Author Appreciation Week: Philip Pullman

I’ve loved books and reading for  as long as I can remember. But I think it was Philip Pullman and the His Dark Materials trilogy that really sucked me in and made me a passionate reader, and made me passionate about sharing my love.

Let’s go back many many years to December 1994. I was in 6th grade. Now, usually, my mom did most of the Christmas shopping for us kids. But my dad was out meeting with clients one day, when (to kill some time) he popped into this tiny little independent book store. It was here, he found some cool books and decided to buy one each for me and my brother as Christmas gifts. The book he got me was the newly published The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman.

Needless to say, I devoured this book. I read it in a weekend. And then I reread it. And reread it again.

About two years later, the second book in the trilogy, The Subtle Knife FINALLY came out. I devoured it. And then reread both books over and over again.

Fast-forward about four years. I’m now a senior in high school. Finally, the final book in the trilogy is released — The Amber Spyglass. I read it in a day. And then I reread all three books … over and over again.

These books literally changed my life; they influenced other books I read, inspired many of my own short stories and essays written for school. To this day, I still say they are among my favorite books of all time. And if I were forced at gunpoint to choose just one book to read for the rest of my life, it would be this series. (Okay, so technically, that’s not one book, but you get the idea.)

I have another story.

Between the release of The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass, Philip Pullman went on a book tour in the U.S. He was coming to a store near my home. My mom saw it in the paper and told me about it, then drove me down to the store on the day of the event. I believe I was in 8th grade at the time; maybe 9th.

Philip read from The Subtle Knife, and shared with us the first paragraph from The Amber Spyglass. (Remember, this was back before authors had websites where they shared sneak peeks like this … this was a real, genuine treat that readers couldn’t get anywhere else!) After his reading and answering audience questions, we all lined up with our books to get them signed. I was at the back of the line (and most of the others were adults).

At the time, I dreamed of becoming a professional author (dreams I still haven’t given up completely). As Philip was signing my book, I asked for his advice. And to this day, I still haven’t forgotten what he told me.

And what he told me was this: Every story has already been told. As a writer, it’s your job to find a new way to tell it. He pointed me towards fairy tales. He said, Take Cinderella for an example. How many times has that story been told? Now see how you can put your own spin on that same old tale.

Truer words were never spoken. And his advice is something I still take to heart as I plod along in my free time (ha!) and mess around with story ideas.

So, now that you’ve read my ridiculously long post … I hope you have a better understanding for why Philip Pullman is one of my all-time favorite authors, and why, perhaps, I appreciate him a little bit more than all the others.

(I would also like to note that while I am quite obviously a huge fan of Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, his quartet of Sally Lockheart books are also fantastic! She’s a great, strong Victorian heroine that readers can really get behind. And while the hero is a woman, even guys love these books — my brother was stealing them from my room faster than I could finish them!)

Books by Philip Pullman:

  • His Dark Materials Trilogy
    • The Golden Compass
    • The Subtle Knife
    • The Amber Spyglass
  • Lyra’s Oxford
  • Once Upon a Time in the North
  • Sally Lockheart Series
    • The Ruby in the Smoke
    • The Shadow in the North
    • The Tiger in the Well
    • The Tin Princess
  • The Broken Bridge
  • The Butterfly Tattoo
  • The Scarecrow & His Servant
  • Count Karlstein
  • I Was a Rat!
  • Spring-Heeled Jack
  • Clockwork
  • The Firework-Maker’s Daughter
  • Puss in Boots
  • Mossycoat

3 thoughts on “Author Appreciation Week: Philip Pullman

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  1. What a wonderful tribute. I remember reading his Sally Lockheart books, and then discovering His Dark Materials. Both The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife were out when I borrowed them from my classroom library, and devoured them. Then came the looong wait for The Amber Spyglass. I bought it the day it came out. Thank you for sharing your story.

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