The Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
I read the whole Earthsea Trilogy (including Tehanu) when I was in secondary school. It really cemented my love of reading and, not only that, how much fantasy as a genre could transport me to new worlds. The imagination of Le Guin really fired my own and maybe helped seed the thought I could be a writer too someday.
The Chrysalids by John Wyndham
I like a lot of Wyndham’s writing, but for me The Chrysalids is his finest work. It’s dystopian, clever and full of heart. I decided to re-read it as an adult. I was worried it wouldn’t live up to my lofty recollection (I used to read anything and everything back in my teenage years and seemed to love everything I read, even the trashy sci-fi paperbacks my library stocked). But I needn’t have worried. It was just as great the second time round.
Intensity by Dean Koontz
I’m a massive fan of nearly all of Koontz’s early work (maybe don’t ask me about his more recent stuff), but this book is my go-to Koontz. I’ve read it maybe five times and it’s a masterclass of suspense and drawn-out tension. I remember being breathless as I read, and got through it one sitting.
Body Rides by Richard Laymon
Again, I was a massive fan of Laymon in my late teens and early twenties (and, now that I think about it, maybe that was the age group he was aiming at – most of his characters seem to inhabit that demographic). Laymon’s storytelling isn’t sophisticated or deep, but he sure does know how to entertain. I’ve always loved his dialogue, too. This book is one of his best.
King Blood by Simon Clark
I met Simon for the first time this year at FantasyCon in Scarborough and he’s a lovely bloke! Lord knows where his dark, twisted imagination comes from, but I treasure it. This is his finest book for me. An expansive end of the world tale which any post-apocalyptic fan should read.
Chasm by Stephen Laws
This is about a town that is sheared off from the rest of the world and is surrounded by an impassable chasm (hence the title). I still remember the name of the black stuff that lives in it and I haven’t read it for yeeeeears. The Vorla. Now that’s the sign of a great book. (Man, I hope I haven’t got that wrong now after being so cocky about remembering it *crushing doubt*.) It’s a survival story at its heart but with a unique and imaginative setting. I’d recommend it to anyone who can find a copy.
I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
I LOVE THIS BOOK. Again, I rate a lot of Matheson’s work, but this one is special. And it still has the most memorable and resounding final line in any book I’ve ever read.
Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho
Don’t pay too much attention to the title – it isn’t as depressing as it sounds. Yes, it covers themes of suicide and mental illness, but it’s such a life-affirming experience. It’s another book that I always find myself going back to. It made me think and think and think, and any book that does that is worthy of countless recommendations.
The Shining by Stephen King
Another master storyteller. I love King, and I love many of his books, but The Shining (a book I only read last year for the first time) is so full of chilling atmosphere, brilliant characterisation, perfect descriptions and a creeping horror that works its way under your skin that it deserves ALL the accolades. I rate the film highly, but I rate the novel even more.
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
This book defies category. It’s about the death of religion and the machinations of the Gods (from all cultures) who want to resurrect their waning popularity in modern society. Gaiman makes it all look so easy, but the weaving of his tales is something everyone needs to immerse themselves in. Despite its size, this book is a dream to read. It’s trippy and funny and like nothing you’ll ever read again.