The best Hero's journey books

4 authors have picked their favorite books about Hero's journey and why they recommend each book.

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The Wizard of Oz

By L. Frank Baum, Lizbeth Zwerger (illustrator),

Book cover of The Wizard of Oz

I love when an author weaves social issues into the plot and character. Baum wrote an extensive political allegory in the guise of children’s literature. You have to know a little about the controversies of the time he wrote the story, especially backing paper currency with precious metals. Gold (yellow brick road), silver (Dorothy’s slippers are silver in the book), and greenbacks (the Emerald City is a metaphor for Washington, D.C.) are all in the story and reflect Baum’s views about the illusory value of paper money. More importantly, he is commentating upon power and wealth and oppression in America.

The narrative structure is a straightforward hero’s (heroine’s) journey–leave the current world (Kansas), travel on a dangerous adventure in a faraway place (Oz), and return home wiser and transformed. I first learned about this in an American history class. The movie adaptation of the book is great, but it doesn’t…


Who am I?

I have come to better understand myself as a character in a wonderful story called life. That story, in this lifetime, is bookended by birth and death. It’s my own personal narrative of transformation and it’s ongoing. What will come next on my individual Hero’s Journey? Understanding this story structure provides me with insights and inspiration to make it a good story with a happy ending. It also helps me appreciate that there are many challenges to be overcome along the way.


I wrote...

Serpent Rising

By Victor Acquista,

Book cover of Serpent Rising

What is my book about?

Winner of the 2021 International Book Awards for Best New Age Fiction. A blend of mystery, suspense, adventure, and thriller, book one of The Saga of Venom and Flame recounts a heroine's journey of transformation into a warrior for truth in the great War of the Two Serpents.

Serena Mendez is a pill-popping dysfunctional who is haunted by trauma she experienced in her youth. She is unaware of her latent potential. A clandestine brotherhood hunts her for the threat she represents. To fulfill her true destiny and unleash the power within her blood, Serena journeys to six continents where she uncovers the truth of who she is, and what she must do. A warrior stirs—a Lightbringer… She is Serena Mendez… She is a Candelaria.

Knee-Deep in Thunder

By Sheila Moon, Peter Parnall (illustrator),

Book cover of Knee-Deep in Thunder

This is a book I reach for if I wake up in the middle of the night, feeling worried or anxious, and I just want to go to another world. The lead character is a young girl who is brave and kind (but not perfect!) who enters a magical world by accident. This world turns out to be made up of many of the elements of our own world that we may not notice—ants, beetles, spiders, and other creatures (not all insects, but these insects are wonderful). They become part of a band of adventurers who face an epic hero's journey with a strong message about how to stand by each other, without being corny or predictable.

This is an older book, published in 1969 by a Native American author who draws on Navajo mythology. I recently re-read it myself, and it was one of those books that I couldn't…


Who am I?

I'm a writer who has mostly written books for adults, as well as plays and screenplays, and June Sparrow and the Million Dollar Penny is my only book for children (so far). Though I read a lot of adult literature I have never stopped reading children's books. I always keep a "comfort" book on my bedside table for the middle of the night. I think that a really well-written, timeless children's book can teach us, comfort us, and take us on a journey. No matter what age you may be, I hope that you will read these books, or revisit them even if you think you are "too old" for children's books.


I wrote...

June Sparrow and the Million-Dollar Penny

By Rebecca Chace,

Book cover of June Sparrow and the Million-Dollar Penny

What is my book about?

June Sparrow and her best friend—a miniature pig named Indigo Bunting—have always been fine on their own. June is a fabulously wealthy orphan who's lived in New York City her whole life. On June's twelfth birthday, she suddenly loses her fortune and is forced to move in with an aunt she's never even met in the tiny town of Red Bank, South Dakota. June has to live on a farm with her grouchy Aunt Bridget, who sees her best friend as potential bacon! One day, June finds a mysterious "Penny Book" that her mother used to keep. She's instantly intrigued by what her mother called the Big One, the rarest and most valuable of all pennies. Finding it could be June's ticket back to New York and her old life. But is that what she really wants?

