Bestiaries From Ancient to Modern
When a story contains superbly crafted creatures and characters, readers often close the book with an urge to explore more of that world. Thus, the Bestiary is sought out.
Bestiaries are encyclopedias of creatures. They can be dated as far back as Ancient Greece, but rose to popularity in the Middle Ages. The best kind of Bestiaries for us Sci-Fi/ Fantasy nuts are the ones about made-up creatures.
Extravagant beasts and monsters are found almost exclusively in Speculative Fiction and are a sizeable reason fans are so passionate about the genre. Bestiaries are filled with intricate drawings, information on habitat, the creature’s abilities, and so on. They’re beautiful all on their own, but the joy in reading them also exists in the lengthy dive readers get into their favorite series. They are so distinctive and treasurable that many of them quickly become collectible.
Below are some deep-dive-worthy Bestiaries that will teach you about myths and legends or ETs and Fantasy worlds. Take your pick, there are many to be had.
Barlowe's Guide to Extraterrestrials
Barlowe’s Guide to Extraterrestrials first came out in 1979 and was nominated for the American Book Award and for the Hugo Award for Best Related Work. This book has a wide array of creatures from classic Sci-Fi and Fantasy. Barlowe’s features the imaginations of Ursula Le Guin, Robert Heinlein, Jack Vance, Frank Herbert, Piers Anthony, and more.
A Tolkien Bestiary by David Day
For the Middle-earth enthusiast: A Tolkien Bestiary. This is an A-Z guide on the flora and fauna of Tolkien’s world. There is a chronology of the historical ages, genealogies of the races of men, a detailed map, and a special index referring to Tolkien’s original works.
The Encyclopedia of Things That Never Were: Creatures, Places, and People
The Encyclopedia of Things That Never Were is a reference to myths and legends from all over the world. With over 400 entries, this exhaustive guide contains information on flying carpets, golems, Atlantis, and much, much more. This book is an absolute gem with its fine research of stories from all over the globe.
S. Peterson's Field Guide to Cthulhu Monsters: A Field Observer's Handbook of Preternatural Entities
If you like nightmares, S. Peterson’s Field Guide to Cthulhu Monsters will show you exactly what HP Lovecraft’s monsters look like. This book has specialized observer warnings per creature, and has intriguing facts scattered in graphs and sidebars. If one could ever consider horror charming, this guide encapsulates that.
The Bestiary by Ann VanderMeer
Ann VanderMeer, a promoter of “weird things,” has also put together a high quality book of lesser-known monsters. The Bestiary contains monsters conjured up by some of the world’s most talented writers: Karen Lord, Dexter Palmer, Brian Evenson, China Mieville, Felix Gilman, Catherynne M. Valente, Rikki Ducornet, and Karin Lowachee. These are creatures that are more surreal and bizarre than conventional; some are even funny. Check this one out if you like stories to go with your monsters.
Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You
In the #1 New York Times bestselling serial, The Spiderwick Chronicles, siblings Jared, Simon, and Mallory battle dwarves, elves, and ogres for the right to keep their uncle’s life work. Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You is the compendium of that work. This book has six thorough sections showcasing thirty-one faerie species and an addendum of Jared’s observations. Pieces of Arthur Spiderwick’s journal are included. Dense and informational, any fan of The Spiderwick Chronicles will be a fan of this field guide.
Bestiaries are designed to be extensive groves of data. Beyond that, they are so artistically designed they will be the prim eye-catcher on your bookshelf. Here are a few more titles for the monster-driven reader to indulge on: