Reading lists

Ali Land on five psychological stories that ignite the mind

Author Ali Land shares five of her favourite books.

The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris

Clarice Starling is one of my heroes. The relationship between her and Lecter, and the conversations they have, is pure genius. In Lecter, Harris constructs a character hair-raisingly dangerous, yet one that’s almost impossible not to admire for his twisted intellectual finesse. And then there’s Buffalo Bill, who says, ‘It rubs the lotion on its skin. It does this whenever it is told.’ The tension never lets up, and even though I fear for Clarice’s safety and sanity, and perhaps even my own while reading it, I can’t help but read on. It’s sheer brilliance.

The Knowledge of Angels by Jill Paton Walsh

At fifteen years old, this book blew my mind. Philosophical in nature, and set in medieval times on a Mediterranean island, it tackles the notion of whether the knowledge of god is innate. Reading it made me question why we believe the things we do, and highlighted the cruelties that happen in the name of religion. I felt outrage and sadness and love, especially for Amara, a feral child raised by wolves that the church uses in an experiment. This book piqued my interest in how children survive extraordinary circumstances, and I love the richness and poetic feel to Walsh’s writing.

As If  by Blake Morrison

The Bulger case was one of the reasons I trained as a children’s mental health nurse. I wanted to know why the boys had done it, and how they were going to be reformed. Morrison so eloquently describes the conflicted feelings he encountered when exploring the same questions. On one hand, his devastation at the brutal death of a toddler, and on the other, the demonization of Thompson and Venables in the press. The inappropriateness of an adult court trialling them, and the fact the grown-ups who neglected and abused them were never held accountable. Morrison’s need to write about the things that trouble him inspire me to do the same.

Sign up to the Penguin Newsletter

For the latest books, recommendations, author interviews and more