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Question of the Week: What is your favorite fantasy and/or science fiction book series?

I don’t read a lot of book series, because I just don’t want to commit to so many books when I have so many other things to read. I didn’t when I was a kid too much, either, for the same reason. But I know that a lot of authors create book series for any number of reasons – I guess one reason is they have such a big story to tell that one book can’t contain it, and another, more cynical reason is that they hit a cash cow with the first book and want to keep milking it. That’s fine. But I am curious about such things, because I know they’re such a big deal. So my Question of the Week is: What is your favorite book series in the fantasy or science fiction genre? It’s an easy question, right?

I have read some, and while I was thinking about this, I thought I was going to answer both with books by the same, somewhat discredited writer. Then I thought my science fiction answer is different, because it’s The Paratwa Trilogy by Christopher Hinz. I wrote about this trilogy here, in case you’re interested, and it really is my favorite science fiction book series. I like Clarke’s “2001” saga, but it gets a bit too weird in the final books. My first thought was that I would pick Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Saga, because those books are so danged good, but I haven’t actually read them all. Speaker for the Dead and Xenocide – the first two sequels to Ender’s Game – are superb (as is the original, of course), but I didn’t read the next two. I read the first “Shadow” book, Ender’s Shadow, and liked it, but that also started to sprawl and I fell behind. This is what I’m talking about with regard to book series – I can’t keep up! So while I dig the “Ender’s” books I have read, I haven’t read the entire thing. Hinz’s tight trilogy is better, anyway.

In fantasy, I’ve read even fewer series than I have of science fiction. My favorite, by far, is Card’s Alvin Maker series, which takes place in a pioneer America where magic is real. He wrote six books in the series, which remains unfinished (Card is 70, so if he plans to finish it, he better get going!), but the books are wonderful. Alvin is the seventh son of a seventh son, so he’s a powerful “maker,” a person who can create things (he’s kind-of sort-of like Jesus, but I guess he’s modeled a bit on Joseph Smith), and he has all kinds of adventures in the early 19th century. What bothers me most about Card’s regressive views on homosexuality is how humanistic his fiction is, and it’s one of those weird things that you just can’t reconcile. His writing is filled with sympathetic characters (granted, not many of them are gay) who struggle with how to live good lives and, the good ones at least, understand that people have to take different paths on their road of life. It’s impressive, and it makes his idiotic public statements more depressing, because it’s clear he knows how to craft characters who would probably disagree with his politics, if they were real people.

I don’t really count The Lord of the Rings as a series, because it’s meant to be a complete book, not three separate books. That would be my favorite, but I don’t count it. I never read any Pern books or Thomas Covenant books, because I suck, I guess. I got about 100 pages into Dune before giving up. Dang, that was boring. (I did like The Jesus Incident and The Lazarus Effect, which are part of a series, but I didn’t read the other two.) So I’m definitely not an expert on fantasy or sci-fi series. Which is partly why I’m asking this question – I’m always curious about things to read! So let me know what your favorites are!

75 Comments

    1. The breaking point for me was his column about how Obama was going to run Michelle for president in 2016 (with himself pulling the strings) and recruiting black street gangs to silence his opponents. It was so blatantly racist it really turned me off to him. And unlike his gay marriage outrage, which was at least based on something that happened, he was pulling this one out of his butt.

          1. Greg Burgas

            Yeah, I know. But on the one hand, I would think they would be less garbage because they actually have to meet more people and that would lead them to realize they can’t just be garbage all the time …

            Or, on the other hand, they’re talented so people don’t hold them accountable for their actions, and they can get away with being more garbage!

  1. tomfitz1

    BURGAS: Does the WHEEL OF TIME series count as fantasy? It’s not Sci-Fi.

    I’m reading the 4th book in the series, and holy god! 900 pages!!! The writer’s practically George R.R. Martin!

    I might have to quit if this keeps up.

    I’m trying to read the FOUNDATION series (not the trilogy) by Isaac Asimov.

    These series is more trouble than it’s worth!

    1. Der

      I do like the Foundation series, but haven’t read anything not written by Asimov. In fact, it’s probably my favorite Scifi series

      I read probably the first four(or five) wheel of time books, but I HATE with passion when writers think that writting 700-900 pages of a book makes for a good read. No, it makes for a bloated read. That series had a glacial pace that made me quit it. It was ok-to-good at the beggining but then it started putting more and more(and more!) characters and plots and nothing ever moved forward

    2. There’s a sequence in The Uniques web comic set in 1996, where one of the characters has just discovered Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice — “I can’t wait for 2008 when the whole series is finished!
      I thought the first Wheel of Time was 600 great pages — I don’t mind big books — but the book ran to 800. Haven’t been back. I know the failure to advance the plot has been a common complaint from fans.

