Book Review – Murderbot Diaries
If you’re looking for a great escape, I highly recommend the Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells.
I stumbled onto this series by accident – it was one of those recommendations provided by the Amazon algorithm, but it just goes to show that computers really do know you better than you know yourself, because I’ve totally loved this series. I recommended it to all my family, and they’ve binge-read it too.
What’s the story about?
Don’t be put off by the ‘Murderbot’ in the title. The story is told as a semi-diary form in relentless first person. The protagonist is a totally paranoid android, named Murderbot (well, that’s its private name. In public it’s called ‘SecUnit’). Murderbot aka SecUnit is a robot construct, built of cloned organic tissue and electronics. Built as a security bot, it is leased by an evil company to explorers, miners and other participants in frontier missions. But SecUnit has a secret – it’s hacked its governer module. Which means the company can no longer tell it what to do. More importantly , it allows him to download as much media as he wants.
The story is set in the far future, in a civilisation dominated by the Corporation Rim, where might means right, and non-corporates which, as SecUnit says, can be great places or total shit-shows, you never know.
What is free will?
The Murderbot Diaries are fast-paced, as SecUnit faces various trials and deals with them using a mixture of old-fashioned violence and ultra-fast hacking. It’s funny, too, as SecUnit learns to talk to people without its protective armour, and argues (and sometimes befriends) other, also self-aware bots. But the best part of the Murderbot Diaries is the dry, self-aware voice of SecUnit, as it learns what free will means, what it is to have a friend, and slowly discovers what it really wants from life.
What is intelligence?
This series is a must-read for fans of intelligent, funny action-packed narratives. I especially recommend it for teen boys (which can be a hard group to find books for! 🙂 ).
I binge-read all seven books in the series, and then read them all again, because I loved them so much. Each book is a stand-alone, but as they take place consecutively, so it’s helpful to read them in order.
The first books are relatively short (and inexpensive), but as the series progress the books become longer, which is great because every story in the Murderbot Diaries is brilliant, so the longer the better, I think. I really, really hope it gets made into a TV series!!
You can find Murderbot Diaries online or (if you’re lucky) at a bookstore near you.
(note: the links in this blog post are Amazon affiliate links so I may gain a small commission if you click on these links and make a purchase)
PS, If you’re looking for books for teen boys, you might also like this blog post – Great Books for Brainy Boys
Escape Reality Through Reading
The great thing about reading is that for a couple of hours, we get to escape. At the time of writing this, I’m desperate to escape. Because, along with most of the planet, I’m in lockdown thanks to COVID-19. Right now, reality seems over-rated.
Here’s a list of 17 of my favorite reads: these are books I’ve read and re-read. The reason I love them so much is that they take me to another place and time. It’s like travel, but without the inconvenience or danger.
(I’ve put links to other blog posts here too, so if you’re not finding here an escape that’s your flavor, then scroll down – I’m sure you’ll find something you love.)
P.S. This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. I receive a small payment if you purchase after clicking on these links.
Arabella – Georgette Heyer
Arabella, the daughter of an impoverished country parson, dreams of a new life in London. But her beauty and charm will only get her so far – and when Arabella embarks on her first London season armed with nothing but a benevolent godmother and her own notoriously short temper, she quickly runs afoul of Robert Beaumaris, Regency London’s most wealthy and eligible bachelor.
Anybody Out There? – Marian Keyes
Anna Walsh needs her old life back: her home, her glamorous career and above all the love of her life, her husband Aidan. But can things ever return to the way they were?
Always a brilliant observer of humanity, this tale is one of Keyes’ best. A bittersweet tale of love and letting go, this is Romance at its finest. If you enjoy this story, I recommend the rest of the Walsh family novels for snarky, smart, sheer Irish good fun.
The Time Traveller’s Wife – by Audrey Niffenegger
Henry DeTamble, a dashing librarian inadvertently travels through time and meets Clare Abshire, an artist whose life takes a natural sequential course. Henry and Clare’s passionate affair endures across a sea of time and captures them in an impossibly romantic trap that tests the strength of fate and basks in the bonds of love.
