What books should be considered for a young adult fantasy book club?
June 12, 2007 5:15 PM   Subscribe

My wife is starting up a Young Adult (geared towards 13-18 yr olds) Fantasy book club at the local library branch. What are some good books in this genre to consider for inclusion?

The first book she has picked out is "The Golden Compass" by Philip Pullman, which seems to have good reviews. For anyone who has read this, is this a good choice?
posted by daser to Media & Arts (80 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
If you looked at my profile, you wouldn't be surprised to see me list Lloyd Alexander in there. I mean, he translated Sarte - that's got to say something.

Alice Cooper's "The Dark is Rising" is a great series, and I honestly loved The Dragonlance Chronicles Trilogy (Dragons of Autumn Twilight, D of Winter Night and D of Spring Dawning) growing up. The Dragonlance Legends Trilology (Time, War and Test of the Twins) were also pretty good.

I named all of them by memory, if that speaks to the impact they had on me.
posted by OrangeDrink at 5:24 PM on June 12, 2007

Yes, it's a very good choice, but some people could be offended by the religious overtones of the two books following. Personally, I liked it a lot.
posted by Paragon at 5:25 PM on June 12, 2007

The Sword of the Spirits trilogy by John Christopher. The first book is called The Prince in Waiting.
posted by grouse at 5:30 PM on June 12, 2007

Wizard of Earthsea (and subsequent titles).
Raymond E Feist's Magician series.

(also, second The Dark is Rising...)
posted by pompomtom at 5:31 PM on June 12, 2007

Naomi Novik's Temeraire series is delightful and extremely light reading.
posted by kavasa at 5:34 PM on June 12, 2007

I really enjoyed the Golden Compass, and Dark Is Rising and Wizard of Earthsea are really great series as well (haven't read any of the other ones mentioned).

Another great series that I'd fully recommend is David Eddings's Belgariad (and the Malloreon series that follows it).
posted by mebibyte at 5:34 PM on June 12, 2007

Response by poster: Paragon, thanks for the heads up. We don't want to be too cautious, but at the same time, we obviously want to minimize any potential controversy that might be caused by her book club. It seems like parents take offense at quite a lot of things these days. So, the first book of the series is "safer" in this regard?
posted by daser at 5:39 PM on June 12, 2007

At the risk of being cliché, I would definitely suggest The Lord of the Rings. It's just an enduring classic that everyone should read. If you want something more traditional, Alice in Wonderland is another classic and it's far different from the childish Disney story that everyone is used to.
posted by Aanidaani at 5:43 PM on June 12, 2007

If you go the Dragonlance, they might also enjoy the RA Salvatore's stuff with the drow elf.
Anne Mccafrey's style is in the same vain, though I would recommend the Dragonlance trilogy above Salvatore or Mccafrey.

"Wizard's First Rule" by Terry Goodkind is pretty entertaining reading (the first book was easily the best and IIRC, can stand on its own in what's become a Robert Jordan impersonation of drawing out a series way too long).

The Chronicles of Narnia beyond the first couple might be an option. I think most people stop after the first book or two.

Though I found the "Sword of Shannara" and sequels by Terry Brooks terribly boring, a lot of people love the stories.

"Ender's Game" would also be a good option, and can easily lead to some good discussions. There are sequels, though the first one can stand on its own.
posted by jmd82 at 5:43 PM on June 12, 2007

Jose Saramago is a Nobel Prize-winning Portuguese author whose stories are certainly rooted in fantastic elements (like an entire country going blind, or the Iberian peninsula floating off into the Atlantic Ocean), but I don't know if I'd call it "fantasy" in a unicorns/wizards/people-living-in-giant-toadstools sense.
posted by mdonley at 5:44 PM on June 12, 2007

Possibly George R.R. Martin's series A Song of Fire and Ice, as a young adult I'm enjoying it so far. Seconding Ray Feist's Magician series, and between those 2 you could keep those kids busy for quite a while.

posted by Sgt.Grumbless at 5:45 PM on June 12, 2007

Anything by Tamora Pierce. I read them in middle school, my roommate's sister is reading them now in early high school, and I just reread a bunch and still enjoyed them. They're fun medieval knights and princesses and sorcerers, but the main character is a girl trying to become a knight. They're fun.
posted by olinerd at 5:51 PM on June 12, 2007

I really liked Garth Nix's Abhorsen series (Sabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen). Although I just finished them, and I am older than your target age (mid-twenties). They are, however, geared towards teens, and are excellent.
posted by that girl at 5:52 PM on June 12, 2007

I think A Song of Ice and Fire might be a bit too adult for a teen book club, given the incest and gore and all. I think the Tamora Pierce books are great fun. I would also recommend Garth Nix's Abhorsen trilogy and Neil Gaiman's Stardust and Neverwhere.
posted by calistasm at 5:56 PM on June 12, 2007

Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser series by Fritz Leiber. They are a series of interconnected short stories. Think Conan but with a sense of humor.

