Ten “Classical” Fantasy Authors Every Fantasy Fan Should Read

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature created by the folks at the Broke and the Bookish. Each week has a different theme where participants try to come up with ten things to fit the theme.

This week is Back to School Freebie. I chose to talk about ten must read “classical” fantasy authors that I think every fantasy fan should read. And by classics, I mean pre-2000s. Which isn’t entirely accurate to say that it either, now that I think about it. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone came out at 1996, so JK Rowling should probably be included in this list. So maybe “ten pre-2000s adult fantasy authors that I think ever fantasy should read” might be a more appropriate title. 

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JRR Tolkien

The father of modern fantasy is a must read for every fantasy fan, even if it’s just the Hobbit or the Fellowship of the Ring. Arguably Edgar Rice Burrough (Tarzan and John Carter of Mars) can be said to be another father of modern fantasy, but I think Tolkien deserves more recognition. His influence can be felt in most fantasy books today, granted he himself took a lot of inspiration from Norse mythology and Beowulf but, hey, most fantasy authors look to history, myths and legends for some sort of inspiration.

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Robert Jordan

I am probably totally biased here, but I think that Robert Jordan should be a must read for all fantasy fans. I would say finish the entire Wheel of Time series, but I know that it’s not for everyone, so instead I’d just say to at least give it a try. The series starts of as a homage to the Lord of the Rings before deviating from the beaten path and into a strange and large world of epic battles both physical and political.

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Robert E Howard

I’ve never read anything by Howard, but his impact on the fantasy genre can certainly be felt. He is the author of Conan the Barbarian, one of the first Heroic fantasy and the originator of the Sword and Sorcery genre. The focus on individual characters in a smaller world is part of the foundation on which grimdark fantasy has sprung up from.

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George RR Martin

Everyone and their English speaking mothers probably has heard of Game of Thrones by now, so there’s no doubt that Martin has had an impact on the fantasy world. His is a blend of the previous two authors. A character driven story with an epic scale. A Song of Ice and Fire is definitely a must read.

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CS Lewis

CS Lewis, one of Tolkien’s good friends, is also the author of the Chronicles of Narnia. Lewis takes many cues from Christian ideology and weaves it through the tale of the Pevensie children one of the most well-known fantasy children book series that predates Harry Potter.

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Ursula K Le Guin

Ursula K Le Guin is perhaps best known for the Earthsea series, though she has written many books in both fantasy and science fiction genres. Her impact is pretty huge influencing authors like Neil Gaiman and Salman Rushdie. Hers is also a more literary fantasy, like Gene Wolfe, who is also on this list.

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TH White

No “classic” fantasy list is complete without the Arthurian legends. Tolkien and Robert Jordan both drew from them, the latter much more so than the former, and one of the best known stories of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table is TH White’s Once and Future King tetralogy, which includes the Sword in the Stone which the Disney animation is based upon. It is based on Le Morte d’Arthur (the best known work on the Arthurian legends) and reworked for a post-World War II generation.

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Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett is the author of the Discworld series. The series spans over forty books and is perhaps best known for its satirical humor. I’ve not had the chance to read a Discworld book from start to finish yet, but he’s one of the authors that I really want to try.

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Anne McCaffrey

Anne McCaffrey is perhaps best known for the Dragonriders of Pern series. She is the first female author to win both the Hugo and the Nebula awards. The White Dragon is also one of the first science fiction/fantasy book to hit the New York Times bestseller list. She has influenced writers like Brandon Sanderson and Christopher Paolini.

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Gene Wolfe

Gene Wolfe is best known as an author of short fiction. His writings are noted for his stained glass prose which is dense and allusive and have often been classified as literary fantasy and compared to authors like Charles Dickens and Cormac McCarthy. His best known book is the Book of the New Sun series.

Other honorable mentions include David Eddings, Roger Zelazny, Robin Hobb, Edgar Rice Burrough, Jane Yolen, Terry Brooks, Steven Erikson and David Gemmell.

What are your thoughts on these “classical” fantasy authors? Have you read any of them? Is there someone else you might consider adding to the list? Let me know in the comments down below.

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30 thoughts on “Ten “Classical” Fantasy Authors Every Fantasy Fan Should Read

  1. Have you read anything by Katherine Kurtz? I just started reading her book “Deryni Rising” and apparently it was published after JRR Tolkien. It’s supposed to be a classic along the same lines 🙂 Great list of authors, I’ll have to read up on some of them!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great list! I have unfortunately only read Tolkien so far and have the others still on my TBR. I do have the Wheel of Time prequel ‘New Spring’ ready to read as a way to ease myself into the Wheel of Time world.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! Oh, you might want to read at least a few books in the series before New Spring. The prequel contains some spoilery stuff. It’s nothing major, but it does unveil some of the characters’ backgrounds. And aside from that, it assumes the reader knows some of the characters and the way things work in the universe. There’s some debate in the fandom on when to read New Spring, but I would suggest reading it after the Dragon Reborn (book 3) at the earliest.

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