Over many months we have been compiling a list of the greatest fantasy novels of all time. The list is presented in no particular order. Each entry in the list is selected through the use of subjective criteria.
The novels are selected based on the awards they have received. This selection metric can be problematic as it only rewards the best book from each year and does not recognize that sometimes multiple novels are published in a single year that exhibit all of the characteristics of greatness. The second flaw in this method is that if we go back far enough, there were no awards to hand out.
For these reasons, we also take into account the novel’s commercial success. Commercial success can take many forms. Primarily, we evaluate unit sales.
When we are selecting novels, we also consider the novel’s social impact. Many novels have transcended the bookshelf and have become a part of our culture. These books are typically familiar to a wide range of people, including those not normally drawn to fantasy.
Our latest entry has left a lasting impression on western culture. Before we get into the details, let’s look back at the previous entries.
The Greatest Fantasy Novels of All Time
- The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien (Best Novel Awards: International Fantasy Award 1957, Prometheus Hall of Fame Award 2009)
- Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold (Best Novel Awards: Hugo 2004, Locus 2004, Nebula 2004; Nominations: Mythopoeic 2004)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling (Best Novel Award: Hugo 2001)
- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
- A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin (Best Novel Award: Locus 2001, Geffen 2002, Ignotus 2006; Nominations: Nebula 2001, Hugo 2001)
- The City & The City by China Miéville (Best Novel Award: Locus 2010, Clarke 2010, World Fantasy 2010, BSFA 2009, Kitschies 2009, Hugo 2010; Nominations: Nebula 2010, Campbell 2010)
- Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke (Best Novel Award: Time 2004, Hugo 2005, World Fantasy 2005, Locus First Novel 2005, Mythopoeic 2005, British Book Newcomer 2005; Nominations: Man Booker 2004, Whitbread 2004, Guardian 2004, British Book Literary 2005, Nebula 2005)
- The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe (Best Novel Award: BSFA 1981, World Fantasy 1981, Campbell 1984, Locus 1982, Locus 1983, Nebula 1982, Derleth 1983; Nominations: Balrog 1981, Balrog 1983, Balrog 1984, Campbell 1981, Locus 1981, Locus 1984, Nebula 1981, Nebula 1983, Nebula 1984, BSFA 1982, BSFA 1983, World Fantasy 1982, World Fantasy 1983, Hugo 1982, Hugo 1983, Mythopoeic 1982)
- The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
- The Once and Future King by T. H. White
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
Author: L. Frank Baum
First Year Published: 1899
Few fantasy novels published are more iconic than The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. Baum originally wrote the children’s novel as a stand-alone work, but after thousands of children demanded more, he relented. When he was finished, the series included fourteen books.
Baum had a strong interest in the theater and was able to bring his novel to life on the stage with his musical adaptation retitled The Wizard of Oz. The novel and the play were huge successes. By 1938, over 1 million copies of the novel had been printed. Few novels today reach that lofty standard, let alone in 1938.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has been reprinted countless times in more than fifty languages. Many times it has been published as simply The Wizard of Oz. The 1939 film adaptation of the novel remains one of the iconic films of Hollywood’s Golden Age.
Children and adults around the world know about Dorothy, Toto, the Cowardly Lion, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, the Emerald City, the yellow brick road, the Wicked Witch of the West, and that there is no place like home.
Lines from the movie get quoted all the time, just like lions and tigers and bears, oh my. Songs have been inspired by the novel. Phillip Jose Farmer even published A Barnstormer in Oz as a sequel. Countless other authors and artists have been inspired by this amazing children’s novel.
Baum’s novel helped introduce children all over the world to reading and fantasy. The story empowered a girl from Kansas to achieve greatness while showing compassion and friendship along the way. The novel’s positive message continues to resonate with our global culture today.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum is one of the greatest fantasy novels of all time.
Catch up on the other Greatest Fantasy and Greatest Science Fiction novels of ALL TIME! (images link to the posts)