Books I have loved
... and which have probably influenced me!
When I was little I loved the stories of Peter Pan, Winnie the Pooh and Alice in Wonderland.
Later I liked to read Enid Blyton: The Magic Faraway Tree, The Wishing Chair, The Famous Five
I also read and reread Havelok the Dane (by Charles Whistler) and I'm certain this battered copy of the Danish legend was what really got me reading heroic fantasy as an adult!
I had parts of Roald Dahl's the Twits
- he certainly gave me a taste for the macabre ...
Then I moved onto Ursula le Guin, Tales of Earthsea and read about Ged / Sparrowhawk until the book was falling apart.
Soon after that I discovered Piers Anthony, the Xanth series. I believe that there are currently thirty-four books in the series. I read nine and I read them again and again. I loved them, but grew out of them before he stopped writing. It seems very strange that this world has carried on without me and I often wonder what happened to those characters.
1. A Spell For Chameleon
2. The Source of Magic
3. Castle Roogna
4. Centaur Aisle
5. Ogre, Ogre
6. Night Mare
7. Dragon on a Pedestal
8. Crewel Lye: a caustic yarn
9. Golem in the Gears
For a full list of Piers Anthony books, please click here.
Seeing my interests veering firmly towards fantasy, my Uncle Denis gave me my first David Gemmell book: Lion of Macedon. I read it until it literally fell apart and never looked back. I read everything he ever wrote over and over again and fell in love with Waylander, the Jerusalem Man and Druss the Legend. In my opinion David Gemmell is without a doubt the best writer of heroic fantasy (and anti-heroic fantasy) there has been Ė reading his work is a masterclass in how to create a hero. His recent death was a sad loss.
The King Beyond the Gate
Quest for Lost Heroes
Waylander II: In the Realm of the Wolf
The First Chronicles of Druss the Legend
The Legend of Deathwalker
Hero in the Shadows
The Swords of Night and Day
Sword in the Storm
Stones Of Power/Sipstrassi tales
Last Sword of Power
Wolf in Shadow
The Last Guardian
Hawk Queen series
The Hawk Eternal
Individual fantasy titles
Knights of Dark Renown
Echoes of the Great Song
Troy: Lord of the Silver Bow
Troy: Shield of Thunder
Troy: Fall of Kings
Lion of Macedon
Seeking more to read I plundered my Dadís bookshelves. They were filled with science fiction and there I found Isaac Asimov (Foundation) and a great many other brilliant science fiction writers. I also discovered another enduring love: Anne McCaffrey. Her PERN chronicles still live in my bookcase (sorry, Dad, thatís where they went). Iíve read them countless times and still do:
The White Dragon
Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern
The Renegades of Pern
All the Weyrs of Pern
The Chronicles of Pern: First Fall
The Dolphins of Pern
Red Star Rising
The Masterharper of Pern
My other favourite series by Anne McCaffrey is the Brain and Brawn ship series:
The Ship Who Sang
The Ship Who Searched
The City Who Fought
The Ship Who Won
For me, it is Anne Macaffreyís amazing characterisation and complete visualisation of a new world that makes me go back to her time and again. Her books are completely character led and although some are decades old, they donít seem it.
It was at upper school that I started to read Stephen King (again after my Uncle presented me with Eyes of the Dragon) and my first ever real detention (age fourteen) was his fault. I was so absorbed in The Stand that I didnít hear the teacher calling my name Ė several times. The book was confiscated and I was sent out of the classroom.
I still think Stephen King writes brilliantly and I admire the way that his oeuvre interconnects so strongly (so many of his villains for example have the initials RF Ė the same as the villain in the early book Eyes of the Dragon Ė implying that each villain is an incarnation of the magician who escaped at the end of that story). The sense of discovery when you read Stephen King is wonderful.
Terry Pratchett came next. (Again, thank you Uncle Denis). Terry Pratchettís Discworld novels are among the few that I can literally finish, then turn back to page one and start reading again, without a break.
I love everything he ever wrote, but my favourite novels of his are (in no particular order, as it depends what mood Iím in): Jingo, Night Watch, Thud, Witches Abroad, Lords and Ladies and Carpe Jugulum.
For a Pratchett Discworld bibliography, please click here.
Then came university. There I solidified my abiding love of the early Ďgreatsí: Aeschylus, Euripides, The Gawain Poet, Geoffrey Chaucer, Shakespeare (esp. his tragedies), Byron and also TS Elliot and Ezra Pound.
After university I retained an affection for the otherworldly. My favourite books have a touch of magic and fantasy, so I discovered: Isabelle Allende, Louis de Bernieres, Audrey Niffenegger and Mitch Albom. Five people you meet in heaven is still by my bedside.
Heading back into fantasy I found Kelley Armstrongís Women of the Otherworld Series. She has a modern take on Werewolves which I love:
Dime Store Magic
No Humans Involved
Living with the Dead
Waking the Witch
Following a link on Amazon I discovered Ďadultí romance with Jennifer Crusie (Welcome to Temptation, Bet me, Faking it) and Janet Evanovich (the Stephanie Plum novels: One for the money, Two for the Dough etc.). I couldnít even begin to tell you how often Iíve reread these books, which are laugh out loud funny and very sexy. Whoever has borrowed my now out of print Welcome to Temptation, by the way, please can you return it?
At this point I rediscovered teenage fiction, which wasnít a real option when I was a teenager. It seemed to me to be the perfect blend. Fast paced, often funny and little sexy (but not pornographic), dealing with strong emotions, often magical or fantastical, but also commonly rooted in the real world. I started to work my way through my library teenage section and then to order books from farther afield.
Some of my favourites (and there are many) include Eoin Colfer, Sarwat Chadda, Julie Bertagna and Meg Cabot.
I recently finished reading Dan Simmons: Hyperion, which is absolutely brilliant and has hooked me back into science fiction. Thank you Sam for recommending it.
I hope this inspires you to discover a few of these amazing authors, or to consider your own reading history which, for me, has been a fascinating and revealing exercise.
NB: I read voraciously, sometimes a novel a day (or even two or three if Iím on holiday) so I obviously havenít included here everything Iíve ever read, just those, which to me, seem most memorable and were probably highly influential on my own writing.