Russell – Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

dsc02108Manic nonsense at its best. Creepy, humorous, deeply unsettling at times; follow Alice down the rabbit hole into a surreal world of madness. Invisible cats, magic potions, talking flowers, pig babies, mad hatters, smoking caterpillars and more await you! Each page is filled with iconic characters, bizarre conversation and social critiques which build to a fun and mind-altering read. Disney did a decent job with the cartoon version but missed out some of the darker stories, so there are plenty more tasty morsels between the covers. Bon appetit!

Keira – Haroun and Luka by Salman Rushdie

image1Amidst the anticipated texts that we had to read for an English Literature university degree sat this title by this contentious writer. A breath of fresh air, it was a wonderful Alice in Wonderland inspired story that reminded us that children’s stories are just as, if not more important.

With this wonderful cover by good friend and talented illustrator Lesley Barnes, this book is made even more special. A fantastic animator and beautiful illustrator herself, Lesley and Vintage have really made this a beautiful product to take home. Rushdie at his finest.

Peter – Job: A Comedy of Justice by Robert Heinlein

peter_ranscombe_job_2School libraries are magical places and the shelves at Nairn Academy were no exception. Browsing the rows one lunchtime, I came across a thick paperback with a dark blue cover that caught my eye.

Job: A Comedy of Justice by science fiction writer Robert Heinlein opened my mind to the possibilities of speculative fiction. Suddenly the boundaries became blurred; science fiction didn’t have to have space ships and moon bases and aliens in it, just like mainstream fiction didn’t have to be set in the present day.

It was a journey that led me through Jean-Paul Sartre’s The Chips Are Down and Robert Harris’ Fatherland and eventually onto my debut novel, an historical thriller called Hare.

In Job, just like the book’s Biblical namesake, the main character is put to the test. At its heart, it’s a very whacky love story, told only as Heinlein could.

Eleanor – The Tales of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin

20160923_151612I’ve gone for four books in one with The Tales of Earthsea novels by Ursula Le Guin, an adventure full of magic and darkness in an otherworldly fantasy land of islands and uncharted seas. A Wizard of Earthsea (1968), The Tombs of Atuan (1971), The Farthest Shore (1972) and Tehanu (1990) are beautifully written and so barely there in detail to what we know today. Sparrowhawk is myth-like, a fabled anti-hero. Earthsea has been a firm favourite since I was a teenager. Now I know Le Guin created a genre, writing science fiction and fantasy before it had a name. She’s a master.

ABS – Waterlog: A Swimmer’s Journey Through Britain by Roger Deakin

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHey you, yeah you, maybe you’d like to try some wild swimming? In Tasmania we just call it swimming. But maybe the wild will tickle your fancy. Whatever it takes/whatever you call it, give it a try. Maybe you’ve not swum outdoors for a while. Maybe never. I’m not inspiring you?

Maybe you should try reading Waterlog, a beautiful paean to aquatic places, people and pursuits in the British Isles and nature in general. If you do and feel inspired and want some suggestions for spots near you try further research at sites like http://www.wildswimming.co.uk/hidden-beaches/ where you will find directions to places such as Seacliff where I’m pictured reading. It has Britain’s smallest harbour. Sombre sea monuments. Bass Rock filling your vista. Ruined castles. Birds roosting and swooping. Swathes of sand, sea and rocks to explore. Why not dip your toe in the Waterlog?

Hande – This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen

pixlr_20160915164256741Lots of great children’s books can be read by children and adults alike. This is definitely a must read for adults- the combination of the slightly dubious storyline and simple but brilliant illustrations make for one very funny book. The illustration where the rather peeved big fish who has had his hat stolen narrows his eyes is particularly priceless.

Read it for your own pleasure. Then decide if you want to try it out on your kids. It might not be for all children, but my preschooler was gleefully scandalized.

Andrew – The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf

pixlr_20160913223822973Ferdinand is the one bull in the world worth knowing intimately. Ferdinand is a safe bull. A peaceloving creature. An individual. A poetic bovine.

I’m selecting this wonderful story because it’s really ideal for fathers to read to their children. Ferdinand is a boy who refuses to yield to peer pressure to be a fighter. Instead, he prefers to sit and dream and enjoy the beauty of his homeland’s meadows and cork groves. By the end of the book, we know Ferdinand is a little bull who is full of courage.

It’s great to see The Story of Ferdinand is still in print after more than 80 years. Written for children in one afternoon in 1935 in a world beleaguered by a drift to war, it raised the possibility that to choose not to fight might be an honourable and humane position. The Story of Ferdinand topped the charts in the USA in 1938, ousting even Gone with the Wind.

I have had this book as long as I can remember. It was one of the first I read and its message is still a huge, humane and beneficial influence on me. Beautifully illustrated in pen and ink, quick and easy to read, and with the added bonus of reminding us animals may indeed be wiser than we humans.