The movie’s pretty awesome too!
Need more Romance?
Check out these blog posts here:
- True Love and Book Boyfriends: 7 Great Romance Novels
- Love Pride and Prejudice? Here are 4 Books To Read
- Books to Read if You Love Downton Abbey
Out of This World – the Best of Science Fiction
The Peripheral – William Gibson
Set in the near future, Flynne Fisher lives in a rural America where jobs are scarce unless you count illegal drug manufacture, which she’s trying to avoid.
Gibson is known for his foretelling ability, so in some ways, this novel is kind of scary. But it’s a fantastic escape.
Snow Crash – Neal Stephenson
In reality, Hiro Protagonist delivers pizza for Uncle Enzo’s CosoNostra Pizza Inc., but in the Metaverse he’s a warrior prince. Plunging headlong into the enigma of a new computer virus that’s striking down hackers everywhere, he races along the neon-lit streets on a search-and-destroy mission for the shadowy virtual villain threatening to bring about infocalypse.
This novel is cyber-punk at its absolute best. It’s also the only book of Stephenson’s that I actually recommend. They got too long and complicated after this. Snow Crash is being made into T.V. by HBO – this will be either brilliant or disappointing – we’ll just have to wait and see.
Grass – Sheri S Tepper
Generations ago, humans fled to the cosmic anomaly known as Grass. But before humanity arrived, another species had already claimed Grass for its own. It too had developed a culture. Now, a deadly plague is spreading across the stars, leaving no planet untouched, save for Grass. But the secret of the planet’s immunity hides a truth so shattering it could mean the end of life itself.
Grass was nominated for both Hugo and Locus awards and remains a definitive work of classic Sci-Fi. It’s also a bloody great read.
Hyperion – Dan Simmons
On the eve of disaster, with the entire galaxy at war, seven pilgrims set forth to the legendary Time Tombs on Hyperion, home to the Shrike, a lethal creature, part god and part killing machine, whose powers transcend the limits of time and space.
Winner of the Hugo Award, Hyperion is immersive Sci-fi at its finest. Personally, I didn’t enjoy the rest of the series, but this one novel is well worth reading.
Dune – Frank Herbert
The best sci-fi series EVER. Read it.
Chocky – by John Wyndham
It’s not terribly unusual for a boy to have an imaginary friend, but Matthew’s parents have to agree that his—nicknamed Chocky—is anything but ordinary.
Almost all of Wyndham’s books make for great escapes. I think this is his best story: it’s short but perfect.
More reality-bending sci-fi here
Excitement, Adventure, and Real-Life
About A Boy – Nick Hornby
12 year old Marcus is looking for a grown-up. But Will Lightman refuses to grow up. Together they discover what it means to be a family.
The Broker – John Grisham
In his final hours in the Oval Office, the outgoing President grants a full pardon to Joel Backman, a notorious Washington power broker who has spent the last six years in a federal prison. Smuggled out of the country in a military cargo plane, Backman is given a new identity and a new home in Italy. He thinks he’s out. But the CIA will soon leak his whereabouts to the Israelis, the Russians, the Chinese and the Saudis, and then sit back and watch. The question is not whether Backman will survive – there’s no chance of that. The question the CIA needs answered is: who will kill him?
Set in Italy, this novel is less thriller than pure gastronomy. Read it, and eat pasta. (Grisham apparently put on 10 kg while writing this :))
The Little Drummer Girl – John Le Carre
One of Le Carre’s best, this is the story of actress Charlie, dragged into a world of espionage and terrorism. Highly recommended.
The Number One Ladies’ Detective Agency – by Alexander McCall Smith
Precious Ramotswe is drawn to her profession to “help people with problems in their lives.” Immediately upon setting up shop in a small storefront in Gaborone, she is hired to track down a missing husband, uncover a con man, and follow a wayward daughter. But the case that tugs at her heart, and lands her in danger, is a missing eleven-year-old boy, who may have been snatched by witchdoctors.
