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A Fantasy Book Revives Store Sales
Published: July 13, 2011

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Amid the growth of the e-book business and online retailers like Amazon, sales of print books in brick-and-mortar stores have been suffering all year.
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Nick Briggs/HBO

George R. R. Martin

Books of The Times: ‘A Dance With Dragons’ by George R. R. Martin (July 15, 2011)

Not this week.

Beginning Tuesday bookstores had a summer savior in the fantasy author George R. R. Martin, whose new book, “A Dance With Dragons,” the fifth installment of his “Song of Ice and Fire” series, went on sale that day.

Independent booksellers around the country said it quickly emerged as their biggest book of the summer, selling rapidly despite its doorstopper appearance (1,016 pages) and hefty price ($35 undiscounted).

It also temporarily upended the conventional wisdom in the book business that devoted readers of genre fiction — whether romance, sci-fi or fantasy — have begun to prefer reading in e-book format over print. According to first-day sales collected by Random House, more than 170,000 print copies and 110,000 e-book copies sold on Tuesday, the largest opening for a Random House book in 2011.

“What’s been really interesting is the physical-digital split,” said Scott Shannon, the publisher of digital content for the Random House Publishing Group. “These days, for a lot of our big titles, digital is outselling physical. That’s not what we’re seeing here, and it really speaks to George’s fan base.”

Eager customers waited outside bookstores before the doors opened on Tuesday at the Tattered Cover in Denver, Book Culture in Morningside Heights and Greenlight Bookstore in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. An event at Barnes & Noble in Burlington, Mass., on Tuesday was attended by 1,600 people. The series has appealed to hard-core fantasy fans, readers of literary fiction and people who have become hooked on the popular HBO series that is based on it, “Game of Thrones.”

“It’s a wonderful phenomenon,” said Cathy Langer, the lead book buyer for the Tattered Cover. “The anticipation has been palpable. People are discovering him now who had never heard of him because of the TV series, so he has all kinds of new readers.”

By e-mail Paul Ingram, the book buyer at Prairie Lights in Iowa City, said, “It’s sort of a Harry Potter for everybody.”

Many bookstore owners got a hint of what was to come several months ago, when customers began buying up the first four books, which are available individually in paperback and in a boxed set. (The first book was published in 1996.) Random House has shipped four million copies of the first four books since January.

“It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I realized how big of a deal this was going to be,” said Annie Shapiro, an owner of Book Culture. “I can barely keep the backlist in stock. For the last few weeks I was just ordering them in ridiculous quantities.”

Then the early requests for the fifth book began to come in. BookCourt, an independent store in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, collected more than 30 preorders for “A Dance With Dragons,” an unusually high number.

It is selling briskly on Amazon as well, holding the No. 2 spot on the company’s books best-seller list on Wednesday, followed by the boxed set of the first four books.

Fans of Mr. Martin have waited more than five years for the publication of “A Dance With Dragons,” pillorying him online as they wondered if he would ever finish writing. Two more books in the series are expected, though Mr. Martin’s publisher would not set a timeline for their release. “I don’t want to speculate,” Mr. Shannon said.

Some of the most devoted fans are already worried about whether Mr. Martin, who by all accounts is in robust health at 62, will complete the last two books. Jessica Stockton Bagnulo, an owner of Greenlight Bookstore, said that one customer in particular who came in on Tuesday was preoccupied with that concern. “He was really forlorn,” she said.

The must-read fantasy novels I would wish to add to any list are Fritz Leiber's Fafhred and The Gray Mouser stories. They were ahead of their time and are still very readable today. I wouldn't be surprised if they influenced the likes of Terry Pratchett.


I loved "Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell" by Susanna Clarke. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman was also an interesting read.
Hi! I believe "The heart of the world" series by Col Buchanan (still in the works) But the first book "Farlander" and the second "Stands a Shadow" are a great read.


I can't help but feel like there's almost too many books on here, namely the loads given by gavin tonks.

