Reading is probably the thing I’m most passionate about (go figure!). Books have been a vital part of my life (as vital as breathing to me) since I first learned to put letters together to make words at the age of four. I still read many many children’s and YA books, both for pleasure and to keep up with the industry. I’ve put together some of my own favourites here – both adult and kids. I’ll be adding to it over time, but it’s currently quite a small, personal and eclectic list, considering that I have over 10,000 books in my house, spilling out over every surface.
Just a few old favourites here – all tried and tested. Some are out-of-print, but you may find them on AbeBooks online.
Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg. I can still recite this years after my kids grew up and it still makes me smile. A perfect game of hide-and-seek with nursery rhyme characters. Utterly satisfying and highly recommended, as is Peepo! by the same team.
The Cross with us Rhinoceros by John Bush and Paul Geraghty. Who knew that you could get so much tension into so few words? I must have read it out loud a thousand times and never once got bored. A perfect example of the art of picture book writing.
Snake Supper Alan Durant and Ant Parker. Lots of sssss-ing and snake, with a great comeuppance for the villain. Brilliant—and the snake’s face has to be seen to be believed.
This Old Car Colin and Jacqui Hawkins. I worked with Colin and Jacqui on this one as editor, and I’ve never laughed so much in my life. My kids loved Mr Bear and friends, and we still say, “What a twit, where will he fit?” when someone in the family is being particularly dense. Mr Bear’s Plane is the equally good sequel.
Good-night, Owl! by Pat Hutchins. This book is why my son was obsessed with owls as a child. And as a parent, you can read it over and over again without being bored. Funny and wise and wonderful.
Storybooks, poetry and novels for younger readers (and enjoyable for the not so young too): Again, some of these are out-of-print, but worth seeking out secondhand on the net, or borrowing from the library. It strikes me, reading through this list, how much history I learned from books. I don’t mean dates, kings and queens, but stuff about everyday life and how people really lived. It gives me a new insight into and respect for all that intensive research authors like Rosemary Sutcliff, the Trease brothers, Barbara Willard, Ronald Welch and Cynthia Harnett must have done – and all before the days of the internet.
The Just-so Stories by Rudyard Kipling. Read them, Oh Best-Beloved. They may be old-fashioned in some ways, but a good set of stories never dies. And the Elephant’s Child is a classic. They were written in my grandmother’s night-nursery (Kipling bought the house from my great-granddad) so they mean a lot to me.
Babar by Jean and Laurent de Brunhoff. The death of Babar’s mother was my Bambi moment (I never watched any Disney when I was a kid, I preferred books). I just loved the little details in the pictures, and even though the books are a bit old-fashioned and slightly un-PC in parts, they’re still lovely stories to read and share.
Martin Pippin in the Apple Orchard by Eleanor Farjeon. People have forgotten about EF. Go and rediscover her, she tells amazing, lyrical stories. See also Old Nurse’s Stocking Basket and The Little Bookroom.
Granny’s Wonderful Chair by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Everyone knows The Secret Garden, A Little Princess and her other works, but this is another forgotten treasure which passes the test of time. It has elements of Scheherezade and Cinderella, with some great tale-telling in between. And there is, naturally, a happy ending.
The Little White Horse and The Valley of Song by Elizabeth Goudge. The first is a well-known classic for a reason. The second is just as good, but much less well-known. It is a triumph of imaginary writing, and I particularly love the heroine because she is rumpled and untidy and has a dodgy temper when roused. I also love Henrietta’s House—a totally magical depiction of a forgotten cathedral city world with a definite flavour of Trollope.
The Stone Quartet by Alan Garner. I love The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath, but this one has a special place in my heart because I grieve that we have lost so many of our rural traditions and this book is not only beautifully written, but will become, in time, an invaluable historical window into the past.
The Crown of Violet by Geoffrey Trease. If you want to know the ins and outs of ancient Greek theatre and like a good thriller, then this is for you. The Treases (H and G) wrote the best historical fiction of their day, and their books still stand out as fine examples of the genre.
Warrior Scarlet and The Lantern Bearers by Rosemary Sutcliff. Again, a brilliant historical writer. She really gets into the heads of her characters and whatever period she is writing about. Fabulous if you need books about the Roman legionaries and ancient Britain.
The Green Fairy Book by Andrew Lang. My personal favourite of all the colours. Perhaps because it was the only one I owned for a long time.
The Woolpack and The Load of Unicorn by Cynthia Harnett. I learned so much history from reading CH’s books, but most of all they are great stories with strong characters who stick in the memory for life.
