Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Top Ten Books That Would Be On My Syllabus If I Taught Worldbuilding 101

I'm participating in today's Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's prompt is:

Top Ten Books That Would Be On My Syllabus If I Taught Worldbuilding 101

One of the reasons I read is to explore a world that doesn't exist.  It's a wonderful exercise for the imagination, not to mention it can be a total blast.  One of the jobs of the author is to make the world their story is set in feel real.  Luckily, a good chunk of authors have succeeded tremendously in that task.  Here are ten books that would be on my syllabus if I taught a class devoted solely to excellent worldbuilding:

The best fictional places not only feel real, they are like a character themselves in the book.  Such is Hogwarts - magic castle with enchanted portraits, moving staircases, and more than one secret in its stone walls.

9. The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima
Chima does such a great job illustrating the various belief systems, economies, myths, and values of the various cultures in this book.  Even better, she shows how those cultures clash with each other in ways that increase contention and stakes in the story, without it being clear who is right and who is wrong.  These cultures are fictional, but I think reality functions a lot like how she paints it.

8. Troubled Waters by Sharon Shinn
I had to fight the urge to make every bullet on this list a Sharon Shinn book.  Her worldbuilding is exceptional in every book of hers I've read.  It's almost jarring to realize that these worlds aren't real.

7. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
I actually didn't love The Night Circus as a whole, but the worldbuilding in this book is dope.  What I wouldn't give to have an enchanted circus really feel like this.

6. The Giver by Lois Lowry
This classic dystopia shows the starkness and the simple brutality of a life without love through the setting.  The world is cold and (in this case, literally) without color.

5. The Children of Men by P.D. James
This isn't a fictional world, but it's still not ours.  James amazes me with how she uses the overgrown wildlife creeping into civilization to symbolize the decay of the human race.

4. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
This world is about as creepy as it gets.  The way Atwood writes, this world feels so real, and so possible, that it's absolutely terrifying.

3. A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
This series takes the cake for being about as complicated as it is possible to be while still being accessible.  (Though I'm afraid I will have forgotten all the nuances between the various places by the time he finally finishes the next book.)  (Honestly, though, that is a very real fear of mine.)

2. Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier
This book is just enchanting.  It's a fantasy, but it feels more like a historical fiction.  The fantasy element is so finely weaved throughout the story that it just feels logical that Scottish trees are magic, etc.

1. Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine
One word: Slaughterhouse.  Ms. Fine is a genius for selecting that particular setting for her book.

Do you agree with my choices?  What would you add?  What book contains the most impressive worldbuilding that you've ever read?  (Besides Harry Potter, of course, because duh.)


  1. I love that you have a Juliet Marillier novel on here! I absolutely love her work, but it's been so long since I've read any. And of course, I love Harry Potter and A Game of Thrones too. I really want to read Of Metal and Wishes, The Demon King and Troubled Waters. I'd never heard of Troubled Waters before, but it seems amazing.

    Great list!

    1. I've actually only read one Juliet Marillier novel, but the worldbuilding was phenomenal! So enchanting. I definitely recommend Troubled Waters! The others, too, are great reads. :)

  2. I couldn't agree more with you about GOTs and I hope it's not sacrilege, but I've only seen the tv series.

    1. Haha! Not sacrilege to me, but I've only read the books and haven't seen any of the show. :)

  3. I love that you have The Night Circus on here. I love that book. It's such a beautiful example of world building. Great list!

    1. Thanks! The circus was my favorite part of that book. The worldbuilding really was phenomenal.


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