With the enduring appeal of the Harry Potter movie franchise, HBO’s Game of Thrones, and, more recently, The Witcher and Wheel of Time, fantasy has become one of the most famous movie and television genres out there. These movies and shows are adaptations of bestselling book series.
Whether you are interested in reading the source material for these popular movies and shows or looking to add more books to your Goodreads queue, there are many reasons to read fantasy books.
Fantasy books pull you into fascinating worlds, interesting characters, and extraordinary experiences. They showcase the breadth and depth of creativity and spirit you away to an adventure. Fantasy books can excite you or make you ponder the fate of humanity or the nature of good and evil (and everything between).
If you’re new to fantasy or simply wondering if it’s worth your time at all, you’ve come to the right place to understand what the fuss is all about and why fantasy books are definitely worth your time. Keep reading to obtain a better understanding of this incredible genre.
What Is Fantasy?
No genre of film, music, or books is cut-and-dry. The most exciting works fuse a few genres into one. Likewise, the fantasy genre itself spans many sub-genres and, like any creative medium, is constantly changing and evolving.
But that doesn’t mean that fantasy is hard to pin down. The most consistent element in fantasy is the place of magic in the world of the characters. Every fantasy story involves some element of magic, witchcraft, sorcery, or the supernatural in general. The magic simply exists as part of the world.
Another defining element of fantasy is worldbuilding, though there are a few exceptions to this. Creating a fictional world from scratch is one of the most exciting facets of fantasy books. Many top-rated fantasy authors are famous for their worldbuilding, such as J.RR. Tolkien.
What Are the Most Common Types of Fantasy Fiction?
The fantasy genre continues to evolve, and there are many types of fantasy books out there. While J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogy and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series have popularized and defined the genre, there are many types of fantasy fiction.
Not all fantasy novels resemble aspects of life in medieval Europe with magic, dragons, and wizards. For example, urban fantasy has been an increasingly popular genre that frequently tops bestseller lists. Urban fantasy novels employ supernatural elements in a modern setting.
The list of sub-genres is ever-growing. But you cannot understand fantasy fiction without knowing a little bit about the most popular and defining genres:
Think Lord of the Rings and the Wheel of Time series. These stories, like many in this sub-genre, feature intricate settings, an over-arching plot, and epic battles. There is usually one character, typically an underdog, who is the center point of the story. Frodo Baggins in Lord of the Rings and Rand al’Thor in the Wheel of Time are quintessential underdog characters who play a key role in the plot. Some of the most popular high fantasy novels have been adapted onto the screen in the last few decades.
Dark fantasy novels play up the good vs. evil theme. But instead of the good guy or girl always winning out at the end, it is a common trope in this genre for evil to overpower the good. In fact, a common element in this genre is the lack of heroes. If anything, the main characters are complicated and imperfect in an imperfect and gloomy world.
Sword and Sorcery
The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, A Discourse in Steel, and The Hammer and the Blade have a few things in common. These novels are an interesting mix of swashbuckling, witchcraft, and brawny heroes. This is one of the most fast-paced and exciting of the fantasy subgenres.
This is far from a complete list of fantasy subgenres. Even within this small sample, there is a lot of variety, making fantasy books the most compelling and engaging works of fiction.
Why You Should Read Fantasy Fiction
There are many benefits to reading in general, but there are various benefits to reading fiction. Whether you want an impressive vocabulary or view the world from different perspectives, picking up a book is your ticket.
There are many reasons why you should read fantasy novels. Here are just a few:
Become a More Empathetic Person
Reading fantasy can make you a more empathetic person. According to research cited by The Scientific American, fiction helps readers’ ability to understand what others are experiencing and feeling. This applies to fiction in general, but fantasy is unique in its sheer range of stories and diversity of characters.
You encounter characters that are otherworldly and ordinary. They are unlike anyone we would meet in real life because they are the product of someone’s imagination. Whether they are wizards endowed with magical abilities, superior strength, or entirely non-human, we can still identify with them.
Despite living in worlds of magic, ordinary and extraordinary characters experience loss, betrayal, love, and hope. Their experiences can tug at our heartstrings and fill us with joy.
Fantasy worlds are filled with different societies and cultures, which can be partially inspired by real-life cultures. Exploring these fictional worlds can help you become more tolerant. One study found that readers of the Harry Potter series are more likely to have tolerant attitudes towards stigmatized groups in society.
Reading fantasy can make you a more empathetic person because you identify or sympathize with characters that are so unlike us in so many ways. You are also exploring different worlds, cultures, and societies, which can deepen your appreciation for diversity.