Surely they can't all be necessary?
The book that had the most impact on me as a child was Alan Garner's 'Weirdstone of Brisingamen' which I would thoroughly recommend to anyone who wants a high quality children / YA epic fantasy story.


Aravelle please understand reading was all we had, TV started in 1965 and broadcast from 5pm to 8pm
there were no cellular phones, computer games, we played cards, chess and checkers and monopoly.I was taught to speed read at school and could read a page a minute, our schools had libraries well socked with solid offerings as well as the public library.
We could not afford to buy books, The first book I bought with my own money was a book on keeping horses and william blake talking with horses. I saved pocket money for months I think it was R6.00 dollars a huge amount of money considering a coke was 5c, and a packet of crisps/ chips 5c. i sold guavas at 2 for 1c and 3 for 5c to earn my pocket money from trees in my garden.

How can you compare that when you had time, and today there are 100s of channels, downloads computers iphones communication across the world. Your friends were people you could cycle to in an hour. So please do not feel inadequate my daughter has hardly read anything saying why read a book when you can watch a movie?he world is not the same place readers are almost people who do not wish to let go of the past
I am going to suggest the Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini. I think those books are fantastically, beautifully written. They are one of my biggest inspirations, next to Mythic Scribes and D&D. I think all fantasy writers should at least give him a chance.

Besides, he was fifteen when he began Eragon, I was fifteen when I began my novel a year ago.


Paolini is a great starter for budding fantasy writers; he holds a very special place in my heart. However, his writing does leave things to be desired if looked at with a critical eye. He's terribly cliche and writes sues, but that's only half of why I love him.


Hi y'all! Was browsing to see which thread I should weigh in on first and this one caught my eye. Y'all have listed many fine novels in this thread. Most I've read some I haven't. It's awesome to see dragonlance mentioned. It was one of the first fantasy series I was introduced to when I was in elementary school; alongside The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Salvatore's Drizzt novels are worth looking into as well. Also among epics Milton's Paradise Lost is one of the best I've read. Haven't really seen a better representation of the celestial world in print recently unless you count Neil Gaimans Sandman graphic novels (which are very good).

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:D Grimms tales for young and old
newly translated by Ralph Manheim
the complete stories

i hope that helps if anyone is trying to find english versions of the tales


I also loved the Inheritance Cycle. The way they are written is very interesting, since he combines magic and actual science in a very unusual way for a fantasy novel way. Some of the philosophical views were interesting as well. I think it is a must read for any fantasy writer to experience the writing style.


I'm going to advertise for a DeviantArt friend of mine who has published his own prehistoric fantasy novel which I enjoyed:

Orishadaon: To The Ends of the Urth by Brandon Bowling

The Blurb said:
Welcome to primeval Urth.

It is a world of savagery, populated by deadly beasts and deadlier annaru–feral lizardmen devoted to the bloodthirsty god, Kor.

Into this world comes Dayn, a young man seeking his destiny. Armed only with his wits, a rusty sword and the orishadai locked within his raging soul, he'll search for it.

When he and his companions unleash something deep within the steaming jungle, something buried long ago and better left forgotten, Dayn cannot begin to imagine what, or who, it will cost him.

Before he can set things right, he will not only learn the true meaning of sacrifice, but discover what destiny has in store for him and the one he loves most.

And here is my review:
Jabrosky said:
Most literature I've seen with dinosaurs has tended towards the sci-fi side of the speculative fiction spectrum (e.g. A Sound of Thunder, The Lost World, and of course Jurassic Park), so it was refreshing to see a modern dinosaur novel with a more high-fantasy setting. I loved the juxtaposition of prehistoric wildlife, backdrops such as jungles and ancient ruins, lizard-people, and pseudo-Celtic tribespeople (at least I think they resemble ancient Celts since they have tattoos and European physical features). However, the book's real power comes less from the dinosaurs than its rich characterization, especially of the human protagonist Dayn the orishadaon (mage). I really liked how Bowling describes Dayn's emotional and spiritual experiences, for example the metaphor of the red tide to describe a wave of rage.

