Fantasy? Folktale? Legend? Oh, My!


I love sharing my favorite reads.  Here are some of the very best, many of which I’ve read more than once.  The record is somewhere around 25 times for The Lord of the Rings. Dicken’s A Christmas Carol is probably second, with over a dozen reads.  I know, I know, I should get a life . . .


  • J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings
  • Ursula K. LeGuin, A Wizard of Earthsea Trilogy +1
  • Diana Wynn Jones, Power of Three, The Spellcoats, Dogsbody and Chrestomanci
  • William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, MacBeth and Hamlet (Shakespeare wrote some of the best fairies, witches and ghosts in all of story.)
  • Charles Dicken, A Christmas Carol (Read the little novel: it’s better than any of the movies.)
  • Homer, The Odyssey
  • From the Anglo-Saxon: Beowulf
  • Snorli Sigurdson: The Poetic Edda and The Prose Edda (containing the Norse myths)
  • From England: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Read Tolkien’s translation from the Middle-English)
  • Sir Thomas Malory, Le Morte D’Arthur
  • Sir George Webbe Dasent:  East o’ the Sun and West o’ the Moon: The Norwegian Folktales of Asbjornsen and Moe. My favorite is the drop dead gorgeous story “East o’ the Sun and West o’ the Moon.”  Talk about great romance!
  • The Brothers Grimm, Grimm’s Fairy Tales
  • From Persia: The Arabian Nights
  • Hans Christian Anderson, Fairytales (My favorites are is The Snow Queen and The Goblin at the Grocer’s.)
  • George MacDonald, The Princess and the Goblins and The Princess and Curdie
  • James Stephens, The Crock of Gold  (I love this Irish fairytale.)
  • Rudyard Kipling, Puck of Pook’s Hill and Rewards and Fairies
  • T.H. White, The Sword in the Stone
  • PL Travers, Mary Poppins
  • Mary Stewart, The Crystal Cave
  • Roald Dahl, The BFG
  • Charles de Lint, Into the Green and Moonheart
  • Robin McKinley, The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown
  • Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting
  • Marian Bradley Zimmer, The Mists of Avalon


  • Dia Calhoun, Firegold
  • Robin Hobb, The Farseer Trilogy and Fool’s Errand
  • Nancy Farmer, A Sea of Trolls
  • Janet Lee Carey, Talon
  • Susan Fletcher, Dragon’s Milk
  • Brent Hartinger, Dream Quest
  • Laura Ruby, The Wing and the Wall
  • Anne Ursu, The Shadow Thieves
  • Gayle Bellow, The Nautilus Prophecy (in progress)

Picture books

  • Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are
  • Chris Van Allsburg, The Polar Express
  • Paul Gobel, Buffalo Woman, The Girl who Loved Wild Horses
  • The d’Aulaires, d’Aulaires’ Trolls
  • James Thurber & Louis Slobodkin,  Many Moons
  • Margaret Hodges and Trina Schart Hymen, Saint George and the Dragon

The Rock of Cahsel, High Seat of the ancient kings of Munster, Ireland

What’s your favorite fantasy book, fairytale or folk story?  Tell me the secrets of why it’s such a good story.  What is the most magical thing about it for you?  When you finish it, do you live in that world still in your imagination?  I’d love to hear from you.  I’m always looking for more magic in my life.

12th century Hore Abbey, below the Rock of Cashel

All photos on this page are from Cashel, ancient seat of the High Kings of Munster, in Ireland. Photos are by Sarah Finseth, Kristin McCarrey and Claudia Finseth


  1. I revisit most of the Wizard of Earthsea trilogy (plus one) almost every year. They are wonderful to return to. They were the first fantasy books I was able to read all the way through, in 7th grade, when Lord of the Rings was too much for this hyper-busy farm kid to sit still for.

    • You mean Minnesota winters weren’t enough to get you through Tolkien, Mark? Well, LeGuin IS wonderful, isn’t she? Do you know she is now your neighbor? or that is, you are now HER neighbor?

      Hope the graphic novel business is treating you well. Can’t wait to see what you come up with.

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