The Gauntlet and Knight Crusader by Ronald Welch. I think The Gauntlet was the first time I came across the idea of time travel. And KC gave me a brief introduction to the Old Man of the Mountains, who has walked in my imagination with his Assassins ever since.
The Mantlemass Series by Barbara Willard. Follows the course of English history via several families centred around one area. Fascinating social history as well as fantastic writing.
Watership Down by Richard Adams. I gave this book to all my best friends when I left primary school because I loved it so much. Watership Down was near where I lived, and I remember going there and exploring, thinking of Fiver and Hazel and General Woundwort. Uncompromising and realistic about nature ‘red in tooth and claw’, it is about as far from Peter Rabbit as you can get. An absolute must-read.
Brendon Chase by ‘BB’. Parents bugging you? Want to run away and live in the forest? Then this should be the one book you take with you. From another era where lemonade came in glass bottles and guns were for shooting food, not people. A really good adventure story.
The Hounds of the Morrigan by Pat O’ Shea. I have the first edition of this, now worn and dog-eared with reading. This book bolstered my love of Ireland, and is one of the very greatest fantasy books ever written in my opinion.
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S.Lewis. I’m guessing this was the first ‘fantasy’ I ever read, and I’ve been looking for a door behind the wardrobe ever since. I absolutely hated the last book in the series though. Still do.
Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson As a child I was desperate to own the Hobgoblin’s hat, but the Groke scared the pants off me. As an adult, I just want to own Moominmamma’s handbag. Comet in Moominland is my next favourite Moomin book. I should like to be Snufkin and play the mouth organ.
The Arthur Trilogy by Kevin Crossley-Holland. I admire Kevin’s writing immensely. He has a way of putting words together that conjures up immediate head-pictures. This particular conjunction of history and myth (if you consider King Arthur to be myth, which I have my doubts about), is no less than epic.
The Georgia Nicolson Diaries by Louise Rennison. My daughter introduced me to these. I read them once, and then went straight back and did it again, laughing till I cried throughout. I have now learned a whole new language, which, sadly for all around me, I use. I can’t wait for the next one, not least because LR makes up such vair vair amusant titles.
The Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper. Until I met Susan Cooper (yay! fangurl moment!) I had been trying to work out who The Lady was for years. She told me to go back and re-read Robert Graves’s The White Goddess, which I did. After that, I understood everything. Apart from that, I read The Dark is Rising (number 2 in the series) over every Christmas and New Year (you’ll see why when you read it yourself). Absolutely stuffed with wonderful references to British myth, and Will and Merriman and Bran are unforgettable characters.
The Rattlebag and The School Bag compiled by Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney. Two of the most comprehensive, thoughtful and excellent collections of poetry ever put together. Contains everything anyone could ever need to foster a love of poems at any age. A must for every bookshelf.
Island of the Children edited by Angela Huth. I have a great affection for this, because it’s where my first poem was published. Every poem was written especially for the collection, and there are some great poets in here as well as some (then) unknowns. It was also the first children’s book Jane Ray (now a world-famous illustrator) ever did.
This is the place where I’ve put together a small selection of my favourite modern teen and UKYA authors (in no particular order!) and one of my favourite of the books that they’ve written, since I believe that promoting British writers in this field is very important. There are many fabulous teen and YA novels coming over here from the USA, but our own homegrown writers are just as good, and they deserve just as much recognition, so do seek out their websites and have an explore of their books. You can find out more about current UKYA writers here and about the amazing Project UKYA here.
Keren David read When I Was Joe
Candy Gourlay read Shine
Ellen Renner read Tribute
Katherine Langrish read Dark Angels
Anthony McGowan read The Knife That Killed Me
Jamila Gavin read Coram Boy
Eva Ibbotson read Journey to the River Sea
Joanna Kenrick read Looking at the Stars
Malorie Blackman read Noughts and Crosses
Patrick Ness read A Monster Calls
Sally Nicholls read Close Your Pretty Eyes
Meg Rosoff read How I Live Now
Nicola Morgan read Wasted
Melvin Burgess read Junk
Ruth Warburton read Witch Finder
Siobhan Dowd read Bog Child
Celia Rees read This Is Not Forgiveness
Mary Hoffman read the Stravaganza series
Curtis Jobling read the Wereworld series
Claire McFall read Bombmaker
Catherine Johnson read Sawbones
Clare Furniss read The Year of the Rat
Liz Kessler read North of Nowhere
David Almond read A Song for Ella Grey
Annabel Pitcher read Ketchup Clouds
Elizabeth Wein read Code Name Verity
Gillian Philip read Firebrand
James Dawson read Hollow Pike
Katherine Roberts read The Great Horse
Philip Reeve read Mortal Engines
Teri Terry read Slated
Zoe Marriott read The Night Itself
Joanna Nadin read Eden
Tim Hall read Shadow of the Wolf
Tanya Landman read Buffalo Soldier
More Children’s Classics, some obvious, some now forgotten, and some modernish and now well-known favourite authors of mine.