For that matter, some of the Conan stories might be fun.
posted by Eddie Mars at 5:56 PM on June 12, 2007

Terry Pratchett's books aimed towards tweens and teens: The Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky, Wintersmith
Humor and Fantasy. Not to be missed.

Madeleine L'Engle's Wrinkle in Time

My son, who is almost 14, has been assigned Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card, for summer reading.
posted by misha at 5:59 PM on June 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh! Smacks forehead: Discworld.
posted by Eddie Mars at 5:59 PM on June 12, 2007

orangedrink, you mean susan cooper, right?

original poster -- i am a children's book editor, and i run the firebird imprint. have your wife email me. free books.
posted by sdn at 6:03 PM on June 12, 2007

I'm not sure it's strict fantasy, but the new Maximum Ride trilogy by James Patterson has won lots of Teen Awards, and my 12 yo and I both loved them! Mutant avian hybrid teens, what's not to love? It's being made into a movie, too.

Terry Pratchett's books aimed towards tweens and teens: The Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky, Wintersmith
Humor and Fantasy. Not to be missed.

Madeleine L'Engle's Wrinkle in Time

My son, who is almost 14, has been assigned Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card, for summer reading.
posted by misha at 6:05 PM on June 12, 2007

Dude, I love Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, and I first read them when I was maybe 17, but I think they might be a little adult for a teen library book club kinda thing.

"So in this one, our heroes climb a mountain and bang some invisible chicks! Yup. That's pretty much it."
posted by furiousthought at 6:05 PM on June 12, 2007

Among more recent books:

The Bartimaeus trilogy by Jonathan Stroud (starts with The Amulet of Samarkand)

Megan Whalen Turner's Attolia series (starts with The Thief)

Justine Larbalestier's trilogy (Starts with Magic or Madness, I think)

Martine Leavitt's "Keturah and Lord Death" is a fantastic book (nominated for the National Book Award).
posted by Jeanne at 6:06 PM on June 12, 2007

nth Dragonlance series, especially the Chronicles trilogy and the Legends trilogy.

How about the Lord of the Rings trilogy? Maybe The Hobbit would be a good place to start, since everybody has seen the movies. Hard to beat Tolkien.

Dune (and the prequels) are good, but avoid the sequels. The Shannara Trilogy is pretty good too.
posted by jtfowl0 at 6:20 PM on June 12, 2007

I'd like to second The Golden Compass and its companions the Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman. The Golden Compass will be a movie this winter, and will likely be a huge hit.

UnLondon by China Mieville is new this year and brilliant.
posted by putzface_dickman at 6:23 PM on June 12, 2007

Golden Compass is a lovely book, but yes, the religious imagery in the second and third could get a little controversial.

Diane Duane's Young Wizard series is excellent, with themes of environmentalism, familial relationships (dealing with a parent's illness, dealing with a younger sister growing up), self-reliance, redemption, etc.

I remember Susan Fletcher's Dragon Chronicles being pretty awesome when I was middle-school aged.

Oh! Patricia C. Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles are hilarious (the first few) and quite touching (the last few). A sort of send-up of the usual fantasy tropes involving dragons, wizards, and princesses.

And Diana Wynne Jones is consistently wonderful. Any of the Chrestomancis or Derkholm books would do nicely.

Jane Yolen's Wizard Hall is similar to Harry Potter (kid goes to wizard school, fights evil, etc.) but I think better.

(On preview: YES! UnLunDun is BRILLIANT! Wordplay, destiny, alternate universes, a milk-carton pet...)

About the controversy thing: Thinking about this, I doubt you'll be completely safe with any wholly fantastic book. Harry Potter (literary merits or lack thereof aside) gets controversy for tempting kids to witchcraft, and none of the books I mentioned are going to particularly sidestep that danger. I don't mean to discourage you (far from it! I think this is a great idea!) but it's something to be aware of.
posted by fuzzbean at 6:26 PM on June 12, 2007

First 4 books (at least) of the Xanth series and Race Against Time by Piers Anthony

The Tripods series by John Christopher

Needle and Through the Eye of a Needle by Hal Clement
posted by nimsey lou at 6:26 PM on June 12, 2007

orangedrink, you mean susan cooper, right?

er. What I said about coming from memory maybe not so much.

Although an Alice Cooper teenage fantasy book would be pretty interesting too.

I also liked "Magic Kingdom for Sale -- Sold!" by Terry Brooks, but it's pretty silly.