I would have rated it five stars except that some of the characters' dialects, especially Ryl the hunter's, were slightly irritating. I also would have appreciated a more diverse cast of dinosaurs appearing than just the Ceratosaurus (who apparently functions as a T. Rex stand-in for this setting), although the text does mention other kinds in passing. Otherwise a good read and I look forward to reading any subsequent installments.


It's an excellent list, I've read many of them, but not yet all. . .

I'm glad to see that someone at least brought up Jack Vance's Dying Earth. Should be in the 'Must' list for sure. The inclusion of Feist is somewhat baffling, however.

Lot's to read. . .


i'm thinking the odyssey and the illiad?

It does seem exceedingly odd to include Aesop's Fables by not the Iliad and the Odyssey.

I haven't gone through all the posts in this thread, but the list at the very beginning seems to me to be sorely lacking and some of the choices very odd indeed.

I've been compiling my own list over the past few years of the major works of what I call modern fantasy only, no fairy tales or myths or epics or satires. (Someday I might do a separate list of the major works that led up to the modern fantasy genre from ancient times.) It's pretty long, but perhaps someone will find it useful:

Vathek by William Beckford (1786)

*John Ruskin: The King of the Golden River (1851)

*Phantastes: A Faerie Romance for Men and Women by George MacDonald (1858)

*The Wood Beyond the World by William Morris (1894)

The Well at the World's End by William Morris (1896)

The Wallet of Kai Lung by Ernest Bramah (1900)

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (1900)

*The Gods of Pegana by Lord Dunsany (1905)

*Time and the Gods by Lord Dunsany (1906)

*The Sword of Welleran and Other Stories by Lord Dunsany (1908)

*The House on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgson (1908)

*A Dreamer's Tales by Lord Dunsany (1910)

*The Night Land by William Hope Hodgson (1912)

*The Works of H.P. Lovecraft (1917-1935)

*The Moon Pool by A. Merritt (1919)

*A Voyage to Arcturus by David Lindsay (1920)

*The Worm Ouroboros by E.R. Eddison (1922)

*The King of Elfland's Daughter by Lord Dunsany (1924)

*Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrlees (1926)

War in Heaven by Charles Williams (1930)

Zothique stories by Clark Ashton Smith (1932-)

*Conan the Barbarian stories by Robert E. Howard (1932-)

Jirel of Joiry stories by C.L. Moore (1934-)

*The Island of the Mighty by Evangeline Walton (1936)

*The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (1937)

*Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis 1938

*Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories by Fritz Leiber (1939-)

*The Roaring Trumpet and The Mathematics of Magic by Fletcher Pratt and L. Sprague de Camp (1940)

*The Sorcerer's Ship by Hannes Bok (1942)

*The Book of Ptath by A.E. van Vogt (1943)

Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake (1946)

The Well of the Unicorn by Fletcher Pratt (1948)

*The Dying Earth by Jack Vance (1950)

*The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis (1950-1956)

The Tritonian Ring by L. Sprague de Camp (1953)

*The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson (1954)

*The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (1954-1955)

*The Once and Future King by T.H. White (1958)

*The Weirdstone of Brisingamen (1960)

*A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle (1962)

Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges (1962)

The Moon of Gomrath (1963) by Alan Garner

*Witch World by Andre Norton (1963)

*The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander (1964)

*Dune series (Dune, Dune Messiah, Children of Dune, God Emperor of Dune) by Frank Herbert (1965-1981)

*The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle (1968)

*The Earthsea Trilogy (A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, The Farthest Shore) by Ursula K. LeGuin (1968, 1971, 1972)

Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey (Dragonriders of Pern Book 1, 1968)

The Face in the Frost by John Bellairs (1969)

