of his character. You can't have Harry the way he is without the Dursleys, and that needs to be shown. It is a conundrum that I am still ruminating over.

Second, Rowling writes each book in a way that it can almost stand on its own. She throws in little explanations that you don't need if you've read the previous books, but you would need if you haven't. I'm not sure these are needed, but maybe they are. Maybe they are just intended as strong and explicit reminders. When I'm reading they pull me out of the story a little bit, but not too bad.

I'm glad that the story is going to get a bit darker and more serious. These are perfect stories for kids to read as coming of age books, maybe around the pre or early teens. Since they are such a good fit the bond between person and story is formed and will last a lifetime, probably longer. I am enjoying them myself.

I'm on page 95 of book 4 in this series.

The Lord of the Rings - The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien

This has been on my list for a long time. I've looked at it, and The Hobbit, a number of times over the last couple of decades. The style never particularly appealed to me, but I am enjoying it now. Tolkien writes fiction like he is writing an excellent history in narrative form, the only difference is that it's fantasy. With that view in mind Lord of the Rings is great.

At some point I want to dissect this style more, actually that goes for all of these books, but I am focused on Replay by Ken Grimwood at present concerning style assimilation. It seems that Tolkien rarely uses interstitials, and maybe that's part of the style difference, but it's far from the whole of it. That is an article for another day.

I'm on page 65 of book 1 in this series.

The Chronicles of Narnia - The Horse and His Boy by C. S. Lewis

Lewis uses a significantly different style than Rowling or Tolkien. His narrator is visible, and I didn't like that at first, but it seems fine now. It's kind of like sushi, I didn't like it the first seven times I tried it, but now I savor it. I'm not fully up to savoring the style of Narnia, but it is growing on me. It has a nice smooth pace and is easy reading. Lewis nailed it when he decided to write fairy stories. I liked the Percy Jackson books, but I might end up liking Narnia more. It's tough because I do like Ancient Greek mythology.

I'm on page 16 of book 3 in this series.

The Kingkiller Chronicle - The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

I am enjoying this story quite a lot. It has a fairly unique frame where he starts in the present (still written in past tense) in third person and then transitions to an autobiographical tale set in the past using first person. I used a frame in my short story The City of Peace, but mine reminds me a little more of Narnia than this story, and I enjoyed writing it that way. Rothfuss seems more skilled at writing in first person than in third, but all of the sections are pretty good. Also, I got the hardcover tenth anniversary edition and it is one of the best smelling books I've ever read. This story has the potential to end up being one of my favorites. It seems, slightly, like an interesting mix between Harry Potter and A Song of Ice and Fire.

I'm on page 94 of book 1 in this series.

Dark Ages by Valerie L. Price

This is an interesting fantasy romance that has garnered a small and enthusiastic following. All of these fantasy books evoke an incredible level of enthusiasm and devotion from their fans, cult-like followings, and I like that. Romance is the best selling genre of fiction. Every supermarket has a romance section in books and there's a reason for that. It's a trope that bores me to a large extent, wild man tamed by young innocent woman. But, I do like romance subplots. This book is about vampires and has a bit of that 50 Shades of Grey feel, but with better writing and a better story and less melodrama. Price includes a decent amount of third person omniscient, which is fairly rare, and she does pretty good at it. I enjoy seeing that.

I'm on page 180 of book 1 in this series.

A Collection of Writings from Benjamin Franklin

Ben Franklin may be my favorite personality in history. Studying him is like diving down the proverbial rabbit hole. I've read quite a bit of his works, and a number of writings about him that are from his contemporaries, but the two book collection from The Library of America is enlightening. To read his writings in chronological order is amazing. And the variety, the variety is... odd. He rarely seems to write under his own name. He carries on debates with himself in the papers between his various personalities that he's created. It's a very unique mind at work. Some of his writing advice in his autobiography inspired the major writing exercise that I'm conducting on my blog. It can pay, to read a little Franklin each day.

I'm on page 145 of book 1 in this series.


There are, of course, a number of other things that I'm reading in business, self-help, teaching, learning, psychology, art, writing, economics, and anthropology. Not to mention the articles and posts that I read concerning events in history and the like. And, the children's books that I read while I'm teaching.

At some point in the future I will probably dive into the specific style that some of these authors use. Until then, I am drinking deeply from the wellspring of the masters.

See what I write next, or what I wrote last, at JeffreyAlexanderMartin.com

Popular posts from this blog

The Making of a Great First Line in Fiction

Eleven Comments From ESL Students

A Story for Linda