The best fantasy books for people who don’t think they like fantasy

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of magic and fantastical things existing around us without our knowing it. Everywhere I go, everything I experience…my brain immediately goes to a bunch of “what if?” questions. When we visited Colorado and had lunch in the shadow of a mountain, while my wife was marveling at the beauty of the mountain, my brain’s first three thoughts involved a hidden alien base, a previously-unknown volcano, and a portal to a hidden world teeming with mystical creatures. I always say I try to write fantasy for those who say they don’t like fantasy, because I believe everyone likes fantasy…they just might not know what kind they like!!  


I wrote...

The Lost Tayamu

By Ben Cass,

Book cover of The Lost Tayamu

What is my book about?

Jen Aston’s small-town life suddenly changes when she barely escapes three attempts on her life. Jen owes her life to the secretive new PE teacher, Coach Doyle, who has miraculously appeared to save her every time. Doyle has fighting skills fit for a martial arts movie and reflexes just this side of impossible, but how long can he keep them safe?

While Jen is falling for Doyle, her younger sister Ellie is shocked when she discovers something otherworldly in the coach’s barn, convincing her that Doyle is definitely not a PE teacher. Ellie does not like secrets being kept from her, and is determined to unravel the enigma that is Coach Doyle. The truths that will be revealed, however, will change all their lives forever....

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Ben Cass Why did I love this book?

This is the book that, for me, started my love for fantasy books. My 4th-grade teacher recommended it to me because she saw how creative I was, and she thought it would be right up my alley. So, I went to the school library, checked it out, and devoured it that night.

The story introduced the idea of parallel worlds to me, which at the time blew my mind. Parallel worlds now feature heavily in my writing, and I can trace my fascination back to Narnia. 

By C. S. Lewis, Pauline Baynes (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

29 authors picked The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

Lucy steps into the Professor's wardrobe - but steps out again into a snowy forest. She's stumbled upon the magical world of Narnia, land of unicorns, centaurs, fauns... and the wicked White Witch, who terrorises all. Lucy soon realises that Narnia, and in particular Aslan, the great Lion, needs her help if the country's creatures are ever going to be free again...


Book cover of The Dark is Rising

Ben Cass Why did I love this book?

Shortly after I finished the Chronicles of Narnia series, my teacher suggested I try The Dark is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper.  I grabbed what I thought was the first book—only learning later that it’s actually the second book in the series—and quickly fell in love. An 11-year-old boy learning he has magical powers and is the world’s last chance? Yes, please!  

I also really enjoyed Merriman. I have a soft spot for mysterious mentors, which is why my character of Doyle is written like that in my first book.

By Susan Cooper,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Dark is Rising as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 11, 12, 13, and 14.

What is this book about?

On the Midwinter Day that is his eleventh birthday, Will Stanton discovers a special gift-- that he is the last of the Old Ones, immortals dedicated to keeping the world from domination by the forces of evil, the Dark. At once, he is plunged into a quest for the six magical Signs that will one day aid the Old Ones in the final battle between the Dark and the Light. And for the twelve days of Christmas, while the Dark is rising, life for Will is full of wonder, terror, and delight.


Book cover of A Wrinkle in Time

Ben Cass Why did I love this book?

A Wrinkle in Time might be viewed more as sci-fi than fantasy, but to me, the two genres are inextricably linked. Wrinkle in Time is soft sci-fi, but there are definitely fantasy elements to it.

Again, the idea of parallel universes sucked me in and wouldn’t let go. I really enjoyed Meg and Calvin’s relationship, and especially liked that the popular athlete fell for the nerdy girl, completely going against stereotypes. I’m not much of one for relationship tropes; I like when things go against the grain, or pleasantly surprise you because you didn’t see it coming.

By Madeleine L'Engle,

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked A Wrinkle in Time as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

Puffin Classics: the definitive collection of timeless stories, for every child.

We can't take any credit for our talents. It's how we use them that counts.