    3. Jazzbo

      The first 4 Wheel of Time books are great. The next two are just hundreds and hundreds of pages of treading water. They go nowhere. I quit reading the series after that. Not sure how the last couple books that were written after his death are. The first 4 books would be up there as one of my favorite series ever.

  2. Mine would probably be older ones, such as Elric, Fafhrd and the Mouser or Conan. Edmond Hamilton’s Captain Future (or Doc Savage which is certainly SF enough). More recently Diana Wynn Jones’ Chrestomanci books, which started with “Charmed Life.” And while I’m not much of a Seanan McGuire fan, her trilogy starting with Sparrow Hill Road is great (the Phantom Hitchhiker is the protagonist).
    I love the concept for Alvin Maker and certainly the first three books are great. After that, it didn’t seem to hold up.
    For me the real measure of milking a series is a)when the writer revisits a series they finished long ago and works in a new finish. This rarely works well as they’ve usually changed so much as a writer they can’t recapture what made it work the first time.
    b)prequels.

  3. Der

    If we don’t count LoTR as a trilogy, then I have to chose other series 😀

    SciFi series, I haven’t read that many, and of the ones I’ve read I remember mostly the Foundation Trilogy(plus several other books from that series) so that will be my choice.

    Also, since you asked for my favorite not for a “well written series” I’m going to say that the Magic the Gathering series of books are my favorite. There are lots and lots of books and most of them vary in quality(from pretty good to dumpster fire) but I still love them very much, specially the ones related to the Dominaria saga.

  4. Darthratzinger

    I guess my favorite Sci-Fi book series (outside of the books set within a very specific movie franchise) is also Asimovs Foundation series. It´s been 20 years since I´ve read it last but I remember that it really impressed me that he managed to write an intriguing series without space battles.
    When it comes to fantasy I really liked the Book Of The New Sun series by Gene Wolfe. For teenage me it was a bit hard to follow but having a professional Torturer as the main character made it stand out.
    If You included Horror series it would be the Necroscope series by Brian Lumley, which I first noticed through the comic book adaption.

  5. Edo Bosnar

    For fantasy, the “well, duh” answer is Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea cycle. Another contender would be Le Guin’s more recent Annals of the Western Shore trilogy, which I wrote about here a few years ago.
    Another outstanding fantasy series is Nnedi Okorafor’s YA Akata cycle (Akata Witch and Akata Warrior) which, in about a month or so, will be a trilogy when Akata Woman is released.

    I’m having a harder time thinking of SF series – I have and still do read a lot of SF, but mainly I don’t read series (I don’t really think of Le Guin’s many excellent Hainish novels and short stories as a coherent series). Unless, that is, you count sword & planet/planetary romance type books (again, the topic of another post here), which I don’t necessarily, because they’re more like science fantasy or science-fictiony action rather than genuine SF.
    I guess I’ll say it’s a toss-up between Octavia Butler’s Parables duology (yep, topic of another post of mine) and John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War series.

    Interesting that you mention McCaffrey’s Dragonriders series in the context of fantasy. Initially it very much seems like a fantasy story, until the very end of The White Dragon (the last book in the initial, ‘main’ trilogy and the fifth Pern book overall) reveals a very SF premise underlying it all. The ninth book, Dragonsdawn, is basically the origin story that works out all of the SF ideas in great detail. I discovered those books in my early teens and absolutely loved them for the longest time, but I stopped reading them after The Dolphins of Pern (no. 13 in the series). I just sort of lost interest, and it seemed like all of the best stories had been told well before that.

  6. conrad1970

    Far to difficult to name just one series but a couple of my favourites are Steven Erikson’s Malazan novels and Tad Williams Memory, Sorrow and Thorn trilogy.
    Honestly though I could easily give a list as long as my arm and would just scratch the surface.

  7. Le Messor

    Some of my favourite fantasy series include:
    Spellsinger by Alan Dean Foster
    Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
    Narnia by C.S. Lewis

    Sci-fi series? I can’t think of serieses I’ve read, outside of movie tie-ins (none of which I’d call a favourite), mostly just one-offs.
    Hospital Station by James White
    the Micronauts series by Gordon Williams
    – but I haven’t read any of either of those series since I was a kid.

