A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin has been on my list for a while. It's the first book in the Earthsea Cycle. I was hoping that it wasn't going to be a sappy, Magikal flight over the rainbow, and I'm happy to report that it isn't.
I could see some similarities to some other fantasy stories from the same era, but no blatant rip-offs. Le Guin tells her story with a dignity and respect for the reader that more modern fantasy writers seem to lack: there's no sappy build up of tension, no endless cliff-hanging chapter breaks, and very little fancy jargon and spell lore. Le Guin's story simply takes place in a world where there is magic, or at least a world where they've figured it out. She doesn't get caught up in where it comes from and how its done, and what all the endless rules are, she just tells the story of what happens to this particular wizard. The fact that he can do some magic is just another facet of his character. Refreshing (which sounds funny, given that this book was first published in 1968.)
Le Guin is also a poet, who has a bunch of books published in both poetry and prose, and has scored a whole boatload of prizes for her work. I haven't read much of her stuff, but I do remember reading The Left Hand of Darkness back in the day. I don't remember the details of the book, but I do recall that the sexuality of the characters was flexible, e.g., sometimes male, sometimes female, but mostly androgynous. That was pretty racy when I was a teen, and I'm pretty sure Star Trek: The Next Generation did an episode based on a similar premise, years later.
I'm looking forward to reading the next installment, but I've also started on Asimov's Foundation, so I may have two classic SciFi series going on here soon.