1. The Time Machine (H. G. Wells)
A contemplation of the ultimate fallout of mankind’s habit of striving for invention and improvement. It’s not approached as a cautionary tale, more just a statement of the inevitable. That’s probably why I loved it so much – and for another thing, reading it alone at night scared me. Always a bonus.
2. The Hobbit (J. R. R. Tolkien)
Harry Potter is what got a lot of our generation into reading, but for me it was always Tolkien. The Hobbit was my gateway into Middle Earth; its various settings are so vivid and its characters are interesting and knobbly (in a great way). It’s a lovely little book and Bilbo is fantastically nuanced for a children’s protagonist – especially his relationship with Thorin.
3. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
You know those people who love the occasional passionate fight with their partners? I’m definitely not one of them, but I’ll never tire of it when it comes to Lizzie and Darcy. The first proposal scene is one of my favourites in literature – the dialogue is so beautifully venomous and charged.
4. Watership Down (Richard Adams)
Another childhood favourite. This book transform the humble countryside that is most of England and Wales into an alien, treacherous world, which is just as interesting to me now as it was when I was nine. It’s home to one of my most beloved character, Bigwig (a brave ‘bruiser’), and is brilliantly dystopian in parts.
5. Spell It Out (David Crystal)
When a friend saw me reading the book Spell It Out in the library, he said it was basically me ‘in book form’. There are a few subject-related books I could have chosen, but this one is a perfect example of how fascinating I find the truly mundane. Plus, my copy is signed, which makes me really really happy.