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  Curled Up With a Good Book
The line between what can be called "fantasy" and what should not is a blurry one at best. Some folks say that fantasy must possess a strong element of magic or the supernatural, which generally leaves one with either sword and sorcery or urban fantasy a la Charles de Lint. Some "fantasy" designees actually hint at technological advancements or alternatives which many consider the hallmark of "science fiction." On the other hand, a lot of "sci-fi" follows mythological construction, and mythology is far more often associated with fantasy. I've had some quite interesting conversations about where to draw the line between the two, and while those chats have produced some intriguing insights into what is good writing period, they haven't brought me any closer to making a definitive statement about which is what when. So I give up. Call it all speculative fiction, and regardless of whether the speculation involves scientific leaps or supernatural experiences, call good writing in the broader genre good writing. I've tagged the must-reads listed here for those out there who would be purists, and simply recommend all the sf&f (and even - gasp - literary fiction!) you see listed here.

(Note: recommended authors are listed in no particular order.)

George R. R. Martin(fantasy, sword & sorcery, an extraordinarily well-presented world)
Stephen King(dark fantasy, quest motif)
  • "The Dark Tower"

J.R.R. Tolkien(high fantasy, sword & sorcery)
  • The Hobbit
  • "The Lord of the Rings"
    • The Fellowship of the Ring
    • The Two Towers
    • The Return of the King

Robert Jordan(fantasy, sword & sorcery)
  • "The Wheel of Time" (series in progress)
    • The Eye of the World
    • The Great Hunt
    • The Dragon Reborn
    • The Shadow Rising
    • The Fires of Heaven
    • Lord of Chaos
    • The Crown of Swords
    • Path of Daggers

Guy Gavriel Kay(lush fantasies filled with magic and political intrigue)
  • A Song for Arbonne
  • The Lions of Al-Rassan
  • Sailing to Sarantium

Richard Adams(often considered literary fiction, but a great world-builder's read)
  • Watership Down

C.S. Lewis(generally considered a younger read)
  • "The Chronicles of Narnia" (original order)
    • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
    • Prince Caspian
    • The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
    • The Silver Chair
    • The Horse and His Boy
    • The Magician's Nephew
    • The Last Battle

Douglas Adams (funny, irreverent sci-fi cult classic)
  • "Hitchhiker" books
    • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
    • The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
    • Life, the Universe and Everything
    • So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish
    • Mostly Harmless

Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson (delightful conspiracy-oriented sci-fi cult classic)
  • "The Illuminatus! Trilogy"
    • The Eye in the Pyramid
    • The Golden Apple
    • Leviathan
Robert Anton Wilson
  • Masks of the Illuminati

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