12 Best Authors Like Tolkien for Fantasy Lovers

Check out our list of the best authors like Tolkien, that all lovers of epic fantasies should read. Add their books to your reading list today!

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, better known as J.R.R. Tolkien, was born in 1892 in England. A young progeny, Tolkien could read by age four and learned to write not long after. As a child, he was drawn to books by fantasy authors, including the books of George MacDonald and Andrew Lang. At the age of 12, Tolkien found himself an orphan and was placed in the care of a Catholic priest. He eventually studied literature at Oxford, graduating with honors.

When Britain entered World War I, Tolkien was commissioned to join the army. His personal military experience became the foundation for some of the epic battle scenes in his books. In 1920 Tolkien was demobilized and entered his first job as a civilian, helping to write the Oxford English Dictionary. During this time, he started writing The Hobbit and the first two volumes of The Lord of the Rings.

The author never expected his books to become popular, and The Hobbit was a book he wrote for his children, not intending to publish it. When he published it in the 1930s, it became instantly popular, and he was asked to create a sequel. This launched The Lord of the Ringswhich he spent over a decade writing.

While writing his epic work, he was part of a literary group called the Inklings. This group of writers supported each other and discussed great literary works on the campus of the University of Oxford. Their love for fantasy was partially responsible for the epic tales written by Tolkien. While few writers can hold a candle to Tolkien’s timeless nature, several come close. If you’re interested in this topic, check out our round-up of the best theology authors!

Best Authors Like Tolkien

1. C.S. Lewis, 1898 – 1963

C.S. Lewis was a British author and theologian of the Anglican church. He wrote several theology books as well as The Chronicles of Narnia, a children’s book series with symbolic references to his theological beliefs. Lewis was a contemporary and close friend of Tolkien, and they were both part of the Inklings group. Lewis was born in Ireland and educated through private tutors until he was sent to boarding school in England at nine. The Chronicles of Narnia, starting with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, is his most popular set of novels.

“Once a King in Narnia, always a King in Narnia. But don’t go trying to use the same route twice. Indeed, don’t try to get there at all. It’ll happen when you’re not looking for it.”

C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
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The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
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2. Lewis Carroll, 1823 – 1898

Lewis Carroll
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Lewis Carroll is the pen name for Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, an English author, and poet. As a writer, Carroll was known for his play on words and logic to create fantastical worlds and ideas. His two most famous works are Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, his 1865 children’s book, and its sequel, Through the Looking Glass, published in 1871. At a very young age, Carroll read challenging books, which gave him a love for reading. School was easy for him, and after graduation, he attended Oxford for college. Though he does not have many books to his name, Carroll’s work is on par with Tolkien’s.

“I can’t explain myself, I’m afraid, sir,” said Alice, “Because I’m not myself, you see.”

Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
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Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (Signet Classics)
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  • 1 Page - 06/13/2024 (Publication Date) - Signet Classic (Publisher)

3. Terry Brooks, 1944 –

Terry Brooks
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Terry Brooks is an American author known for his epic fantasies. The prolific author started writing in high school, focusing on Westerns and science fiction. The Lord of the Rings inspired his love for fantasy, and in 1977 he debuted his writing career with The Sword of Shannara. That book had two sequels, and then he brought the Landover novels to market, followed by The Word and Void trilogy. Filmmaker George Lucas chose Brooks to create the novelization of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, which hit the number one spot on the New York Times bestseller list. Brooks has over 40 books, most of which are bestsellers.

“Central governments have always been the greatest danger to mankind.”

Terry Brooks, The Sword of Shannara
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The Sword of Shannara
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  • 736 Pages - 07/12/1983 (Publication Date) - Del Rey (Publisher)

4. Stephen R. Donaldson, 1947 – 

Stephen R. Donaldson
Photo of Stephen R. Donaldson at a book signing

Stephen R. Donaldson writes science fiction and fantasy novels with psychologically complex characters. As a young man, he grew up in India, where his father had a ministry with lepers, and he attended an international school. A fan of Tolkien, he started his writing career with The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. The first two booksLord Foul’s Bane and The Illearth War were published in 1977, and the final book in the 10-book series, The Last Dark, was published in 2013.

He has won multiple awards throughout his career, including the World Fantasy Award for Best Collection and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. In 2009, the University of St. Andrews gave him an Honorary Doctor of Letters degree.

“Something in her expression made Covenant feel that he came from a very poor world, where no one knew or cared about the healing of stoneware pots.”

Stephen R. Donaldson, Lord Foul’s Bane
Lord Foul's Bane (The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Book 1)
  • Stephen R. Donaldson (Author)
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  • 496 Pages - 06/12/1987 (Publication Date) - Del Rey (Publisher)

5. J.K. Rowling, 1965 –

J.K. Rowling
Photo of J.K. Rowling sitting outside

Joanne Rowling, aka J.K. Rowling, is a British author who became a worldwide phenomenon with the publication of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in 1997. Rowling thought up the idea of the boy wizard on a train ride in 1990, and seven years later, he was introduced to the world, and an entire universe of movies, amusement parks, and fan pages has developed.

Rowling had always wanted to be a writer, and that wish came true when she thought of the wizarding world for the first time. The books brought her out of near poverty, making her one of the highest-paid authors of modern times. The first two volumes of Harry Potter earned the Children’s Book of the Year award from the British Book Awards.