Swallows and Amazons series by Arthur Ransome. However old-fashioned in terms of modern life, these are still just very good, strongly written stories. My very modern kids loved them, read them, and listened to the CDs.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I defy anyone not to cry when Beth dies (oops, sorry – plot spoiler). A good one to listen to on audio, too.
Swiss Family Robinson by J.R.Wyss. The original Castaways, along with Robinson Crusoe (who I never got on with). Worth persevering with the slightly archaic language to learn about onagers and ostrich-riding.
A Wonder Book for Boys and Girls and Tanglewood Tales by Nathaniel Hawthorne. I cannot recommend these highly enough. A fabulous introduction to myth, and where I acquired my own lifelong love of them, along with Charles Kingsley’s The Heroes. These three books taught me an important lesson – that different authors can tell the same tale from many angles. Nobody sees an old story in the same way when retelling it. That revelation gave me the courage to write Atticus the Storyteller.
The Hobbit the best way to start on Tolkien. And the BBC audio version is fantastic for a long car journey.
Dick King Smith: Every species under the sun for animal lovers, but also for those who just like a good story. I particularly like Daggie Dogfoot.
J.K.Rowling: J.K. got everyone talking about children’s books at a time when they were in the doldrums. And they’re a really good, page-turning read. I have seen more children utterly gripped by the Harry Potter series than any other, and they got my own dyslexic children reading avidly. How many authors can claim that?
Philip Pullman: Philip’s His Dark Materials series is beautifully written, thought-provoking, challenging and I can’t wait for more about Lyra.
Garth Nix: Both his Old Kingdom trilogy and the Keys to the Kingdom series are fantastic, the first for older readers, and the second for younger. Brilliant stuff. The new Old Kingdom one, Clariel, comes in Autumn 2014.
Eoin Colfer: The Artemis Fowl books make me laugh out loud with delight, and gnash my teeth at the excellence of the imagination that could come up with LEPrecon. ‘Die Hard with fairies’ it certainly is, from the newly-appointed Irish Laureate na nÓg.
Michelle Magorian: Goodnight Mr Tom is on every school reading list, but try her other books too, Back Home, A Cuckoo in the Nest and A Spoonful of Jam.
Beatrix Potter: Peter Rabbit et al must be on every bookshelf, because their charm will never fade.
Alison Uttley. Likewise Little Grey Rabbit, Hare and Squirrel.
AA Milne: I have Eeyore’s quote—‘ This writing business. Pencils and what-not. Over-rated, if you ask me. Silly stuff. Nothing in it,’ on my wall at all times to keep me humble. Forget the Disney stuff, go back to the original Pooh Bear and Piglet.
Roald Dahl: The master never fails to appeal. The BFG is my personal favourite.
Fantasy Fantasy, More Fantasy (you guessed it, I love fantasy) The best of a huge field in which there is plenty of drivel and dross. In my opinion, these are some of the most readable writers:
J.R.R.Tolkien: The world is divided into those who love Lord of the Rings and those who don’t. There is no convincing the haters—I’ve tried. This is the original, the best and the one I would take to my desert island. I always find something new in it every time I read it.
Tamora Pierce: Anything this woman writes is gold. She started off with the Song of the Lioness series, and has now written many more books about Tortall. She has also started another series, The Circle of Magic, which is equally good. A perfect lead into the world of fantasy literature.
Robin McKinley: I first came across The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown, her Damar novels. But Rose Daughter, Beauty, Spindle’s End and any of her other books are just as good. She specialises in strong heroines and a healthy dose of irony. I love the way she takes an existing fairytale (ie Beauty and the Beast) and fleshes it out into a whole new story. I wish I could write half as well.
Ursula le Guin: The Earthsea Books are literary fantasy at its best. I was deliriously happy when she published Tehanu and The Other Wind many years after the first three books. She’s an all-round great writer.
