My Top 10 Favorite Brandon Sanderson Novels

It’s rare that I find an author whose novels I consume so voraciously as those of Brandon Sanderson, and even rarer that the author has enough published books to populate a top 10 list. Off the top of my head, John Scalzi may be the only other author I actively and continually read who would qualify for such a list.

But today is about Brandon Sanderson. By my count I’ve read 17 of his books; I haven’t read The Wheel of Time (a series he finished after Robert Jordan passed away) or his IP fiction. Honorable mentions include The Rithmatist, The Emperor’s Soul, Firefight, Calamity, Oathbringer (Stormlight Archive book 3), Elantris, The Bands of Mourning (Mistborn book 6)

10. Shadows of Self (Mistborn book 5)

9. Steelheart (Steelheart book 1): Several of my favorite Sanderson books are introductions into his worlds–that’s why 6 of the top 10 are first books or standalone books. I think it takes a special talent to consistently create and introduce readers to new worlds. The world of Steelheart is one in which there are superheroes…but they’re all bad. The actual heroes are regular people who use interesting technology and skill to navigate a post-apocalyptic world.

8. The Alloy of Law (Mistborn book 4): This is another first book in a series even though it’s book 4. The Mistborn series is divided into multiple trilogies, with this trilogy taking place hundreds of years after the original. I really like this literary device, as it allows Sanderson to tidily wrap up each story within a manageable 3 books, and then you can continue your journey into the world later. Or you could start with book 4, complete the second trilogy, then go back to the first trilogy to learn how this world came to be.

7. Warbreaker: There are a few stand-alone books in the Cosmere, Sanderson’s literary universe, and this is my favorite. The magic system, which is based on colors, is fascinating, and I like the mysterious nature of the near-godlike figures who live in the capital city.

6. The Well of Ascension (Mistborn book 2): As you can see from the top 6, I really love the first Mistborn trilogy–it’s up there with Red Rising, Acacia, and a few others as my favorite trilogies of all time. I really like how each Mistborn book ramps up in comparison to the previous book. The stakes are higher, the main characters are more powerful, and the mysteries of the world expand (even while some of them are answered along the way).

5. Mistborn (Mistborn book 1): It’s tough to see this book so “low” on the list, but all of these books are SO good. I love the scrappy characters in this book, the metal-based magic system, the mysterious and super-powerful ruler, and the spooky nature of his eyeless henchman. Seriously, if you’re looking for a fantasy trilogy, read this book.

4. Skyward: This is the first of a series, but the other books haven’t been released yet. Sanderson dips into young-adult sci fi in this novel, and he’s instantly at full strength (even though he started strong, you can see his progression as a writer over the years). I love how you sometimes think you’re dealing with stereotypical characters, then suddenly Sanderson reveals that they’re fully-formed, nuanced human beings.

3. The Way of Kings (Stormlight Archive book 1): When I think about this book–the beginning of an epic, 10-book fantasy series–I think about leadership. There are so many stories where someone does one leader-like thing or gives one speech, and suddenly he/she has a ton of followers. Not here. It takes time to build trust and gain followers as you find your way as a leader. This is that story.

2. Words of Radiance (Stormlight Archive book 2): This book is cinematic entertainment at its best. There are multiple action scenes in this book that are so vivid and spectacular that I swear I’ve seen them, not just read them. If one Sanderson book is made into a movie, this would be my choice. Even better, get HBO on this entire series. I love Game of Thrones, but instead of making a dozen prequels and sequels, just give me Mistborn or The Stormlight Archive.

1. The Hero of Ages (Mistborn book 3): I think this might be the best book 3 of any trilogy ever. The reason I say that is Sanderson answers every single question and resolves every single mystery presented throughout the trilogy in such a comprehensive, satisfying way. There are huge things that seem nearly unexplainable…yet when they’re explained, they not only make sense–you realize that Sanderson has been giving you the information you needed to figure them out all along. It’s a truly brilliant, epic finale.

How would you rank Sanderson’s books? Are there any authors who have written so many books you enjoyed that you could create a top 10 list of them?

18 thoughts on “My Top 10 Favorite Brandon Sanderson Novels”

  1. Jamey, have you read Mistborn: Secret History? If not, I suggest you give it a shot, it’s in Brandon Sanderon’s collected Cosmere short stories, Arcanum Unbounded. There’s some other fun stuff in there too, but the Mistborn portion is awesome, and well worth a look, particularly given your love of Hero of Ages.