“This boy will be famous. There won’t be a child in our world who doesn’t know his name.”

J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
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6. Kevin J. Anderson, 1962 –

Kevin J. Anderson
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American science fiction author Kevin J. Anderson is known for his fantasy and space-themed books. The author has several spin-off novels for popular series, including Titan A.E., Star Wars, and The X-Files. Anderson started writing with his 1988 book Resurrection, Inc., nominated for the Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel. Assemblers of Infinity, his collaboration with Doug Beason won a Locus and a Nebula Award. He has over 175 books, and over 50 have been bestsellers.

“All Servants were reanimated corpses, dead bodies with microprocessors planted in their brains to make the bodies move again. This allowed them to walk and talk and do what they were told. It was much cheaper than manufacturing androids from scratch to do menial and monotonous tasks.”

Kevin J. Anderson, Resurrection, Inc.
Resurrection, Inc.
  • Anderson, Kevin J. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 338 Pages - 05/01/2014 (Publication Date) - ECW Press (Publisher)

7. Christopher Paolini, 1983 –

Christopher Paolini
Photo of Christopher Paolini

California native Christoper Paolini is best known for his The Inheritance Cycle series, which includes Eragon ,Eldest, Brisingr and Inheritance. At 15, he started writing what would become Eragon, establishing the mythical world of Alagaesia. The book was published in 2002, and when Carl Hiaasen’s stepson found the book and loved it, Hiaasen convinced his publisher to pick up the series. This led to Paolini hitting the New York Times bestseller list at 19. The Inheritance Cycle series has sold over 41 million copies to date. In 2018 he published The Fork, the Witch and the Worm, a new book in a series set in Alagaesia, and continues to add to his list of works.

Books are my friends, my companions. They make me laugh and cry and find meaning in life.”

Christopher Paolini, Eragon

8. Kristin Cashore, 1976 –

Kristin Cashore
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Kristin Cashore writes young adult fantasy books, including the Graceline Realm series. After attending Williams College, she got a master’s degree in Children’s Literature from the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at Simmons College. In 2008 she published Graceling, her first novel, which was nominated for several awards. She wrote three more books in the Graceling Realm series and a standalone book called Jane, Unlimited, in 2017.

In 2021 she returned to Graceling with Winterkeep, establishing herself solidly as a fantasy author. Though the Graceling books are interconnected, she wrote them so that they can be read independently without losing the storyline.

“How absurd it was that in all seven kingdoms, the weakest and most vulnerable of people – girls, women – went unarmed and were taught nothing of fighting, while the strong were trained to the highest reaches of their skill.”

Kristin Cashore, Graceling
Jane, Unlimited
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  • Cashore, Kristin (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 462 Pages - 09/19/2017 (Publication Date) - Kathy Dawson Books (Publisher)

9. Terry Goodkind, 1948 – 2020

Terry Goodkind
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Author Terry Goodkind lived most of his life in Nevada, and as a young child, he thought he could not write due to having dyslexia. In his early adult years, he worked building cabinets and violins and also spent time painting wildlife. In 1993 he started writing Wizard’s First Rule, published in 1994. The book sold at auction for a record price, and he was inspired to write additional novels. Nearly all his books have been New York Times bestsellers, and his 2005 book Phantom debuted at the number one spot. Seventeen of his books comprise the Sword of Truth series, which has sold 26 million copies in 20 languages.

“People who for whatever reason don’t want to see the truth can be acutely hostile to it and shrill in their denunciation of it. They frequently turn their venomous antagonism on whoever dares to point out that truth.”

Terry Goodkind, Phantom
Phantom
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10. John Steinbeck, 1902 – 1968

John Steinbeck
Portrait of John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck is an American writer from the early 1900s who wrote famous works like Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath. Often called a “giant” of American letters, he authored 33 books, many of which have a bit of humor woven into them. In 1940 he won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and in 1962, the Nobel Prize in Literature, both tributes to the genius of his work. Though he did not write fantasy novels but instead focused on dramatic and historical fiction works, his ability to capture the essence of the human condition and his numerous awards for his work place him among the writers that fans of Tolkien should read. Check out these authors like Yann Martel.

“And this you can know- fear the time when Manself will not suffer and die for a concept, for this one quality is man, distinctive in the universe.”

John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
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11. Patrick Rothfuss, 1973 – 

Patrick Rothfuss
Portrait of Patrick Rothfuss

Patrick Rothfuss is the author of several award-winning fantasy books. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin and Washington State University, Rothfuss started his literary career in 2006 when he sold his novel The Name of the Wind to a publisher. It won a Quill award for Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror and was named a Book of the Year by Publisher’s Weekly. This book launched the successful The Kingkiller Chronicle series, which he is most famous for. In addition to writing books, he has a successful podcast and is involved in creating stories for popular role-playing games.

“It’s like everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story.”

Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind
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The Name of the Wind
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Looking for more? Check out our round-up of the best Argentinian authors!

12. Tracy Hickman

Tracy Hickman is a renowned American author who is best known for her work in the fantasy genre. She has co-authored several best-selling series, including the “Dragonlance” series and the “Death Gate Cycle.” Her writing is characterized by rich world-building, intricate plots, and well-developed characters. Hickman has won numerous awards for her contributions to the genre and continues to inspire readers and writers alike with her captivating storytelling. You might also enjoy these authors like Robin Hobb.

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