Not necessarily fantasy, but often categorized as such is "Watership Down" by Richard Adams. It's pretty incredible and worth a look.
posted by OrangeDrink at 6:30 PM on June 12, 2007

for the age groups you're looking for, if you want to avoid controversy in book clubs, i'd seriously recommend against either Goodkind or especially George R. R. Martin - they both have pretty deep sexuality themes in their books, and Goodkind explores S&M in the first book of his series. so... i guess know your audience. just sayin'.

i'm currently re-reading Robin Hobb's Assassin series and it doesn't seem too heavy for tweens/teens. i'd absolutely recommend the Abhorsen novels by Nix; actually anything by this authour would be good.

for something a bit different, maybe try Lian Hearn's samurai novels 'The Tales of the Otori'.

also if the idea of Pratchett / Discworld piques your fancy, then i remember vastly enjoying Robert Aspirin's "Myth" series when i was that age (howlingly funny) but i dunno if they're still in print.
posted by lonefrontranger at 6:42 PM on June 12, 2007

Scott Westerfeld's books are a great read and totally hot right now for that age group:


Review from BoingBoing.
posted by eatdonuts at 6:42 PM on June 12, 2007

Oh! I also really enjoyed Garth Nix 'Keys to the Kingdom' book one: Mister Monday
posted by eatdonuts at 6:43 PM on June 12, 2007

I loved Raymond Feist and David Eddings as a teenager. I would also recommend the Elric books by Michael Moorcock. Also, for comic fantasy, the Myth books by Robert Asprin are fun.
posted by demiurge at 6:44 PM on June 12, 2007

Jose Saramago is a Nobel Prize-winning Portuguese author whose stories are certainly rooted in fantastic elements

I don't think Saramago is appropriate for this age - there's graphic gang rape in Blindness, and it's a very adult-themed kind of book.

When I was in junior high/early high school I LOVED Anne McCaffrey's Pern books (dragon riding) and Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar books (talking horse-friends, magic). They aren't exactly objectively good, but definately appeal to that age range.
posted by ilyanassa at 6:51 PM on June 12, 2007

(This is going to be long)

The Golden Compass was my first thought when I saw the title. In fact, I first read it in an adolescent lit class in college, and I'm rereading it now and am just as excited as I was the first time. Also, there's a movie coming out in the next year or so that might provide a fun field trip for the group.

I wouldn't worry too much about religious controversy unless you live in an area prone to that sort of thing. To help you judge, it comes down pretty heavily on the doctrine of original sin and the villains work within the church hierarchy -- it's sort of Inquisitorial. Personally, I think the group discussion would be well worth any opposition you might face.

I'll go ahead and second the Earthsea books (which I first read in that same class) and Ender's Game (if your wife is fine with scifi).

The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander could be a bit juvenile for the older readers (though OrangeDrink may be referring to his other stuff -- I haven't read it).

Authors I enjoyed at that age include:
Tad Williams -- Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn is very "high fantasy" (and long!) but still very good.

(Note: Most of the following books involve sex of one sort or another -- some of it homosexual. I was reading these in high school, so they'll be appropriate for some of your members, but my mom probably didn't know what was in them -- not that she necessarily would have cared. 13-18 is a pretty wide range, so choose your books carefully)

Melanie Rawn -- anything really, though thinking about it, she might be kind of mature.
Mercedes Lackey -- the Heralds of Valdemar. She took up an entire shelf of my bookcase. I started with Magic's Pawn.
Anne McCaffrey -- specifically the Pern novels. I probably started with Dragonflight. The Harper Hall trilogy is specifically YA, but I actually read them after most of the others.

(end the sex caveat)

For something a little different, Barry Hughart's A Bridge of Birds is a lot of fun.

The Once and Future King was (and still is) my favorite book.

I'm assuming anybody joining a fantasy book club has already read Harry Potter, but if not, throw it in there. Same with Tolkien, though The Fellowship can be very hard to get through if you're not already into it.

If you've got any aspiring writers, give them Eragon, written by 16-year-old Christopher Paolini. I probably would have really liked it at 15, but it didn't come out until I was about 20, and at that point I found it cliched and predictable. It's a good, quick read, but give it to them early if possible to ease the cliches.

The Magic Shop books by Bruce Coville were good. The best was easily Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher. I need to find my copy now... :) Might be better for the younger end.

A couple of notes in general:
Obviously, since she'll be giving these books to OPKs (Other People's Kids), she should read them first so nothing catches her by surprise. Scrutinize them for something that could get the parents up in arms, but don't let that stop you from using them.

Almost everything I've recommended is part of a series (some of them very long). I'd suggest making the first one the book club book and letting those who are interested in reading more do so on their own. Also, do a little research on the fan sites to see which book people suggest starting with. Frequently (especially in longer series), the first book published is not the first book chronologically, and sometimes one order is recommended over another. I generally like to read them in published order, and then whenever I get to a second read, go in in-world chronological order -- it's fun to see the thing authors put in specifically because they know it will show up later on.

On preview:
I was thinking about suggesting the Enchanted Forest Chronicles, and I decided not to because I thought it might be too juvenile. Though, looking over this answer again, clearly I had mature tastes (on second thought, probably don't give them Melanie Rawn -- maybe as an outside recommendation for the older ones). Of course, I still love both the Enchanted Forest Chronicles and the Chronicles of Prydain to this day, so take my "juvenile" with a grain of salt.

I also loved Watership Down. A Song of Fire and Ice was great just a few months ago, and I thought I had outgrown that kind of fantasy. Neverwhere was also good.