Diana Wynne Jones: This is my children’s book heroine. I have read everything she’s ever written—and all her adult stuff too. The Chrestomanci books are ace. I suggest The Dark Lord of Derkholm and The Year of the Griffin for older readers. Very very funny.
Robin Hobb: Four series, Farseer, Liveship Traders, Rain Wilds and Tawny Man are all linked. Soldier Son is separate, and not quite as good. Liveship and Rain Wilds are my personal favourites, but they’re all compulsive reading, and now there’s also the Fitz and the Fool series to add to them.
Guy Gavriel Kay: The Fionavar Tapestry trilogy is my second desert island choice for fantasy. I don’t think he’s written anything as good since. Feel free to disagree.
Neil Gaiman: He’s a chameleon, a genius, a wizard with words, and I love everything he does, including the graphic novels (I’m a big fan of the Sandman). My current favourite is The Ocean at the End of the Lane, but my son insists I also mention American Gods.
George R.R. Martin: Yes, yes, I get it. You all know about Game of Thrones now. The Red Wedding is old news. However, if you haven’t read the books, please do so forthwith. There’s so much more detail than there is in the TV series. I’ve been devouring this series since it first hit the shelves way back in 1996 – way before anyone had ever heard of A Song of Ice and Fire, and I have hardback first editions of all of them. I’ve been addicted to Tyrion, Danaerys, Arya et al ever since, and as with every long series of this nature and along with every other fan, I just want George to bloody well finish it.
David Eddings: The Belgariad and The Mallorean were introduced to me by a very good writer called Douglas Hill. I bought one, bought all the rest immediately I’d finished it, and have been an Eddings addict ever since. That said, I think his later work is slightly repetitive. My son doesn’t.
Raymond E. Feist: The Riftworld series is like the curate’s egg, good in parts. I’d suggest you read Magician and the next two, and then see what you think. I really like them, but I reckon you have to be a dedicated fantasy fan for these, in which case you probably already know about them.
Terry Pratchett: I couldn’t get into Discworld at first. Then I met Terry at a convention, told him so, and asked him for a recommendation. “Go for the throat, why don’t you?” is what he has written in my copy of Carpe Jugulum. I was hooked from about page 10, and now my children are fans too. My husband hates it when a new one comes out, because I lie in bed and shake with laughter all night. He tells me it is annoying for some inscrutable reason. I love anything that includes the Witches of Lancre, Death, Tiffany Aching or Sam Vimes. I’m not so keen on Rincewind and that blasted Luggage. But I wouldn’t have missed any of them for anything. And now Terry is gone, and The Shepherd’s Crown is the very last we will ever hear of Discworld. However he will live on in his marvellous books, which make my heart sing.
Robert Jordan: Love him or hate him (and the jury is out on a couple of the middle novels in The Wheel of Time) this is an achievement of mammoth proportions. He has constructed a world of breathtaking scope, and although he sadly died before he could complete the series, Brandon Sanderson has done a fantastic job of taking on his mantle and finishing the story for all us fans who were desperate to know what happened in the end.
Katherine Kerr. Celtic reincarnation with a sprinkling of Iron Age warbands, Elves and magical dweomer. Three linked series, Deverry, Silver Wyrm and Dragonmage, the last of which is a tiny bit slow and repetitive, but still worth reading if you’re hooked.
Melanie Rawn: Dragon Prince and Dragon Star are her first and best. There’s quite a lot of blood and war, but also a great love story and some fascinating magic. I really like the idea of using the colours of the sun and stars to communicate by.
Patrick Rothfuss: The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear are the first two novels in the Kingkiller Chronicles. Pat is a fairly new arrival on the fantasy scene, and already bestrides its stage like a bearded colossus. I met him at World Fantasy Conference, and it soon became obvious that his world-building skills are second to none. He’s obsessed with knowing everything about his world – down to the currency systems of adjoining countries which are mentioned once. Don’t let that put you off – that’s all backstory he needs to know, but you don’t. The fact that he does know it, though, makes Kvothe’s story a rich, layered broth of a tale which you’ll want to gobble down in large spoonfuls. The last book will appear eventually – Pat is not the fastest writer in the world.
Laini Taylor: Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Days of Blood and Starlight and Dreams of Gods and Monsters weaves the tale of Karou (blue-haired human brought up by monsters), and Akiva (avenging angel and monster-killer). Think Romeo and Juliet meets Pan’s Labyrinth. It’s a wonderfully written trilogy far above the usual run of paranormal romance. I absolutely loved these books and can’t wait for more from her.
