Besides reading books on history, theology, and Christian living, I love to read fiction. Of course, no people will likely have the same taste in fictional escapes. But, I thought it would be fun to share with you a few series that I enjoy enough not only to have read once, but to read more than once. Do not take this as a recommendation, as I do not know your taste. However, if you find something you enjoy, I’d love to know about it.
David Eddings, The Belgariad and The Malloreon
Set in a fantasy world, this ten novel series has all of the elements of an epic. There is a young commoner whose mysterious family history may lead him to greatness. There are events that are much bigger going on in a wide world that young Garion will spend a long time learning to deal with. And, above all, there are characters that I have grown to love as much as any fictional folks.
J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter
I was hesitant to read these books when I first heard of them. It seemed a little childish and a little too popular. However, when I began this series, I could not stop. And, when I reread the series, I saw just how skilled Rowling is at hiding little clues all through the books to show how she has been telling a grand story with a dramatic climax from the very beginnings of book 1. As in my love of the Eddings novels, the characters here are people readers grow to love, flaws and all.
J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion
It should be no surprise, given that I just mentioned two epic fantasy series, that these books from Tolkien would make the cut. These are probably the best out there for a clear cut depiction of good against evil, of friendship and loyalty, and of grand battles. I will (sad as this may seem) intentionally read the Silmarillion along with the history recorded in the appendices of Return of the King simply to enjoy Tolkien’s massive history that he developed for this masterpiece. Yet, unlike the two series above, I do not love the characters in this set as I do the others. Tolkien’s characters are a little too perfect, and they just do not feel as real to me.
Tom Clancy, Jack Ryan and John Clark novels
Because I cannot live in fantasy worlds all the time, it is at times fun to slip off into the secret world of war, espionage, terrorism, and the battle for America. Tom Clancy is simply the best in this arena. His characters are great. His stories are surprising and riveting. His knowledge of weapons, the military, and strategy is amazing. In these books, the bad guys are really bad, and that leads to some ugly scenes—which I am not always ready to read and which I would not recommend to others—but the stories are outstanding and the characters are very human.
Patrick O’Brian, Aubrey/Maturin novels
Set during the late 18th and early 19th centuries during the time of the Napoleonic wars, these novels of the English sea captain, Lucky Jack Aubrey, and his friend and spy, Dr. Stephen Maturin, have been described in an article I read as “Pride and Prejudice for dudes.” The concept here is that they are so well written that the language, the conversation, and the relationships often outweigh the major conflict and action in the books. These are fun and quite easy to read, though you may find the naval terminology a bit thick from time to time.
Terry Pratchett, Discworld novels.
Pratchett’s fantasy world is fun simply because it, unlike the others above, is twisted with a British sense of humor. However, though they are laugh-out-loud funny in many places, these novels always tell a solid story. Another thing these books have going for them is that Pratchett had the ability to write from a variety of characters’ points of view, telling stories focusing on city life or the rural mountains, on the rich or the poor, on the magical or the common. My one recommendation to a person reading a novel in this series is not to start in the beginning. It seems that Pratchett did not pick up the real feel and tone of the Discworld until he had already finished several novels.
C. S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia.
Of course I love Lewis’ novels. I will read them over every couple of years because of their sweet allegory and the view of heaven that Lewis paints for us. My only drawbacks come in the fact that these are really children’s books, and the language and the story telling demonstrates that fact. Lewis wrote something that Kids could grasp, and he did it well. I would also suggest that readers be very careful to realize that Lewis did not have all of his theological points correct as he told the grand story in the best way that his considerable talents would allow.
There are certainly other novels and series that I either have or will reread, many of them with my children. The above list is a great starting point, however, to share some of my favorite fictional escapes.
What are some of yours?