9 Best Books to Read if You’re Into Dungeons & Dragons

Whether you enjoy the pen-and-paper adventures of Dungeons & Dragons, or the game’s digital adaptations recently made popular again by Baldur’s Gate 3, you might want to delve deeper into the storied ruleset and its many unique settings. This is where books come in. They don’t require you to shuffle busy schedules while putting together a tabletop session, and you don’t need a PC or console to run them. All you need is a bit of spare time and the desire to experience some exciting adventures.

This article will recommend several books and series you’re likely to enjoy if you consider yourself a fan of Dungeons & Dragons. Some of them are officially licensed books taking place within such familiar settings as the Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance. Others existed before D&D was a thing and served as an inspiration for the game itself and many of its recognizable elements. Be sure to check out the individual entries to learn more about these books and the series you might want to continue exploring if you like them. And here are the best books to read if you like D&D:

  • Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman – Dragons of Autumn Twilight
  • R.A. Salvatore – Homeland
  • Ed Greenwood – Elminster: The Making of a Mage
  • Poul Anderson – Three Hearts and Three Lions
  • Robert E. Howard – The Hour of the Dragon
  • Jack Vance – The Dying Earth
  • Fritz Leiber – The First Book of Lankhmar
  • Michael Moorcock – Stormbringer
  • J.R.R. Tolkien – The Hobbit

Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman – Dragons of Autumn Twilight

Written by long-time D&D enthusiasts, Dragons of Autumn Twilight is the first book in the Dragonlance Chronicles trilogy and the beginning of the bigger Dragonlance series of novels that received its latest entry as recently as in 2023 with Dragons of Fate. Dragonlance is one of the most recognizable D&D settings thanks to its three magic-affecting moons, the much-bemoaned Kenders that are like a more adventurous and kleptomaniac take on Hobbits, dragon-riding battles, and the prominence of large-scale conflict that as you might have guessed also revolves around dragons. And dragons, after all, are half of what Dungeons & Dragons is all about.

The actual story that begins in Dragons of Autumn Twilight follows a group of old friends who wanted to have a little reunion, but are instead joined by a couple of newcomers and are forced to go on a long perilous journey that eventually puts them into a position to change the course of the world. This book has it all – a large adventuring party where not everyone necessarily likes everyone else, old rivalries and secrets being exposed, tense battles, danger-filled dungeons, daring escapes, bittersweet love stories, and much more. This here is a quintessential D&D book. It even has the requisite grumpy dwarf.

The rest of the trilogy continues and concludes the story of this group known as Heroes of the Lance. Then the following Dragonlance books explore more of the setting’s world, describe the adventures of the Heroes’ descendants, and so on.

best dd books dragons of autumn twilight

R.A. Salvatore – Homeland

If you know Dungeons & Dragons, chances are you’ve at least heard the name Drizzt Do’Urden. This uncharacteristically honorable drow (or dark elf), can be considered the poster kid for D&D, and back in the ’90s and early 2000s, he was the bane of many a table where oh-so-many new players wanted to play a “good drow” based on the character’s popularity alone.

R.A. Salvatore’s Homeland is Drizzt’s origin story depicting his early years in the drow city of Menzoberranzan and his subsequent escape from it to the surface. If you ever wanted to know what all the fuss about Drizzt was about, this is the place to start.

Alternatively, The Crystal Shard is chronologically the first novel to feature Drizzt, who at that point is already a surface-dwelling ranger taking refuge in the remote Ten Towns of Icewind Dale. That name might be familiar to you because, besides inventing Drizzt, R.A. Salvatore also did a lot to popularize Ed Greenwod’s Forgotten Realms setting that eventually became D&D’s flagship. Because of this, R.A. Salvatore’s books following the many adventures of Drizzt and his companions are a great way to immerse yourself in D&D. Especially considering that he never stopped writing them, with the most recent entry in the series – Lolth’s Warrior – published in 2023.

best dd books homeland

Ed Greenwood – Elminster: The Making of a Mage

With how important the Forgotten Realms setting is for Dungeons & Dragons now, we would be remiss not to mention the Elminster series by the setting’s creator Ed Greenwood. The Making of a Mage actually starts with the famed Elminster as a young lad who not only is not a wizard but actively dislikes them and everything related to magic. And from these humble beginnings, he will eventually become one of the most powerful spellcasters of Forgotten Realms, rubbing shoulders with gods and other powerful beings.

