It’ll be short (ten books), and you might have even read some of them. But let me tell you, if you want advice on how and what to world build (because this is my favorite topic), then these books are your greatest hope.
These ten books vary in length, reading level, and complexity, but they all do a wonderful job in building the world they created.
So. Let’s start the list, shall we?
In no particular order:
1. The Lord of the Rings
Okay, admit it. You knew that book would be here. So I went and stuck it on top to get it over with.
Basically, every novelist trying to build a fantasy world can only aspire to do what Tolkien did with Middle Earth. Read Lord of the Rings to appreciate his world, read The Silmarillion to be blown away by it. (Sometimes I wonder if Tolkien had any hobbies beyond creating languages and naming things in those languages.)
His world is so vast, so diverse, and so complex I don’t have time to do more than say so. But chances are you’ve already read them. If you haven’t, you should. Right now. Come back when you’ve finished.
2. The Hunger Games
Yes, be surprised. My list isn’t all fantasy.
While this trilogy declined in excellence from book to book, the world is a classic example of Dystopian. Everything goes wrong, and only a remnant survives. Despair and struggle among the masses, delicacy and choice among the select few.
If nothing else, Collins does an excellent job describing the gritty reality of her world, and makes the reader wonder: could this happen for real?
After all, people in the theatre I went to see the first one in cheered for Katniss.
As she killed children in the arena.
Just… just like the citizens of the Capitol.
Food for thought.
3. The Wheel of Time
Okay. This is actually a series (it seems all good worlds end up having multiple books in them… but that’s a discussion for later), written by Robert Jordan.
This series, while some of the writing itself is dry, has an excellently diverse planet. Countries with rich and varied inhabitants, religions and governments by the score, and a slightly gritty feel to the end-of-days that approaches.
4. The Invisible Heart
Here’s a good one for you. This story (written by Russel Roberts) is set in modern times, in the real world. It portrays the real world in a very clear way, and does an excellent job of showing our world in a new light, a new perspective.
Oh, and it’s an Economic Romance, so that’s an interesting genre.
5. All Quiet on the Western Front
Erich Remarque wrote this one, a World War One novel set in the grimy trenches. I’m not usually a fan of WWI or WWII novels, because they all tend to sound the same eventually. But this one, this one does something interesting. It tells the story of a German soldier, not an English or American one.
It’s a horrific tale, in some ways, but very vivid and real. The world it portrays is a real one, a stark comparison of warfare and beauty. The story itself is wonderful and the world it presents it in is just as awe-inspiring (if a different kind of awe).
This novel (the first of yet another trilogy) is written by Brandon Sanderson. It’s a fantasy set in a world of ash and dust and terrible mists.
Brandon Sanderson is perhaps my favorite author. He understands just what makes a world tick and how to make the reader want to read more and more about it.
Oh, and his book Alloy of Law is set in the same world as this trilogy, but three hundred years later as technology comes into play.
Talk about combining the 1880s and a fantasy world.
7. Sailing to Sarantium
Guy Gavriel Kay wrote this one (if the name sounds familiar, he helped edit and prepare The Silmarillion after Tolkien’s death). His world is inspired by the Byzantine Empire and is full of depth.
It’s the first in a series (I’ve not read the others) and does a marvelous job of displaying this world he’s obviously spent quite a bit of time one.
(As a disclaimer, there is some adult content in this one.)
8. Alice in Wonderland
Yes, I just said that. You know, the slightly weird and very abstract novel by Lewis Carroll? Yeah, that one.
I know it’s weird and abstract and slightly (very) nonsensical.
That is a well-created world. Abstract, yes. Weird, yes. Well-created?
Beyond your wildest dreams (quite literally).
9. The Magician’s Nephew
This is one of the seven books of C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia (and I say it’s the first, but let’s not discuss which book is the first and so forth… another time, yes?). It is about the creation of Narnia, and how the Witch came to be there. In a way, it is the prequel to all the rest. Without it, there could be no Wardrobe, no Silver Chair, no Dawntreader, and no Last Battle.
It is literally about the creation of a world (and the death of one, I might add).
Worth reading, yes?
10. The Stormlight Archives
I might have saved my favorite for last. But that’s not the point.
This is a series of books (the first two are The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance) that are huge. I’m talking eleven hundred pages each (or ~400,000 words).
These are also written by Brandon Sanderson. And I think they’re the closest anyone will ever get to making a world like Tolkien’s. His countries, cultures, races, and even climate are so different and diverse and wonderful.
Not to mention the plot is magnificent.
All right. That’s the conclusion of my list. (And I might add that only seven are fantasy. One of those hardly counts as fantasy, so you might even say only SIX. Yay for diversity.) What about you? Do you have books you read for the world? I’d love to hear about them, so leave a comment and share!
(No seriously… give me book suggestions I need stuffs to read.)