Check out the many genres and subgenres of fantastic fiction, plus where you can find your favorite titles in an audiobook format.
The best fantastic fiction books by genre
Fiction books come in a wide range of genres and subgenres for readers to enjoy. From short stories to long heroic fantasy series, there are fantastic fiction books out there for every person’s tastes. Classic European literature, English fiction, French fantastic literature, gothic literature, historical fiction, or even books based on fantasy games—your favorite authors bring fictional characters and worlds to life through tales of farces and exiles, romance and adventure, or even political intrigue and mystery. From New York Times bestsellers to top-rated books on Goodreads, there are countless fantastic fiction titles out there just waiting for you to explore.
Let’s take a look at some of the best fantastic fiction books by genre.
Best fiction titles by sub-genres
Some fantastic fiction books are genre-defining works, while others cross over into multiple subgenres.
The J. R. R. Tolkien era began in 1937 with the publication of his first fantasy novel, The Hobbit, and the later continuation of the story in The Lord of the Rings. While Tolkien is often considered the father of fantasy stories, you might be surprised know how many iconic fantasy stories came before this period. Here are just a few pre-Tolkien era tales:
- The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
- Dracula by Bram Stoker
- Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
- A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
- The Call of Cthulhu by H. P. Lovecraft
- The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Classic fantasy novels
Classic fantasy can combine various mythic elements. Themes like magic and adventure often dominate story lines. But to qualify as a classic fantasy novel, a book should generally be old and preferably published before the 1980s. Many classic fantasy novels date back hundreds or thousands of years, such as:
- The Odyssey by Homer
- The Princess Bride by William Goldman
- The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
- The Complete Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen
- Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers
- A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare
Epic fantasy is a subgenre where authors tend to magnify everything. The action is epic in scope, and conflicts happen on a grand scale, often involving supernatural elements, mythical creatures, quests, invented languages, magic, etc. Here are just a few examples:
- A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
- His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman
- The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
- The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
- Eragon by Christopher Paolini
- The Gunslinger by Stephen King
Unlike many fantasy subgenres, science fiction doesn’t emphasize magic and supernatural elements. Instead, sci-fi uses imaginary elements that can be plausible, like space travel, futuristic technology, aliens, etc. If you’re looking for a good sci-fi novel, add one of the following to your reading list:
- Dune by Frank Herbert
- Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
- The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
- Foundation by Isaac Asimov
- 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke
- The Martian by Andy Weir
Post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction is massively popular fantasy sub-genres. Plus, you can find old and new excellent titles that fit this category.
Modern titles include:
- The Hunger Games by Suzane Collins
- Divergent by Veronica Roth
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
- The Maze Runner by James Dashner
- Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Older dystopian novels include the following:
- Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
- 1984 by George Orwell
- Lord of the Flies by William Golding
- The Stand by Stephen King
- V for Vendetta by Alan Moore
The subgenre of space opera falls under the speculative fiction classification. It combines elements of romance and adventure with the action taking place primarily in space. However, what often distinguishes the genre from traditional science fiction and space novels is melodramatic action.
You may recognize some of the following titles:
- Duneby Frank Herbert
- Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein
- Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn
- Leviathan Wakes (the basis of The Expanse TV series) by James S. A. Corey
- The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi
Urban fantasy is an interesting subgenre. It uses a modern approach to fantasy storytelling by combining magical motifs with real-world urban locations. The action in many of these novels takes place in contemporary times and also features young adult elements. A few examples include:
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling
- City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
- Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
- Storm Front by Jim Butcher
- Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris
- The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
- American Gods by Neil Gaiman
- Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
- Bitten by Kelley Armstrong
- Angels’ Blood by Nalini Singh
This fiction subgenre focuses on presenting a different version of real historical events. Authors may introduce new characters or find a new way to resolve the plot. The genre is prevalent in books, audiobooks, TV, and movies.
Here are some titles you may recognize and a few reading recommendations.
- Watchmen by Alan Moore
- Fatherland by Robert Harris
- The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
- Seventh Son by Orson Scott Card
- Ancient Truth by Jack Goodwin
- A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain
- The Plot Against America by Philip Roth
Other notable subgenres
There are a few fantasy subgenres this article doesn’t touch on but are still worth checking out, such as the following:
- Comic fantasy
- Young adult fantasy
- Fairy tales
- Ghost stories
- BT fantasy
- Flemish fantastic fiction
- Indic fiction
Find fantastic fiction audiobooks with Speechify Audiobooks
There are many ways to classify fiction books and audiobooks. Motifs, themes, plots, tone, and the author’s origin or style can place different works in various fantastic fiction subgenres. While the choice of titles is overwhelming, the right service can help you identify the best titles for your literary preferences.
Speechify Audiobooks has an extensive collection of bestsellers and titles with cult followings. You can browse over thousands of audiobooks, many of which fall into various fantastic fiction genres.
You can use some for didactic purposes and others for leisure and entertainment, enjoying audiobooks in multi-platform friendly formats and on a wide range of mobile and desktop devices. And if you try Speechify Audiobooks, you even get your first audiobook free.
Join and listen to some of the finest titles in all genres, from the mystery stories of Lee Child to contemporary urban fantasy audiobooks.
What does “fantastic fiction” mean?
Fantastic fiction can refer to fantasy stories set in a magical world where traditional myths and magic take center stage. It can also mean great fiction stories, regardless of genre.
What is the most popular fantastic fiction book?
Bestsellers like the Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, and Lord of the Rings series are easily among the most popular and most-sold fantastic fiction books.