If you’d met me when I was ten, I would probably have had my head stuck in a book. I used to sneak books into dinner and would hide them on my lap just so that I could keep reading. And I read everything I could get my hands on, not just fiction; Readers Digest, National Geographic, even an entire encyclopaedia once! But there were some books that I reread over and over (and over) again and here, in no particular order, are my ten favourites (I still have the dog-eared copies of most of these). If you haven’t read them, you should.
The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy
Before there was Harry Potter, there was Mildred Hubble - the worst student at Miss Cackle’s Academy for Witches. Potions classes, flying lessons and the most adorable, and useless, pet cat in literature - it has everything. For a younger age group than the Rowling books.
The Demon Headmaster by Gillian Cross
There was just something about a school where students never broke any rules and stood in the playground reciting times tables that creeped me out - in a good way. Great premise, really strong characters.
George’s Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl
I’ve picked this one, but really it could have been almost any other Dahl book. However, I did love this one with all it’s wickedness and sweet vengeance. It also inspired my brother and I to pour all the liquids we could find into the bath to make one big, foaming, mess. Lots of fun but, in the end, it just got washed down the plughole and we got into quite a bit of trouble with my mum.
This book dictated the way I spent a significant number of weekends during my childhood. Cut out newspapers, choosing a trenchcoat, how to tail people in the park and write letters in code - this book has it all. Also, by the by, there’s a great review for this on Amazon, click here.
Famous Five - Five on a Treasure Island by Enid Blyton
If ever there was a character that I identified with at school, it was George. Both staunch tomboys, I thought it was amazing that there was a book with someone just like me in it. I even tried getting my friends to call me George for a while, but it never caught on.
Fighting Fantasy - City of Thieves by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone
More of a game than a book, this one was my favourite of the choose-your-own ending Fighting Fantasy books. It’s the reason that whenever I get to choose a character class in a computer game, I always go for thief (yes, I know). My mum would photocopy mountains of the adventure sheets for us and my brother and I would be completely silent for hours - well, until one of us caught the other cheating.
The Goalkeeper’s Revenge by Bill Naughton
This is a wonderful collection of short stories and the first book that made me cry. I was sitting at my desk listening to my teacher read ‘Spit Nolan’, completely lost in the story, when she reached the last line. I remember it took me a moment to work out what the line meant and then I burst into tears. All the stories are so original and evocative - it really doesn’t matter if you like football/soccer or not (I don’t), it’s just a great read.
The Hobbit by J.R.R.Tolkien
I never really got into the Lord of the Rings books, but I loved The Hobbit. I’m not the only one - it’s so brilliant they’re making three films out of it.
Blubber by Judy Blume
I read every Judy Blume book and loved them all but this was my first, and, even though I haven’t read it in probably twenty something years, I can still remember everything about it. Nothing used to upset me more than seeing somebody being bullied or picked on at school - something that hasn’t really changed - and this book really struck a chord with me.
The Essential Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Waterson
Should this book be on this list? I don’t know - firstly, it’s a collection of cartoon strips and, secondly, it didn’t come out until I was thirteen. Nevertheless, if it had come out a few years earlier, I would have loved it then just as much as I love it now. And, yes, I can pretty much quote the entire thing.
Calvin: I’m a genius, but I’m a misunderstood genius.
Hobbes: What’s misunderstood about you?
Calvin: Nobody thinks I’m a genius.
What do you think - do you agree/disagree? What would your list include?