Reading books on worldbuilding is by far one of the best ways to learn more about the process of creating a fictional realm.
Often compiled by experts or masters of writing, these guides can bring structure and direction to a chaotic process that can boggle the mind and douse enthusiasm.
In this guide, we examine how worldbuilding books can help you, before looking at the three best tomes that can teach you what you need to know about creating fantasy worlds.
Books On Worldbuilding – What Can They Teach Me?
There’s a lot to consider when it comes to creating a fictional world. If building a world from scratch, you may have a to-do list longer than God. That’s a very daunting prospect. Do you need to construct every single thing? And how the hell do you reveal all this in a story?
This is where books on worldbuilding come in. They provide solutions to the many problems that arise. On this point, I must say that they do not provide the golden egg—the secret formula or ingredients. That’s because such a thing doesn’t exist.
In my interview with Adrian Tchaikovsky for my podcast on writing fantasy, he reiterates the point that there isn’t one right way to build a fantasy world. Instead, there are various methods and tools. The trick is using each one, combining them, and discovering the approach that works best for you.
Worldbuilding books provide you with these theories, approaches and methods. Some may offer a template, whereas others may seek to equip you with knowledge and insights, such as guides to weapons seen in fantasy, on castles and fortresses, or on the life of lords in the medieval period.
You may find that some books on creating worlds go into detail on making a fantasy map, which can be a tremendously helpful step to take, particularly at the beginning of the process.
Guides like this can empower you with geographical knowledge, showing you how rivers and mountains are formed and how climates can influence the environment and those who inhabit it.
Knowing these details allows you to toy with them. It’s in doing this you can find new and original angles to excite your readers.
The Best World Building Books
Below you can find a breakdown of three of the best books on world building. Each one has received over a hundred four or five-star reviews on Amazon and has been proven to help writers.
A Fantasy Writers’ Handbook
A Fantasy Writers’ Handbook is the guide to writing fantasy I dreamed of having back when I started out. It’s split into three key parts:
- How to tell stories, covering plot, theme, creating characters and writing rules when it comes to prose.
- Fantasy writing tips, including an extensive series of chapters on worldbuilding, covering everything from making maps to revealing worlds in stories, and chapters on ideas for creating fantasy worlds, such as the life of peasants in the Middle Ages and the armor used in medieval warfare.
- The final part considers everything that comes after the writing—getting published (there are lists of publishers for short stories and novels), how to get book reviews, and how to build a website and author platform.
It’s certainly one of the most comprehensive books on worldbuilding and one that’s been lauded for its accessible and straight-talking tone. Other reviews include:
“Very useful. Helped me land my first book deal.” Jack Shannon, Fantasy Author
“Written in a friendly, uncluttered style, Billing has managed to accumulate and present a huge amount of useful information in a way that perhaps a favourite lecturer might do.” Readers’ Favourite
“An ideal, accessible source for tips and advice and practical resources for the aspiring fantasy author.” Steph Warren, Amazon Vine Voice
A Fantasy Writers’ Handbook is available in paperback and ebook on Amazon.
On Writing And Worldbuilding
On Writing And Worldbuilding is a two-volume collection of writing advice with a specific focus on the creation of fantasy worlds. It’s regarded as one of the best worldbuilding books around.
It’s received an incredible amount of positive reviews—over 1,800 on Amazon alone.
In Volume I, readers can find in-depth writing advice on topics like foreshadowing, final battles, The Chosen One trope and magic systems.
There’s an entire section devoted to worldbuilding, covering religions, magical worlds and chapters on the rise and fall of empires.
Volume II follows a similar style, with the first part of the book covering more general elements of creative writing, such as flashbacks and backstory, first-person narratives, and fight scenes.
The part on worldbuilding is more in-depth, focusing on the more cultural aspects, such as histories, monarchies and place names.
30 Days Of Worldbuilding
One of the best books available on this subject is 30 Days of Worldbuilding. It provides a simple and effective structure, as well as a handy timeline so that you can build what you need without spending lots of time on the world building process.
