The best books for young adult/middle grade fantasy and their parents

Why am I passionate about this?

I don't write within received categories: our lives aren't lived in categories, but are full of varying realities, whether of home, childhood, marriage, parenthood, fantasy, dream, work, or relaxation, and more all mixed together. I can't write in any other way, however dominant a particular strand or age may be on the surface in a given work. Orpheus Rising may have a child hero, and a fantastic, elegant Edwardian Elephant as a spirit guide, but it let me tell a story of love lost and regained, of family broken and remade, of a father in despair and remade, themes of real importance in any life.


I wrote...

Orpheus Rising: By Sam And His Father John With Some Help From A Very Wise Elephant Who Likes To Dance

By Lance Lee, Ellen Raquel LeBow (illustrator),

Book cover of Orpheus Rising: By Sam And His Father John With Some Help From A Very Wise Elephant Who Likes To Dance

What is my book about?

Orpheus Rising is a Best Indie Book, 2021, according to Kirkus Reviews: "An extraordinarily beautiful, touching adventure that can stand with the classics of children’s literature." It is an Editor's Pick at Publishers Weekly (Booklife): "a sparkling adventure of great beauty, danger, and the unexpected, with a climax that will move anyone to a sense of joy." Diane Donovan at the highly respected Midwest Book Review described it as "hard to easily categorize—and that is one of its charms. Fantasy readers will appreciate the whimsical world...poetry enthusiasts...the metaphors and descriptions...children (as well as adults) will value the multifaceted action that keeps them guessing about relationships, outcomes, and the story's outcome."

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Greek Myths

Lance Lee Why did I love this book?

This is the best collection of the Greek Myths I believe, and of course covers the Orpheus and Eurydice myth, the direct inspiration for my book. In the classical myth the poet and musician Orpheus loses his love, Eurydice, and sings his way into Hades, overcoming all opposition, until even Hades agrees to let him have Eurydice back in the living world, so long as he does not look back at her until returned there. Once in daylight he does look back, and loses her forever as she hasn't stepped into daylight too. However, unlike Orpheus my young hero succeeds.

By Robert Graves,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Greek Myths as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Robert Graves's classic retelling of the Greek Myths is definitive, comprehensive and unparalleled - and available now in the Penguin Classics Deluxe series, featuring a new introduction from Rick Riordan (bestselling author of the Percy Jackson and Olympian series).

Including many of the greatest stories ever told - the labours of Hercules, the voyage of the Argonauts, Theseus and the minotaur, Midas and his golden touch, the Trojan War and Odysseus's journey home - Robert Graves's superb and comprehensive retelling of the Greek myths for a modern audience has been regarded for over fifty years as the definitive version.

With…


Book cover of The Odyssey

Lance Lee Why did I love this book?

This is my favorite novel in Rieu's prose translation which has a real freshness, as if the very first book. I wanted that sense of freshness for my book, as well as the story of a man desperately trying to get home to his wife. The story takes place in the framework of Sam's 11-year-old imagination, and so carries him and his father through fantastic adventures as trying as those Odysseus faces in The Odyssey. 

By Homer, E. V. Rieu (translator), D. C. H. Rieu (editor)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Odyssey as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'The Odyssey is a poem of extraordinary pleasures: it is a salt-caked, storm-tossed, wine-dark treasury of tales, of many twists and turns, like life itself' Guardian

The epic tale of Odysseus and his ten-year journey home after the Trojan War forms one of the earliest and greatest works of Western literature. Confronted by natural and supernatural threats - ship-wrecks, battles, monsters and the implacable enmity of the sea-god Poseidon - Odysseus must use his bravery and cunning to reach his homeland and overcome the obstacles that, even there, await him. E. V. Rieu's translation of The Odyssey was the very…


Book cover of Alice in Wonderland

Lance Lee Why did I love this book?

We absorb this tale, like Peter Pan's, from childhood, and it provides us all with a leaning to light-hearted fantasy and a story pattern of leaving the real world and returning to it. An adventure may begin by going through a wardrobe as in the first Narnia novel, or into and out of Tom Bombadil's Old Forest in Tolkien. Alice goes down a rabbit hole. There are rabbit holes, wardrobes, forests, sailboats.... The world Alice gets to is full of strangeness appealed to me for Orpheus Rising whose characters have a similar variety.

By Lewis Carroll, Illustrated by Rebecca Dautremer,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Alice in Wonderland as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When Alice sees the White Rabbit running by on the river bank, she follows him, tumbling down a Rabbit Hole into a magical world where nothing is ever as it seems...