OK. I'm officially done, even though there's probably plenty more I could say.
posted by natabat at 6:55 PM on June 12, 2007

Robin McKinley's Beauty, which I first read in eighth grade, is still one of my favorite books. I assume it counts as fantasy (despite much explanation, I'm still a bit confused by the sci-fi/fantasy split).

Ursula LeGuin's Always Coming Home is great. Again, not sure where it falls on the continuum, but I loved it. And Doris Lessing's Shikasta.
posted by occhiblu at 7:00 PM on June 12, 2007

A lot of the best fantasy has religious themes running through it, as does a lot of the best mundane literature. The Golden Compass trilogy is perfectly child-safe; you should not recoil at having all 3 books in your book club. They're wonderful books.

Some others, in no particular order:
  • J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. Required reading. (The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King are probably not suitable for the age group; there are parts that bored 13-year-old-ikkyu2, who was already an avid fan of the genre.)
  • Lloyd Alexander's five-part Chronicles of Prydain is required reading. Writing this answer has made me want to read them again.
  • Ursula K. LeGuin's A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, and The Farthest Shore. As occhiblu is about to say, Always Coming Home, LeGuin's future-ethnography of California, is also splendid and deserves a look.
  • Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur (I like the Robert Graves translation), and any of the Mary Stewart Merlin Trilogy.
  • Heinlein's Glory Road. Heinlein's juveniles are really appreciated by their core audience, adolescents, in ways that lots of adults encountering them for the first time don't get.
  • L'engle's A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, and A Swiftly Tilting Planet.
  • C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia. Seven books; they're all wonderful, although book 7 would make little sense out of the context of the prior 6.
  • Anne McCaffrey's dragon books. Stick to the first few: Dragonflight, Dragonquest, Dragonsong, Dragonsinger, Dragondrums, and maybe The White Dragon. Some of my other favorite authors who've taken a stab at the genre - Jack Vance, Fritz Leiber, Samuel Delany, Harry Harrison, Glen Cook, Gene Wolfe - deal with adult themes. You can't send a 13 year old home from his summer book club with a book full of explicit sex. Pullman, Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Madeline L'Engle had very conservative Christian backgrounds; most writers in this genre have strong ideas about religion. If that rules out a book for you, please don't take any of my advice - I wouldn't care to be associated with such a book club. I would avoid Piers Anthony, DragonLance, Robert Jordan, Terry Brooks, Elvendude, Stephen R. Donaldson, Anne Rice, Tanith Lee, and books which are primarily light escapist reading. The idea is to open your kids' minds, not get them hooked on cotton candy. They can read Elvendude on their own time.

posted by ikkyu2 at 7:03 PM on June 12, 2007

Oooh, would Handmaid's Tale qualify?

I also recently read Mary Reilly, which I had been avoiding because the movie had looked so cheesy. But Valerie Martin is an amazing author. Mary Reilly is a retelling of Jekyll/Hyde from the point of view of the maid.
posted by occhiblu at 7:07 PM on June 12, 2007

Most stuff by Robin McKinley, Diana Wynne Jones, or Patricia McKillip. Maybe Patricia Wrede. Meredith Pierce's The Darkangel.
posted by dilettante at 7:10 PM on June 12, 2007

Also, I just finished all three His Dark Materials books a few weeks ago. I adored all three; Golden Compass is a great choice to start with. But they're definitely written to be read together -- the first two end with big cliffhangers. Your wife should either decide that she's doing all three books, or be ready to stand firm about telling them to read the others on their own!
posted by occhiblu at 7:15 PM on June 12, 2007

Yeah, natabat makes a good point about the McCaffrey novels. Dragonsong, Dragonsinger and Dragondrums are OK, but there's quite a bit of violence and rape in the other ones. In The White Dragon the protagonist commits a rape essentially free of consequences and it's not presented as something that was wrong, which disgusted me even as a young adult reading the book. So that book's probably not appropriate.
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:15 PM on June 12, 2007

Paragon, thanks for the heads up. We don't want to be too cautious, but at the same time, we obviously want to minimize any potential controversy that might be caused by her book club. It seems like parents take offense at quite a lot of things these days. So, the first book of the series is "safer" in this regard?
Yes, I believe it is, but it really is the first book of a series and people would undoubtedly want to know more. I don't want to spoil the books for anyone who hasn't read them, but I've always been amazed at how certain people are up in arms about Harry Potter and not these. Pullman is theological in the same way that C. S. Lewis is theological, except in the opposite direction (he's a humanist). Wikipedia has a nice little summary of where the books are situated that doesn't give anything away here. Personally I think they'd make a great addition, but it really depends on where you are and how militant the parents can be. I don't see Pullman's work on the list of most frequently challenged children's books, though, so maybe that's not a problem.

