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Realm team member and Designated Nerd of the Publicity Department Jessica Skipper shares the five SFF books that changed her.

  • The Wind Singer - William Nicholson

    I first read this book when I was ten, and it was the very first fantasy novel I had ever read. I ADORED IT. It’s set in a dystopian society and focuses on a small band of rebels, led by the enigmatic and rather infuriating Kestrel. It taught me about loneliness, bravery, and that not every main character had to be likable. It was also the novel that sparked within me a fierce love for dystopian and apocalyptic fiction that I still have today.

  • His Dark Materials Series - Philip Pullman

    When I was eleven, my primary school librarian thrust The Northern Lights into my hands and demanded I read it as she declared that I’d read The Wind Singer too many times already. I powered through the rest of the series within a week. If The Wind Singer sparked my love of stories with a fantastical element, the His Dark Materials series well and truly turned that spark into a full blown fire. It taught me the power of a sad ending (that scene in the park in Oxford at the end —gets me every time!) and made me think about what growing up meant, rather than just getting older. I’ve reread this series just about every year since I discovered it, and every reading I find something new in the story that I had missed previously. These are far and above my favourite books of all time, and I try to make everyone I meet read them. It was also the first book-to-film adaptation that I was severely disappointed by.

  • The Passage - Justin Cronin

    There is a quote from Stephen King about The Passage, where he says ‘read this and the ordinary world disappears’. Nothing I could ever say about Justin’s writing would sum up this book so perfectly. I remember reading it in bed and feeling the hot, dry Californian atmosphere on my skin. I cowered behind the tall walls of the Colony, and became anxious when reading at night in dim light. It truly felt like I was living in another world. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the heartbreaking story of Amy’s beginnings and her mother, of Carter and of course Wolgast, who proved to surprise me more than anyone else in the book. It’s gripping and epic and impossible to stop reading. To me, this is 963 pages of perfection.

  • The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood

    Despite loving this book, it was also deeply disturbing for me. Atwood’s dystopia was just close enough, and just realistic enough to make me think, ‘could this happen to me?”. I had dreams about this book, about going to try and buy a coffee, or the paper, and finding I no longer was able to access my own money. About no longer having the right to do as I wished with my own body. About no longer having free will. It’s a book that has moments of violence, but overall everything is very subtle, and gentle, and it’s this quiet tone that makes it so creepy. Even the ending is gentle. I’d also like to give a quick shout out to Louise O’Neill’s Only Ever Yours, which has been described as a modern The Handmaid’s Tale and only just missed out on this list. Whilst the themes and story of these two books are similar, in contrast Only Ever Yours has a violence to the writing that affected me very deeply. I couldn’t remember the last time I felt so miserable after reading a book and I’ve pushed it into everyone’s hands that I possibly could. Louise is a star of an author, and I can’t wait to see what she does next.

  • American Gods - Neil Gaiman

    This was the first Gaiman that I read, and I think it’s the perfect place to start if you’ve never read him before. The use of ancient myth in modern fiction is often done poorly, or relegated to a certain sort of romance novel, so it was so refreshing to see them given life in such an amusing and believable way. I couldn’t get enough of the ‘new age’ Gods and even though the novel was originally written in 2001, they still feel fresh and relevant to our world now. Usually, I cannot stand humour in novels, but I loved the relief the humour in this book gave to the serious narrative. I CANNOT wait for the TV adaptation, and the chance to live through it all! (Ian McShane will be the PERFECT Mr Wednesday).

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