From The Moomins to The Dark is Rising: authors share their favourite childhood books

Over the years, the Mumsnet Book Club has played host to some of the world's finest writers - and in every webchat, we ask them to tell us their favourite childhood books. We've rounded up some of their responses, to inspire you - and your children

    Sarah Waters: The White Mountains, by John Christopher 

    "I read a lot of horror and sci-fi when I was a child, and remember loving John Christopher's The White Mountains, set in a post-apocalyptic future, with odd remnants of the twentieth-century past still lying around; alien tripods have taken over, and the human race is enslaved. I still have a weakness for post-apocalyptic stories and films"

    Hilary Mantel: King Arthur and His Knights, by Roger Lancelyn Green 

    "People ask me if I always wanted to be an author. I have to explain that I intended to be a knight when I grew up." 

    Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche: Arrow of God, by Chinua Achebe

    "This book made me fall in love with storytelling ... but I also loved Enid Blyton's Famous Five."

    Ian McEwan: The Gauntlet, by Ronald Welch

    "I was eight, recovering from an operation in a British military hospital in Tripoli, Libya. (Even as I type these words I can summon that dread medical odour of antisepsis and the sound of the high ceiling fans). I reached the last page in tears (not of sorrow but of admiration) and, knowing that no other book would do, started again from the beginning."

    Jojo Moyes: National Velvet, by Enid Bagnold

    "It contains two really quite radical female characters: Violet Brown, this sickly young girl who defies the odds to win the Grand National; but also her mother, who funds her with money she  got from swimming the channel. These were female characters who DID stuff, rather than worrying about how they looked, or whether they had the right handbag..."

    Kazuo Ishiguro: Sherlock Holmes, by Arthur Colon Doyle

    "I think the appeal wasn't so much the detective stuff, though that was exciting enough, but the cosiness of the Holmes-Watson relationship; a meeting of the near-infallible superman with the definitively dependable, very decent friend."

    Curtis Sittenfeld: The Twelve Dancing Princesses, by the Brothers Grimm

    "My all-time favourite was a beautifully illustrated copy. I loved the worlds-within-worlds aspect of it, the glamour and secrecy." 

    Helen Macdonald: The Dark is Rising, by Susan Cooper

    "Like loads of childrens' books the main story is about a child learning that they have magical powers, and an important role to play in the fight between good and evil. But it wasn't that sense of magical individual power that drew me to the main character or the books themselves - it was that they had this marvellous voice, and they talked so bewitchingly of history and landscape and myth." 

    Nick Hornby: Emil and the Detectives, by Erich Kästner

    "Eric Kästner was a pretty interesting man: an 'author, poet, satirist, and screenwriter', according to Wikipedia. As someone who works in more than one medium, perhaps he inspired me in ways I couldn't have known."  

    Barbara Kingsolver: Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott

    "I read it as a restless seven-year-old, cramped in the back seat during a long car trip, and it's my earliest memory of utterly leaving my present circumstances to become someone else inside the wide spaces of a book. Holy cow, I thought, here lies magic. Jo March as apotheosis."

    David Mitchell: Takes From Earthsea, by Ursula Le Guin

    "Intelligent fantasy that still inspires me today."

    Esther Freud: Little House on the Prairie, by Laura Ingalls Wilder

    "My mother read to me a lot and I always loved stories, but I remember thinking how wonderful the Laura Ingalls Wilder series was, and how brilliant it was that the writer had made these stories up out of her own life."  

    Khaled Hosseini: The Tragedy of Sohrab and Rostam, by Ferdowsi

    "This is one of the tales from the ancient Persian epic the Shahnamah, or The Book of Kings, written by the Persian poet Ferdowsi in the 10th century. It has all the elements of a great tragedy, and I referred to it both specifically and thematically in The Kite Runner."  

    Madeleine Miller: The Hunchback of Notre Dame, by Victor Hugo

    "Most of the book went way, way over my head, but the parts that I understood completely devastated me. Hugo's visions of injustice and cruelty were overwhelming. I ended the book feeling like I wanted to pick up a (metaphorical) sword and fight for justice."

    Gillian Flynn: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll

    "I loved how curious and precocious and fearless Alice was, and I was fascinated by this strange other world that she explored. I spent many hours looking for rabbit holes in my backyard."

    Louise Doughty: The Chronicles of Narnia, by CS Lewis

    "I was obsessed with the Narnia books as a child: they were a real introduction to creating a whole imaginary world. I was devastated when I realised they weren't real." 

    David Nicholls: Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens

    "I loved The Magic Faraway Tree, then The Moomins, then Narnia, then Alice, then Dickens. Dickens was the big leap for me, particularly Great Expectations, which has influenced everything I've written."  

    Emma Healey: I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith

    "I read it when I was 15 and it made me want to be a writer, both in the style of Cassandra Mortmain, 'sitting in the kitchen sink', and her father, the tortured genius who hides himself away in the castle gatehouse." 

    Jim Crace: Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe

    "I still love it, especially those parts where Robinson swims back to the wreck to salvage tools and provisions for his years of isolation." 

    Francesca Segal: Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte

    "The book that first stopped my heart... I think it's still, secretly, my template for true romance." 

    Rachel Joyce: The Diddakoi, by Rumer Godden

    "I read it again with my youngest daughter recently and she was enthralled. I loved reading as a child. I was unhappy sometimes and very willing to believe in things I didn't know." 

    Christos Tsiolkas: David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

    "I love that grand sprawling narrative, those amazing characters. I loved disappearing in that world."

    Karen Joy Fowler: The Once and Future King, by TH White

    "In my early teens this book launched me on an Arthurian Quest from which I have never come home. Among the many many lessons it contained was that a book could be both funny and sad. No humor without sorrow; no beauty without ugliness; no magic without science; no past without future." 

    Patrick Gale: The Moomin novels, by Tove Jansson

    "The novels I repeatedly re-read were Tove Jansson's Moomin novels, Norton Juster's The Phantom Tolbooth and Lewis Carroll's two Alice books - all of which I still return to when in need of comfort..." 

    Sarah Moss: the Anne of Green Gables series, by LM Montgomery

    "I started with literary responses to the experience of being female, and I'm still working on that now." 

    Maria Sample: Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh

    "It's about a girl who feels alone, but spends her life spying on adults. I realize now this is the life of a writer. The ability to be alone and the interest in other people are both critical."

    Last updated: almost 3 years ago