Often I’ve mentioned how much of an influence Fritz Leiber and Robert E. Howard have been on my work in general, and on the Egil and Nix stories in particular. Ah, but it’s become clear to me that many otherwise well-read fantasy readers haven’t read any Leiber or Howard or any of the other writers I’d put in the category of “You’ve-got-to-read-at-least-some-of-these-because-they’re-foundational-to-the-genre.”
Given that, and because I’m often asked for reading recommendations, I’m going to share with you one of the better lists of these foundational works that I’ve ever seen (hat tip to Paul Weimer). This was compiled by Gary Gygax in the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide, in the legendary Appendix N (and so I combine my love of D&D and classic fantasy fiction into one post; THE VICTORY IS MINE!). I’ve cut and pasted Gary’s list below.
So take a gander at some of these titles, pick one at random, check it out from the library, and enjoy.
APPENDIX N: INSPIRATIONAL AND EDUCATIONAL READING
Inspiration for all the fantasy work I have done stems directly from the love my father showed when I was a tad, for he spent many hours telling me stories he made up as he went along, tales of cloaked old men who could grant wishes, of magic rings and enchanted swords, or wicked sorcerors [sic] and dauntless swordsmen.
Then too, countless hundreds of comic books went down, and the long-gone EC ones certainly had their effect. Science fiction, fantasy, and horror movies were a big influence. In fact, all of us tend to get ample helpings of fantasy when we are very young from fairy tales such as those written by the Brothers Grimm and Andrew Lang. This often leads to reading books of mythology, paging through bestiaries, and consultation of compilations of the myths of various lands and peoples.
Upon such a base I built my interest in fantasy, being an avid reader of all science fiction and fantasy literature since 1950.
The following authors were of particular inspiration to me. In some cases I cite specific works, in others, I simply recommend all of their fantasy writing to you. From such sources, as well as any other imaginative writing or screenplay, you will be able to pluck kernels from which will grow the fruits of exciting campaigns. Good reading!
Anderson, Poul: THREE HEARTS AND THREE LIONS; THE HIGH CRUSADE; THE BROKEN
Bellairs, John: THE FACE IN THE FROST
Burroughs, Edgar Rice: “Pellucidar” series; Mars series; Venus series
Carter, Lin: “World’s End” series
de Camp, L. Sprague: LEST DARKNESS FALL; THE FALLIBLE FIEND; et al
de Camp & Pratt: “Harold Shea” series; THE CARNELIAN CUBE
Farmer, P. J.: “The World of the Tiers” series; et al
Fox, Gardner: “Kothar” series; “Kyrik” series; et al
Howard, R. E.: “Conan” series
Lanier, Sterling: HIERO’S JOURNEY
Leiber, Fritz: “Fafhrd & Gray Mouser” series; et al
Lovecraft, H. P.
Merritt, A.: CREEP, SHADOW, CREEP; MOON POOL; DWELLERS IN THE MIRAGE; et al
Moorcock, Michael: STORMBRINGER; STEALER OF SOULS; “Hawkmoon” series (esp. the
first three books)
Offutt, Andrew J.: editor of SWORDS AGAINST DARKNESS III
Pratt, Fletcher: BLUE STAR; et al
Saberhagen, Fred: CHANGELING EARTH; et al
St. Clair, Margaret: THE SHADOW PEOPLE; SIGN OF THE LABRYS
Tolkien, J. R. R.: THE HOBBIT; “Ring trilogy”
Vance, Jack: THE EYES OF THE OVERWORLD; THE DYING EARTH; et al
Wellman, Manley Wade
Zelazny, Roger: JACK OF SHADOWS; “Amber” series; et al
The most immediate influences upon AD&D were probably de Camp & Pratt, R. E. Howard, Fritz Leiber, Jack Vance, H. P. Lovecraft, and A. Merritt; but all of the above authors, as well as many not listed, certainly helped to shape the form of the game. For this reason, and for the hours of reading enjoyment, I heartily recommend the works of these fine authors to you.
– E. Gary Gygax, 1979, AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide, p. 224