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Maggie Aderin-Pocock: Books that changed my life

Maggie Aderin-Pocock: Books that changed my life

Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock is a space scientist, science communicator and presenter of the BBC’s The Sky at Night. Her new book, Am I Made of Stardust? is available now

Heidi by Johanna Spyri

Heidi book cover with illustration of green mountain covered in trees against blue sky

As I’m dyslexic, reading at school was never fun. Watching the TV series Heidi, though, as she went to live with her grandfather and the adventures she had, inspired me to read the book.

The novel opened up a whole new world to me. It was magical because I realised the power of my own imagination through picturing the mountains and the version of Heidi that I wanted to see.

I hadn’t realised that books could do that. It led me onto other things, like The Secret Garden, which I also loved. Heidi is what got me started in reading.

Chocky by John Wyndham   

Chocky by John Wyndham book cover

What really got me hooked on reading was science fiction and fantasy. The first book of that genre that I remember is Chocky, by John Wyndham. It’s quite short, and almost dry, about a young boy who has an alien living in his mind that makes him see things from a different point of view.

Sometimes he gets upset with the alien, and when he says, “I’m hearing voices” people start wondering what’s going on.

My sister mentioned the book and it sounded so intriguing. It was the first book I read cover to cover in a day. I’m a bit obsessive with books. When I’m in a good story I don’t want it to end—I was one of those kids under the covers with a torch!

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

Flowers for Algernon book cover

This tells the story of a young chap with a reading disorder and I could really identify because of my dyslexia.

He’s then given a drug that makes his brain more powerful and he becomes more intelligent than his teachers and the professor who’s running the experiment.

I don’t want to give too much away, but it was a roller-coaster ride seeing all the things he became aware of as his intelligence grew.

Science fiction plays an important role in the lives of many scientists and what we do. A lot of the best sci-fi comes from a kernel of something that’s really happening and is explored and expanded upon in a magical way.

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