  2. It has been at least 20 years since I’ve read any books by Piers Anthony, but starting with “ A Spell for Chameleon “. I’ve read everything he published until about 2000 (medical school started and my fiction reading dropped off). Perhaps I’ll revisit the world of Xanth.

    But a top 10….. that would be reserved for Daniel Manus Pinkwater (if Douglas Adams wrote books for teens).

    1) Lizard Music – A 10 year old is left along for the Summer, stays up too late watching TV and discovers a band of Lizarrds playing music.

    2) Alex Mendleson the Boy from Mars. – An unpopular slightly nerdy boy meets Alex. Alex is new to school and unpopular but he doesn’t care. A strange friendship develops.

    3). The Last Guru – a bet on a horse race turns a 12 yo boy into the richest person and a spiritual guru.

    4) Wingman – A more serious book about a young Asian immigrant who copes through comic books.

    5). The Worms of Kukumlima- a young boy goes off on a safari with his uncle.

    6) Fat Men Frim Outer Space – A boy with braces is able to pick up radio transmissions from an alien race about to invade earth.

    7). The Magic Moscow

    8) Atilla the Pun

    Hmmm, ok only 8. But my these kids books? Such nostalgia associated with reading them and discovering not wizards and elves, but the wonderfully strange and fantastical world that is all around us. Reading about dorky kids who stumble through life and have grand adventures.

  3. Jamey,

    I would say say hardly enough from one author to fill a Top 10, but for trilogies, JRR Tolkein still fills the bill for the best, followed by Weis and Hickman for the Dragonlance Chronicles and Salvatore for the Drizz’t series.

  4. I’ve never been more excited to read one of your posts. Having read everything BS has written except the Alcatraz series; I can’t disagree too much with your list. I’d probably exchange Steel heart for Secret History because I loved getting that peek behind the scenes. And I’d have to include Oathbringer because of introduction of Odium, the Unmade, and Dalinar’s arc(You can not have my pain). Still get chills, and maybe some tears, thinking about that scene. Couldn’t agree more about WoR and his amazing ability to visually write those scenes. And also HoA and how he ties everything together so beautifully and unexpectedly at the end. Hopefully the future will see you getting the rights to develop a board game based on any of his series. I spent enough money to purchase one of the Mistborn coins that went to space. So I’d love to have another Sanderson game to put on my shelf next to that.

    • Thanks Josh–that’s really cool to hear about the coin. I contemplated pursuing the rights for The Way of Kings, but (a) it’s so massive that I’m not sure I could have done it justice and (b) someone else already had the rights by the time I looked. I’m looking forward to seeing what they do with it!

    • “You cannot have my pain!!”
      I 200% agree with this comment. Oathbringer is my favorite Sanderson book for that one line, that one moment. To have an entire book and character arc build toward a single, shouted line of defiance… Chills. I get goosebumps thinking about it. For a Tolkien fan, this was like “You shall not pass!” merged with “This is not that day!” But somehow more.

  5. Down the Cremling hole I go:

    I have really only read Sanderson’s cosmere books, because I’m not interested in middle grade/YA books. I’ve read Wheel of Time, and even including those books in this ranking would not put them in the top 10. Robert Jordan’s world is not as interesting as Sanderson’s Cosmere, so he was handicapped having to write those novels to fit with an ongoing story in a fully developed world.

    10. Warbreaker – I really didn’t like Warbreaker much, until I read Oathbringer, and now I’m pretty good with Warbreaker, but still not his best work. It was an experiment in open process writing, and I think the experiment took away from the writing. Also, he wrote it right after getting married, and it’s kinda obvious.

    9. Cosmere Short Stories. I’ll put all these together, in order from most to least favorite:
    a) Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell – This is a great short story that explores the cosmere more. I didn’t love it the first time I read it, but then I re-read it as part of Arcanum Unbounded, and I liked it a lot more, now that I knew more of what was going on.
    b) Mistborn Secret History – If you have the liberty to do so, this is best read at the same time as the Mistborn Era 1 novels, since it happens concurrently.
    c) Edgedancer – This took a character from Stormlight that I hated and turned her into a character that I loved.
    d) Emperor’s Soul – I love this magic system, and I love that it takes place on the same planet as Elantris, but on a different continent, influenced by a different Shard.
    e) Sixth of the Dusk – Much like Shadows for silence, it explores a minor world in the cosmere, but gives a really interesting perspective on the magic systems.

