Minnsy complains, correctly in my view, about the recently released list of books that every child should read before they leave school. Dickens and Austen are great once you're already into reading, but that dense Victorian prose is not going to suck in a reluctant reader - and it's for that reason I'll be leaving all the Brontes, Conan Doyle, Mary Shelley and po' ol' Poe off my list, with the deepest regret. My picks are somewhat different from Minnsy's though:
- Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett - the first proper Pratchett, very accessible, hilariously funny, and will suck you in to the Discworld which, if you're like me, you'll never leave.
- The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie - Christie's easy conversational style is a joy to read, and this book has one of her most famous twists.
- Matilda by Roald Dahl - I'm a firm believer in books about the magic of reading, and that's why this one.
- Inkheart by Cornelia Funke - for the same reason as Matilda.
- The Ghost Stories of MR James by MR James - I think it does a child good to have the crap scared out of them every so often, and James can even make bedsheets terrifying. Also, I genuinely think it's important for kids to learn that short stories can be excellent, and you do not need a 600-page tome to tell a good tale. And he's not technically Victorian.
- Oranges are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson - another book to prick at the emotions, with some genuine laugh out loud moments. Also important for the queer kids (you are not alone) and the het kids (queer kids are normal). And once you've read it you can buy this poster.
- The Magician's Nephew by CS Lewis. Yes, that's right, not The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. The prequel. Not quite so heavy handed with the Christian allegory, but just as full of imaginative detail. I always liked Polly better than any of the Pevensie children, too.
- The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K Le Guin - does what all the best scifi does: poses a "what if?" and runs away with it.
- Fated by Benedict Jacka - because fantasy can be modern and set in a world we recognise, and populated by people we run into every day.
- Feminism is for Everybody by bell hooks - because it is, and everybody should read this book. You can get the .pdf of it here