Oh, and for the second part of the question:
Any Terry Pratchett
Any Lloyd Alexander
Any Michael Ende
Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea
T. H. White's Once and Future King
Richard Adam's Watership Down
Tad Williams' Tailchaser's Song (his Memory, Sorrow, & Thorn series is one of the best fantasy series of the last twenty years, but it's quite long and involved for a book club)

I find Diana Wyne Jones's books a little too pat, and (although I love 'em) Fritz Leiber's stories a little too adult (especially the later ones, which feel like they're sexualizing the child-form). Have heard very positive things about Madeleine L'Engle, but have yet to read any of her stuff.

Weis & Hickman, David Eddings, Raymond E. Feist, Piers Anthony, and Robert Jordan were all books and authors that I loved as a kid / early teen, but they're not quite as substantive as the ones on the list above in my opinion. I'd steer clear of Shannara books, too - they're supremely derivative.
posted by Paragon at 7:16 PM on June 12, 2007

"Wizard's First Rule" is definetly not a good idea, especially for people in that age group. For one, its length would deter a lot of younger readers (the paperback is a bit over 800 pages) but mostly its just a bad book. The first 600 pages or so are fairly unremarkable generic fantasy drivel. Then the story makes a complete right angle turn and goes into 100 pages of really graphic torture and SM-themed sex.

Would definetly second the Earthsea books. And would add anything by Patricia McKillip (especially the Riddlemaster trilogy and Od Magic) or the Discworld books by Terry Pratchet.
posted by Riemann at 7:16 PM on June 12, 2007

Against my better consciounce I have to say DragonLance (The Chronicles and the Legends anyway), while definitely romaticised and cliche to me now, really opened my eyes, and I wouldn't consider them fluff.

But they're certainly not saying anything hundreds of other fantasy books aren't saying regarding race, morality, wanderlust and fear. They just happen to do so very well and even maturely.

Jane Yolen's Pit Dragon Trilogy (Dragon's Blood being the first and best in my opinion) reads like a Fantasy (albeit lesser) version of Where the Red Fern Grows, which led me to read other books by Jane Yolen which I hated. Other than Dove Isabeau, which may have more to do with Dennis Yolen than Jane.

Upon double thinking, Robert Jordon has some pretty explicit buggery rape in it.
posted by OrangeDrink at 7:17 PM on June 12, 2007

Thirding Diana Wynne Jones. Anime fans will like Howl's moving castle, which is very different to the movie, but both are great.
posted by clearlydemon at 7:17 PM on June 12, 2007

*conscience & *romanticized

What can I say I'm a stupid man with stupid spelling.
posted by OrangeDrink at 7:19 PM on June 12, 2007

Also: All the Dragonlance / Forgotten Realms (eg: Salvatore) / Shanarra books are pulp (and most of it bad pulp at that, especially Salvatore) but teenagers are the target audience and they are somewhat enjoyable at that age. Robert Jordan's books are also extremely long while being very light in good writing. They also trail off signifigantly and the series is currently unfinished.

His Dark Materiels (eg: The Golden Compas et all) would be a perfect series for kids that age. Especially for those who have been over-exposed to a traditional religious viewpoint.

For a more sci-fi angle Poul Anderson's Polesotechic League series is great.
posted by Riemann at 7:22 PM on June 12, 2007

Gah, make that "frequently challenged books" in my last post. Some more additions:

Lord Dunsany's The Charwoman's Shadow (actually, any Lord Dunsany is pretty damn good)
The Oz books (and there are a lot of them; The Marvelous Land of Oz is an excellent sequel)
posted by Paragon at 7:28 PM on June 12, 2007

I would avoid Piers Anthony

I don't know... as nimsey lou said above, the first few Xanth books are good enough reading I think, for kids who are just getting into the genre, especially if people are going to include Rowling and Terry Pratchett and Diana Wynne Jones in their lists... But then, I admit I was a *huge* fan of his around 6th or 7th grade, so much so that I wrote him a fan letter, to which he sent me a personal reply that showed he had actually read it and had given my questions some thought. So I still have a soft spot for Mr. Anthony after all these years.

This thread has made me want to go back and re-read some of these books!
posted by misozaki at 7:29 PM on June 12, 2007

Ooh, I second Meredith Ann Pierce.

It's sort of schlocky, but Mists of Avalon (to read after The Once & Future King)?

Some of the Golden Age short stories (Van Vogt, etc.) could be good for discussion, especially the ones that pose moral or scientific puzzles.
posted by amber_dale at 7:31 PM on June 12, 2007

If we're suggesting George RR Martin (awesome as the series i, I think most casual readers in the target audience would have a tough time with it), I'd suggest Stephen King's "The Gunslinger" series. There's drugs and some sexual stuff, not nothing worse than a lot of the other books recommended.
I would consider it a "fantasy" step up from typical 16-18 y/o pulp.

