Favourite Reads

So many wonderful books and authors! Where to begin? I’m a huge fan of Alan Garner’s wonderful eerie work, especially The Owl Service. His writing responds to landscape and its past in a way that resonates with me. As a child I loved The Dark is Rising Arthurian-based fantasies by Susan Cooper, and also Leon Garfield with his novels set in the 18th century full of rogues and misfits.


From Garfield it was a short step to Dickens, with more weird and extraordinary characters. In this dark, historical vein, I think Sarah Waters is brilliant: especially Fingersmith and The Little Stranger. The latter is the best ghost story I’ve ever read – and I do love a ghost story! Michelle Paver has written some great ones, and I enjoyed her Wolf Brother MG adventures set in the Stone Age very much too. Robert Cormier is wonderful for original and disturbing narratives, and I like Daphne du Maurier’s mysterious style in Rebecca or My Cousin Rachel.

Anything unsettling or slightly supernatural appeals, or Gothic tales with lots of sinister atmosphere. Oh, and I adore Frances Hardinge’s richly poetic style: The Lie Tree, A Skinful of Shadows…
She’s especially talented at endings! Stories with interesting historical settings often catch my interest: Catherine Johnson’s The Curious Tale of Lady Caraboo, Tanya Landman’s Buffalo Soldier, Laurie Halse Anderson’s Chains – all are doorways into periods and experiences I knew little about.

I don’t read a huge amount of high fantasy but Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking trilogy was superb, especially the first book, and of course A Monster Calls is heart-breaking and powerful beyond belief. (Siobhan Dowd began the novel, and her writing in Bog Child is extraordinarily beautiful.) Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo took me into a fast-paced fantasy adventure, which I enjoyed, especially for its multiple narrators and world building. It’s often said that historical and fantasy writers do a similar job, when they create their settings.

It was wonderful that Angie Thomas smashed stereotypes throughout her novel (amongst others: a totally supportive, loving family, a boyfriend who stayed decent and loyal), and she left the reader with an uplifting message of the possibilities for change for everyone.

I could go on for ever, but can I just say Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo, and his books generally? No one else seems able to use the natural world in their writing so well at the moment. Overall I think we need more writing for young people that responds to the environment and shows its importance.



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