Fantasy For Beginners
Your first reaction when adventuring out into the world of epic fantasy might be to run out and buy the Lord of the Rings (Product Page at Amazon)and this is ok but not my best recommendation. This series of three books is actually quite daunting a task and you may get discouraged. This is kind of like jumping into the deep end of the pool without learning to swim. The language in the books is a little stilted and the scope is just enormous. You will need to stretch your reading muscles a bit before you tackle these books.
If you are absolutely determined to get right into The Lord of the Rings then you have to absolutely and undeniably read The Hobbit first (Product Page at Amazon). (It comes in several different printings and there are several inexpensive paperback versions to choose from). It is the prequel to the Lord of the Rings. It introduces you to many of the main characters and villains and it sets the stage for almost everything in the series. If you are still hell bent on the whole series then you can buy all four books packaged together in a reasonable price. But read the Hobbit first -don't skip over it. You won't be disappointed.
Now lets say that you already read these books or because you saw the movies and you know what is going to happen you want to try something different. Well this is where epic fantasy gets really juicy! there are plenty of other works that are just as satisfying. The Earthsea Trilogy (Product Page at Amazon), written by Ursula K. LeGuin is a fantastic set of books now totaling 6 and a great place to start your adventure. The first book called A Wizard of Earthsea is about a boy named Ged who is sent off to wizard school to learn how to become a wizard! Sounds familiar right? But this was written twenty years before Harry Potter. There are some wonderful things in this book including a fateful and revealing encounter with a dragon and plenty of secrets that only wizards can know. You are going to love these books! I guarantee it! And they are suitable for children and adults alike.
I don't normally recommend getting more than one book in a series if you aren't familiar with the author already but in the case of the Earthsea books I recommend you buy the first four as a package. The books are small and the first book is only 183 pages. You could read this whole book in one sitting and be disappointed because you now have to order the rest of them and wait until they arrive. And believe me, you are going to want to read the rest of them.
Okay you are thinking to yourself that this all sounds pretty good but it seems to be focusing more on the fantasy aspect of epic fantasy and you want something more epic. Maybe you are looking for something less enchanting and more muscular. You have visions of big heroes overcoming enormous odds to save a mysterious world. Maybe you would like grand battles and one on one combat. Well I have the perfect book for you. It has been described as the epic fantasy book that raises the bar for all other epic fantasy books. A Game of Thrones (Product Page at Amazon) by George R. R. Martin is complete with lords, ladies, assassins, sorcerers, barbarians, ice vampires, direwolves, and of course a dragon princess. It is the first book in the series A Song of Ice and Fire and the fourth book is set to be released in November so now is the perfect time to start on the series.
If you are looking for something quite different and unique you might want to consider this masterpiece of fantasy. It is one of the best works ever written and it stands alone. There is no series or further books. The Last Unicorn: (40th Anniversary Edition)
I envy the next couple of months for you as a beginner. You are going to experience things that you won't be able to let go of. You are going to find yourself in work or in school just dying to get back home so you can continue with the book. Epic Fantasy is that powerful.