    I’m not sure where to put it:
    Pern: like others here, I read a few of them and loved them, but after a while they got samey and I went off them. I think I’ve read more of them than most of you, though.
    And a shout-out to The Dark Tower by Stephen King (though maybe not a favourite)

    1. Hospital Station is part of the Sector General series. There’s a whole bunch of novels and short-story collections in it. And one of my favorite ending lines (“Now that he’s saved the galaxy from the horrors of interplanetary war, I bet he’s going to get the girl, too.”).

    2. Greg Burgas

      I like the Narnia books, especially the later ones. He got more into the weirdness and the Christianity (veiled, but still) in the later ones, as he realized he didn’t necessarily need to write just a “kids’ story.”

      1. JHL

        I just read it last year. I had picked up a single issue randomly when it originally came out and it had stuck in my head all these decades so I finally ran down a copy of the series. It’s volume 2 that is worth the look. The first volume is a mini series (not even sure if they were sold as comics or were mini comic pack-ins that came with Atari games) that is exactly as good as you expect a product tie-in comic from the era to be. Volume 2 was a full fledged ongoing sci-if comic that little to do with Atari beyond the name. The story is good but the art is outstanding,

  8. Conway had some great characters and did fun things with them. Unfortunately when he left and Mike Baron took over, it went downhill instantly.
    One of my favorite moments is when Martin Champion is confronting a platoon of very hostile aliens with guns trained at him and the narration says something to the effect of “He thinks of himself as a man of no illusions. He has many. One is, he’s no braver than anyone else.” And Champion stares up at the largest monster with the biggest gun and quips “Hope the safety’s on, your boss wants me alive.”

      1. conrad1970

        Really feel I need to mention Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. I’ve never really missed an author so much in my life.
        My favourites among them was the Guards books, Vimes is one of fantasy’s greatest characters.

        1. Le Messor

          Really feel I need to mention Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series
          Huh. I actually thought I had on my list. Apparently not. I went into my book room and looked right at them and thought, ‘I’ve got to put those on there!’.

        2. JHL

          Yeah Discworld would be my answer. The series didn’t really take off until Pratchett realized Ricewind didn’t need to be the main character, but still, that was sorted fairly really on.

          The Guards/Vimes stuff is great but my second favorite focus after Moist Von Lipwig. Raising Steam somewhat lost steam but Going Postal and Making Money are a delight. Warning, the live action version of Going Postal is awful. The casting is generally fantastic but the script is subpar.

  9. Peter

    I read a lot of book series when I was a kid but have barely done so as an adult. Part of that is just the time I had to read – I still read a good amount, but no more summer vacation for me (plus I have to things like work, cook, clean, interact with friends and family, etc. that I didn’t have to do or care to do so much as when I was 10). I think I also read a lot fewer series nowadays because my tastes have become a little more discriminating since childhood, and I like complete stories more and cash-cow stuff less (though I still read plenty of comics that don’t have beginnings or endings – that bothers me less with comics for some reason, though). I also read a lot more fantasy as a kid whereas I hardly read any today – I tend to like a little postmodernism in whatever novels I read now, and it seems like you get that more with sci-fi than fantasy, but who knows.

    All this is to say: although I have some favorite series, I’ve probably barely scratched the surface of what’s out there, and who knows if my picks really hold up 100%. For sci-fi, I think the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series is likely still my favorite and I believe it would hold up quite well since the last time I read it. It is very funny but I also think some of the books had legitimately gripping plots, and I think Adams had something real to say about the world.

    Other contenders include Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun (still have the latter two books to read – this probably counts as fantasy, too), the Illuminatus! trilogy, and Moorcock’s Jerry Cornelius stuff. I’m barely into Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle, but I could see it ending up fairly high on my list in the future.

    On the fantasy side – thr Chronicles of Narnia is probably the best such series I’ve read in its entirety. The religious overtones are not overdone and I think they give the series some more depth than a lot of other book series ostensibly written for children (such as the Oz books – those were fun when I was 7 or 8 but I don’t know if Baum really had many allegorical motives despite readers’ claims). I also really enjoyed the Dark Tower books that I read – but I kind of lost the motivation to pick up any more after Wizards and Glass. I also can’t deny that I enjoyed reading the Harry Potter books a lot as I grew up (I think I was a bit of an early adopter – I went as Harry for Halloween when I was in first grade before any movies had come out and maybe before the third book came out in the US, and nobody knew who I was supposed to be at the time) but I think I grew up just a bit faster than the series did.

