Top Ten "Gateway" Books/Authors In My Reading Journey
The Magic Faraway Tree
Although this wasn’t the first book I ever read, it was my first introduction to fantasy. I had an omnibus edition of the entire series that my parents brought for me in a bookshop in Newcastle on a trip to see family and I devoured it. By the time I passed it over to my book-mad niece, it was extremely threadbare and had been read cover to cover any number of times. I can still remember the wonder and excitement of reading these books, the lands that appeared and disappeared at the top of the tree and the wonderful denizens of the tree itself.
A very important book for me because it was the first book I brought for myself, at a School Book Fair. A thrilling story of brave mice, wise-cracking squirrels, disfigured foxes and warrior badgers, Mattimeo was my introduction to the Redwall series, which became a staple when I was a kid. Again, one of those books I have very clear memories of sitting and reading. One scene in particular, where the adult animals wake up under an overcast, drizzly sky to discover that the children have been kidnapped by the vengeful fox, returns to me every time I’m stuck at home on a rainy day.
The Lord of the Rings
A friend of the family had two copies of this on his bookshelf and he read it every year without fail. Although it took me quite a few years to actually get through it completely, I dipped in and out of it numerous times and was constantly amazed at the characters and world that Tolkien had created. A second step on my love for fantasy.
X-Wing: Rogue Squadron
The first Star Wars book I ever read, a classic example of just how much can be done in that universe. Great characters, exciting dogfights, a class-A villain – this propelled me into the wonderful world of Star Wars novels. Even now, 20 years on, I still pick up every single new Star Wars book that comes out and devour it!
This was my first grown-up book, stolen from my dad’s bookshelf. A vast, sprawling family saga, it introduced me to concepts and vistas I had not expected or imagined up until then. It started a love for historical novels in me, as well as big doorstopper books that you have to bench-press to be able to carry around.
Impossible to choose just one book from Mr Brooks, but I can safely say that he propelled me into my love for epic fantasy in all its forms. My first book from him was actually First King of Shannara, which I now recognise is far from his best work, but the way he played around with tropes that up until then I had only seen in The Lord of the Rings grabbed at me and dragged me into the further worlds of Jordan, Eriksen, Sanderson and Martin.
The Count of Monte Cristo
Around the time I turned fifteen, I was reading a lot, but all pretty much the same stuff. A lot of epic fantasy, a lot of Star Wars and Star Trek, not a whole lot else. Then, on a family holiday, I got into a big argument with my mum and brother about expanding my reading horizons. Fine, I told them. I will find a book in the house where we are staying, I’ll read it and I’ll hate it. And then you can leave me alone! Little did I imagine that I would stumble upon Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo...
Fast forward a couple of days and we had to leave the house. And I had to leave the book behind. Unfinished. I spent two months tracking down an English-language copy (I lived in France and Amazon wasn’t what it is now) and devoured the book in a couple of days. I suddenly realised that I could find the same wonderful characters, exciting storylines and fabulous locations outside of fantasy.
This is, hands down, one of my favourite books.
An Instance of the Fingerpost
A classy, well-written puzzlebox of a novel, set in Oxford in the 17th Century, An Instance of the Fingerpost unveiled the world of historical mysteries. A great read if you’re looking for an intelligent, well-researched and mind-twisting book that will keep you guessing right up until the end.
The Dresden Files
Around the time that epic fantasy started to become a bit of a drag, I came across a little book called Storm Front. A magician in modern day Chicago, vampires, fae, prophecies, a talking skull, all combined to reveal a new world to me, one that I hadn’t known about until then. This series was my first introduction to urban fantasy and I recommend it to anyone wondering whether to dip their toes in the modern day fantasy goodness!
The Way of Kings
After reading a lot of fantasy for a long time, I eventually got a little sick of epic fantasy. Nothing seemed to be exciting anymore, worlds like Jordan’s Wheel of Time were getting a bit stale. But The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson showed me how epic epic fantasy could actually be. New worlds, vast canvasses, huge stakes... This book reignited my love for all of that stuff!
Which Books Are on Your List?