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Meet our Book Doctor... Jen Campbell, author of The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night

In our Book Doctor feature, we welcome a guest to prescribe just the right read for any mood or occasion.

Jen Campbell, author of short story collection The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night, as well as Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops and The Bookshop Book, has joined us to prescribe some brilliant books.

I have enjoyed various time travel books recently including How to Stop Time, From Time to Time and All Our Wrong Todays. I'm struggling to find my next book. Can you please recommend anything similar? (Gwenno)

Hi Gwenno. Have you read The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger? This is a beautifully crafted book (in fact, it’s so well-crafted that just thinking about all the work that went into it hurts my brain!). I’d also recommend The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North which is a twist on time travel, about a man who has to live his life over and over again; and The Stone Gods by Jeanette Winterson, which discusses how love, history and destruction endlessly repeat themselves.

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Although I read a lot, I have never been able to get into science fiction or fantasy books and feel I may be missing out. Could you please suggest something I will not be able to resist? (Sheena)

Hi Sheena, His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman was my first fantasy book and is my favourite series of all time, so I have to recommend that; it’s about a young girl called Lyra who travels to the far north to try and save her friend, encountering witches, talking polar bears and multiple worlds. The Book of Strange New Things and Under the Skin, both by Michel Faber, are science fiction books I have revisited many times. He has a way of writing the uncanny that is unparalleled. Oh, and if you’re a fan of Black Mirror, check out Children of the New World by Alexander Weinstein, a collection of speculative short stories.


he Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

A recent campaign highlighted the continuing lack of diversity in children's literature. Can you recommend some diverse books you think children (and adults) should read? (Solange)

Hi Solange. For picture books, take a look at The Journey by Francesca Sanna and The Arrival by Shaun Tan, both books about refugees and what it means to find yourself fleeing a country. The Island at the End of Everything by Kiran Millwood Hargrave is a wonderful middle grade novel that examines bodily difference, community and friendship. Orangeboy by Patrice Lawrence is a brilliant YA book, and England: Poems from a School edited by Kate Clanchy is a must read: a powerful collection of poetry written by children and teenagers that will stay with you for a very long time.

Orangeboy by Patrice Lawrence

I've been trying to read more of the classics, but am having trouble knowing where to start. What would you recommend to start my reading journey with? (Rachael)

If I remember correctly, l think Jane Eyre was the first classic that I read cover to cover and adored. I would say that is a good place to start. Plus, the BBC adaptation with Ruth Wilson is wonderful to watch after reading, and there are many other texts you could go to afterwards, such as Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

My son is 10 years old and has always been an avid reader, sometimes staying up into the wee hours to finish a book. I want to keep his love of reading alive and it's getting harder to find books for him. He's enjoyed Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, The Last Wild, The Goldfish Boy, A Series of Unfortunate Events, and Swallows and Amazons, but I struggle for ideas for new books. Do you have any ideas? (Sarah)

Hi Sarah! I’d recommend Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk and My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George. When I was ten I adored When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr (in fact, I still do), inspired by the author’s real life, fleeing Germany just before the Second World War. I found it fascinating and it also helped with things I was about to learn about at school, too. Hope that helps!

When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr
The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night by Jen Campbell

About The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night by Jen Campbell

'These days, you can find anything you need at the click of a button.
That's why I bought her heart online.'

Spirits in jam jars, mini-apocalypses, animal hearts and side shows.
A girl runs a coffin hotel on a remote island.
A boy is worried his sister has two souls.
A couple are rewriting the history of the world.
And mermaids are on display at the local aquarium.

The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night is a collection of twelve haunting stories; modern fairy tales brimming with magic, outsiders and lost souls.

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