    1. I still enjoy the Baum books as an adult. But no, the allegory stuff is bullshit. The story that the first book was a metaphor for the silver issues of the 1890s, for example, was something a teacher said just to get his students interested in what’s now an extremely arcane controversy. He was quite flabbergasted to have people seize on this as the hidden truth of the book.

          1. The Scarecrow of Oz is noteworthy for having Baum’s only major romantic plotline (he thought kids didn’t care about that stuff) and it’s very parodic — “I shall die if I cannot have Pon’s love.” “Oh, he’s nothing special, you can find someone else just as good.”
            It was adapted from a film adapting the Wizard of Oz (not very successful — Oz Film Company died fast) and brought over Trot and Cap’n Bill from a separate Baum series that hadn’t caught on (which is a shame, Sky Island is one of his best works).

  10. Call Me Carlos the Dwarf

    In fairness…a whole lot of OSC’s characters are clearly gay, and even the ostensibly straight ones are only emotionally intimate with other men.

    Not a big “Every homophobe is secretly gay” guy, but OSC’s decline makes a lot more sense in the context of his son’s death 20 years ago, paired with his own obviously repressed homosexuality.

  11. Call Me Carlos the Dwarf

    …anyway, my favorite fantasy series is definitely Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles. Perfectly crafted Bildungsroman, set in a gorgeous cracked mirror version of Welsh mythology, with spare, lyrical prose, vivid characters (Taran and Eilonwy! Flewdurr Flam!) and the inimitable exchange:

    “‘Do you think a lone warrior and one Assistant Pig-Keeper dare attack the Horned King and his war band?’

    “Taran drew himself up. ‘I would not fear him.’

    “‘No?’ said Gwydion. ‘Then you are a fool.'”

  12. Call Me Carlos the Dwarf

    Ooooh, and before I forget:

    Derek Landy’s first 9 Skulduggery Pleasant books are just about perfect – a brilliant fusion of the best parts of Buffy, Dresden, Harry Potter, and Chris Claremont’s X-Men, with spare, brutal prose that recalls Warren Ellis.

    The last 5 books have been fine, albeit completely unnecessary…but the first series is perfect.

  13. jccalhoun

    I guess my favorite series is the Barsoom books by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I love the first few of those. I haven’t read the last one that was put out after his death.

    for Contemporary series, I don’t know. I tend to get tired of them before the author does. For example, I read the Expanse novels and enjoyed them but will I ever reread them? Probably not. The authors ended up being more interested in the politics of the setting than I was. I don’t hate the books but I just hoped they would go in a different direction than they went.

    I really liked Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie but the sequels kind of left aside the stuff with genderless language that I liked (If you haven’t read it, the main character’s culture doesn’t used gendered pronouns and so everyone is “she” and when talking in another language she has trouble remembering which pronoun to use.) and so I liked them less and less.

    Same thing with Peter Watts. I loved Blindsight (in some ways similar to the movie Alien but no chestbursting) and I’ve read it 3 or 4 times but the sequel left me cold. I found his Starfish (humans have been genetically engineered to run a mine on the ocean floor) and to be interesting but disliked the sequels.

    I detest most fantasy so I really haven’t read much besides Lord of the Rings when I was in junior high so I guess Song of Ice and Fire would have to be my default favorite fantasy series since that’s the only one I’ve read more than one book of.

  14. I have become much more apathetic about finishing series or starting them from the beginning, even when I like them.
    ” The authors ended up being more interested in the politics of the setting than I was.” I run into this problem a lot. The Anita Blake books eventually bogged down in the details of vampire politics and power structure (plus werewolf pack structure) to the point I no longer cared. But obviously a lot of readers are fascinated by this and the details of custom-designed magic systems. Which I get — I’m quite happy to get into the weeds of super-powers in comics — but I can’t share the feeling.

  15. Jazzbo

    I feel like my favorites would change depending on which day you ask me. But for fantasy the Prydain chronicles by Lloyd Alexander are always in my top 3. Those books got me into fantasy in the first place. The first 3 Shannara books by Terry Brooks is also up there, as well as the first 4 books in the Wheel of Time series.

