Philip Pullman: Books that changed my life

Philip Pullman is the award-winning author of the acclaimed fantasy trilogy, His Dark Materials. His new book, Daemon Voices: Essays on Storytelling, is out now. 

Finn Family Moomintroll

by Tove Jansson

I read this with delight and wonder when I was ten; I loved the spare, elegant drawings, the Moomins’ life with their nice food and strange adventures but, above all, I loved it because it was the first time I experienced the strong sense of how a story develops. While that story was clearly made up, I remember feeling that it didn’t matter because it felt so true and was utterly convincing.

 

The New American Poetry 1945–1960

edited by Donald Allen

When I was in the sixth form in North Wales, the mobile library came round and, my God, this important and influential anthology with its revelatory language swept me away. The line in Ginsberg’s poem, "Sunflower Sutra"—“it was my first sunflower, memories of Blake”—led me to discover William Blake, who’s been my guiding star ever since. A few of my friends and I liked to think of ourselves as beatniks, wearing our “Ban the Bomb” badges, but we were a long way from San Francisco!

 

Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition

by Frances Yates 

I picked this up during my final term at Oxford. The book had absolutely nothing to do with my course but it had a huge influence on me, introducing me to the world of Renaissance magic, astrology and other books by Yates on art history. It’s from my extensive reading and fascination with symbols in Renaissance art that the truth-telling device, the alethiometer in His Dark Materials, has its source.