    8. Bands of Mourning – This is the best book in the second era, in my opinion, as it starts to introduce some really interesting ways that the magic system is changing and adapting to the new order of the world.

    7. Well of Ascension

    6. Hero of Ages

    4. Oathbringer

    3. The Final Empire (Mostly for sentimental reasons as this was my first Sanderson, otherwise, I think it might swap places with Oathbringer on a pure rating)

    2. Way of Kings

    1. Words of Radiance (This is the perfect fantasy novel.)

  6. My favorite is still The Rithmatist. I’ve been waiting for a sequel to that forever (and understand I’m unlikely to ever read one 🙁 ). I really liked the world he started there and want to know more about the whole “Chalkling” thing and what the big secret is to becoming a Rithmatist. The idea is just intriguing.

    I’ve been enjoying the Mistborn and Stormlight Archive books. I haven’t had a chance to get through Skyward yet.

  7. Jamey…. Still thinking about this post. I’ll certainly have to put BS on my reading list, also I’ve been meaning to read Patrick Rothfuss’ works. After I posted above, I thought I’ll go back and read “A Spell for Chameleon” and just couldn’t get into it. I remember it very fondly but don’t have any desire to re-read it. So, I started thinking about books I have read multiple times. What qualities make it a book to re- read? Is it the story? The writing?

    Is there a Top 10 Books you’ve read multiple times?

    10. The Endurance – By Alfred Lansing. Non- fiction. The story of Ernest Shackleton and his exploration of the Antarctic. The edition with the photographs is priceles. Any book whose first line is “The order to abandon ship was given at 5 pm.” Is setting you up for quite a ride.

    9. Moby Dick – This started out as a “Well, perhaps I should read it” and ended with what a masterpiece. I’ve read it twice.

    8. Richard III/King Lear/The Tempest – First read them in high school ( perhaps the cliffs notes). Again in college and finally came to love them.

    7. The Education of Little Tree. Given to me by a close friend in college. I’ve since read it several times, and passed it on to other friends. It is a book to be shared.

    6. Star Wars by George Lucas. I know the book and the movie almost by heart.

    5. Lord Fouls Bane – Stephen R Donaldson. For me the second greatest fantasy world ever wrought. Although as I grow older, the main character’s flaws bother me more and more.

    4. Alex Medleson the Boy from Mars. D. Pinkwater. Nostalgia. And for me, it still holds up.

    3 The Princess Bride. William Goldman. I already knew the movie verbatim by the tine I realized there is a book. I enjoy the book more, and have read it to my daughter twice,

    2. Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Read over and over. Brilliant.

    1. The Hobbit. So wonderful and comfortable to read every couple of years.

    Ok, that’s just off the top of my head. There are sooo many good books, but many fewer that
    Earn multiple reads.

    • Thanks for sharing your list, Baker! This is an interesting angle–books you’ve read multiple times. I’m trying to think about books that would qualify for this list for me, as it’s very rare that I reread a book. The few I can think of are Hyperion, The Name of the Wind, and Ready Player One.

  8. Hello Jamey,

    Based on your Brandon Sanderson discussions/write-ups, I read Elantris and enjoyed it. Next I read The Mistborn Trilogy, finishing The Hero of Ages yesterday. I enjoyed the trilogy even more. Which Sanderson book(s) would you recommend I read next? I know there is a second “Mistborn” trilogy that takes place 300 years after The Hero of Ages. Did you read all 6 books in a row or take a break between these two trilogies while reading other Sanderson books? Thank you,


    • Stan: I took a break between those trilogies, mostly because the second trilogy didn’t exist when I ended the first. I think you would be fine to jump right into the next Mistborn trilogy–in fact, it’ll be good (not necessary, but good) for you to have the first trilogy fresh on your mind as you begin the second.

      After that, I recommend starting the Stormlight Archives (The Way of Kings).

  9. As the Stormlight Archive books are among your favorite Brandon Sanderson books, I’d be interested to know the results you’d get when taking the official quiz!

    Also, have you seen the Kickstarter for the leather-bound Way of Kings? I think the “stretch goals in the order of your choice” is a pretty neat concept.


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