Gormenghast - Mervyn Peake
A true original, dark, funny and paranoid, by one of the 20th century's greatest and most under-appreciated voices. The books came to me as a great revelation. I read and re-read them every couple of years. I find that as I age I'm constantly discovering new things about his work and what it shows me about myself. I copied his style slavishly for years before I was able to find my own.
The Golden Apples of the Sun - Ray Bradbury
Short stories, all of them perfect. I first read this book when I was about 10 years old. His work has a terrific energy and enthusiasm, as well as a palpable love of the language, and the ability to portray the wonderful within the mundane. I met him a few years ago; we had dinner in a restaurant in Los Angeles and I fell in love with him all over again.
The Inimitable Jeeves - P.G. Wodehouse
I don't think this author has ever written a book that wasn't funny, deceptively clever and downright delicious. This is one of the best with its cast of loveable eccentrics and good-humoured descriptions of village life. Wodehouse's characters never fade; their appeal is beyond time and place, and these stories represent a part of a long-vanished England that we may not have known, but that we still love.
Myths of the Norsemen - H.A. Guerber
Out of print even when I first read it, this was one of the great influences of my childhood. A compendium of Scandinavian and Icelandic myths, from which arose my lifelong fascination with old Norse mythology, language and culture.
The Queen of the South - Arturo Perez-Reverte
To satisfy my craving for adventure and travel (on the page, if nowhere else), I love this contemporary swashbuckler, not least for its exotic depictions of the Spanish drug-trafficking scene - and for its fabulous heroine, Teresa, one of the most beguiling and fantastically amoral adventuresses in fiction, whose escapades take her from submissive narco's morra to ruthless queen of the underworld.
Joanne Harris is a British author whose best-known work is the novel Chocolat, which was adapted as a film. Her latest books are Peaches for Monsieur le Cure, the third Chocolat book, and a second collection of short stories, A Cat, a Hat and a Piece of String (Doubleday, $32.95).