The first in a fabulous series.
The Belgariad – David Eddings
This is an oldie but a goodie: the adventures of scullery-boy Garion and his mysterious Aunt Polgara. If you’re sharing lockdown with kids, try reading this series aloud.
The Rivers of London – Ben Aaronovitch
Peter Grant, probationary constable, discovers an unexpected talent for magic. The entire series is outstanding, full of black English humor.
American Gods – Neil Gaiman
Gods never disappear. They just … change.
The Witcher Series – Andrzej Sapkowski
For over a century, humans, dwarves, gnomes, and elves have lived together in relative peace. But times have changed, the uneasy peace is over, and now the races are fighting once again. The only good elf, it seems, is a dead elf.
I’m totally in love with this series. If you’re looking for a long(ish) read to take you away from reality, this is definitely a must-try.
Want More Fantasy?
- If you loved reading American Gods, here are 6 books (plus T.V.) to try
- Love Stranger Things? Here are some books you’ll love
- Book Review(s): 4 Unusually Good Fairytale Retellings
- What can I read on holiday? Here are some great books for all ages.
- 3 Intriguing Books That Made Great Holiday Reading
Reality is Over-Rated
This list is just a taster – there are heaps of other books I recommend. But each story (or series) here is a guaranteed escape.
I hope you enjoy – and stay safe.
Pandemic Books Are About Survival
Right now I’m addicted to movies about pandemics.
I’m not alone: According to the Business Insider, the 1995 movie “Outbreak” was the ninth most popular title on Netflix this week – and the 4th most popular movie.
The problem with most movies about pandemics is that quite frankly – they’re stupid. The science is BS, the characters are ridiculously one-dimensional and the dialogue is pretty ropy.
However, there are HEAPS of great books centered around pandemics. Some are historical, based on actual facts – yes, facts, ladies and gentlemen. Such things do exist, much as our beloved leaders may inform us otherwise.
Pandemics Aren’t New
A slight digression here: I called my father the other day. He’s just over 80, full of ‘pre-existing conditions’ whatever that means, and lives alone.
“Are you worried?” I asked.
“Worried? Not really.”
At first, I thought this was just Dad being his usual stoic-self. But then I realized that this isn’t his first pandemic-rodeo.
Back when my father was young, the schools were closed because of a polio outbreak. (I wonder how my grandmother found this!?) Our ancestors were familiar with disease. My grandfather returned from WW1 right into the Spanish Flu. My grandfather’s grandfather (lots of great-greats there!) died of typhoid in the late 1800s. Disease has always been with us. But we humans forget so fast.
It was widespread, alarming, and then it suddenly all vanished. And by the next year, we’d almost forgotten…Alistair Cooke on BBC World History, recounting his memories of the Spanish Influenza Pandemic
9 Great Pandemic Reads About Survivors
Please find below a list of great reads, featuring both pandemics and – get this, folks: SURVIVORS. Because that’s the thing about pandemics. People do survive. Life goes on.
About this list: it’s based in no particular order. But all the stories here are particularly well-written, exciting and (in general) highly escapist. Some are deeply thought-provoking: some just keep you turning the page.
Hope you enjoy.
Doomsday Book – Connie Willis
Note: these links are Amazon Affiliate links, so I may gain a small commission if you purchase.
The Doomsday Book is one of my all-time favorite sci-fiction novels. Winner of BOTH the Hugo and Nebula Awards, this is a wonderful read.
Doomsday Book is set in a recognizable future where scientists at Oxford University, England, have discovered time travel. Historians can travel into the period they’re researching. But not all periods are safe, and until now, the 1300s have been off-limits.
But scholar Kivrin determined to visit the period before the Black Death, finally persuades her supervisor to allow her travel. Fatally though, just as she completes the jump back in time, the flu strikes Oxford, and there’s a disastrous error in her co-ordinates …
The narrative jumps back and forth, between present-day Oxford and the Middle-Ages past. The novel explores the nature of love, the purpose of humanity; the importance of faith. It is truly a wonderful read.
