A few years ago, after writing several plays and stories for children, my thoughts turned to a series of novels based on the type of fantasy adventures I loved when I was younger. It gave me the great excuse to revisit many old favourites, as well as the chance to discover more recent authors. The following list is a short selection of things that continue to inspire and influence me. They all grab the imagination, and stick in the memory of readers young and old...
by Alan Garner
This book influenced me greatly as a child. I read it a number of times and each time felt breathless with excitement. The story never seems to let up on the action for a moment, but on re-reading as an adult, you realise the subtly and sophistication of the writing and characterisations. The series of claustrophobic set pieces in a labyrinth of underground tunnels make the stomach lurch. I went back to it again recently and realised just how much of a subconscious influence it had been on my own first novel.
by J.R.R. Tolkien
What list of children's books could be complete without this? So famous that it needs no real introduction, just marvel at Professor Tolkien's use of language. The book has a style all its own, and a unique individuality that remains undimmed — even more extraordinary when you think how many times it has been referenced over the years. Every single character is well drawn and genuinely memorable. A true timeless classic for everyone, whatever their age.
by Philip Reeve
This whole quartet of books is magnificent. The central idea — a post-apocalyptic world where survivors trundle through continents in huge, scavenging mobile cities — is so good and so beautifully realised that reading it often made me want to give up trying to write my own fantasy at all! The action comes thick and fast and the plotting hurtles you along, desperate to know what will happen next. The thing that sticks in the mind and heart most, though, is the central figure of Hester Shaw, who has to be one of the most complex and rewarding characters in any style of fiction. Her troubled relationship with Tom is difficult, heartbreaking and totally believable. Join the long list of adults who adore this book as much as their children, and then discover the recently released prequel.
by Jonathan Stroud
Here's something quite out of the ordinary: a witty, subversive satire on the form of fantasy novels which is also a great fantasy novel in its own right. The first part of "The Bartimaeus Trilogy," this is a funny, fast and furious delight from start to finish. The Djinni — Bartimaeus — is an extremely reluctant hero who provides first person narration that is somewhere between Tolkien, Terry Pratchett and guide book (his explanatory footnotes are hysterically funny). An original and exciting book full of sophisticated storytelling and humour.
by Philip Pullman
Where does one begin with this challenging, tragic, thought-provoking, and ultimately life-affirming trilogy? It already has classic status, and I believe that its reputation will only grow with time. I can think of no other fiction in recent years, in any genre, that has created such an intricate world of ideas, people, and situations. Great fantasy, great philosophy, and wonderful science fiction combine to create an intense work that is both important and unforgettable. The cumulative effect is so powerful that the ending of the trilogy left me speechless, with tears rolling down my cheeks. Whatever your age, there really is nothing else like it.
Recommending books so good, they'll keep you up past your bedtime. more...
About Chris Connaughton
Chris Connaughton is an actor, writer and storyteller. He worked for 10 years in a variety of theatres and tv shows before turning his attention to theatre for young audiences. He now runs Intext Performance providing plays and workshops in schools throughout the UK. His website has opening chapters and artwork from his books.
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