If you’re someone who prefers primary sources, Ed Greenwood’s Elminster books are your ticket straight to the foundation of Forgotten Realms, and a look at the setting in its early days.

best dd books elminster

Poul Anderson – Three Hearts and Three Lions

And now, we’re moving away from official D&D books and towards the titles mentioned by Gary Gygax in the famous Appendix N to the Dungeon Master’s Guide for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons which lists quite a few books and authors that inspired D&D in the first place. And while many of the stories listed there are more inspirational in spirit, Poul Anderson’s Three Hearts and Three Lions reads like a proper D&D adventure, complete with a diverse party of adventurers, challenging encounters, and side quests they pick up along the way. This is all the more impressive considering the book was published in 1961, and written in a shorter form even earlier than that (1953).

Considering when the book was written, there was no established template for a fantasy adventure just yet, not to mention a D&D story, so it can be very exciting to read it while noting all the similarities with the modern fantasy formula. And since this is a Poul Anderson story, you can also expect some instances of applied physics saving the day, plus certain connections to the real world.

With this book listed as a primary inspiration for D&D, reading it you will also encounter certain elements Gary Gygax and co. lifted from the story almost wholesale. These include the ever-popular paladin class, the gruesome and constantly regenerating unless-set-on-fire trolls, and, despite what some of Michael Moorcock’s fans will try to claim, the whole Law/Chaos, Good/Evil alignment system.

best dd books three hearts three lions

Robert E. Howard – The Hour of the Dragon

Robert E. Howard’s Conan, on top of being the prototype for the barbarian class, is the quintessential adventurer. A mercenary, a pirate, a thief, and a king – Conan has done it all. He’s a well-rounded character, supplementing his mighty brawn with a sharp wit and great linguistic skills. This combination allows him to travel the Hyborian kingdoms and delve into their dungeons in search of treasure and glory. He often requires no motivation to explore some dangerous corner of the world other than it being there. And his adventures are always filled with excitement, danger, and thrilling battles.

The Hour of the Dragon is the only Howard novel featuring the character. It begins with Conan assaulted by foul magics and deposed as the king of Aquilonia. From there, he has to travel the lands solving the mysteries of his enemies, gathering allies, and unearthing powerful ancient artifacts that will help him stop an ancient wizard from plunging the world into an age of despair. It’s a great gateway to Conan stories because it offers vignettes of many a Conan adventure – on sea and on land, in the wide empty plains and inside underground tombs, involving large-scale intrigue and personal tales of heroism.

When you’re done with The Hour of the Dragon, you’ll be free to pick your next Conan adventure among the many short stories featuring the character. Some great examples of introductory stories include The Tower of the Elephant and Queen of the Black Coast.

best dd books hour of the dragon

Jack Vance – The Dying Earth

Jack Vance’s Dying Earth is a series of books set in the very distant future, around the time the sun is just about ready to pack it up and go nova, consuming the Earth in the process. In the billions of years between now and then, the stories assume a great number of civilizations rose and fell on Earth, their collective knowledge and technologies gradually morphing into mysticism and magic.

The Dying Earth is the first book of the series. Its stories follow the inhabitants of this doomed world as they go about their business – plotting and scheming, uncovering various remnants of old civilizations, dealing with demons and other strange and unseemly creatures.

Aside from their evocative imagery and unique setting, the Dying Earth stories also feature a magic system that later became a cornerstone of D&D. If you ever wanted to know where spells like Otiluke’s Resilient Sphere or Bigby’s Crushing Hand came from, or why your magic users have to memorize their spells each night, the Dying Earth stories have all the answers you seek. After all, there’s a reason why that spellcasting system is often referred to as Vancian.