As a bonus, Doomsday Book is really, really long. So if you’re stuck in self-isolation, this will definitely keep you occupied.
Extra bonus: Willis’ other stories of the time-travelers at the Department of History, Oxford.
The Passage Trilogy – Justin Cronin
The story of Amy, the most important girl, and how the world changed … The Passage is a story about vampires, plague and survival. Almost operatic in scale, with a diverse, exciting cast of characters, the story starts before the plague begins, and ends with the dawning of a new age.
The Passage is amazingly fun to read, but be warned: each of the trilogy’s three novels is very, very long. Don’t be ashamed if you end up skimming.
(Amazon tells me it’s also a series on Fox – but as the trailer looks pretty sh*t, it’s not surprising that there was only one season. Stick to the books: they’re way better. )
The Girl With All The Gifts – M R Carey
Melanie is a very special girl. Her teachers call her “our little genius.”
Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant keeps his gun pointed at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. When she jokes that she won’t bite, they don’t laugh.
Written by the extraordinarily gifted MR Carey, The Girl with All the Gifts is much, much more than a fast-paced zombie thriller. It’s a tale about endurance in a world gone mad, and the courage it takes to save a child. There’s also a sequel: The Boy on the Bridge.
Girl was made into a (disappointing) movie in 2016. It’s okay to watch, but as usual, the book is better.
Station Eleven is a masterpiece.
Opening with the sudden death of once-great movie star Arthur Leander, the Station Eleven plays out against the backdrop of a devastating flu pandemic. The narrative moves from one time-line to another; threading the future to the past as we follow a group of traveling players as they traverse the midwest, performing Shakespeare against the eerie backdrop of civilization’s collapse.
Station Eleven is more than a disaster novel: it’s a story about the strength of the human spirit and the transformative power of art. It is also brilliant. Read it.
I am Legend – Richard Matheson
Love in The Time of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
I included Love in the Time of Cholera because I mean, that title!
Personally I didn’t love the book. In fact, I’ve pretty much forgotten what happens! (Wikipedia tells me that it’s about unrequited love and a second-chance romance.) So if you like that sort of thing, knock yourself out. It’s been made into a movie, too.
A Journal Of The Plague Year (Written By a Citizen Who Continued All The While In London) – Daniel Dafoe
Published in 1722, Journal purports to be an eye-witness account of the 1665 outbreak of Bubonic Plague. (Actually, it’s probably not autobiographical, as Dafoe was only 5 in 1665. But Dafoe, who also wrote Robinson Crusoe, is a brilliant story-teller, so don’t let that stop you).
Full disclosure: I’ve not read Journal yet, but here’s a great article from The Guardian if you want to find out more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/mar/13/plague-coronavirus-british-panic-buying
The Breakers – Edward W. Robertson
The Breakers Series: If you thought the pandemic is bad, just wait until the aliens arrive.
The Breakers is good old-fashioned excitement. It should be made into a movie. Robertson’s written 6 books in the Breakers series, so if you enjoy fast-paced action, this series is definitely for you
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
After all this heavy apocalyptic fare, chances are you’ll need a light and frothy dessert. Fear not, my friends – here it is!
Where’s the connection with pandemics, you ask? Don’t you remember the Golgafrinchams?
It was the absence of Golgarfincham’s telephone sanitizers (those same sanitizers that were encountered by Arthur Dent in the first book of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy), that ended Golgafrinchim’s civilization: the entire planet was wiped out by a virulent disease contracted from a dirty telephone.
It’s taken me nearly two hours to write this blog post, and all the while I’ve been worrying that this content could be too much for folk in quarantine, or for those desperately concerned about family or friends.
Sometimes it’s better to escape; to forget the pandemic. I get that totally. Just don’t forget that if it’s escapism you want, book is always best!
