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Science Fiction and Fantasy
for Beginners

A short introduction to the world of Sci-Fi and Fantasy

Fairy Tale Retellings

Sheri S. Tepper
This book tells the story of a medieval noble-born girl as she finds out who she is, travels back and forth in time, unravels the mysteries of Disney, and saves the future from Apocalypse.
Gregory Maguire
Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister and Wicked
The first is a retelling of Cinderella, and the second is an alternate version of The Wizard of Oz (much more complex and dark than the original). All of Maguire's books are well-written and interesting; even if you already know the story by heart, it'll all be completely brand-new, and well worth your time.
Robin McKinley
Beauty and Rose Daughter
These are both re-tellings of the Beauty and the Beast story. McKinley did a remarkable job in the first one, but loved the story so much she re-told her re-telling, nearly 20 years later. Both are good, but Beauty resembles the original story slightly more than Rose Daughter.
Jasper Fforde
The Eyre Affair
This is a very humorous mystery about literature and the characters in it. Jane Eyre is kidnapped from her book, and Detective Thursday Next is the only one that can help. This series has elements of both fantasy and science fiction, and is highly entertaining and accessible, especially to readers of more "serious" fare.
Diana Gabaldon
This book is primarily a historical romance novel. Claire Randall is a woman from the World War II era, who falls through a henge and ends up in Scotland during the 1700s. Her adventures involve the complications of time travel more and more as the series progresses.
Richard Adams
Watership Down
Not primarily thought of as a fantasy, this book has high-quality literary writing, and an extremely researched, inventive, and believable story about the lives of English rabbits.
Stephen King
The Gunslinger
This book draws heavily from the western tradition. Roland is a cowboy from another era, possibly even another world. The story opens as he chases the Man in Black across the desert… and despite a slow beginning, the book takes off, setting up a 7-volume series that spans King's entire career.
Charles De Lint

All of his books deal with fairly normal people, who happen to live (or have grown up) on the border of Faerie and the "real" world. Try Medicine Road, which has a contemporary Southwest setting, and involves Native American mythology.