    Sci fi I’d have to go with Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy or the Tripod Trilogy by John Christopher. We got assigned that trilogy in English class back in junior high. Probably the best books I was ever required to read.

    1. jccalhoun

      Oh yeah, the Tripods trilogy. I ran into it when Boy’s Life serialized it in one page a month comic strip for years. Even though it is meant for kids, I have still read the series 3-4 times. The prequel I read once and haven’t felt the need to read again.

      1. Jazzbo

        Same here. The prequel feels like it was written to address criticisms of the plot of the original trilogy, which is totally unnecessary in my opinion. Might as well write a book to try to counter argue with internet trolls.

  16. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy I think wins by default here. Or Dirk Gently, if two books and half a rough draft is a series. Or Bruce Coville’s series beginning with Aliens Ate My Homework, which I devoured as a kid and remember nothing about as an adult.

    I am not a fantasy guy, but I enjoyed a few Oz books as a kid. And I tore through every Harry Potter at the time, but these days… nah.

  17. Greg Burgas

    A lot of people are mentioning the Hitchhikers’ books, so I won’t respond to any one specifically, but I will say that that series is very close to my favorite, but man, Mostly Harmless (the fifth book) is brutal and dark and almost ruins the entire series. If you haven’t read it and want to pretend it’s only four books, that’s probably for the best!

        1. John King

          I will add that the first 2 Hitchikers books are (more or less) novelisations of a radio series. the third book had been intended for TV and/or radio but ended up as a book first, the fourth and fifth books were written to be books (though they were later turned into a radio series as was the sixth [written by Eoin Colfer])

  18. John King

    I have read a lot of science fiction and fantasy (though the amount I have not read is even larger)
    I find it hard to single out a favourite so I’ll instead list some of my favourite authors (in a completely arbitrary sequence) and mention a series they wrote

    Harry Harrison – The Stainless Steel Rat – a criminal of the future drafted into dealing with more dangerous criminals. series seemed to go downhill in later books.

    Thomas Burnett Swann – a fantasy author who drew from mythology rather than from other fantasy authors. His longest series was the minotaur trilogy which I read in reverse sequence (which coincidently was the same sequence he wrote them in)

    James Schmitz – many of his works are classified as being in the “Hub Universe series”. If you want a subseries then the Telzey Amberdon stories about a woman with psychic powers.

    Roger Zelazny – the Amber series – 2 series of 5 books about a dimension-travelling family with internal rivalry and feuds

    Keith Laumer – Retief – a series about a young diplomat trying to help the cause of justice despite the bureaucracy and scheming (and incompetence) of his superiors

    Patricia McKillip – great writer – I first noticed her from the Quest of the Riddlemaster trilogy (AKA the Riddle of the Stars)

    Larry Niven – Many of his books are part of the Tales of Known Space series – If you want a sub-series maybe Gil Hamilton

    David Gemmell – the Drenai series

    James White – tends to focus his SF work on doctors and first contact
    mainly known for the Sector General series (I believe Frasersherman was referring to the end of the book Star Surgeon)

    Michael Moorcock – Eternal champion franchise – or the Elric Subseries

  19. JHL

    More things are popping into my head.

    I have to admit I have a weakness for military oriented science fiction. (although I often disagree with the politics of the authors) The RCN series by David Drake and the Honorverse books by David Weber stand out. They both have an age of sail translated to space vibe and owe a lot to stuff like the Horatio Hornblower books.

    The Gentleman Bastards series by Scott Lynch have been some of my favorite modern fantasy novels, though I have no faith in the series ever continuing at this point.

    1. Jazzbo

      I haven’t read any of his Sci Fi books, but Weston Ochse is an author I know that has several military Sci fi books out that are pretty well regarded. He’s military intelligence himself, so he’s got the background. I like his older horror stories that he wrote, and he’s a good guy, so might be worth checking them out.

  20. I can’t think of any fantasy series other than DT and Narnia that I know and like enough (I’ve heard of but not read Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake, if I’m remembering the author name and series name correctly).

    There are probably other sci fi ones but the one that comes to mind is Kage Baker’s Company series of novels and stories. It’s got action and humor and history— it’s great fun. In the 24th century, I believe, the company Dr. Zeus (haha) finds that time travel and immortality are possible but with restrictions. One can only go back and can’t change written history and only certain genetic profiles can become immortal. They create immortal agents throughout history to collect mementos for the future rich. Eventually certain agents wise up to how they’re being used and decide to plan for the 24th century, as there is no information after a certain point in time. It’s great stuff and the main story was finished off, but Baker’s untimely death ended other fun stories that fit into the timeline. Now I’m going to want to reread all this stuff too!

