Popular 1930s and 40s Fantasy Novels

The 30s and 40s were a crucial period for the fantasy genre. Not only did they see the publication of The Hobbit and the meeting of the Inklings group of fantasy writers, but also a rise in the number of pulp magazines publishing fantasy stories. While the genre had not yet become mainstream, the stories of these decades significantly contributed to its development and definition.

Below I’ve listed what I believe to be the 12 most significant fantasy works published between 1930 and the end of 1949, with their original covers where possible. Because some serialised stories didn’t appear in novel form till later decades, I’ve instead included the covers of magazine issues they featured in (if possible):  Continue reading

Popular 1900s, 10s and 20s Fantasy Novels

At beginning of the 20th Century, books with fantasy elements – magic,  invented worlds, supernatural beings – weren’t as mainstream as they would later become (and were often described as pulp fiction or children’s stories, since “fantasy” still wasn’t yet a genre term). However, several fantasy books from this era still enjoyed great success or paved the yellow brick road for future authors.

Below I’ve listed what I believe to be the 8 most popular or significant fantasy novels published between 1900 and 1930. I’ve used the year each novel was first published (if stories appeared earlier in another form those dates are included in brackets), and I’ve tried to use the original cover or jacket from that year:  Continue reading

Popular Pre-1900 Fantasy Novels

The word “fantasy” wasn’t used to describe a literary genre until the mid 20th Century, when fantasy books were distinguished from other kinds (particularly from children’s literature) and gained popularity. However, many novels of the 18th and 19th Centuries had all the hallmarks of what we’d now call fantasy, or influenced later fantasy writers.

Below I’ve listed what I believe to be the 12 most significant of these works published before 1900. I’ve tried to use their original covers, or failing that, their title pages:  Continue reading

The Most Influential Fantasy Books of Each Decade

I don’t usually pay much attention to the publication dates of fantasy books. My mind tends to file them into vague categories like “old classic” or “fairly recent”.  I do sometimes check when books came out or read articles about fantasy history, but it’s hard to remember it all clearly, and I tend to think books are much older or newer than they actually are. Occasionally I’ll see a decade or era referred to (e.g. 80s paperback, 90s fantasy) but not often, and the timelines I find online tend to be exhaustively long title lists or random “must read” compilations.

All of this is to say: getting a sense of which fantasy books were important at certain times or influenced later books, and how fantasy has changed over the last 50 or 100 years, is not always easy.

This made me think it would be interesting to see a snapshot of the most popular or influential fantasy books from each decade with their original covers, to create a kind of visual timeline that shows the changing genre and cover styles over the last Century. Continue reading

What Are the Best-Selling Fantasy Books and Series of All Time?

The other day I came across this Wikipedia article listing best-selling books, and as I scrolled through the list (which is based on estimated number of copies sold), it struck me that many of the titles listed – including the top 4 – are fantasy novels. And I’m not just talking about Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings… these two series undoubtedly dominate the top of the lists, but there are other fantasy books in the mix too.

So this got me to thinking, what are the most popular fantasy books and series of all time, in terms of book sales?  I thought I’d use the list to answer this question, compiling those fantasies that are estimated to have sold 50 million copies or more: Continue reading

Are The Most Popular Fantasy Books The Best Fantasy Books?

Image: Popular Fantasy Novels

A month or so ago while trawling through Facebook I came across a Buzzfeed article titled The 51 Best Fantasy Series Ever Written. The image, for maximum click-enticing effect, was additionally headlined “The 51 Fantasy Series You Need to Read Before You Die”.

And yes, like the lemming I am, I clicked on it. Continue reading