Lewis Carroll's classic story has delighted children since 1865. One hundred and fifty years since its first publication, Hodder celebrates in style with this sumptuous new edition, illustrated by Rebecca Dautremer, whose dreamlike illustrations bring vibrant new life to Carroll's beloved characters. The original text appears complete and unabridged.

Rebecca Dautremer is the celebrated illustrator of The Secret Lives of Princesses.


Book cover of The Hobbit

Lance Lee Why did I love this book?

Other stories have children heroes, C.S. Lewis' Narnia series or Phillip Pullman's The Golden Compass, but it is Tolkien's Bilbo, smaller than a dwarf, living a dull, sedentary life, who rises to the occasion repeatedly to achieve the story's Quest that influenced me. I liked Tolkien's fluidity of identity too: a man can become a bear, a dragon can speak, eagles be heroic, or wolves think and hunt with malice. Sam and his father encounter a riddling sea monster, living mountains, and other novel characters.

By J.R.R. Tolkien,

Why should I read it?

45 authors picked The Hobbit as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Special collector's film tie-in hardback of the best-selling classic, featuring the complete story with a sumptuous cover design inspired by THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY and brand new reproductions of all the drawings and maps by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who enjoys a comfortable, unambitious life, rarely travelling further than the pantry of his hobbit-hole in Bag End.

But his contentment is disturbed when the wizard, Gandalf, and a company of thirteen dwarves arrive on his doorstep one day to whisk him away on an unexpected journey 'there and back again'. They have a plot to raid…


Book cover of The Hero with a Thousand Faces

Lance Lee Why did I love this book?

This classic treats humanity's myths as coherent stories attempting to make sense of the world, with the hero the prime bearer of the quest for sense and the power to set things right. He starts from a troubled real world, sets off on increasingly supernatural adventures to find a cure for what's wrong, overcomes all obstacles, and returns with the magic sword or elixir that fixes everything. Sam and his father’s adventures follow a similar pattern, although their elixir is family and love regained.

By Joseph Campbell,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked The Hero with a Thousand Faces as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Joseph Campbell's classic cross-cultural study of the hero's journey has inspired millions and opened up new areas of research and exploration. Originally published in 1949, the book hit the New York Times best-seller list in 1988 when it became the subject of The Power of Myth, a PBS television special. The first popular work to combine the spiritual and psychological insights of modern psychoanalysis with the archetypes of world mythology, the book creates a roadmap for navigating the frustrating path of contemporary life. Examining heroic myths in the light of modern psychology, it considers not only the patterns and stages…


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The Essence: A Guided Journey of Discovery through the Bible

By John Pasquet,

Book cover of The Essence: A Guided Journey of Discovery through the Bible

John Pasquet Author Of The Essence: A Guided Journey of Discovery through the Bible

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m passionate about helping people see the incredible beauty of God’s unfolding plan of redemption and restoration that unfolds in the pages of the Bible. In the Old Testament, this plan is hidden in mystery and symbolism. But then in the New Testament, this great mystery is unveiled in all its glory, and the symbolism emerges from the shadows and steps into the light! For the past 15+ years, it has been my great honor to read the Bible with people for their very first time and help them watch this great mystery unfold. These books do that very same thing!

John's book list on helping you truly understand the Bible from beginning to end

What is my book about?

The Bible is the greatest mystery novel ever written. It begins in the Old Testament with seemingly random accounts of ancient people in far away places with strange customs. There’s the prophecy of a coming Hero who will conquer the villain and restore peace to the land. The mystery reaches its climax of anticipation as the Old Testament comes to a close and 400 years of silence ensues and the world longingly waits for its deliverer. Then, in a stable outside a small village in a conquered nation, a peasant woman gives birth to a baby boy. And the great…

The Essence: A Guided Journey of Discovery through the Bible

By John Pasquet,

What is this book about?

The Unfolding Story of God's Ultimate Plan of Restoration

The Bible is the greatest book ever written, and it's more than just a book-it's the very Word of God. It unveils the unfolding story of God's ultimate plan to restore mankind's relationship with Him. The answers to life's deepest questions are found within its pages. It reveals who we are, why we are here, who God is, and how we can know Him. However, for many people, the great riches of the Bible remain undiscovered and its exquisite beauty, unseen. The relevance of the peculiar accounts of ancient people in…


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Interested in Greek mythology, psychoanalysis, and Middle Earth?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Greek mythology, psychoanalysis, and Middle Earth.

Greek Mythology Explore 72 books about Greek mythology
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Middle Earth Explore 17 books about Middle Earth