Red Moon and Black Mountain by Joy Chant (1970)

Deryni Rising by Katherine Kurtz (1970)

*Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny (1970)

*Elric of Melniboné by Michael Moorcock (1972)

Watership Down by Richard Adams (1972)

*Perelandra by C.S. Lewis 1972

*That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis 1974

The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia McKillip (1974)

The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights by John Steinbeck (1976)

The Sword of Shanara by Terry Brooks (1977)

*Lord Foul's Bane by Stephen R. Donaldson (1977)

A Spell for Chameleon by Piers Anthony (Xanth Book 1, 1977)

The Magic Goes Away by Larry Niven (1978)

Empire of the East by Fred Saberhagen (1979)

*The Neverending Story by Michael Ende (1979)

The Book of the New Sun (The Shadow if the Torturer, The Claw of the Conciliator, The Sword of the Lictor, The Citadel of the Autarch) by Gene Wolfe (1980-1983)

*The Changing Land by Roger Zelazny (1981)

*Dilvish, the Damned by Roger Zelazny (1982)

The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley (1982)

*The Elfin Ship by James Blaylock (1982)

Magician (Riftwar Saga) by Raymond E. Feist (1982)

Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings (The Belgariad Book 1, 1982)

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King (1982)

Little, Big by John Crowley (1982)

*The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers (1983)

*The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett (1983)

Web of light by Marion Zimmer Bradley (1983)

Alanna: The First Adventure (The Song of the Lioness) by Tamora Pierce (1983)

Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman (1984)

The Summer Tree (Fionavar Tapestry #1) by Guy Gavriel Kay (1984)

The Black Company by Glen Cook (1984)

Legend by David Gemmell (1984)

The Man of Gold by M.A.R. Barker (1984)

Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock (1984)

Her Majesty's Wizard by Christopher Stasheff (1986)

*Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (1986)

The Time Master Trilogy by Louise Cooper (1986)

Soldier of the Mist by Gene Wolfe (1986)

Taliesin by Stephen R. Lawhead (1987)

War for the Oaks by Emma Bull (1987)

The Crystal Shard by R.A. Salvatore (Icewind Dale Book 1, 1988)

Sheepfarmer's Daughter (The Deed of Paksenarrion) by Elizabeth Moon (1988)

*The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams (1988)

The Boat of a Million Years by Poul Anderson (1989)

Dealing with Dragons by Patricia Wrede (1990)

*The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan (1990)

The Phoenix Guards by Steven Brust (1991)

*The Magic of Recluce by L. E. Modesitt Jr (1991)

*Wizard's First Rule by Terry Goodkind (1994)

*Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb (Farseer Trilogy book 1, 1995)

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman (1995)

Sabriel by Garth Nix (1995)

*A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin (1996)

*The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling (1997-2007)

*Stardust by Neil Gaiman (1998)

The Sum of All Men by David Farland (1998)

*Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson (Malazan Book of the Fallen, 1999)

*Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier (1999)

*Storm Front by Jim Butcher (Harry Dresden Book 1, 2000)

Perdido Street Station by China Mieville (2000)

Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey (2001)

American Gods by Neil Gaiman (2002)

*Eragon by Christopher Paolini (2002)

The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold (2002)

*Inkheart by Cornelia Funke (2003)

The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud (2003)

Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn (2003)

*Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke (2004)

*The Darkness that Comes Before by R. Scott Bakker (2004)

Elantris by Brandon Sanderson (2005)

His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik (2005)

Priestess of the White by Trudi Caravan (2005)

*The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch (2006)

The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie (2006)

*The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (2007)

Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay (2007)

The Painted Man by Peter V. Brett (2008)

The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks (2008)

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin (2010)

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson (2010)

Hounded by Kevin Hearne (Iron Druid series) 2011

Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence (2011)

*The Night Land, a Story Retold by James Stoddard, William Hope Hodgson (2011)