The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien
This was the first novel my father read to me and, given I was small and impressionable at the time, I blame him for setting me on the fantasy path. I sometimes wonder how things might have turned out differently if he had read me The Art of War or Embroidery for Dummies. The Hobbit opened my eyes to other worlds and I've wanted to be an author or wizard ever since, whichever came first.
The BFG - Roald Dahl
This is kind of an arbitrarily chosen title from the whole range of Dahl's kids' books, though for some reason it does stand out for me especially. Maybe because it was an early foray into Dahl, or maybe it simply resonated with me so absolutely as a child - the fear of monsters in the night, the joy of loud farting, the dreaded eating of vegetables. For whatever reason, Dahl was and remains a great inspiration.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
Originally I possessed this as the BBC radio series on tape, which was stealthily played at night on a walkman beneath the covers. The occasional muffled giggle frequently led to annoyed parents bursting into the room demanding to know what was so damned funny. At any rate, I eventually read the entire series, perhaps my first introduction to humour in literature.
The Complete Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Whenever reading Holmes, I become obsessed with trying to deduce facts about people from their appearances: ''It's obvious you have recently acquired a parrot.'' Most of the time all I discover is, ''You grow increasingly uncomfortable the longer I stare at you'', leading me to believe that clues are not as abundant as Doyle would have us believe, or that I am not the world's greatest detective.
The Farseer Trilogy - Robin Hobb
These books made me want to sit in a large armchair by a roaring fireplace while I read them, instead of a mattress and an old bar heater. Still, at a time when I was frustrated by fantasy authors seeming terrified of ending a story, this trilogy was a beautiful example of something both epic and self-contained, as well as a great argument that fantasy can be serious literature. Oh, and a pipe - it made me want a pipe.
Sam Bowring is an Australian comedian, scriptwriter and fantasy author. His latest novel, The Lord of Lies (Hachette, $24.99), is the second book in the Strange Threads series.