Feel free to check out these blog posts for links to other great, escapist and light-hearted reads.
And wherever you are, stay safe.
Three Great Holiday Reads
Are you looking for a great book to read on holiday? Well, I’ve just been on holiday! Lucky me 🙂
On this holiday I’ve discovered three AMAZING reads that I’d love to share with you. Here’s some of them:
Lies Sleeping – by Ben Aaronovitch
The newest release from Doctor Who writer Ben Aaronovitch is out! Lies Sleeping is the most recent instalment in the Rivers of London series. If you’ve not yet discovered the Rivers of London, then lucky you, because you’re in for a treat. These stories, set mostly in London, follow the adventures of Peter Grant, Detective Constable and apprentice wizard. Although each story is a stand-alone, they do form a continuous adventure, so you’re best to start at the beginning and read right through if you can. More information on the Rivers of London series here: rlstedman.com/doctor-who
In Lies Sleeping, Peter is fighting the Faceless Man and his ex-copper friend, Lesley, to prevent the downfall of London. Will he be able to solve the clues and so prevent the end of the world as he knows it?
In the story we also learn more about the nature of Molly, the mysterious domestic servant at The Folly, the Wizard’s Headquarters in London (and never to be referred to as Hogwarts, because Hogwarts is fictional!). Of course, we see more of Beverley Brook, Peter’s girlfriend and part-time goddess, and discover the true story behind the nefarious Mr Punch.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading the Rivers of London: the characters are lively, funny and believable and each book is a gripping read. The settings are great, too – Peter always comments on the architecture or the scenery, so these books are better than a guidebook! I used to live on the Kennet Canal, which feeds into the Thames, so it’s a lot of fun to read about an area I know well.
To be honest, I didn’t find Lies Sleeping quite as good as the earlier books in the series – I do wonder if Aaronovitch is getting a little over Peter Grant. But still, it’s a great read, and full of the trademark Londonisms and snarky humor that sets this series apart. Highly recommended, especially if you’re planning a visit to London.
Find Lies Sleeping on AMAZON: https://amzn.to/2SJ
Hyperion – by Dan Simmons
Hyperion is a stunning book! If you love epic science fiction, like Dune or Asimov’s Foundation Series, Hyperion is a must-read. Here’s the blurb from Amazon:
“On the world called Hyperion, beyond the reach of galactic law, waits a creature called the Shrike. There are those who worship it. There are those who fear it. And there are those who have vowed to destroy it. In the Valley of the Time Tombs, where huge, brooding structures move backward through time, the Shrike waits for them all.”
Hyperion tells the backstory of seven pilgrims who set forth on a final voyage to Hyperion and to the Shrike. Each pilgrim has had their own encounter with the Shrike, and each relays this in their own voice.
Hyperion is beautifully written, and the characters and action are unbelievably good. Like the best stories, Hyperion deals with the nature of evil, the evidence for God, and the reason for existence, all set against a backdrop of exceptionally gifted world-building.
I have a little quibble about the role of women in the story (I felt that most of the women in this story were there for sexual interest only) but whatever, Simmons is not the first sci-fi writer to relegate women from the action, and at least the book is amazing.
Part Canterbury Tales, part Keatsian epic (‘Hyperion’ is also a poem by John Keats), this is one of those stories you have to read again and again. It’s a classic (and I can’t believe I’ve only just heard about it!). My son told me about this book, which only goes to show that it is so worth getting your kids into science fiction.
Find Hyperion on AMAZON at: https://amzn.to/2SHRqWG
The Wizards of Once – Cressida Cowell
A new book by the author of How To Train Your Dragon, this is a fabulous fantasy story.
“Once there were Wizards, who were Magic, and Warriors, who were not. And there were Witches, too, who wove evil magic: the kind of magic that kills larks and brings only darkness. But Witches were all killed by the Warriors – or so it is thought. Until Xar, son of the King of Wizards and Wish, daughter of the Warrior Queen collide in the wildwood … And magic is changed forever.”