The Hero with a Thousand Faces

By Joseph Campbell,

Book cover of The Hero with a Thousand Faces

It’s almost impossible to discuss the Hero’s Journey without paying homage to Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces. This work by a noted mythologist and scholar is so instrumental in helping us to understand the story of humanity. This book helps me to appreciate that we are all storytellers, and our individual and collective stories are rooted in archetypes, myths, and heroic tales. I love his ability to dissect the cross-cultural features of the stories we tell. Campbell’s seminal work is among the most influential books of the twentieth century. It helps me to understand my own personal narrative and human history through the lens of story.


Who am I?

I have come to better understand myself as a character in a wonderful story called life. That story, in this lifetime, is bookended by birth and death. It’s my own personal narrative of transformation and it’s ongoing. What will come next on my individual Hero’s Journey? Understanding this story structure provides me with insights and inspiration to make it a good story with a happy ending. It also helps me appreciate that there are many challenges to be overcome along the way.


I wrote...

Serpent Rising

By Victor Acquista,

Book cover of Serpent Rising

What is my book about?

Winner of the 2021 International Book Awards for Best New Age Fiction. A blend of mystery, suspense, adventure, and thriller, book one of The Saga of Venom and Flame recounts a heroine's journey of transformation into a warrior for truth in the great War of the Two Serpents.

Serena Mendez is a pill-popping dysfunctional who is haunted by trauma she experienced in her youth. She is unaware of her latent potential. A clandestine brotherhood hunts her for the threat she represents. To fulfill her true destiny and unleash the power within her blood, Serena journeys to six continents where she uncovers the truth of who she is, and what she must do. A warrior stirs—a Lightbringer… She is Serena Mendez… She is a Candelaria.

Screenwriting 101

By Film Crit Hulk,

Book cover of Screenwriting 101

Most of the books on this list aren’t strictly about story structure but instead combine unique storytelling insights with innovative structural concepts. Topping the list in that regard is Film Crit Hulk’s Screenwriting 101. Equal parts writing guide and manifesto against overused storytelling techniques like 3-Act Structure and the Hero's Journey, his emotional approach to structuring stories is perhaps the most thought-provoking I’ve encountered. Unfortunately, the book is currently out-of-print, though I have heard that Hulk (a pseudonym, obviously) intends to release a second edition in the future. Fingers crossed.

This is currently out of print, but a new edition is expected soon.


Who am I?

I’ve been a student of story structure for decades. As a novelist, this initially started as a means to learn as much as I could from those with more experience than myself, but quickly grew into a passion. I read everything on the subject I could get my hands on and eventually began analyzing the plots of novels and movies for myself, amalgamating what I had learned with my own theories and insights which coalesced into a wholly new structural paradigm. Since then, I’ve had the privilege of working with many talented screenwriters and novelists to help them shape their stories using Six Act Structure. 


I wrote...

Actions and Goals: The Story Structure Secret

By Marshall Dotson,

Book cover of Actions and Goals: The Story Structure Secret

What is my book about?

Most structural paradigms are vague to the point of being esoteric. Terms like “dark night of the soul” or “return with the elixir” are simultaneously too convoluted and too abstract to clearly impart their narrative functions. The Story Structure Secret: Actions and Goals eschews the traditional approach to story structure by teaching you how to use a simple, universal pattern of six character actions and goals to drive the structure of your narrative.

This sequence of actions and goals is the hidden foundation of your favorite novels and films, and by learning to align the unique actions your characters take with these universal story actions, you can easily create compelling and propulsive narratives. 

Wizard's First Rule

By Terry Goodkind,

Book cover of Wizard's First Rule

I recommend this book because of the incredible journey the main protagonist takes across the vast series (11 books in the main story). This is an underdog and hero’s journey epic fantasy book. The magic system, characters, and setting are all fantastic and unforgettable. I absolutely loved the main character and his two closest allies (one is his grandfather; the other is his love interest who is powerful and intelligent, not a damsel in distress). Again, the characters are humanthey make mistakes, sometimes catastrophic, but they learn and grow and are better because of it. I can’t recommend this series enough!


Who am I?

Why did I choose to write an epic fantasy novel? The same reason I choose to read them! Nothing captures the imagination more than a fantasy novel. And the epic fantasies are simply the most exquisite, magical, grand adventures one could ever hope to go onfrom the safety of your own bedroom (or car, or hammock, or wherever!). I read to escape and explore worlds that I can never see except in my dreams, to go where I simply cannot go, and to experience struggles and hopes and dreams of friends I otherwise couldn’t meet. Reading is a journey—and fantasy settings are simply the best of them. 


