Jared Shurin has created a list of the 50 essential epic fantasies over at his blog (in two parts). It’s worth reading carefully, not least because he it’s a list that talks around the genre in a blind-men-seeing-elephants way rather than just being a list of best epic fantasy books. I think it tracks the trajectory of epic fantasy quite nicely, from proto-forms through Tolkein, the descent into knowing and unknowing self-parody, self-awareness, and the grimdark revival that seems to be dominating today. It’s not my favourite genre (I’m only 16 for 50 on the list) but I think Jared is bang-on when it comes to the trends.
The list was part of a group challenge. Links to the three other contributors appear in the list posts.