There have been several lists like this whizzing through the blog world over the past few months -- I saw one of female writers, and another general list of canonical classics -- which people were annotating to show which ones they had read or owned or whatnot. Since I think the world needs more fantasy in it, I'll do the same with Jeff's list (and hopefully not embarrass myself if I haven't read enough of them), and see if anyone else follows my lead. I also might post my own supplementary list of books everyone must read if I suddenly decide Jeff's gotten it All Wrong. (Which I doubt, but I might feel combative after a rainy weekend stuck inside with the kids.)
Anyway, the list follows. Books I've read are in bold. Books I own but haven't read yet are in italics. Books I've never even heard of are in
Fantasy: Essential Reading
I haven't read much Nabokov, actually. Someday I'll remedy that.
Well, I thought I had a copy, but now I can't find it. Maybe I don't own it. Another book I intend to read someday.
I've had this for about ten years, ever since some reviewer compared it to Tim Powers's Last Call. Still haven't read it, though.
I would not call this essential, myself. But it's not my list.
I know I've read at least one Angela Carter collection, back around 1990-91, but I can't remember which one. Wasn't really my thing then, but maybe I'll try again someday.
If you have any literary inclinations whatsoever, you read Borges.
See above at #6.
A fine novel, but I don't remember anything fantastic about it. Though I did read it a good decade ago, so I could be forgetting something.
I'd probably put Tours of the Black Clock in this slot, if I were doing a similar list.
I know there's an argument to be made for this is a SF novel, but I'd never thought of it as a fantasy.
More Whittemore, which I'm sure I'll read someday.
I should read more Calvino. I think all I've read of him is Cosmicomics (or maybe the other book of Qyfwmg-whatsiz stories, or maybe both) which I found a bit dull and trying too hard to be intellectual.
I think I missed the Kafka window: he's someone, like Hesse and Lovecraft, that you really need to read for the first time in high school.
I want to read this again, actually, since the new translation is supposed to be a big improvement (and it was a great book to begin with).
I tried once to read it, but I wasn't in the right mood, and abandoned it after just a few pages.
I haven't read the book called The Collected Stories, but I believe I've read all of Ballard's stories, which should count. They're mostly, if not entirely, SF, though.
If I did a list like this, I'd certainly have Fine and Private Place on it.
I've read one Cormac McCarthy novel, and I prefer my Faulkner from Faulkner, thank you very much.
There was a time when I thought I wanted to read all of Bachelor's novels; I came across references to each of them individually, and they all sounded neat. For whatever reason, that time passed before I actually read any of them.
I've never had quite enough time, or felt enough like indulging an author, to start reading this.
I read this as a wee one, and some aspect of the ending (now long forgotten, or possiblysuppressedd) filled me with a passionate hatred for the series, and I got rid of my copies as soon as I could -- the first time I can remember deliberately getting rid of books.
This is one I don't remember even reading about anywhere.
I finally got to this last year, and, I have to admit, I think it's mostly of historical interest these days.
Another book I was sure I owned but now can't find. I have a firm memory of buying this in England on my honeymoon (I brought a list of things that were out of print in the US but probably in print in the UK -- this was 1993, before your fancy newfangled Internet), but I suppose that's not proof of anything.
Not sure I've read it as an adult, though, which is an important distinction.
Though I did read The Third Policeman -- I had copies of both, and decided Policeman looked like more fun, so I tackled it first. I will read this one eventually.
A bit of a cheat to put this book on a list of fantasy novels, I think: it's an anti-fantasy novel, a book about the dangers of fantasizing and the conflict between fantasy and reality. But, of course, that's exactly why fantasy readers should read it, so I withdraw my objection.
Maybe this is the Alasdair Gray book I have. I thought I had one of them, somewhere...
I was force-fed some Dunn short fiction (or maybe excerpts) in a terribly pretentious writing class back at Vassar in the late '80s, so I'm afraid it's very unlikely I'll ever read her for pleasure.
One I can mostly agree with, though I'd pick Bones of the Moon.
Another book I'll read someday, though it's buried so deep right now that "someday" is about five years of steady reading ahead (at best).
Except for the fact that all of the characters share about three names, I agree.
I've heard good things about it, but one Marquez novel was enough to last me for a couple of decades.
Never heard of this book, but I did see Johnson's Fiskadoro around a lot in the '80s -- I think that was another one of the early Vintage Contemporaries, along with Bright Lights, Big City and Steve Erickson's first two novels. But I haven't read anything by Johnson I can recall.
I think I read Ford's first two novels, but I didn't get to this one.
Maybe this is the one I read! I still have no idea.
I went through a Grant phase at college, and I think this was his new book at the time. But I'm afraid I wouldn't consider it one of the essential fantasy books.
This I would consider a major SF novel, but it's possible I'm forgetting some fantasy elements; I haven't read it in at least fifteen years.
I checked again, to be sure I didn't have this, and it wasn't even on the emergency back-up pile of Golden Gryphon books over on the workbench. (You think I lie?)