When Charles and Meg Murry go searching through a 'wrinkle in time' for their lost father, they find themselves on an evil planet where all life is enslaved by a huge pulsating brain known as 'It'.

Meg, Charles and their friend Calvin embark on a cosmic journey helped by the funny and mysterious trio of guardian angels, Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who and Mrs Which. Together they must find the weapon that will defeat It.…


Book cover of The Borrowers

Ben Cass Why did I love this book?

I’ve heard people say “This isn’t fantasy”, which confuses me. A story about miniature people living in your walls and stuff, who “borrow” items to furnish their homes and lives? Sounds pretty fantastical to me!  

This book really made me think about what could be hiding right under my nose. Before I read this, I’d never really considered the possibility that there could be things in our world that we have no idea about. That helped form the core tenet of my trilogy: extraordinary things can be hiding amongst the ordinary ones.

By Mary Norton, Beth Krush (illustrator), Joe Krush (illustrator)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Borrowers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

Puffin Classics: the definitive collection of timeless stories, for every child.

'Don't move!' said a voice, and the voice, like the eye, was enormous but somehow, hushed - and hoarse like a surge of wind through the grating on a stormy night in March. Arrietty froze. 'So this is it,' she thought, 'the worst and most terrible thing of all: I have been "seen"!

The Borrowers live in the secret places of quiet old houses; behind the mantelpiece, inside the harpsichord, under the kitchen clock. They own nothing, borrow everything, and never forget their most important rule: you must never,…


Book cover of Magic Kingdom for Sale

Ben Cass Why did I love this book?

I’d already read the first few Shannara books when I stumbled across this book in the library. Again, the idea of a parallel world—where you can just buy an entire magical kingdom—was too good for me to pass up.

This was the first “quirky” fantasy I’d ever read. Most of them had comical moments, but still took their story seriously. This book—and series—is not what I would call a laugh-fest, but it’s definitely much lighter in tone than most fantasy novels, and showed me that you can inject a lot of humor and absurdity into a fantasy book—something I employ in my own books.

By Terry Brooks,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Magic Kingdom for Sale as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Here in his first non-Shannara novel, Terry Brooks has written a gripping story of mystery, magic, and adventure—sure to delight fantasy readers everywhere.

Landover was a genuine magic kingdom, with fairy folk and wizardry, just as the advertisement has promised. But after he purchased it, Ben Holiday learned that there were a few details the ad had failed to mention.

The kingdom was in ruin. The Barons refused to recognize a king, and the peasants were without hope. A dragon was laying waste the countryside, while an evil witch plotted to destroy everything.

Ben's only followers were the incompetent Court…


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Terracolina: A Place to Belong

By Carla Kessler, Richard Kessler (illustrator),

Book cover of Terracolina: A Place to Belong

Carla Kessler Author Of Terracolina: A Place to Belong

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Why am I passionate about this?

As a child, one of my favorite places was in the top branches of a tree. From up there I could watch the world pass by, remaining invisible. I could make up stories about the world below and no one would challenge me. The second best place for me was inside the story of a book, the kind that took you to magical places where children always found a way to win the day. I knew when I “grew up” I would write one of those empowering books. I became a middle school teacher and have since read many wonderful books for this age. Enjoy my list of favorites.  

Carla's book list on where kids who believe in nature make a difference

What is my book about?

Where do you turn when the only adult who gets you, your grandpa, is gone, and the world seems to be in self-destruct mode?

On his 12th birthday, Thomas runs away to the forest he used to visit with Grandpa. It is dying. Will saving it from a deadly parasite bring him closer to Grandpa or make his world safer? Before he can find out, he is enticed into a magical world under an attack of a different kind.

Welcomed by a garden of talking plants, mind-reading creatures, tree-climbing, nature-loving beings, Thomas conquers the stinging, prickly hedge that guards the portal to this alternate world. At last, a place where he fits in. A place that needs him. But what about his and Grandpa’s forest?

“…a magical book...” John Perkins, New York Times best-selling author

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