Deborah Harkness: I debated long and hard as to whether I should include any vampires in this section, but please don’t immediately think ‘Twilight’ and dismiss The All Souls Trilogy. They’re intelligent, well-plotted and unusual books, written by a history professor with a passion for her subject. A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night take place in the human world, with its hidden complement of witches, daemons and vampires, and ranges from modern day Oxford and America through Shakespearean England to the Prague of Rudolf II. Some tremendous characters – not least the main stars, Matthew and Diana – and a scholarly thread of ancient manuscripts and dusty folios had me hooked from the first chapter. The third and widely-anticipated final book – The Book of Life – is now out and ties everything up very nicely.
I’m not going to do a particularly literary list here (although I’ve put in my favourite Dickens and Trollope, and also Homer, because he shaped my love of mythology)—there are other places for that. This is just a small sample of light and not so light stuff I’ve enjoyed and feel quite passionate about. You can’t read solid Shakespeare and Milton all the time, sometimes you need to snuggle up under a comfortable old coat that’s a bit worn, but still loved for all that.
Elizabeth Goudge: She writes just as well for adults as she does for children. And of all her adult books Towers in the Mist is the absolute best. A lovingly depicted Elizabethan Oxford, with a strong storyline, eminently loveable characters, and a sprinkling of real historical people such as Sir Philip Sidney, Walter Raleigh and the Earl of Leicester, not to mention the great Queen herself. Read it and be enchanted.
Ruth Pitter: Her Collected Works contain my favourite poem of all time, ‘The Heart’s Desire is Full of Sleep’. A literary craftswoman, now sadly dead.
Bill Bryson: Notes from A Small Island showed me my own country through different eyes. I laughed till I had a small accident. Luckily not on a train!
Colin Thubron: Lyrical, literary travel writing from the master journey taker. He really gets behind the skin and bone of a country.
William Dalrymple: To find a wonderful book like In Xanadu—A Quest which WD wrote when he was only 22 is a humbling experience. A modern travel classic, followed by many which are just as good.
Bruce Chatwin: When I think of all the books he would have written had he not died so young, it makes me sad. All the more reason to treasure what he did write, especially In Patagonia and The Songlines. The latter makes my mind walk on strange and different paths every time I read it.
Jim Crace: The Gift of Stones Without doubt this is one of the most moving and beautifully written books I have ever read. I find it hard to describe the effect it had on me, even now, so many years after I first came across it. An exquisite story about the fundamental changes brought about by the discovery of bronze, and the effects it has on a whole society.
Robertson Davies: The Cornish Trilogy (includes The Rebel Angels, What’s Bred in the Bone and The Lyre of Orpheus). An extraordinary tour-de-force of gothic fantasy, historical titbits, and an erudite maze of art, philosophy, comedy which is well worth negotiating. Very vulgar (in the best and earthiest kind of way), very funny, and altogether worth reading for anyone who likes a feast of literature.
The Lyttleton/Hart-Davis Letters: Rupert Hart-Davis and George Lyttleton. I guess I’m just nosy, but I love reading other people’s letters. These are particularly good ones, if you like the 40’s onwards and want an insider’s view of the life of a publisher and an Eton schoolmaster. Privilege and snobbery aplenty, but a vivid portrait of how the other half lived then.
Janet Evanovitch: Stephanie Plum (One for the Money etc) is a fairly recent introduction to my life. I normally hate detective novels with a passion, but she’s such a weird, funny gutsy kind of girl that I was totally seduced. And who could choose between Ranger and Morelli? Pure non-highbrow entertainment—good for the beach.
Georgette Heyer: The mistress of Georgian romance, it’s true. But also a very very good historian. Her accounts of Waterloo and the Peninsular War (in An Infamous Army and The Spanish Bride) are accurate, moving and eminently readable. My grandfather maintained that the former was unbeatable. My own non-war based favourite is Frederica.
Diana Gabaldon: My niece insisted I read Cross Stitch, (Outlander in the USA). I fell in love with Jamie Fraser immediately and comprehensively, and am currently looking for a way to get back to 1745, so I can steal him for myself. There are 8 books so far, with more to come. I can’t wait for the next Claire and Jamie fix, and the TV series has only fed that craving.
Bernard Cornwell: The Sharpe novels paint a sweeping picture over every Wellington campaign from India onwards. Cornwell sometimes twitches things a little to fit his story, but it doesn’t matter. Listening to Sean Bean read them on audio is an extra bonus.
