Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics. In the latest Top Ten Tuesday, participants have been given the intriguing task of listing their favourite books that were written before they were born. This is one of the more interesting Top Ten Tuesday topics that I have had the opportunity to complete, and I was rather intrigued to see how many great novels I love were written before I was born.
While I am still very much young at heart, I do have to admit that I was born some 30-odd years ago in 1991, which, now that I have written it down for all the world to see, is starting to make me feel a tad old. Nonetheless, I really want to complete this list, so I have moved on and scoured through some of the best books I have read in my long life to see how many of them were written before 1991, which should hopefully open up an excellent list of great reads for me to talk about below.
This ended up proving to be a rather difficult and interesting list to come up with, especially as it quickly became obvious that I really have not read a great variety of novels written before 1991. While it did require me to feature multiple books from several authors, I was eventually able to come up with 10 impressive entries for a complete list, as well as some great honourable mentions. Each of the novels below are particularly good novels and comics, and most of them were written by some of my absolute favourite authors, whose early work I have gone back to check out. This ended up becoming quite an intriguing and varied list, and I am rather pleased with the entries featured below.
The Carpet People by Terry Pratchett – 1971
The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien – 1937
Top Ten List:
Let us start this list off with a novel that is epic in every sense of the word. Legend is the debut novel of the impressive and exciting fantasy author David Gemmell and features an intense and massive siege that sees a gigantic, unbeatable army attempt to conquer the world’s greatest fortress. Serving as the first entry in Gemmell’s The Drenai Saga, this is an amazing and awesome novel filled with action, adventure and outstanding characters, including Gemmell’s major series protagonist, Druss the Legend, who has a particularly poignant and memorable tale. This is an exceptional must-read for all fans of the fantasy genre.
Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett – 1989
Considering the name that I chose for this blog, it should come as no surprise to anyone that I am a major fan of the late, great Terry Pratchett’s iconic and hilarious Discworld series. I could have honestly filled this entire list with the 10 Discworld novels that were eligible entries. However, I have shown some remarkable restraint and only featured my absolute favourite earlier novels from this long-running series. The first book I am featuring on this list is Guards! Guards!, which came out in 1989. Guards! Guards! is an extremely fun and fantastic novel that expertly and effortlessly melds fantasy, murder mystery and comedy elements into an exceptional and awesome novel that follows a seemingly useless city watch as they attempt to solve the biggest case of their careers: who is summoning a dragon to attack their city? This was an absolutely captivating and hilarious novel that I could read time and time again without getting bored in the slightest, especially as Guards! Guards! sets up my favourite Discworld sub-series. An incredible, outrageous and highly recommended read.
Magician by Raymond E. Feist – 1982
Another pre-1991 epic debut that is essential reading for fans of the fantasy genre is Magician, the first novel in Feist’s long-running Riftwar Cycle. This is an exciting and clever fantasy classic that I have had the great pleasure of reading several times. Not only does it contain an inventive and compelling tale set across two separate worlds that find themselves at war with each other but it also serves as the first novel in a massive major fantasy series that ran for over 30 years. I have a lot of love for Magician and I am still a major fan of Feist, especially as he continues to write great fantasy novels like King of Ashes and Queen of Storms.
There was no way I could do this list without featuring one of the Usagi Yojimbo comics that I have been having so much fun re-reading and reviewing over the last couple of months. There were three separate volumes that I could have included on this list, but I decided to promote the second volume, Samurai, which features a captivating and detailed examination of the titular character’s backstory. Filled with an amazing story and some excellent artwork, Samurai is one of the best entries in my favourite comic series and is a fantastic and wonderful read.
Streams of Silver by R. A. Salvatore – 1989
Another author who was bound to appear on this list is fantasy legend R. A. Salvatore, who has authored a metric ton of novels since his debut in 1988. There were several good options from Salvatore that I could have featured on this list, including all three novels in his debut series, The Icewind Dale trilogy, but the first one I decided to go with was his second novel, Streams of Silver. While I love Salvatore’s debut, The Crystal Shard, I felt that Streams of Silver was the stronger novel, so I included on this list. Featuring some intense action sequences, a deeper dive into the characters introduced in the first book, an outstanding antagonist and a fantastic cliffhanger conclusion, Streams of Silver is great novel from Salvatore that still really holds up.
The next Pratchett Discworld novel I included on this list was the comedic masterpiece, Moving Pictures. Moving Pictures is a deeply impressive novel that sees the ancient art of moving pictures return to the Discworld and then promptly drive everyone crazy. This entertaining and captivating read serves as an incredible parody to the film industry and is loaded with so many jokes and witty observations that you will be laughing yourself silly for days. One of the strongest Discworld novels written before 1991, this one is very much worth reading.
Batman: Year One by Frank Miller, David Mazzucchelli, Todd Klein and Richmond Lewis – 1987
While there were a number of great comics written before 1991, one of my favourites is the 1987 classic, Batman: Year One by graphic novel icon Frank Miller and his talented team of artists. This is an outstanding read that re-imagined Batman for an entire generation and ended up being the character’s key introductory comic for one of the best periods of DC comics. Serving as the main inspiration for the Batman Begins film, Batman: Year One is an exceptional comic that any true Batman fan will love and adore for years to come.
While Magician served as a particularly impressive introduction to the Riftwar Cycle, one of my favourite entries in the entire series was Daughter of the Empire, which Feist cowrote with Janny Wurst. Set on an Eastern-culture inspired fantasy planet, Daughter of the Empire is the first book in the Empire trilogy, a captivating companion trilogy to the Riftwar novels. While all three books in this series are great, the best is easily Daughter of the Empire, which sees a noble-born daughter forced to survive and lead her house after her family is murdered by a powerful rival who wishes to crush her. Thanks to its enjoyable and dramatic narrative of survival against all the odds, Daughter of the Empire is a particularly amazing novel that has a very special place in my heart and which I have gone back and re-read several times.
Homeland by R. A. Salvatore – 1990
My second Salvatore novel on this list is Homeland, the first book in the Dark Elf trilogy, which explores the early life of Salvatore’s most iconic character, the dark elf ranger Drizzt Do’Urden. Homeland follows the birth of Drizzt and follows some of his earliest experiences living with his race, the evil Drow, in their homeland underground, where murder, betrayal and personal ambitions are the natural way of life. Watching the noble and selfless character of Drizzt grow up amongst murders, cowards and fanatics is just fantastic and Homeland is easily one of my absolute favourite Salvatore books of all time.
Pyramids by Terry Pratchett – 1989
The final book on this list is another Pratchett novel, Pyramids, a subtly clever and hilarious read. Set in a parody version of ancient Egypt, Pyramids follows a modern king as he attempts to bring plumbing, feather beds and progress to his decaying country, only to face opposition from his priests, his fellow gods and his greatest adversary, geometry. With some major laugh-out-loud moments, including one scene where multiple Egyptian-inspired gods engage in a football-style match to control the sun, and some amazing original characters, Pyramids is an incredible read and the perfect note to end this list on.
I rather liked how this list turned out and I was so glad that I was able to find several great books to feature above. I do wish I had a bit more variety when it came to authors, and I might have to think about going back and checking out some earlier entries from authors I am fans of, especially if they published novels before 1991. Each of the novels I mentioned above is really exceptional, and I would strongly recommend them all to anyone looking for a fantastic read. Hopefully, some of the authors I mentioned won’t be too disconcerted about the fact that they have been writing for a longer period than I have been alive, and if they are I apologise deeply. Let me know what your favourite novels written before 1991 are in the comments below and I will be interested to see if there are any great books that I missed.