I have read very little fantasy. John Lanchester notes the problems with getting people to read fantasy in his excellent piece about GAME OF THRONES in the LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS.
For me, the suspension of my very literal belief in what I see before me in juxtaposition to imagining the possibility of elves, dragons, and other worlds will always stand in my way. The visuals on the HBO series, GAME OF THRONES makes it much easier for me than only seeing those words on a page though. Show me a dragon and I might believe in it. Surely the HBO series, LOTR, and the Harry Potter books and movies have promoted the reading of fantasy than anything in a long time
Also interesting in the article is the idea that a series holds more interest for people than a standalone novel. People want to spend a lot of time in another world once they invest.
What are the great fantasy books besides the Tolkien ones?