Ken Kesey: Sometimes a Great Notion is in my opinion his greatest novel (and one of the great American Novels of all time). Far better, deeper and more rewarding than One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and almost no one in the UK has ever heard of it. A long, quite hard read which has a fabulous dynamic between east and west coast America, two brothers of different generations—it’s a sort of Cain and Abel de nos jours. Funny, sad, interesting, illuminating, beautifully written. I can’t recommend it too highly.
Patrick O Brien: The Aubrey/Maturin novels are the same period as Sharpe, roughly, but a maritime version. Anyone who wants to learn a great deal about what the post-Nelson navy was like should read these. I can’t tell you how much satisfaction it gives me to know arcane bits of naval lore, dog watches, how to climb the futtocks, and everything about Knipperdollers, to name an infinitesimally few of the things I love about these books. Maturin makes me laugh, and Aubrey is a gem. Don’t see the film, it’s awful.
Alexander McCall Smith: Mma Ramotswe goes from strength to strength in his lovely, gentle series about the Number One Ladies’ Detective Agency. Perfectly judged, and with a real love and knowledge of Botswana that shines from every page.
Rosamund Pilcher: Yep. Romantic feelgood saga slush. Why not? I like September best, but then I’m a Scot.
Anthony Trollope: For years I couldn’t understand my mum’s passion for Trollope. Then I started Barchester Towers in her small old green leather edition with the flimsy pages. Somehow I found myself hooked. I still am. And it’s amazing how things haven’t changed in human nature or politics.
Charles Dickens: I did Bleak House for ‘A’ level. I have read it and read it ever since, and was totally delighted with the BBC version. The Dickens treasure-house is winter reading for long dark nights. And definitely comfort food for the soul. Watch how he has a cliffhanger at the end of every chapter—a function of having to publish every week and keep his readers interested.
Laurens van der Post: A Story like the Wind and A Far-off Place are two of my favourite books. LVDP is not fashionable nowadays, but this is beautiful writing, and worth seeking out. If nothing else, these books have made me a passionate proponent of leaving the indigenous Bushman tribes alone to run their own lives. In these days of worry about carbon footprints, the Bushmen, like the Native Americans are truly in tune with the earth, and step very lightly upon her.
Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey: Just because they are such great stories. I like the Penguin Classics translations by Peter Jones and the Rieus. However many times I read the passage about Hector and Achilles, I still cry. I even cried when I was writing the story myself for Atticus. And having been to Troy, I finally understand how they could run around the walls so many times. It’s tiny (although there is now some doubt that Schliemann’s Troy is actually in the right place). I’d also include the Folio Society of Ovid’s Metamorphoses here, since it too shaped my literary view of the world.
Robert Graves: The Greek Myths is my go-to reference work, full of fascinating footnotes and appendices. This is not only a work of scholarship but also a work of love. No other book of reference even comes close.
Ben Aaronovitch: The Rivers of London series. When a young policeman sees a ghost at a murder scene in Covent Garden, finds himself attached to a secret department of Scotland Yard – one which investigates unnatural crimes. This is a recent favourite of mine – it’s fast, funny and light, and I love the way it weaves British myths and legends into the fabric of everyday police work. I’m particularly fond of the voluptuous and capricious family of London Rivers.
Just a few handy books to help out.
Either The Writer’s Handbook or the Children’s Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook from the current year will help with finding addresses for agents and publishers, and has all sorts of helpful current advice. A vital tool. And there are versions for self-publishers, adult and historical writers and poets too.
Roget’s Thesaurus Seems obvious, but loads of people don’t have one. An absolute necessity for any writer, together with a good dictionary. I don’t care if you can get it all online now – there’s no substitute for a paper copy.
Words to Rhyme with by Willard Espy. I bought one of these when I definitely couldn’t afford it, and it’s been the best money I ever spent. A fantastic resource for poets, songwriters and anyone who needs a matching word rhyme and can’t think of the right one. Set out in single, double and triple syllable sections. Get it.
Writing with Pictures by Url Shulevitz. The 101 for picture book writers and illustrators. Simple and informative.
The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren by Iona and Peter Opie. The Opies are the world’s greatest experts on nursery rhymes and playground lore. This is totally fascinating if you want to know about the history and origins of, say, ‘Adam and Eve and Pinch-me’. Also see ‘I Saw Esau’.
The Creative Writing Coursebook I often wish I’d done the creative writing course at the University of East Anglia, from where all of the exercises in this book are taken. Highly recommended. It really works to improve anyone’s writing. I often go back to it if I’m suffering from any kind of writer’s block and do one of the practicals to free me up.