I love reading, but I never seem to have much time these days. When I do give myself permission to sneak off to a quiet corner with a book, I tend to go for historical novels, fantasy and science fiction. I also have a particular interest in coming-of-age tales, as this is an important theme for me personally and which I express through my writing. Stories containing tragedy and adversity appeal to me, regardless of the outcome (i.e. whether the hero overcomes the challenges or dies in the trying). I find stories that simply entertain less satisfying. I like my emotions to be stirred; I need to feel empathy, sadness, anger, joy, pain.
These are my favourite books:
The Eagle and the Raven by Pauline Gedge (my favourite book of all time). An evocative, moving account of the Roman conquest of Britain. I wish I could write like this. Absolutely masterful historical fiction.
The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer-Bradley. The only book that I've actually thrown across the room in despair and frustration due to the actions of a character (Arthur in this case).
Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin. A brilliant fantasy genre coming of age tale. I like everything written by Ursula Le Guin.
The Nargun and the Stars by Patricia Wrightson. I won this book way back in 1975 for being 'most consistent' in my year at Burraneer Bay Primary School. 'Most consistent' feels like a bit of a double-edged compliment. I would have preferred most improved. Wrightson's story remains an absolute favourite because it creates such an evocative sense of place in the Australian bush, and reminds me strongly of my own childhood and visiting my grandfather's old house in the Blue Mountains. The shushing of the wind through the pine trees on a hot night is one of the most powerful memories for me.
Three Legions books (The Eagle of the Ninth etc) by Rosemary Sutcliff. Indeed any of her books. I lapped these up in primary school and they are the reason why I first became interested in archaeology and dark ages Britain. These books set me off on my quest to find out more about the Arthurian legend and Roman Britain. I now have a university degree and about 120 text books on the subject!
The Sunbird by Wilbur Smith. Quite archaic and condescending now, but nevertheless a powerfully evocative creation of historical place and culture.