I wrote...

David Bishop and the Legend of the Orb

By T.C. Crawford,

Book cover of David Bishop and the Legend of the Orb

What is my book about?

David Bishop and the Legend of the Orb is the first book in a young-adult epic fantasy two-part series written by T.C. Crawford. It tells the story of David Bishop as he grapples with the incredible power granted to him by a mysterious orb and the prophetic conflict that ensuesa conflict that began ages ago between the most powerful beings in existence, the mystics. As David and his allies fight to prevent the release of an ancient evil that will reign destruction on their world, time is running out.

The Writer's Journey

By Christopher Vogler,

Book cover of The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers

This is an indispensable craft book. While Campbell provides in-depth analyses of myth and storytelling, Vogler takes the structural elements of writing a hero’s journey and provides detailed practical guidance about how to write using this narrative structure. In a sense, Campbell tells us what the ingredients are, but Vogler gives writers, such as myself, an instruction guide on how to mix these ingredients in plot and character arcs. 

Until I heard him speak and understood the depth and detail of this essential guide, I didn’t realize how influential Vogler is. I see that influence in books and movies all the time. Many screenwriters, playwrights, and novelists have benefitted from reading his manual. In so many ways, my writer’s journey is captured by the narrative of a hero’s journey—a call to go on a creative journey, fraught with many challenges and frustrations, and it continues to this day. As Vogler…


Who am I?

I have come to better understand myself as a character in a wonderful story called life. That story, in this lifetime, is bookended by birth and death. It’s my own personal narrative of transformation and it’s ongoing. What will come next on my individual Hero’s Journey? Understanding this story structure provides me with insights and inspiration to make it a good story with a happy ending. It also helps me appreciate that there are many challenges to be overcome along the way.


I wrote...

Serpent Rising

By Victor Acquista,

Book cover of Serpent Rising

What is my book about?

Winner of the 2021 International Book Awards for Best New Age Fiction. A blend of mystery, suspense, adventure, and thriller, book one of The Saga of Venom and Flame recounts a heroine's journey of transformation into a warrior for truth in the great War of the Two Serpents.

Serena Mendez is a pill-popping dysfunctional who is haunted by trauma she experienced in her youth. She is unaware of her latent potential. A clandestine brotherhood hunts her for the threat she represents. To fulfill her true destiny and unleash the power within her blood, Serena journeys to six continents where she uncovers the truth of who she is, and what she must do. A warrior stirs—a Lightbringer… She is Serena Mendez… She is a Candelaria.

The Furies of Calderon

By Jim Butcher,

Book cover of The Furies of Calderon

This book is an excellent read for lovers of fantasy, especially coming-of-age fantasy focused on the hero’s journey. The novel is the first in a series, the Codex Alera, and is the author’s first fantasy series and one of his life-long passion projects. It was written after a bet was made by another writer that he couldn’t write a series based on a lame idea. He upped the ante and based it on two lame ideas: the Lost Roman Legion and Pokémon. This series has a fantastic magic system, believable characters who make mistakes, learn, and grow, and an unforgettable journey. This is one of my favorite fantasy series. 


Who am I?

Why did I choose to write an epic fantasy novel? The same reason I choose to read them! Nothing captures the imagination more than a fantasy novel. And the epic fantasies are simply the most exquisite, magical, grand adventures one could ever hope to go onfrom the safety of your own bedroom (or car, or hammock, or wherever!). I read to escape and explore worlds that I can never see except in my dreams, to go where I simply cannot go, and to experience struggles and hopes and dreams of friends I otherwise couldn’t meet. Reading is a journey—and fantasy settings are simply the best of them. 


I wrote...

David Bishop and the Legend of the Orb

By T.C. Crawford,

Book cover of David Bishop and the Legend of the Orb

What is my book about?

David Bishop and the Legend of the Orb is the first book in a young-adult epic fantasy two-part series written by T.C. Crawford. It tells the story of David Bishop as he grapples with the incredible power granted to him by a mysterious orb and the prophetic conflict that ensuesa conflict that began ages ago between the most powerful beings in existence, the mystics. As David and his allies fight to prevent the release of an ancient evil that will reign destruction on their world, time is running out.

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