The Book of the Dun Cow and its sequel, The Book of Sorrows, both by Walter Wangerin Jr. A very “Christian” worldview. Extremely deep and thought-provoking and lots of action. I couldn’t put either down once I started reading, and I cried at the end of both books. These really stretch the mind and help people, especially Christians, think outside the box of “earth” and “this present life.”
Watership Down and its sequel, Tales from Watership Down, both by Richard Adams. People are wary of these books because they are about rabbits–yes, cute cuddly rabbits! People think, “How dumb!” Not true!!! Bigwig and Hazel are the epitome of heroism, and all the other characters are well-developed and more real than people. Be careful when reading the first novel–you will not be able to stop reading once you hit the last 100 pages, so don’t take it to class with you.
The Wizard of Oz series by L. Frank Baum. There are at least a dozen books in this series, which is very different than the movies. It’s light, easy reading; you will finish one of the novels in under an hour. But full of imaginative lands and characters.
My husband loves The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever series, by Stephen R. Donaldson. There are six books in the series, and he read them back when he was young. I’ve never read them, but he swears they are great.
I love H.P. Lovecraft stories, especially the Cthulu Mythos stories. (Many of these have been written by other authors, especially August Derleth.) Lovecraft is more horror than fantasy, but he has truly created a fantastic, thorough, and mind-boggling mythos. His books stretch the imagination and help a Christian reader to remember that there is another world that we can’t see, but is more real than the “real world” that we live in now. Once you read Lovecraft, you will never walk by a manhole and ignore it again. And you might be afraid to go down into your basement. Or swim in an ocean. Or look in a mirror. Or keep fish. Or eat fish.
The classic fantasy (I assume many high school students are still required to read it) is T.H. White’s The Once And Future King. This is one of the re-tellings of the Arthurian legend. I personally HATE this legend because I just don’t “get it.” I think Arthur was a wimp, his wife was a hussy, and his favorite knight was a gigolo. But I’m seeing it through 20th Century eyes. I did enjoy the Mary Stewart version of the Arthurian legend (The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills, and The Last Enchantment), but these are written for women, and are romantic. I do think that anyone, including teenagers, who is seriously interested in fantasy needs to read at least one good re-telling of the King Arthur story. So much of fantasy is some variation of this story.
I personally like Kiplings Jungle Books, which many don’t think of as “fantasy” because there are no whimsical creatures like elves and dwarves and sorcerers. Only tigers, elephants, snakes, etc., and a little boy who has been raised by these animals. But if that isn’t fantasy, what is? The Jungle Books are pure magic–delightful adventures with all kinds of deep hidden lessons for the 21st century. Don’t let Phil Harris and his “Bear Necessities” scare you away from delving into these wondrous stories.
Finally, you MUST see the 21-hour-long opera, Der Ring des Nibelungen! This epic tells the story of the Norse gods (with the German names). Of course it is pagan, and Christians should not fall for its gospel. But the story is magnificent, and the characters are unforgettable. My daughter sat through a PBS showing of this opera (done over four evenings) when she was only FIVE YEARS OLD! She loved it! Siegfried and Brunhilde were as exciting to her as Ariel the Mermaid and Snow White, and even at her young age, she was able to grasp the significance of the Gotterdammerung. I don’t know if there is a copy of the PBS version, which was beautifully done with English subtitles. If so, get it. To my knowledge, there is no “definitive” re-telling in book form of this mythos. I have a book called The Ring of the Dark Elves by Victoria Randall which you can order online only. It’s a pretty good novelized version of part of the story, but a lot is left out. I wish with all my heart that someone would write “THE” Ring Cycle book (it would be about ten thousand pages long, but big deal–isn’t Harry Potter pretty long?!). Anyway, try to read about these gods and goddesses and their fate.