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Fritz Leiber – The First Book of Lankhmar

Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser may not be as old as Conan, but in the realm of Sword and Sorcery stories, they’re just as recognizable. A pair of rogues, who just about established the rules of this ever-popular class, drawn together by circumstance and shared grief, Fafhrd and the Mouser took part in a great deal of adventures described by Fritz Leiber in a multitude of short stories and novellas. These later were organized in a couple of Books of Lankhmar, Lankhmar being the main hub city of the world of Nehwon. These books of Lankhmar tell the stories of Fafhrd and the Mouser in chronological order, as opposed to the order of publication, starting with their early years as callow youths, and ending with the two grizzled, scarred, and middle-aged.

Since it’s always better to start at the beginning, we recommend you pick up The First Book of Lankhmar first, and then if you want more adventures featuring Fafhrd and the Mouser, get the Second Book as well. Because while the general structure of their adventures follows the classic D&D and Sword and Sorcery patterns of going into dungeons, dealing with tricky enemies, and searching for treasure, the actual circumstances the heroes find themselves in here are second to none, and you don’t want to miss them. These include physics-defying underwater worlds, interdimensional travelers from Germany riding rat-eating dragons, veils of true sight revealing supposed treasures and fair maidens as garbage and monstrous spiders, sentient buildings, powerful, mysterious and borderline inhuman wizards, and much, much more.

best dd books first book of lankhmar

Michael Moorcock – Elric of Melniboné

Elric of Melniboné, Michael Moorcock’s protagonist whose adventures start in the novel by the same name simply had to be on this list. After all, Appendix N mentions this series, and once you get right down to it, it does essentially invent what we later recognized as the dark elves. And while it didn’t invent D&D’s alignment system (that honor belongs to Poul Anderson), it does feature its own precursor to it.

The novel’s protagonist Elric is a powerful sorcerer and the ruler of a decadent kingdom of backstabbing sadists. Feeble to the point of being a cripple, he uses magic and alchemy to become a powerful warrior when he is predictably backstabbed and deposed. To get his revenge, he has to make deals with demons and wield cursed blades, both setting him on a doomed path along which he’ll meet his fair share of interesting allies, powerful enemies, and visit plenty of fantastic locales.

Once you’re done with Elric of Melniboné, there are plenty more stories featuring Elric and his quests, making this a good series for those who enjoy darker stories that take themselves a bit too seriously.

best dd books elric

J.R.R. Tolkien – The Hobbit

The exact extent of influence Tolkien had on the development of Dungeons & Dragons is a hotly debated topic. Some people claim that the entire game is more or less a dice-driven copy of the Tolkien formula. Others, including Gary Gygax himself, greatly downplay this influence, limiting it to the occasional entry in the Monster Manual.

Going by various interviews with Gary Gygax, he was clearly not a huge fan of Tolkien’s works, and among them he greatly preferred The Hobbit to the Rings Trilogy. But even in The Hobbit, he considered the heroes to be largely “ineffectual” and hard to identify with.

Regardless of the original intentions, it’s hard to deny the great overlap between the people who enjoy J.R.R. Tolkien’s works and those who like playing Dungeons & Dragons. Because of this, The Hobbit simply had to be on this list. And once you’ve read The Hobbit, you might as well continue with the Rings Trilogy, as it’s referred to in Appendix N.

While these may not be the most action-packed stories that can be easily translated into D&D encounters, their spirit of camaraderie and adventure is simply unrivaled. And after all, isn’t this what Dungeons & Dragons is all about?

best dd books the hobbit

We hope you enjoyed our picks for the best books for D&D enthusiasts. And feel free to let us know your own entries that could easily fill many a list such as this.

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Val Hull
Val Hull

Resident role-playing RPG game expert. Knows where trolls and paladins come from. You must fight for your right to gather your party before venturing forth.

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