Any fantasy books that you consider "literature"?

I am looking for some fantasy books that are works of pure literature -- stuff you might find in a college literature classroom for example.

Any ideas?


Journeyed there and back again
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Hi Dave.

Yes, there are several books you might see in a college classroom. I'll list a couple that come to mind.

J.R.R. Tolkien has been around for a while and his books have transcended the fantasy genre to works of "pure" literature. It's a bit of a snobby distinction some people have, drawing a line between literature and genre works, but it's there, nevertheless.

Gene Wolfe is another fantasy author who's books might be considered literature. His writing is very beautiful and his writing is pregnant with sub textual meanings -- something that really delights English Literature professor types. His The Book of the New Sun is a beautiful novel.

Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, which is kind of a Jane Austin novel turned into Fantasy. The book is a tremendous success and written a very flowery, turn-of-the-century sort of way.

Neil Gaiman's works might also be considered literature; Gaiman always writes with some deep theme in mind. For example, in American God's, Gaiman explores how myth and legends coexist with today's realities.

China Mieville is another author to keep an eye on. His worlds are rather bizarre but his prose and ideas are top notch.

Hope the helps!
Try Winter's Tale, by Mark Helprin. A "fantasy" that takes place in New York. Not high fantasy by any fact, this book is difficult to pin down. I found it beautifully written and very magical--I read it years ago, and return to it every few years or so.

As I mentioned, the writing is top-notch. It can also be considered "literature" as one can go deeper into the text looking for examples of Helprin's conservative socio/politcal views--he has been accused of being a "reactionary elitist," and some have rejected this book for that reason alone. Some also take issue with his treatment of social classes. However, I choose to set aside such considerations (even though I am pretty liberal) because the book is so strange and beautiful. Give it a shot.
Actually I believe there are a couple fairly highly regarded colleges/universities teach the works of Stephen R. Donaldson, most specifically the first TC trilogy (which might possibly be the greatest fantasy books ever written). I know I might be speaking heresy to utter (figuratevly speaking of course) those words, but eh whatcha gonna do? The scope, complexity, and ethical exploration in these books puts them close to literature.

Not sure that this qualifies, but Boys Life by Robert R. McCammon has some heavy fantasy elements, and is taught on many high school curriculums (sp?).

I would also think that Dan Simmons newer works Illium and Olympos would be in that category too, considering that they are based on Homer's works.

I'm going to stop now.