Mathilda Imlah, our paperback editor, takes us on journey through her top ten books.
If I were a character from fiction it would be perverse of me not to say Roald Dahl’s Matilda, because I think we all want to go back to childhood and live through it with an adult mind. And she has powers. But then again I’ve always fancied the White Witch’s wardrobe… and she has Maugrim.

My top ten books are:

  1. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. I would heartily recommend this for all children, especially the really wimpy bookish ones.  And then The Monster Bed, and then In the Night Kitchen.
  2. Master & Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. Sympathy for the Devil. Yes indeed. Ending falls apart a bit, but then again everyone’s in a mental asylum by then so…
  3. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K Le Guin. There is an old paperback copy of Earthsea that I keep on a special child-proof shelf at home and re-read when I am sick.
  4. The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner. I’ll put it out there, there is a small child inside me who gnashed her terrible teeth and rolled her terrible eyes when Boneland didn’t bring back Susan. And I am slightly fonder of Moon of Gomrath than Weirdstone. But Weirdstone is where it started. (I’ve spent far too long trying to do Gowther’s accent. In my head it still comes out a bit like the voice of Mr. Beaver in the BBC Lion the Witch & the Wardrobe.)
  5. Complete Miss Marple by Agatha Christie. If I had a mastermind speciality, it would be the works of Agatha Christie. I’ve read, listened, and watched everything ever made. When I’m finished with Poirot, I start on Marple, then Harley Quin and so on and so forth until I get back to Marple. It is an endless cycle. When I can’t get my hands on a Christie, I practice knitting and making my eyes sparkle. Anyway, this book has a foot-long spine. If anyone would like to give it to me for my birthday, it’s in August and you know where I work.
  6. Tinkers by Paul Harding. A lyrical, tense-bending Pulitzer prize-winner. Like Lawrence Norfolk, reading Paul Harding is like taking a deep-breath in cold air.
  7. In the Shape of a Boar by Lawrence Norfolk. My favourite review of this said that greek heroes need no adverbs. Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes… The shape of this novel intrigued me, I thought it might be arrogance to take on Homer for half a novel. It wasn’t. I’ve never forgotten his tale of Atalanta and Meleager, it’s one of the most incredible pieces of writing I’ve seen.
  8. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. A monster turned up and told a boy stories, and then I cried, and I cried, and I cried. Read it. And I’ll slip in The Crash of Hennington at the same time. In fact anything by Mr Ness.
  9. Dune by Frank Herbert. I am in love with Paul Atreides.
  10. Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald. If you ever read The Great Gatsby and thought it was a bit of all right, this is better. Also check out Zelda’s letters. Best read out loud in a terribly posh accent.

My favourite festive treat is Pepperkaker (Gingerbread, Norwegian-style)

Here's how to make it:

  • 150g dairy butter
  • 1dl sugar syrup
  • 2dl sugar
  • 1dl whipping cream
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp dried ginger
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 2 tsp cinomon
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • about 450g plain flour


Mix butter, syrup and sugar in a pot. Heat until sugar is completely melted. Let is cool slightly and add cream. Sift in spices, baking powder and most of the flour. Stir until it forms a stiff dough. Leave in the fridge over night. Then need with rest of flour and roll out about 3mm thick. Use cookie cutters (or more traditionally, just a knife to make shapes). Place on baking sheet on oven tray and bake at 175oC until golden brown (about 10 mins). Cool cookies before decorating.

Tip: Dip cookie cutters in flour first so the cookie mixture doesn’t stick. If you want to hang your pepperkake on the Christmas tree make a good hole in the dough of each cookie before cooking – a pen cylinder does just the trick.