Wizards of Once is probably aimed at competent middle grade readers around 9 – 13 years, but I totally enjoyed it, much to my nephew’s amusement! 🙂
Cowell is a fantastic author: the story rips along, and the characters are beautifully drawn (literally, as the book is illustrated by Cowell herself). Wizards of Once felt like Diana Wynne Jones crossed with Roald Dahl and flavoured with a little bit of Alan Garner. Anyone who enjoys English-based fantasy will love this story.
I’ve not listened to the Audio version, but it might be worth checking the audio edition, if only because David Tennant (aka Doctor Who) is the narrator.
Find The Wizards of Once on Amazon at: https://amzn.to/2Fi40Ir
Great Books for Brainy Boys
Do you have a bright boy in your life? Lucky you!
BUT it’s hard to keep a bright boy fed with books. So many MG and YA books have pink covers, or touchy-feely romance, or feature bearded manly-men: my boys just couldn’t relate to these stories.
You know how kids can be fussy eaters? (“I don’t like broccoli/tomatoes/mushrooms?”) They’re exactly the same with books.
But it’s really important that kids learn to love reading. If nothing else, a book is a battery-free boredom-killer. A book can be carried anywhere and shoved under your little darling’s nose the moment he becomes restless.
But books are more than entertainment; they’re education. Books teach without even trying. From stories, kids learn facts, coping strategies and how to see the world through another’s eyes. In today’s techno-focussed society, words are super important; if you’re unable to communicate ideas, its pretty hard to hold down any well-paid job. Today, being brain-fit is more important than being physically-fit.
Here’s a list that might help.
Full disclosure: my boys are in their late teens. In their middle grade years (ages 8 – 10) they were competent, not voracious readers. I had to work real hard to find stories they liked. One son likes character-focussed novels; the other is (still) crazy about science, and for the longest time he’d only read ‘how to’ manuals. (I remember reading him the dishwasher plumbing manual for bed time reading!)
But now they’re both advanced readers, in the top streams at their university/schools and while they still have strong preferences, they’ll read across genres. I compiled this list of books with their help.
I’ve put in links to the Amazon pages of all the titles, so you can read a bit more about them.
Please note: this list is by no means complete. I’ve left out most of the mega hits, like The Hobbit, The Maze Runner, The Hunger Games and Harry Potter, as I’m sure you’re already aware of them. Plus, of course there are plenty of other wonderful stories I’ve left out, or just haven’t discovered yet. This list is mostly speculative fiction (horror, sci-fi and fantasy) as I found my science-focussed son engaged best with this genre.
If you’re looking for further ideas, try Zac Harding’s blog: https://bestfriendsarebooks.com – or ask a librarian
Younger Readers (8 – 10)
Animorphs – KA Applegate
Goosebumps – R. L. Stine
- These are science-fiction/horror-lite series, and both have an enormous number of titles. One son insisted on reading them in order, which I found real stressful, because do you think the library had them all available at the right time?
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar – Roald Dahl
“What keeps the elevator up?” asked Charlie.
“Skyhooks, of course,” said Mr Willy Wonka.
When Our Jack Went to War – Sandy McKay.
Based on the true story of Sandy’s great-uncle in WW1. This book is really good for kids with shorter attention spans, as it’s interspersed with cuttings from newspapers, so the formatting helps retain the interest.
The Prankster and the Ghost – R. L. Stedman
This is my book, so I guess this could be shameless self-promotion, but I wrote this with my kids in mind. The idea came about from my son’s school camp: within the first hour, one kid had their arm run over by the bus, another had a trip to ED, and my son was convinced the camp was haunted.
The Horse and His Boy – C. S. Lewis
The story of Shasta, runaway slave and his talking horse. A stand-alone adventure set in the Narnia world, this was the only one in the series my kids warmed to, but they both loved it.