    1. Le Messor

      I’ve heard of but not read Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake, if I’m remembering the author name and series name correctly

      They look right to me.
      I’ve not read them either, but there was a miniseries adaptation; I watched the first episode, and it was one of those – to me, extremely disappointing – ‘fantasy’ shows that has no actual fantasy, but the place names are all different. So it’s fantasy.
      I don’t know if that’s reflective of the books.

      1. The names are correct. Titus Groan is the first book, followed by Gormenghast, then Titus Alone. More would have followed if Peake hadn’t died (I believe some new books have come out based on his notes).
        The miniseries is quite faithful. While there’s no magic — usually an issue for me too — the bizarre world of castle Gormenghast feels fantasy to me. Titus Groan and the short story “Boy in Darkness” do establish the world has supernatural/monstrous elements (Boy in Darkness is weird, even by Peake standards).

  21. kyekye

    My favorite by far is the Chronicles of Amber series by Zelazny. Not sure if that qualifies as Fantasy or Sci-Fi because it straddles both. It’s just so creative, dramatic, and fun.

    I’ll also add that Ender’s Game is one of my favorite books ever. I’m in my mid-thirties and what I really appreciate about the book is how every time I read it I take something different away. It’s such a different read as a 12-year old versus a 24-year old versus a 32-year old with kids. I also really enjoyed Speaker For The Dead, but I haven’t read it as much. And I haven’t read Xenocide yet either.

  22. Lee

    I’m a little late to this question, but here are some of my favorites:

    Science Fiction:

    * People have mentioned Asimov’s Foundation series — for good reason; it’s excellent — but I think I prefer his R. Daneel Olivaw robot mystery novels (The Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun, and The Robots of Dawn). Eventually Asimov tied the series into the Foundation books, but these three stand alone perfectly well.

    * I second the earlier recommendation of the Tripod trilogy by John Christopher. I came across them as a young teen, and I’ve read them over and over every few years. Speaking of which, I’m probably due for a re-read.

    * If we’re talking about science fiction titans like Asimov, how about Arthur C. Clarke? While you could easily choose 2001 and the sequels (2010, 2063, 3001), I think I prefer the Rama series. Clarke only wrote the first book, Rendezvous with Rama, alone, and it won the Hugo and Nebula Awards for best novel. The others in the series were primarily written by Gentry Lee, and while they didn’t win any awards, I found them quite enjoyable.

    * Hyperion Cantos series by Dan Simmons. The first book, Hyperion, is a science fiction version of the Canterbury Tales. It straddles the line between science fiction and horror.

    * The Ender series, as mentioned by many people. I’ve read them all — even the final book in the series which came out in November of 2021. The series definitely gets weaker as it goes on, but Ender’s Game, Speaker For the Dead, and Ender’s Shadow are just about as good as any books I’ve ever read.

    Fantasy:

    * While many people have mentioned Narnia, I’m surprised that I haven’t seen even one mention of His Dark Materials series by Phillip Pullman (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass).

    * Similar to the Tripods Trilogy above, I encountered The Dark is Rising sequence, a five book series by Susan Cooper, when I was a young teenager. The first book, Over Sea, Under Stone, I found totally engaging, and it pulled me into the entire thing. This is another one I re-read frequently.

    * The Incarnations of Immortality series by Piers Anthony. The Xanth series is more famous (and it is good, too, at least the first half dozen books I read — who could read all 45?), but I like this seven book series better. Each novel focuses on a different “Incarnation” — death, time, fate, war, nature, evil, and good. (There is an eighth book, independently published a couple of decades after the others, that I haven’t read.)

    * Hitchhiker’s Guide has been mentioned, and it is a no-brainer. It’s great! But for a humorous fantasy series, I loved the MythAdventure series. Each one is short and is filled with fun. I think I read the first nine.

    * Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series, or the related Nursery Crimes duo. Thursday Next is a literary detective, someone who works in and around great literary works (in the first book, The Eyre Affair, Thursday Next jumps into Jane Eyre and actually changes the outcome of the book to how we know it today). The Nursery Crimes books, The Big Over Easy and The Fourth Bear, successfully mix noir and nursery stories to great comic effect.

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