The book achieves this by breaking down the job into simple steps. It provides you with comprehensive prompts and tips to help you tie your worldbuilding into the story, as well as in tow with your characters.
The book is available in eBook and paperback on Amazon. It’s more of a workbook, complete with space to jot your own ideas. Again, it’s one of the best books on worldbuilding available.
Creative World Building and Creature Design: A Guide
The full title of this book is, Creative World Building and Creature Design: A Guide for Illustrators, Game Designers, and Visual Creatives of All Types.
Written by comic and gaming art veteran, Mark A. Nelson, this illustrated guide gives a fresh and visual perspective on creating fantasy worlds.
The guide features lots of beautiful images along with step-by-step guides on creating different aspects of a world.
This includes finding inspiration, such as looking to history which, as Nelson says, helps to give life to a fantasy world.
This book is perfect for all types of creatives interested in building a fantasy world. As mentioned above, Nelson’s background lies in comic books and role-playing games. But it’s ideal for writers too.
You can head here to check out Creative World Building and Creature Design: A Guide, available both in ebook and paperback on Amazon.
More Worldbuilding Books
Here are a few more examples of worldbuilding books that are highly recommended:
- “Building Imaginary Worlds: The Theory and History of Subcreation” by Mark J.P. Wolf
- “The Writer’s Guide to Worldbuilding” by Stephanie Burdick
- “The worldbuilder’s anvil: creating and running your fantasy campaign” by J.R.R.R. (Jim) Hardison
- “The Art of World Building” by Randy Ellefson
- “The Fantasy Worldbuilding Questionnaire: 120 questions for creating a believable and exciting fantasy world” by Jeff Lyons
How Can I Find More Of The Best World Building Books?
Finding the best worldbuilding books can be a bit of a challenge. There are many different books out there that cover different aspects of worldbuilding. It is, after all, a hugely broad subject. Here are a few tips to help you find the best world building books for your needs:
- Look for books that are specifically focused on worldbuilding. These books will often have “worldbuilding” or “world-building” in the title, and will provide detailed information and techniques for creating believable and immersive worlds.
- Consider the type of world you want to build. If you’re building a fantasy world, for example, you may want to look for books that focus on creating medieval settings.
- Check the reviews and ratings. Look for books that have positive reviews from other readers, and pay attention to the average rating.
- Ask for recommendations from other worldbuilders. You can find them on forums, social media, or subreddits, like r/worldbuilding.
- Check the author’s background. Some authors have a background in game design, literature, anthropology, history, or another field that could help you in the worldbuilding process.
Discover More Worldbuilding Books
There’s no shortage of worldbuilding books available. We’ve just scratched the surface here. I implore you to continue your search beyond this guide.
If you are keen to find more books on the craft, don’t just limit your search to those about writing. Fill your shelves with history books, those on civilizations, psychology, sociology, philosophy, medicine and geography. The more you can learn, the richer your worlds will be.
Click Here For More Worldbuilding Resources
Learn More About Creating Fantasy Worlds
If you’d like to learn more about creating fantasy worlds, check out these guides below:
- How to start worldbuilding
- Head here for a complete guide to worldbuilding in fantasy
- Or go here for a guide to my own worldbuilding method, which I call the “natural approach”
- If you’d like to learn more about worldbuilding soft for an Apple Mac computer, head here.
- For more advice on how much worldbuilding you should do before you start writing, check out this comprehensive guide. It offers concrete advice and a clear answer to the question.
- Worldbuilding and religion
- Head here to learn about worldbuilding culture
- A list of the best world building classes
- Head here to learn about the writing community, r/worldbuilding
- If you want to study worldbuilding, check out this Master’s (MA) degree
- Download a free worldbuilding checklist here
- Learn more about worldbuilding in writing here
If you have any questions about the books on worldbuilding covered in this guide, please get in touch.
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