8 books which influenced Frances Hardinge

posted in: Frances Hardinge | 0

Yesterday Ali of Fantastic Reads very kindly and engagingly interviewed Frances Hardinge, 2006 winner of the Branford Boase award and finalist in the 2010 School Library Journal Battle of the Kids’ Books.

Although I didn’t manage to meet with Ali and Frances for their interview, I did ask Frances by email if she would share with us 8 books which reflect pivotal moments in her life so far, with particular reference to her journey towards becoming a published author. Here’s what she had to say…

These are all books which I read for the first time during my childhood or teens, and which had a big effect upon me, and ultimately upon my writing.

Book no. 1
James and the Giant Peach
by Roald Dahl

I was very young when I first read this book, and I still remember my disbelief when, on the first page, the hero’s idyllic home life was interrupted by his parents being killed by a runaway rhinoceros. The overturn of expectations was shocking and liberating, as if a window had been thrown open in my head. It was wonderful.

Book no. 2
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
I loved this book long before I knew what the world ‘surrealism’ meant. It gave me my first hints that something could be powerful and recognisable without making sense in an ordinary way.

Book no. 3
Smith by Leon Garfield
I think this book more than any other sparked off my love affair with fiction in a historical setting, and later my enthusiasm for eighteenth and nineteenth century fiction.

Book no. 4
Watership Down by Richard Adams
This was the first epic I ever read, and was a lesson in the art of myth-making.

Book no. 5
The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie
This was the first adult murder mystery I ever read, and was a fine introduction to the notion of a red herring. (Innocent as I was, I didn’t see through the trick right until the very end, and I was really impressed by the surprise.)

Book no. 6
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
I was given this by my father in my mid-teens, and fell upon it with glee and a sense of recognition. My latent anarchic sense of humour had been waiting for precisely this book.

Book no. 7
Idylls of the King by Alfred Lord Tennyson
This highly Victorian Arthur may be a bit pompous, but teenage me was intoxicated by the musical power of Tennyson’s language, and his gift for painting pictures with words.

Book no. 8
The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
Although my favourite Collins work is “The Woman in White” I probably learnt more from the Moonstone. I was fascinated by the way the plot was structured to sustain the tension, so that the reader was always imminently expecting the answer to the latest question.

My thanks go to Frances Hardinge for sharing her selection of books today. Frances will be appearing this weekend at the Just So Festival where I’m looking forward to meeting her!

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