We all love a good children’s book every now and again, however most of us read them for their inherent nostalgia. There are a handful of books out there, though, that can be read and thoroughly enjoyed at any age, and I have a sneaking suspicion, that they weren’t even written for adults in the first place!
This list is not ranked … it’s just 6 books that are secretly for you as a grown-ass adult who pays taxes and shit.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
I think Alice isn’t really for anyone … it just is. On the face of it, the novel seems to be a story of a young girl’s adventures in a magical and wonderful world. What it actually is, is a study in random nonsense. Nothing in Wonderland ever makes sense and the book ends with Alice waking up from a dream, which if it had been the end to any other novel, would be rage-inducing. With Alice, though, it just works. Considering that Carroll was a serious mathematician is also interesting, as such an ordered and logical mind was able to conceive a piece of art so wonderfully baffling.
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Some may have expected The Lord of the Rings to be included on the list, however I don’t think anyone would argue that it’s for children as it’s too complex and … well … adult, for a child’s mind. The Hobbit, however, was written for children -- Tolkien’s own children, to be precise. The reason it gets a spot on this list, however, is because it is a prequel to an adult novel. Whilst very childlike on the surface, it does pave the way for one of the most influential adult (young-adult, perhaps) novels of the past 100 years.
Danny: Champion of the World by Roald Dahl
Adults across the globe enjoy Dahl’s works as he was one of the most interesting, influential, and exciting children’s authors to ever walk the planet. Most of his stories are enjoyed by adults because of nostalgia or because the films are always so popular. One children’s book stands out, however, and that’s Danny. It was actually adapted from a short story for adults by Dahl, called Champion of the World, but the children’s version is very adult in its themes and story and doesn’t have the usual magical elements that fill Dahl’s other novels. A young boy lives with his widower father in a gypsy caravan and sets out to stop the poaching of the local pheasants. It’s a heart-warming tale, and one that will stay with you for a long time. Often over-looked in Dahl’s oeuvre, this novel deserves a resurgence.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
I’ve talked about this novel quite a bit recently and it’s because it’s truly wonderful. This is probably one of the more adult orientated children’s books on the list, as it deals with some pretty dark themes and scary imagery that younger kids would find scary. This novel, along with the last one on the list, are probably the two that you could tell me were solely intended for adults and I would believe you. If you want to know more about the novel, click the two links at the start as I can’t be bothered to go over what I’ve written about at length … again.
The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
Would a list be complete without the Pot-Man?! The HP saga is difficult to classify as it neatly fits into both categories (adult fiction and children’s fiction), but not at the same time. The first two in the series are definitely aimed at the little ankle-biters, however it slowly builds to a much darker and much more adult series. This transition is most directly felt in entries three and four where Rowling starts offing characters and introducing nightmare-inducing, soul-sucking wraiths that make Tolkien’s Ringwraiths look as frightening as an empty Halloween costume. By the final entry in the series, it starts to turn into a Game of Thrones episode, with beloved characters being killed like Rowling’s shooting targets at a carnival … the woman has issues …
Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie
Finally, I would like to talk about a book that took me completely by surprise. If you stick around this blog long enough, you will realise that Salman Rushdie is one of my favourite authors and that I genuinely believe he is the best author still working today. I had read all of Rushdie’s novels for adults and was still craving some magical realism goodness, so I sighed and picked up the two novels he wrote for his children. I didn’t have much hope, to be honest. I don’t like children’s fiction (unless it’s secretly for adults, of course) and I was to snobby to think that Haroun could possibly stand up to the greatness of his other works … I was wrong. Haroun and the Sea of Stories is an Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland-esque work that transports our hero to a magical moon that orbits our world really quickly. On this moon is the Sea of Stories that pours down onto our planet and enables us to tell stories ourselves. It’s a wonderful allegory for the joy of reading and story-telling and showcases Rushdie’s immense talents. If you only read one of the novels listed here, please make it this one.
Any other suggestions for novels you think are secretly for adults? Tell me on Twitter @MugwumpBlog