So, I offer my five favorite books in the fantasy genre. Maybe one ore more appear on your own personal favorites. If so, let me know. Or if you have some fantasy novels in your fave five that you feel outshine the ones on my list, feel free to throw in your two cents in the Comments section. I'm always up for being pointed towards quality storytelling.
#5: American Gods by Neil Gaiman - I've only read two books of Gaiman's to date, and already he is one of my favorite authors. Both books are included in this list. I start with American Gods, which is a wonderful story about an ex-convict named Shadow hired to be the bodyguard for a strange man he meets on his plane ride home, a man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday. A simple enough proposition that is declined at first, until Shadow's girlfriend dies and comes back as a guardian angel from--what seems like--George Romero's dreams, and Mr. Wednesday turns out to be a god, and the ruling gods of the present are out to recruit Shadow and destroy his employer and all his kind. It's splendid storytelling all the way around.
#4: The Thief of Always by Clive Barker - While Barker is known best for writing some exemplary horror fiction, he can also tell one helluva children's fantasy tale. In this one, a young boy named Harvey Swick is whisked off to a magical mansion at invitation of a mysterious stranger called Rictus. The magical place known as Mr. Hood's Holiday House appeals to Harvey like any magic kingdom would to a young boy, especially when it provides an escape from parents and school. But the house, and especially Mr. Hood are too good to be true, and Harvey's fate may end up the same as every other child to set foot on the grounds. For me, to go from Barker's The Great and Secret Show and The Inhuman Condition, then end up with this tale with no presumption of what it's about ... well, I was pleasantly surprised to see a children's story dark enough to make the Brothers Grimm turn pale.
#3: Mort by Terry Pratchett - While stories involving death do hold a certain allure with me, this was the first novel I had read involving Death. You know, the guy with the scythe. Taking place in the famed Discworld universe, Mort is an affable young man unable to find an apprenticeship with any of the more traditional smiths and laborers in his village. Out of luck at the proverbial job fair, Mort lands his official apprenticeship with the Grim Reaper himself. What ensues is one of the funniest stories I've yet had the pleasure of reading. I didn't find Pratchett's The Truth as captivating, but those are only two books of dozens in the Discworld tales, so I'm bound to find another gem. Thud!, after all, is sitting on my TBR pile.
#2: The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman - It's my favorite YA fantasy novel, so deserves it's spot among these other four novels. I could have added the two other novels from the His Dark Materials trilogy to this list, but I thought it best to focus on one. And since this book hooked me from the get-go, why not give it a nod. Lyra Silvertongue and Iorek Byrneson may be two of my favorite characters in any piece of literature I've read in my life. The story is captivating and worthy of any praise it receives, and undeserving of the ignorant scorn it's been given by others. I would welcome this book and this series to be included in any elementary school's required reading lists.
#1: Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman - This was the first book by Gaiman I got the chance to read. It took very few pages for me to come to think of it as an unheralded classic. It's popular, sure, especially among Gaiman's fans, but I think those outside those borders would be doing themselves a favor by reading this novel. I think I hold this tale of Anansi and his sons, Fat Charlie and Spider, with such wonder because it ran me through an emotional gamut. I laughed, I held my breath in suspense, I cheered, and I came within a whisker of shedding a tear towards the end. If there's ever been a negative word uttered against this novel, pay it no mind because it's the word of an imbecile. Am I too partisan?