A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
It’s September and Autumn is creeping in, so this month, we thought we’d share our top 5 books with you – perfect for those cold, blustery days when all you want to do is curl up and read!
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
The Owl Service by Alan Garner
The Outsiders by SE Hinton
The Hounds of the Morrigan by Pat O’Shea
Ghost Hawk by Susan Cooper (highly recommend this – it’s only just come out and is so beautiful and moving)
My top 5 books (Oh I wish it were 10 so I could wax lyrical a little longer) are…
‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’, C.S. Lewis. This was my favourite book as a child and is still a book I love to read. I used to ask my mum to read the bit where Lucy first steps into Narnia again, and again, and again…
‘Oscar and Lucinda’, Peter Carey. I read this in my twenties. it was different to anything else I’d read – quirky, original, with amazing characters that have stayed in my mind ever since.
‘Bitter Fame: A life of Sylvia Plath’. This is an inspirational biography that I read in my twenties. It not only gave me an insight into one of my favourite poets, but inspired me to take my writing a stage further.
‘The Book Thief’, Markus Zusak. Such wonderful, poignant and unsentimental writing and such an original concept. All his books are amazing, but this one really captivated me.
‘Book of Longing’, Leonard Cohen. I was brought up on LC, and always loved his songs. His poems are astonishing. This collection contains the most honest, vivid and moving poems I have ever read.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
For Love of A Horse by Patricia Leitch
Harry Potter books (I’m counting the whole series as one!)
Unspoken and Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan (same series, so they count as one too!)
Pretty much anything by Georgette Heyer or Agatha Christie
Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier
Chime by Franny Billingsley
Witches Abroad and Jingo by Terry Pratchett
City’s Son by Tom Pollock
The Ship Who Sang by Anne Mcaffrey
Legend by David Gemmell
Shakespeare’s King Lear
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo
Great Expectation by Charles Dickens
Anne of Green Gables by L.M.Montgomery
Charlotte’s Web by E.B.White
Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce
Tom’s Midnight Garden has a rather geeky child at its centre and of course, the magical time-slip element to it. There are many layers to this story dealing with class, social history and the passing of time.
Man Made Language by Dale Spender
This is a fantastic book for showing how language contributes to keep women ‘in their place’ and for someone who works with words, it was eye-opening. It will convince you that language is never neutral.
The Penguin Dorothy Parker
This might just be my ‘desert island’ book. As well as Parker’s magazine journalism and reviews, it also contains her short stories and poems. I’m a huge admirer of good short story writing because I personally find it so difficult to do.
Temples of Delight by Barbara Trapido
I believe Trapido is a hugely under-sung contemporary writer, which is why I’ve picked her out of the wealth of wonderful women writers I could have chosen. It’s laugh-out-loud funny, it’s beautifully crafted and it has a fascinating structure loosely drawn around Mozart’s Magic Flute. It’s also a lesson in how to create memorable characters.
Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner
I discovered this in the 1980s and I quite liked the fact that it was my secret ‘find’, although it’s been more widely read now. It’s set in 1921 and centres on the ageing single woman Lolly Willowes who gives up her dull life to live in a country village full of witches. It’s highly poetic writing full of beautiful imagery.
Lord of The Flies (William Golding) – The ultimate survival story. Adventure, a dark and brooding atmosphere, and the end of innocence.
The Old Man and The Sea (Ernest Hemingway) – Word perfect. Simple yet mesmerising, and full of meaning. It’s not just about a man who catches a fish.
The Go-Between (L P Hartley) – A long Edwardian summer filled with lazy days, Lincoln Green, sickness, Belladonna, illicit liaisons, poison, confusion and nostalgia. A delicious, awful tragedy.
The Road (Cormac McCarthy) – Bleak. Brutal. Beautiful. Brilliant.
The Wasp Factory (Iain Banks) – A wicked and twisted tale full of the grotesque. What’s not to love?
City of Glass by Cassandra Clare
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines – The whole series is fantastic and incredibly imaginative, and this book is where it all began. Matched with beautiful writing and heart-wrenching action, plus a really eclectic range of characters, this is a YA sci-fi/fantasy that is unlike anything else on the market.
Marcus Zusak’s The Book Thief – Searing, crushing, phenomenal. I’ve never been so emotionally invested in a book before. Delivered in a truly unique and fresh writing style, and with a story that will both warm and break your heart, it’s a novel I wish everyone would read.
Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything is Illuminated – A bizarre, totally original novel that opened my eyes to just how creative literature could be. I love the plays with typography and the writing is stunning – it blew me away.
Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth – A classic from my childhood I love just as much now I’m an adult. So witty and inventive, with a story that will captivate anyone with a love of books, writing and learning.
Roald Dahl’s Danny the Champion of the World – I love all of Dahl’s books, but this one feels extra special to me. Such a simple story, but told with real heart and Dahl’s trademark humour. A book I can re-read again and again and never tire of.
‘I Capture the Castle’ by Dodie Smith
‘The Heart is a Lonely Hunter’ by Carson McCullers
‘Rebecca’ by Daphne Du Maurier
‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen
‘Beauty’ by Robin McKinley
How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Slapstick, or Lonesome no More by Kurt Vonnegut
The Ballad of the Sad Café by Carson McCullers
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole.
The Drowned World by JG Ballard
On the Beach by Nevil Shute
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold: a stunning fantasy novel with beautiful world-building based on Renaissance Italy, and some of the most memorable characters I’ve ever come across. This is probably my most re-read book ever.
Night Watch by Terry Pratchett: my favourite Discworld novel in the Sam Vimes series, this book sees the main character thrust back in time to take part in a tragic, doomed uprising that he witnessed as a child, but this time with the power to change history – or allow it to run its course. Hilarious and poignant.
Jayne Eyre by Charlotte Bronte: A classic for a reason, I adore this novel’s fiercely compassionate and brave heroine and its complex, broken hero. Most especially, I enjoy the the important themes of self-determination and self-worth.
Hexwood by Diana Wynne Jones: this novel an explosion of imagination and impossible to quantify. Part science fiction, part folktale, part fantasy, part contemporary, it has one of the most complex and satisfying plots I’ve ever come across.
Mariana by Susanna Kearsley, this is a meticulously researched timeslip novel that entwines past and present storylines to great effect in proving one thing: that love survives us all.
In no particular order and in any case a constantly changing moveable feast…
Mapp & Lucia by E F Benson
Le Grand Meaulnes (aka The Lost Domain) by Henri Alain-Fournier
The Time Machine by H G Wells
The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper
Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov
The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood. Hugely creative writing, and the love story kills me every time.
Rebecca’s World by Terry Nation. A 1970s MG fantasy by the creator of the Daleks. A childhood favourite, now sadly out of print.
A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb. Rather literary YA. Beautiful writing about ghostly romance.
Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff. I adore every one of Yovanoff’s books—she’s probably my favourite YA author.
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. I love the whole Chaos Walking trilogy, especially the first book (Manchee!).
I’m going to throw my marker down and back these books as my top five in the full knowledge that when I read everyone else’s lists I’ll go, “Oh, yeah, of course and THAT too!” But all of these books were, at some point in my life, the perfect book to me.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams :
It is original, funny, clever, nerdy, warming , cynical and perfect. I loved this book as a teenager and continue to be amazed at how fantastic it is every time I dip into it again. I have to say, I don’t tend to re-read books. (There are so many out there that are yet to be read!) But I am drawn back to Hitchhiker’s Guide again and again.
Mythology by Edith Hamilton. : It’s the best book that I HAD to read for school. It started me on a life long love of all things mythological.
Being There by Jerzy Kosinski: It was one of the first books I read outside of school that just got inside my head and made me keep thinking about it. A lot. I love it when a book does that.
The Velveteen Rabbit by Marjory Williams :It makes you believe in magic. Real,true, love kind of magic. And I defy you not to cry when you read it out loud.
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak : Because it was and is a perfect picture book and I want to be MAX!!
The Outsiders by S.E Hinton
Franny and Zooey by J D Salinger
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
I wanted to focus on children’s books as it was these that inspired me to draw more than anything else.
Gorilla – Anthony Browne
I’d forgotten how much I had loved this until I stumbled across it the other day. The sadness of the central character as a lonely little girl really affected me as a child, and the creepy yet beautiful illustrations of her Gorilla friend are timeless.
Alice’s Adventure’s in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
My sister is named after Alice, and this book played a huge part in our growing up. We would sit down and copy Tenniel’s illustrations on a Sunday afternoon – no illustrator has since captured Tenniel’s magic, even my beloved Arthur Rackham.
Lucy and Tom’s Christmas – Shirley Hughes
I’ve mentioned this one about a thousand times before, so I won’t say anything further, other than I love it.
