I think we can all accept that Adult fantasy is not the largest of book genres out there. It’s straddles a weird space – one between the “childish” ideals of magic and mythical creatures and a commentary on very “adult” issues.
Why don’t many adults read adult fantasy.
When I ask people what they read, it will tend to be a) thrillers b) fiction novels (very much set in the Real World) or c) they don’t read at all. Even some of the most “die hard” GoT fans that I’ve talked to just don’t have time to read the books. They’ll wax lyrical about the TV show (or, as it is currently, scathing review of the final series) but picking up the book? That’s too complicated, too long, just not appealing.
Now, admittedly, the pool of people I’d ask at work is about 10 people, all of whom are in various business professionals that is very much “adult”. It’s less creativity, more “business”, suits instead of colourful clothing, sensible instead of wacky.
So the conclusion? It’s a combination of what it means to be an “adult” (not reading those “children” books with dragons in it) and just no interest in reading a 400 page monster novel.
Why more adults should really read at least one (1) fantasy book
I am a strong advocate for fantasy (and sci-fi) stories. Not only because it’s the genre that I enjoy to read and write in, because I believe that the genre itself can teach us something that no other genre can.
I’ve got three reasons why everyone should read at least one fantasy book in their lives:
- They are ridiculous fun
- They make you think about this world
- They give you hope
They’re a bit of fun
“Everyone should read at least one fantasy novel in their life because they are just fun“
I mean, every story has a purpose, and so does every genre. There is a reason that people will read different books, some looking for the comfort of a story they know, others looking to be thrilled and terrified.
My first reason for why everyone should read at least one fantasy novel in their life is because they are just fun. They’re funny and silly and can have ridiculous characters in them that are just larger than life. Fantasy novels can take certain liberties with their characters – putting a very human experience into a new world and making a situation quite frankly hilarious. Terry Pratchett was one of the masters behind this kind of storytelling, making you laugh but also making you think.
You have to think
It’s also a wonderful introduction to other views of the world
Now, every book will make you think. It’s the purpose of stories to make you think, consider, change opinions, seek new ideas.
Something I’ve found about writing fantasy & reading fantasy novels is the fact that it challenges my pre-conceptions of the world. When you world-build a new fantastical world, you impute your understanding of the world onto it – and that includes your pre-conceived biases and assumptions that you may not be conscious of having. It’s for this reason it is so, so, so important to encourage writers from every background to write, because it’s not just the same typical “white, western, typically middle-class male” experience that is documented.
One book that stands out for me in this regard is The Poppy War by R.F.Kuang. I picked it up because it just was so different to anything I had read before, a magic system built deep into Chinese mythology and culture that it was a real challenge for me (white, woman, western) who had zero exposure to the depth of the culture before. And sure, it was an excellent fantasy novel, but it was a real lesson for me personally to find more novels that are not just based on a western understanding of the world. The next one on my to read list We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal fits this category perfectly.
It’s a humbling experience to experience another person or another culture’s understanding of the world. But it’s also a wonderful introduction to other views of the world through a genre that is a lot of fun to read.
They give you hope
We should remind ourselves that our favourite heroes overcome their struggles, so maybe we can as well.
The book The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson will always hold a special place in my heart. In it, the main character Kaladin is shown to suffer from chronic depression, whilst struggling to be the “hero” and save the day, save his team, from destruction in war.
One of the most moving parts of the book was where Kaladin is stood at the top of the Chasms, contemplating suicide. He is faced with a choice of jumping away from his problems, giving into the voice in his head that tells him he is worthless, or to turn back and face it and keep fighting no matter how futile.
He turns back to save his men, after much debate and a great struggle on his part. And for me, that part of the book was so moving that it has stuck with me almost eight years after I first read it. When you read fantasy books, you become so attached to the characters that they become your heroes and heroines, they are your example of a way to strive to be better in your own life.
The message from this book was a very resounding journey before destination. It’s the first “Ideal” that activates the magic system in the book, forcing the characters to accept that it’s the journey to get from A to B that’s important, not just point B. It’s learning from your mistakes, fighting when it seems hard, and overcoming the odds to succeed.
In today’s world, I do think it’s important to remember how to overcome struggles. We should remind ourselves that our favourite heroes overcome their struggles, so maybe we can as well.
Want to start reading some fantasy?
Check out Goodreads for some recommendations for the fantasy and sci fi genres! I’ve also go my favourites bookshelf which I’m slowly updating with my favourite all-time books, which let’s be honest, is mostly fantasy.
Are you convinced to try a fantasy book now? Let me know how you get on!