The Magic Faraway Tree - Enid Blyton
I used to have my own faraway tree. It stood towering over my family's house. There were lands at the top of my tree, too. My friends could vouch for that. A sprinkle of imagination was all that was required. Enid Blyton's book introduced me to fantasy in a form other than the classic fairytale. It's the first novel I remember reading. And I read it again and again.
The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien
Don't end. I remember thinking this as I read Tolkien's fantasy epic, which transported me to Middle-earth and kept me there for its 1000-plus pages. Part of me remains there still. That's what a great book should do - stay with you. Tolkien built a complex world. He gave it a history and developed new languages for its inhabitants. Almost every fantasy world we see today is seeded in mighty Middle-earth.
It - Stephen King
People who suffer from coulrophobia, be warned! Pennywise isn't a nice clown. I entered the fictional town of Derry at age 11 and instantly related to King's bunch of misfits. We explored suburban bushland, where you're more likely to stumble upon an empty can of beer than a monster like Pennywise. But it was monsters that stalked our young imaginations. Stephen King knows these things.
A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
I picked up A Tale of Two Cities in my teens, thinking that I should give the 19th-century classic stuff a try. I learnt some important lessons: how to write a great beginning; how to finish with a flourish; and there's more than one way to build dramatic tension - Dickens uses knitting in parts of this book. How clever is that?
Something Wicked This Way Comes - Ray Bradbury
By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes. Ray Bradbury, like Shakespeare, writes beautifully. His prose is rich and layered, lyrical and colourful. I encountered this book in my late 20s as I was struggling with my own genre issues. It taught me that I didn't have to build fences around my writing; that it's all right to mix fantasy and literary fiction.
Jonathan K. Benton grew up in New Zealand and after years of travel he decided to call Australia home. He lives in Brisbane and his first novel, A Wicked Kind of Dark, is a dark fantasy for young adults (Odyssey Books).