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TIME's 100 Best Fantasy Books of All Time

Thought this might be fun to argue about:

Note that they are placed in chronological order.

My thoughts:
The Phantom Tollbooth doesn't deserve to be on here.
Glad to see that Peter S. Beagle is represented.
Harry Potter 3? I get 6 being on the list, but I think 1 should be been here instead of 3.
I expected Bradbury, Ellisson, and Kafka to appear. I think they're getting type cast and deserve a place here.
 

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Thanks for posting that - added a bunch to my to-read list from it.

Can't say I have too many kvetches. The inclusion of multiple works in the same series seems a little inconsistent in spots. Not including Beowulf is about the only thing that I might really complain about.
 




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I am looking forward to the new translation by Maria Dahvana Headley, though Seamus Heaney's is currently my gold standard.

Well.. it isnt' a book. The original is one poem in a codex, along with several other pieces. So, technically...
 

Gradine

Final Form
Thoughts on the list and comments in thread:
  • The distinction between Fantasy & Science Fiction has always been a little wibbly-wobbly. L'Engle's stuff is definitely far more fantastical than sci-fi, honestly.
  • Outlander is traaaaaaash
  • I get that everyone loves Rothfuss but I wonder if history will be way less kind to The Name of the Wind which was tedious as all get out.
  • Philosopher's Stone is iconic Harry Potter but also kind of bland in retrospect. Prisoner of Azkaban is a much better book, especially after book 2 suuuuccckkked. Also JK Rowling can take a short walk off a long pier
  • Kind of shocked Mistborn is Sanderson's only entry on the list. It's the one to pick but I would have expected The Way of Kings also.
  • Speaking of shocked, but pleasantly so, nice to see Six of Crows on this list. Might've expected Shadow and Bone but 6oC is definitely way better. Also, I would've expected to see the Lies of Locke Lamora repping the fantasy heist genre on here instead as well; I thought tons of people of loved that one.
 

Mercurius

Legend
This list makes a mockery of the fantasy tradition, and should be considered a joke to anyone with a decent knowledge of its history.

For one, 45 of the 100 books were published within the last 12 years.

Secondly, if they care at all about influence, they excluded tons of authors and books that have had a significant lasting impact. No RE Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, ER Eddison, Lord Dunsany, Michael Moorcock, Patricia McKillip, Stephen Donaldson, CJ Cherryh, Steven Erikson, and many others.

Thirdly, all of the panelists have at least one entry, some three. Couple that with the fact above. Imagine being OK with having a second or third book over The Riddle-master of Hed or Stormbringer.

Fourthly, the list was clearly compiled with a certain ideological bias and resulting agenda. Nothing wrong with that, but at least be honest about it and call the list what it really is. This was not an attempt at the impossible (and inherently subjective) task of creating a list of the 100 best fantasy novels of all time, but making a list of books and authors that the panelists and whoever oversaw it at TIME want to see gain greater exposure.

I enjoy reading lists by famous authors of their influences, and I'd love to see lists of various demographics. But to mash it all together under the guise of the "best of all time" is absurd.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
Thirdly, all of the panelists have at least one entry, some three. Couple that with the fact above. Imagine being OK with having a second or third book over The Riddle-master of Hed or Stormbringer.

The panel and Time staff nominated a total of 250 books, none there own, and then rated them. The time Editors just used those ratings as one factor along with their opinion to make the final 100.

It would be interesting to see what the top 100 as rated by just the panel were.
 

Mercurius

Legend
The panel and Time staff nominated a total of 250 books, none there own, and then rated them. The time Editors just used those ratings as one factor along with their opinion to make the final 100.

It would be interesting to see what the top 100 as rated by just the panel were.
Yeah, I skimmed the process. Still, I'd feel at least a little sheepish if I was one of them.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
Yeah, I skimmed the process. Still, I'd feel at least a little sheepish if I was one of them.

Sure. But if you were building the panel of authors to pick them, would you want it to have people you thought were great writers of fantasy... which means they might have at least one on the list (assuming anyone alive did)?
 

Gradine

Final Form
The list is definitely a product of its own time (that time being now); obviously a list compiled in the 80's, for instance, would almost certainly not have excluded, say, Howard. So there's a recency bias, as well as all of the accompanying second-taking of works that don't hold up as well as they used to for one reason or another. Lord knows what another couple of decades will tell in the fashioning of a list like this. I imagine you'll see several fall of with the passage of time; Harry Potter and The Name of the Wind would be my first guesses, maybe Night Circus. And who knows what legacy of A Song of Fire and Ice will end up being.

One curious omission for me, upon further reflection, is Terry Brooks. I cut my teeth on Brooks (and David Eddings, whose omission I am not surprised by, as much as I enjoyed his books) as a kid. I guess there's the issue of "which book to choose" (Sword of Shannara being a not particularly good LotR ripoff) and probably the tanking of the recent Shannara tv show weighing it down; for my money Druid of Shannara is one his best early works.

Maybe The Black Cauldron would be on here too if not for the association with the barely related Disney movie.
 

Mercurius

Legend
Sure. But if you were building the panel of authors to pick them, would you want it to have people you thought were great writers of fantasy... which means they might have at least one on the list (assuming anyone alive did)?
I don't have a problem with the authors being on the list. Jemisin and Martin are great and deserving, Gaiman obviously too. Can't speak to the others as I haven't read them (although have been eyeing the James book, and possibly Adeyemi).

A charitable view on the list is that it just wasn't thought out all that well, not unlike asking a bunch of folks, "What are your favorite films?" and then changing that to a list of the greatest films of all time. The films will inherently be skewed to generational demographics, and thus also fall into recency bias, as Gradine pointed out.

Furthermore, there's the problem of expertise and knowledge. I'm guessing that the staff of TIME is probably not only on the younger side, but generally without a huge amount of knowledge or reading of older fantasy works.

If we really wanted a "best fantasy of all time" list with any credence to influence and originality, those involved should probably have a solid grasp of the tradition. I'd love to see such a list compiled by a panel that is more balanced, with experts like John Clute and Farrah Mendelsohn, as well as well-established and knowledgeable writers.
 


Mercurius

Legend
Needs more Guy Gavriel Kay!
Kay is one of my favorite authors, so he'd have a bunch of books on my top 100. But I do like the idea of only one book (or series) per author on such a list. For me it would be Lions of Al-Rassan, even though it had almost no fantastical elements.
 

Zaukrie

New Publisher
Kay is one of my favorite authors, so he'd have a bunch of books on my top 100. But I do like the idea of only one book (or series) per author on such a list. For me it would be Lions of Al-Rassan, even though it had almost no fantastical elements.
Most of his stuff has almost no fantasy.....what genre is it, really?

Also, if it was about influence more, you'd have to have Cook or Moorcock, wouldn't you?
 

Mercurius

Legend
Most of his stuff has almost no fantasy.....what genre is it, really?

Also, if it was about influence more, you'd have to have Cook or Moorcock, wouldn't you?
I mentioned Moorcock but forgot about Cook - definitely. Robin Hobb, too.

Kay is interesting because he isn't easy to categorize. He seems to exist somewhere between fantasy and historical fiction.
 

MarkB

Legend
Harry Potter 3? I get 6 being on the list, but I think 1 should be been here instead of 3.
It's pretty much my favourite of the novels. It's outgrown the worst of the initial wish-fulfilment aspects of the series, and hasn't succumbed to the bloat of later entries.

I was glad to see Good Omens in the list. It's my favourite in the 'urban divinity' genre.
 


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