If This Is a Man - Primo Levi
I had ''done'' the Second World War during history class and read the sociological and psychological literature on fascism. But not until I encountered Levi's relentless account of his time in Auschwitz did I begin to grasp the enormity of what had occurred. It changed my view of what it means to be human.
Sanity, Madness and the Family - R.D. Laing
It wasn't me, it was them! Everyone knows they can drive you mad but here it was in black and white, written by a psychiatrist. In the years since Laing was influential, the medical model has regained the ascendancy; now it's all about chemical imbalances, drugs and brain scans. But the idea that your world view is not necessarily bonkers is a powerful one.
Riders in the Chariot - Patrick White
This book changed my understanding of so many things: literature, landscape, the possibility that an ordinary person could have an inner life. The prose amazed me. It was also the first Australian novel I'd read. In his evocation of the relationship between character and place, whether it was the dull suburbs or the bush, I realised White had captured something about Australian-ness.
Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
Pip and Estella changed me because I recognised in their story the straitjacket of class, which I knew would play a part in my future. In England, even at the age of 11, I could see it was going to be a struggle to break free of the expectations defining a working-class girl. I took Miss Havisham as my role model. What larks, Pip!
The Magic Faraway Tree - Enid Blyton
This was my first book. I've no idea how old I was but I seem to remember putting my chubby little finger on each word and spelling it out. Thirteen? No, seriously, this book changed me: it took me to other worlds, like the Land of Topsy Turvy and the Land of Do-as-you-please. I became addicted to reading. My mum would bemoan the fact I always had my head in a book. No better place for heads.
Annie Hauxwell is a London-born Australian author who is a former lawyer, private investigator and screenwriter. Her debut crime novel is In Her Blood (Michael Joseph, $29.95).