Going against the grain, if the target audience are casual readers, I would stay away from the LOTR trilogy. Great though it may be, it does get quite dense and has long lulls between action.
posted by jmd82 at 7:33 PM on June 12, 2007

oh snap!

how could i forget Dave Duncan?!

all of 'em!
posted by lonefrontranger at 7:33 PM on June 12, 2007

Piers Anthony is to Terry Pratchet as Spam is to Kobe Beef. Stay far, far away. Even by the lowest standards of the fantasy genere it's terrible.
posted by Riemann at 7:37 PM on June 12, 2007

Misozaki, I'm a huge fan of Piers Anthony. I sent him a fan mail, not when I first encountered him, but just last year, and he answered my fan-mail too - not a form letter, he'd read what I had to say - and that made me very happy.

I don't think he produces epic literature that's on the level of what a librarian would choose to assign a kid so that they could have an experience of magnificent fantasy literature in their summer reading club. He writes something different - which is great stuff, it's some of the most wonderful humor writing ever - and he'd probably be the first to acknowledge that.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:02 PM on June 12, 2007

I'm really bummed that I am the first person to mention Monster-Blood Tattoo by DM Cornish. It is one of my favorite fantasy books ever, and it is perfect for that age. It is so unique and enthralling, it makes China Mieville look like Terry Brooks. Un Lun Dun was good, but pales in comparison to MBT.

Also, I think ikkyu2 is right on with his point that so much of this genre is going to have the potential for offending ridiculously religious people that if that is going to be an issue I would not want to try to pick books for this book club either.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:06 PM on June 12, 2007

Response by poster: Wow, thanks for all the input. This is the original poster's wife, and I really appreciate all the book suggestions and the advice about the club. We are actually smack in the middle of the Bible Belt, but I'd still like to consider The Golden Compass, especially since the movie coming in December ups the chances that more people will be excited about it. I'll have to see what my boss thinks. I actually work for the library, so the club will be library-sponsored. That is one reason I want to be a little more careful about the books I choose. I haven't read the book myself yet but have heard great things about it.

As one of you suggested, I would ideally like to have read all the books beforehand, so perhaps I should go with some Le Guin to start (I love her!) or even Discworld, which I adore. Do you think Discworld or books like that would lead to enough discussion, though?

We'll be meeting once a month, so I'm very thankful for all the suggestions!
posted by daser at 8:12 PM on June 12, 2007

Some Discworld books would. Small Gods would be at the top of my list. The Night Watch books each have an interesting spin to them (Jingo in particular might be interesting). Also Monsterous Regiment.
posted by Riemann at 8:15 PM on June 12, 2007

Riemann: Neither Spam nor Kobe Beef are very good for you! :)

ikkyu2: I'm very happy to hear I'm not the only one who has written to him, and I'm also very happy to hear that he still replies to his fans in earnest!
And yes, I do agree that his books aren't epic literature, except, like you and some others have said above, I recall reading books like LOTR around that age and not really "getting" parts of it, so I suppose daser's wife can decide for herself what to include after reading this rather heated debate among the fantasy genre geeks that we all are (or at least used to be)!

Oh well. Sorry for the derail, daser. Carry on.
posted by misozaki at 8:25 PM on June 12, 2007

The Anastasia Krupnik series, by Lois Lowry.

Actually, almost anything by Lois Lowry.
posted by piratebowling at 8:32 PM on June 12, 2007

I've never read any his books- but Christopher Stasheff used to be a neighbor of mine.
posted by nightwood at 8:35 PM on June 12, 2007

13-18 is tough, because stuff that's appropriate for 13 year olds may be boring for 18 year olds, but not boring for 18 may equal inappropriate for 13. I'm several months out of practice (I used to work at a bookstore) but some things survive the test of time.

N'thing: Ender's Game (but not the sequels), Madeleine L'Engle, Terry Pratchett, Lloyd Alexander, Susan Cooper, Scott Westerfeld.

Mercedes Lackey is okay fantasy - I liked her better before I read other of her trilogies and realized she just kept writing the same story over and over with different characters. The Arrows of the Queen trilogy might be a better choice for this group than the Last Herald Mage trilogy. The first has a little sex and violence in it, but my recollection is that it's mostly implied and intimated, not graphic. The second trilogy is a good coming of age story, but may be a bit controversial. I won't go into details because that would be a spoiler for those who haven't read it. Both have teenagers as main characters who overcome difficulties and low self-esteem to succeed.

Stephenie Meyer (Twilight, New Moon) was incredibly popular with teens (and young adults, and older adults) where I worked. They're also vampire stories, popular right now. More teenage main characters.

I suspect the Redwall books are too young for this crowd, but if you tend to draw more towards the 13 end of the spectrum, check them out.

Guy Gavriel Kay's newest, Ysabel, isn't one of his best, but mediocre Kay is still better than most of what's out there. It's also written more specifically for young adults. Don't be put off if you see it described as a sequel to the Fionavar Tapestry. It isn't, and it's not necessary to read one before the other. His other stuff is fabulous, but probably not appropriate for the younger end of your spectrum.

