Harry and I have been pals since third grade—before movie producers or toy tycoons found him (nothing against them of course, just saying). Literary snobs may turn their noses at someone as well known, successful, and commercialized as Rowling, but I have to applaud her story. Why? Because it’s just that: story. Pure, 100%, unfiltered, story. I grew up with Hogwarts’s students so it holds nostalgic value like those who discovered elves and orcs for the first time in Tolkien’s world. Harry Potter wasn’t where I first found a love for fantasy, or reading even, but the story and characters tugged me in a way no other tale had done before. And Harry tugged hard.
Lord of the Rings
The literary snob in me prides itself by saying I read the books before I even knew there would be movies made. And I adore the movies. But I remember a friend telling me about the cool battle scenes between dwarves and dragons. I had to read it. I devoured the Hobbit, entranced by the fantasy setting, and a little disappointed by the brevity of the battle of five armies. The Lord of the Rings fed me plenty of nice war scenes. Tolkien wove his magic on me, even though I had already been immersed in the fantasy genre he so heavily influenced (unbenownced to me during my junior high exploration of his world). That ability, I think, is what makes a classic a classic.
Brandon Sanderson is my contemporary idol. I was Wheel of Time fan, and told a friend how awful it would be if Mr. Jordan passed away before he finished the series. Tragedy struck, and just that happened. The same friend informed me that Sanderson, who lives in Utah, would be finishing the series. He referred me to Mistborn, which he said “blew my mind”. I read it, and it blew my mind too. Sanderson’s has talent for destroying clichés and his endings are downright explosive. While reading the trilogy, it was actually the behind-the-scenes annotations on his website that inspired me to start writing. It’s a mixture of that inspiration and how the three books are so seamlessly woven together to create the perfect ending that makes me love Mistborn so much.
Miyazaki / Howl’s Moving Castle
Howl’s Moving Castle by the fantasy guru, Diana Wynne Jones, is fantastic. But I must confess, I saw the movie first, and that’s influenced me more than the novel. Hayao Miyazaki, the Japanese equivalent of Disney, is a master storyteller. His films have a charm, genius, and magic you find more often in a memorable novel than a Hollywood blockbuster. They’ll whisk you away. If you’re not an anime fan, don’t worry. It’s not what you’d think. His story-telling is so powerful you’ll forget you’re watching an animated, Japanese movie. I’ve got a list of once-skeptical friends who will vouch for that. The book’s great too, by the way.
Stardust / The Graveyard Book / Neverwhere
Okay, okay, I saw Stardust, the movie first too. I’m a terrible literary snob. I loved the movie. I love movies in general. More specifically, I love a good story. I don’t think books are so superior that movies are worthless (again, terrible snob)—I just love books differently. Anyways, Mr. Gaimon knows how to write a good story. He’s got his own trademark charm/genius/magic. Stardust the book deserved a good film. The story was pure magic. To those turned off by the Tolkien/Harry Potter stereotypes of fantasy—I say, try Gaimon’s stuff. Try Neverwhere first. You’ll be surprised.