The Tale of Samuel Whiskers – Beatrix Potter
This one used to frighten me a bit. The idea of a kitten trapped under the floorboards, stuck inside a roly-poly-pudding by a rat was a really brave children’s story in that is was genuinely chilling and unsettling. The illustrations of course, were amazing.
Der Strewwel Peter (Shockheaded Peter) – Heinrich Hoffman
I couldn’t even have this one in the same room as me at night. In a series of warning tales, Hoffman describes horrible deaths and terrible lessons in stories such as ‘the Terrible Story of the Matches’ – in which a girl plays with fire and burns to death. The illustration on the front used to both frighten and hypnotise me.
Miss Pym Disposes – Josephine Tey
My favourite detective novel of all time. Funnily enough, it’s set in a girls’ boarding school, and is based around the mysterious death of one of the teachers. Josephine Tey’s a gorgeously good writer who’s excellent at creating nervous tension, and the end of this book is something that you’re not going to forget in a hurry.
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
I first read Jane Eyre when I was twelve, and it made me realise that grown-ups were allowed to read interesting books. All the grown-up books I’d come across before had just been people talking about being in love, but Jane Eyre was full of mysterious attic rooms and fires and werewolves and TELEPATHY. And also being in love. Which, actually, turned out to be a lot more interesting than I’d thought.
Dark Lord of Derkholm – Diana Wynne Jones
One of the reasons why I love Diana Wynne Jones so much is that she never forgets to make her characters real. This book, about fantasy beings manipulated by a man who wants to turn their world into a theme park, is just brilliant – and her dwarves and griffins and dragons feel more like people to me than most actual human beings created by other writers.
Orlando – Virginia Woolf
Virginia Woolf wrote amazing science fiction. Think I’m lying? This book is about a man who turns into a woman and lives for 300 years without visibly ageing. Woolf’s a beyond beautiful writer, but this book actually has a plot, and that makes it far and away my favourite thing she’s ever written.
I Capture the Castle – Dodie Smith
I might be a bit in love with Cassandra Mortmain. It’s difficult not to be, really. Her voice grabs you from the first line, and everything that happens to her becomes utterly a part of your life. The time and energy I’ve spent wondering about what happens after the final page of this book could probably power the Starship Enterprise. Brilliant.
And mine? Hmm…
Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery
I like Anne of Green Gables, but to me, Anne Shirley always felt a bit too good to be true. I much preferred Emily Byrd Starr. She had a cool name, black hair, violet eyes, she was psychic AND she was a writer. This is still one of my favourite books of all time.
My Friend Flicka by Mary O’Hara
Another childhood favourite. I’ve read my original copy of this book so many times, it’s dropped to pieces. It’s a coming-of-age story about Ken, aged 12, who lives on a remote mountain ranch in early 20th century America and has always dreamed of owning his own horse – but when it finally happens, he finds out that reality very rarely matches your dreams. Although the main character is a child, this book pulls no punches in its depictions of the tough and sometimes brutal life Ken and his family endure. It’s fascinating, beautifully written, and the descriptions are incredible.
It by Stephen King
This was the first Stephen King book I ever read (aged 13!), not long after I discovered I wanted to be a writer myself, and it’s a monster of a book in every sense of the word. I’ve been a massive King fan ever since, and he’s had a huge influence on my writing.
Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
This book HAS to be on my list, for the simple fact that the film made me into a writer. I loved the book just as much as the big-screen version, and when I look back over my early ‘novels’, I can see just how much I was influenced by Crichton’s clipped, spare prose and attention to scientific detail.
Tim and the Hidden People by Sheila McCullagh
OK, this is a series, not a single book, but there were so many of them I just can’t pick a favourite. I first encountered this magical series at school. While we were having the One Two Three and Away series (written, strangely enough, by the same author!) recited to us, I’d strategically sit beside the shelf in the corner that the Hidden People books were kept on and sneak them off it when the teacher wasn’t looking. They were about the adventures of a boy called Tim and a cat called Tobias, and are the first books I remember getting so in that I’d lose all awareness of the world around me, often not realising I’d been rumbled until I glanced up to see the teacher had stopped reading and was glaring at me…
What are your top 5 books? Share them with us in the comments!
Emma Pass has been making up stories for as long as she can remember. Her debut novel, ACID, is out now, and will be followed by another stand-alone thriller for young adults, THE FEARLESS, on 3rd April 2014. By day, she works as a library assistant and lives with her husband and crazy greyhound G-Dog in the North East Midlands.