I'll ask a former colleague of mine for some suggestions; she still works there and is great with YA fantasy recommends.
posted by booksherpa at 8:37 PM on June 12, 2007

Robin McKinley's The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown are very suitable YA fantasy; they are not long or wordy, and hardly controversial (super-subtly implied sex is about all, blink and you'll miss it). Well-written, not a bit cheesy, and great female protagonists (will appeal to both genders).

Pratchett's Discworld series: Small Gods and Monstrous Regiment would be excellent ones to go with.
posted by Melinika at 9:11 PM on June 12, 2007

The book that started me not only into Fantasy but reading was "The Misenchanted Sword," by Lawrence Watt-Evans.
posted by tcv at 9:17 PM on June 12, 2007

Oh, just a note about Mosterous Regiment - While its a really good book it has extensive references to characters from the Night Watch series and the book "The Truth". Small Gods has the advantage of being mostly self-contained in that respect.
posted by Riemann at 9:18 PM on June 12, 2007

I'd scratch George RR Martin, I forgot about the whole incest thing and I'm remembering really how violent they were, probably a little much for the younger kids in the group.
posted by Sgt.Grumbless at 9:29 PM on June 12, 2007

Some great suggestions in this thread!

My thoughts:

Stay away from Wizard's First Rule - fine for adults but lots of S&M sex. Also some pretty violent/adult themes in the George R.R. Martin and Tad Williams books.

If you do decide to read the Sword of Shannara, make sure to buy some juggling balls for the class before starting to read! It becomes an urge, trust me, lol.

Easy to read and fun:
His Dark Materials, series by Philip Pullman. First book is The Golden Compass. Should be fine despite the undercurrent of anti-Christian thoughts.
The Dark is Rising, series by Susan Cooper. First book is Over Sea, Under Stone.
The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis. Starts with The Magician’s Nephew.
Chronicles of Prydain, series by Lloyd Alexander. First book is The Book of Three.
Redwall, series by Brian Jacques. First book is Redwall.
Rondua Trilogy, series by Jonathan Carroll. First book is Bones of the Moon.
City of Ember, series by Jeanne DuPrau. First book is The City of Ember.
Temeraire, series by Naomi Novik. First book is His Majesty's Dragon.
Thursday Next, series of interconnected novels by Jasper Fforde. First book is The Eyre Affair. Don't just read books, enter them as a detective!

“Funny” series, more comedy than fantasy:
Diskworld, series by Terry Pratchett. First book is the Colour of Magic. I love these.
Xanth, series by Piers Anthony. First book is A Spell for Chameleon. Don't go past the first three or so.
Myth Adventures, series by Robert Lynn Asprin. First book is Another Fine Myth. Schlock, but can be funny at that age.

Individual books:
Watership Down by Richard Adams.
Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
Stardust, by Neil Gaiman (also coming out as a movie this summer)
King Rat, by China Miéville
Salamander, by Thomas Wharton
Lud-in-the-Mist, by Helen Hope Mirrlees. Written in the 1920:s, recently re-released, this is one of my newest favorites.

Have fun!
posted by gemmy at 10:15 PM on June 12, 2007

E. Nesbit's trilogy: Five Children and It, The Phoenix and the Carpet, The Story of the Amulet.
Francesca Lia Block's magical realism set mostly in LA--the Weetzie Bat series and The Hanged Man are the best.
posted by brujita at 10:20 PM on June 12, 2007

“We are actually smack in the middle of the Bible Belt, but I'd still like to consider The Golden Compass, especially since the movie coming in December ups the chances that more people will be excited about it.”

Definitely not Pullman, then. The second and, especially, the third books are deliberately, heavy-handedly anti-Christian polemics. This isn't a subtle theme, it's quite overt and manifests quite literally in the plot. It's the War Against Heaven and God and the angles are the bad guys, they are evil tyrants. (Well, technically, not God—God is a pitiful creature of ultimate pathos.) The books are an intentional attempt at counter-indoctrination, the response to C. S. Lewis, except without the subtlety.

Gene Wolfe's The Wizard Knight (two volumes) is good for adolescents.

Also, Greg Keyes's The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone series should be quite appropriate and fun for adolescents—the lead characters are adolescent. The series isn't finished yet, the first three volumes have been published.

I read Donaldson's Chronicles of Thomas Covenant series as an adolescent and I loved it. However, it begins with its anti-hero committing a rape—an essential plot and character point that causes trouble for many readers.

C. J. Cherryh's Fortress series might be good for adolescents. It may seem a little slow to them, however.

I'm not sure about King's Dark Tower series. It's egregiously long. It's not very good fantasy, either—King is clumsy with the fantasy elements. On the other hand, it has King's typical virtues such as characterizations that will be immediately comprehensible and emotionally accessible to adolescents. You might read only the fourth book of the series, Wizard and Glass, which is chiefly the coming-of-age tale of the series' hero, Roland. It's the best book of the series, in my opinion, and it can stand alone. Also, the protagonists are themselves adolescents.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 10:41 PM on June 12, 2007

The Redwall series would be great for the younger half of the group, but still fun for the older half.
posted by robcorr at 11:22 PM on June 12, 2007

@ misha (no clue if you'll ever read this)
your son doesn't happen to be in an IB Programme somewhere, does he?