Middle Grade (10 – 13)
Horowitz Horror – Anthony Horowitz
These are really good horror stories for kids, but be aware that they may induce delicious terror in the child-reader. So I don’t recommend these for binge- or late-night reading (unless you want to be woken by a kid with nightmares). Horowitz also wrote the Alex Rider series for older kids, about a spy academy for teens. TBH my kids didn’t really relate to the Rider series, “they’re too predictable”, but others may enjoy.
The Cherub Series – Robert Muchamore
Another series about teen spies for MG – YA readers. These stories are the ultimate in formulaic, binge-reading, so once a kid is hooked they’ll be gagging for the next in series. One of my sons hated these books, but the other devoured them, so again, worth a try. There are heaps of titles in this series – definitely a bonus when you’ve got a holiday planned. Just be aware that Muchamore writes about real-life issues, like trafficking. Younger children may not be ready for this type of content, so I do suggest caution.
The City of Ember (3 book series) – Jeanne DuPrau
A story about a civilisation surviving underground. This was made into a neat little movie, starring Bill Murray and Tim Robbins, and is a well-written exciting science-fiction dystopia for younger readers.
A Wrinkle in Time – Madeline L’Engle
An absolute, must-read classic for intelligent MG and YA readers: time travel, space travel, a brain-box kid and his older sister. This is part of a series, but you don’t need to have the entire series to enjoy this outstanding adventure.
When You Reach Me – Rebecca Stead
An award-winning adventure about time travel. Miranda receives anonymous letters that seem to be able to predict the future. This story is full of puzzles and plot twists. It’s based on an idea in A Wrinkle in Time, so its good to read them together.
Cosmic – Frank Cottrell-Boyce.
The story of an unusually tall 12-year-old who’s mistaken for an adult, and how he pranks his way into becoming an astronaut. This isn’t a simplistic read, but if you’ve a kid with a good attention span, they’ll love this story. Cosmic (and Cottrell-Boyce’s other works) make very good audio books, great for long car journeys.
Johnny Maxwell Series – Terry Pratchett
More information in this blog post.
Under the Mountain – Maurice Gee
See this blog post here. Fantastic story, disappointing movie.
Chrestomanci Series – Diana Wynne Jones.
This was the series that got me hooked on reading, when I was only 9! My favourite in the series is still Charmed Life, about orphan Cat and the mysterious enchanter Chrestomanci, but Witch Week is also great, and even now I laugh out loud when I read it. This series introduces the concept of multiple worlds and discusses causality, so it’s a thought-provoking read for science-fiends.
Older Readers (13 +)
I think my kids enjoyed the books here precisely because they are NOT written for kids – most were written before YA was a ‘proper’ genre.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
Great fun to read aloud and surprisingly accessible; we laughed our way through this book.
The Invisible Man – HG Wells
A classic, and still a fantastic story. A man walks into a bar, his face wrapped in bandages …
The Day of The Triffids – John Wyndham
Wyndham’s novels are written in a rather dry, reportage style, which my son loved. If your child enjoyed the Triffids, they’ll be happy, because there are others to try: The Kraken Wakes, Chocky, The Midwich Cuckoos. (My son also loved The Trouble With Lichen, but I couldn’t stand it!)
The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
I know, right? But my 13 year old totally loved this book, the idea of the puzzles and the fast-paced story-telling kept him hooked.
The Raven Boys – Maggie Stiefvater
My boys weren’t massively into this series, but it will certainly appeal to some boy readers. More info in this blog post here.
The Foundation Series – Isaac Asimov
My son devoured this series when he was 14, and it’s still one of his favourites. The combination of science and world-building in Asimov’s books makes these books deeply appealing to young people. Apologies to all Asimov fans, but I find reading his books as exciting as watching paint dry. The ideas are great, but it’s hard work to reach them (plus he’s as sexist as hell), so I wouldn’t expose a teen to Foundation until he or she is a truly competent reader.
And then …
Well, once a kid is says he’s enjoying Asimov, they’re on their own, and good luck keeping up with them!
photographs from pixabay and deposit photos – used under license