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Time’s 100 Best Fantasy Books of All Time

Time recently released a list of the best fantasy books… of all time. Literally dating back over a thousand years. While obviously such a list is going to heavily lean on what we consider classics in Western canon, it were the more modern books that surprised me. The books on the list are order chronologically by publish date. For the older books, this is generally a century or a guess at best.

I read through the list and was pleased that I had read many of the older books already, but I was disappointed that I hadn’t read nearly as many of the modern ones as I wish I had. For those of you who don’t want to click links, here’s the list of the books in chronological order with asterisks next to the ones I’ve read.

  1. The Arabian Nights (currently reading)*
  2. Le Morte D’Arthur by Thomas Malory
  3. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll*
  4. Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll
  5. Five Children and It by E. Nesbit
  6. Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum
  7. Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers
  8. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis*
  9. The Palm-Wine Drunkard by Amos Tutuola
  10. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis*
  11. The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien*
  12. My Life in the Bush of Ghosts by Amos Tutuola
  13. The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien*
  14. The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien*
  15. A Hero Born by Jin Yong
  16. The Once & Future King by T.H. White
  17. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl*
  18. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
  19. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  20. The Wandering Unicorn by Manuel Mujica Lainez
  21. Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey
  22. The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle (I’ve read part of it but can never get my daughters to let me finish reading it to them… I’ve seen the movie? 1/2*)
  23. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin*
  24. The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart
  25. The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin
  26. Watership Down by Richard Adams*
  27. The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper
  28. The Princess Bride by William Goldman (another1/2* for reading part of it to my kids but never finishing it and having seen the movie)
  29. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt*
  30. A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle
  31. The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter
  32. The BFG by Roald Dahl*
  33. Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce
  34. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
  35. Redwall by Brian Jacques
  36. Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner
  37. The Lives of Christopher Chant by Diana Wynne Jones
  38. The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan*
  39. Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
  40. Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie
  41. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
  42. Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay
  43. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman*
  44. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
  45. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
  46. The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman
  47. Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson
  48. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
  49. Spindle’s End by Robin McKinley
  50. A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin*
  51. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
  52. The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett
  53. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
  54. Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson
  55. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss*
  56. City of Glass by Cassandra Clark
  57. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
  58. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemison
  59. Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
  60. Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor
  61. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  62. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
  63. Angelfall by Susan Ee
  64. A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar
  65. The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
  66. The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro
  67. An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
  68. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemison
  69. Get In Trouble by Kelly Link
  70. The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
  71. Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older
  72. Six Of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
  73. The Wrath & The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
  74. All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
  75. A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir
  76. The Wall of Storms by Ken Liu
  77. Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi
  78. The Black Tides of Heaven by Neon Yang
  79. The Changeling by Victor Lavelle*
  80. Jade City by Fonda Lee
  81. The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemison
  82. Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi
  83. Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie Mclemore
  84. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi*
  85. Circe by Madeline Miller
  86. Empire Of Sand by Tasha Suri
  87. The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang
  88. Song of Blood & Stone by L. Penelope
  89. Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse
  90. Witchmark by C.L. Polk
  91. Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James
  92. Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi
  93. The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang
  94. Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  95. Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
  96. Queen of the Conquered by Kacen Callender
  97. The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter
  98. We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal
  99. Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger
  100. Woven In Moonlight by Isabel Ibanez

While I obviously haven’t read most of these books, I find it strange that so many of the books have been released in the last 20 years. Some, such as Harry Potter, A Storm of Swords, and Neil Gaiman’s work has had a relatively large impact on our current culture. The rest have not had as much time to do so. N.K. Jemison broke ground and won a lot of awards for her Broken Earth trilogy, including being the first Black author to win the Hugo for best novel. Many of these newer novels have won acclaim and awards, but I think it might be too soon to include them on this list. Perhaps not. I’ll have to read them to find out.

How did Time compile this list? Luckily, they wrote a post describing how they decided it. “To develop our list, we began in 2019 by recruiting a panel of leading fantasy authors—Tomi Adeyemi, Cassandra Clare, Diana Gabaldon, Neil Gaiman, Marlon James, N.K. Jemisin, George R.R. Martin and Sabaa Tahir—to join TIME staff in nominating the top books of the genre (panelists did not nominate their own works). The group then rated 250 nominees on a scale, and using their responses, TIME created a ranking. Finally, TIME editors considered each finalist based on key factors, including originality, ambition, artistry, critical and popular reception, and influence on the fantasy genre and literature more broadly.” So perhaps I give more weight to the last criterion than Time did.

It’s still a pretty good list, and I’ve got a lot of reading to do. I’ve started reading The Arabian Nights, and I have a lot of these books in print (packed away still after the move I mentioned earlier this week). So I’ll be reading from the beginning of the list and the end simultaneously to get caught up. There’s a lot of recent fantasy I’m way behind on.

What books did you think deserved to be on the list? What do you think of the books that made the list? Let me know in the comments.

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