Engage Your Thinking Skills
Yes, that’s right. Reading fantasy stimulates your thinking skills. Much of fantasy fiction qualifies as “leisure reading” for most. However, it can still boost your brainpower.
When reading any work of fiction, you adopt someone else’s perspective. In some cases, it is from the perspective of the all-knowing and all-seeing, third-person narrator who gets into the minds of multiple characters. In other fantasy novels, such as Dragon Bones or Assassin’s Apprentice, everything is written from one character’s perspective.
Reading fantasy means that you are adopting different perspectives, which means that you are learning to embrace novel ways of thinking (see what we did there?!). You are also tracking details about different characters, places, and events (a good exercise for your memory). You are also engaging with whatever is happening in the story.
Plus, reading in general can improve your vocabulary. This is true for a lot of reading material. But why not make vocabulary-building more fun by reading about sorcerers, dragons, and White Walkers?
Spark Your Creativity
Fantasy writers take fiction to new heights, going as far as creating new languages that you can learn, such as Elvish and High Valyrian. While there are elements that we typically identify with fantasy, the genre is without creative limits.
Reading fantasy novels can spark your creativity. They are portals to a different world where the author has total creative control. You will be inspired by different story elements, whether it is the world, a character, or a problem being tackled.
You may write your own fantasy fiction or create art inspired by your favorite books. You may feel inspired to tackle problems in new and creative ways. There are many parallels between worldbuilding in a fantasy novel and many design fields. Fantasy writers, like designers, can be bold, innovative, and adaptable.
Fantasy novels inspire creativity. They are the product of someone else’s imagination and can draw you into new worlds and new ways of thinking. You will be inspired to imagine new ways of living and social systems and push you out of your comfort zone.
Escape To An Imaginary World
Sometimes you just want to get away from the stresses of daily life. Fantasy offers an escape from reality by pulling you into compelling plots and fascinating worlds. Leave behind the deadlines, the bills, and chores. Get drawn into the world of Frodo Baggins as he sets foot outside of the Shire for the first time.
Escapism might be one of the most common reasons to read fantasy. One of its main appeals is that the setting and the characters are from another world. So, reading fantasy is like a short vacation to a faraway place, where your imagination can roam wild.
There are many fun and lighthearted fantasy novels out there that will make your escape memorable and delightful. Some of the top books in this sub-category include:
Gain Insight Into Reality
While the archetypal fantasy novel is filled with magic, sorcerers, elves, and many other things that are, literally, out of this world, they do have real-life applications. This is not just because some novels are rooted in certain aspects of reality or actual events.
Just like many genres of fiction, fantasy novels can explore real-world issues. Others can convey powerful messages about social justice or human nature. George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice has captivated the minds of millions of readers with its complex characters, intricate plot, and explorations of human nature and dark side of political power.
Fantasy novels can get us to ponder the meaning of life and human nature, as much as they offer a flight from reality. Some common themes in fantasy novels include:
- Good vs. evil
- The individual vs. society
- Coming of age
- Tradition and change
These themes resonate with many people and make characters relatable to a contemporary audience.
Be A Part of A Fandom – Or Two
Some fantasy series boast the most enthusiastic and devoted fanbase or fandoms. Fandoms are a great way to connect and find common ground with different people from all over the world. Large (online and offline) communities have been built around the most series of this genre. Fantasy series with the most devout fandoms include:
Bonding over your favorite fantasy author, series, or character gives you something to talk about. Surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals who share your interests can enrich your social life. Conventions, meet-up groups, and book clubs serve as fun outlets for these readers.
Read For the Sake of Reading
Reading has many benefits, and it is an excellent habit to develop and maintain. Non-fiction and fiction alike can help you grow your knowledge and expose yourself to new ideas. If you feel that your reading list is a bit stale, fantasy books can add a bit of color and excitement to your routine.
Fantasy books are filled with adventure, interesting characters, and fascinating worlds. A reading list of fantasy novels will keep your reading sessions become more interesting.
It is easy to plop yourself in front of a screen and binge-watching shows. Fantasy novels are a great read if you want to detox from all things digital for a while and engross yourself in a good book. There are so many series to choose from.
Fantasy books are no longer confined to a small subculture. Fantasy books, films, and shows have taken over pop culture in the last 20 years or so. You find yourself asking whether fantasy books are worth reading. The answer is yes; there are many reasons to read fantasy novels. They can help you become a better person, more creative, and even more intelligent.