Also, when you're feeling for ligter fare, I reccomend anything Douglas Adams has ever written. People who like fantasy always seem to pick up on, and love, his sense of humor (plus, his books are pretty solidly SF anyway)
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 1:03 AM on June 13, 2007

Holy balls. 67 answers and no one has said The Edge Chronicles. Of which there are seven or eight well illustrated books.

I loved Golden Compass, but none of the others.

Others have been said, but I loved the Bartimaeus books, the Herbie Brennan Faerie Wars books.

Also, all of the John Bellairs books include magic use, but are not strictly fantasy. But they're so excellent and very quick reads.
posted by santojulieta at 3:55 AM on June 13, 2007

Oh!! Holly Black's "Tithe" and "Valiant." Can't believe I forgot those.
posted by Jeanne at 4:30 AM on June 13, 2007

I think children who read should be consider able to handle adult themes. The donaldson book was very anti heroish but it a good read about redemption. One of the better author for writing anti hero works is david gemmel. One book i recomend for all kids to probly read even though there is a rape in it and murder is Ravenheart. There is some good messages in there that the younger generation should hear.
posted by Rolandkorn at 5:43 AM on June 13, 2007

How about Robert Silverberg's Majipoor series? I remember really enjoying them when I was 13-14.
posted by Otis at 6:40 AM on June 13, 2007

Another one chiming in to recommend Terry Pratchett - (um ... Ook!) - Although nominally written for adults, I don't think any of his adult books would be particularly unsuitable for children, and although nominally written for children, I don't think any of his children's books would leave a teen or adults bored, patronised or otherwise unstimulated. In fact the latter seem to have been the deeper - he touches on death (or even DEATH), politics and other such things without them being Issues.

As well as the above, I'd recommend the nominally-for-children The Amazing Maurice (intelligent talking cat and rats and less intelligent human child pulling a Pied Piper scam), the Nomes trilogy (Truckers, Diggers and Wings - like the Borrowers, but I don't think they'd be inclined to give anything back), and from the Discworld books I particularly like the Witches books (beginning with Equal Rites, and taking off with Wyrd Sisters, continuing through numerous others. Lords and Ladies is my favourite book about the evil of glamour and celebrity, but actually that wouldn't be a very long list).

And the Discworld has a Librarian in it as a recurring character. What could be more perfect?
posted by Grangousier at 9:06 AM on June 13, 2007

anything by Patricia Clapp, especailly Jane-Emily, my personal favorite.
posted by goml at 9:49 AM on June 13, 2007

I can't believe my first answer wasn't any book by Lensey Namioka.
posted by goml at 10:11 AM on June 13, 2007

I would like to second the Pit Dragon trilogy by Jane Yolen, (even if it's technically SF - the dragons make it seem more like fantasy).

And nthing McCaffrey, Nix's Sabriel and sequels, Westerfeld, and Ender's Game.

There's always the book version of the Princess Bride, though I'm not sure of the reading level on that one.
posted by timepiece at 1:18 PM on June 13, 2007

I have nothing new to add, but just wanted to say that The Darkangel by Meredith Ann Pierce was my absolute favorite book when I was a kid. I read it for the first time when I was twelve, and seriously read it over and over and over for YEARS. Didnt realize it was a trilogy until years later and devoured the other two very happily as well. I wish I could rant about the end, but dont want to spoil it for anyone!

Also I love Tad William's Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn books and his Otherland series was pretty good. And he's an awesome guy too. Met him at a booksigning years ago, and he actually took a bunch of us out for dinner afterwards because he was so touched that we were such big fans!
posted by silverstatue at 8:45 PM on June 13, 2007

Response by poster: I don't know if anyone is still reading, but again, thanks for the suggestions. I have a lot of material to consider now. I had forgotten about the librarian in Discworld, Grangousier! Isn't he an orangutan, though? I'm sure everyone would get a big kick out of that!

Thanks guys!
posted by daser at 7:02 AM on June 14, 2007

Response by poster: Oops. Forgot to mention in the last comment that it was daser's wife, not daser.
posted by daser at 7:07 AM on June 14, 2007

Yes. Princess Bride -- meant to mention that one. The reading level is fine, and it's really a lot of fun.
posted by natabat at 9:24 AM on June 14, 2007

"Eye of the Dragon" by Stephen King is very readable with nothing controversial that I can remember.

Someone above mentioned "Mister Monday" which is an enjoyable read and stands on its own. I haven't read the rest of the series.

The Pullman books do get anti-Christian in the second two books, but rather than finding it controversial, I found it uninteresting. I really didn't care about the war over heaven. I just wanted to see what the kids were doing. The first book is definitely the best of the three.

(The Mists of Avalon has some pretty explicit sex, including incest and rape, so I'd leave that out.)
posted by happyturtle at 10:52 AM on June 18, 2007

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