The Golden Compass (Northern Lights)

By Philip Pullman,

Book cover of The Golden Compass (Northern Lights)

Book description

The first volume in Philip Pullman's groundbreaking
HIS DARK MATERIALS trilogy, now a thrilling, critically
acclaimed BBC/HBO television series. First published
in 1995, and acclaimed as a modern masterpiece, this first
book in the series won the UK's top awards for children's literature.

"Without this child, we shall all

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Why read it?

18 authors picked The Golden Compass (Northern Lights) as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Yes, another trilogy with another terrible film adaptation, so they never made a second or third movie. It was this book that made me add seeing the Northern Lights to be put on my bucket list. This story has a talking, ready-to-battle polar bear and a young girl named Clara. Each human has a spirit animal following them around, giving their human guidance, support, and laughter when needed. These animals were part of their soul, and to rip them away from the children would be catastrophic to both parties. But someone had been kidnapping the children and experimenting on them…

Pullman’s imaginative, controversial, and award-winning best-selling novel introduced an international audience to the concept of parallel universes. Set in a parallel universe of its own, the story revolves around the tomboyish main character Lyra and her companion daemon (a creature that reflects her spirit) who are swept up in a nefarious plot by her mysterious and brilliant uncle Asrial involving an elementary particle (“Dust”), and by the oppressive ruling Church leaders to separate children from their daemons to eliminate Dust, which they consider the elements of original sin. During her battle to thwart the plot, Lyra encounters all sorts of…

Another book I read as a child, and one which has remained a firm favourite ever since. Lyra Belacqua and her daemon, Pantalaimon, find themselves thrown into an epic fight against the the Magisterium in the hopes of saving her own world (and multiple others) against the repression of the Authority. Lyra is a female protagonist who is not particularly strong or powerful (she is a child, after all), but she is able to overcome some incredibly challenging situations using her intelligence and wit which was endlessly inspiring to me as a child, and remains so this day. I highly…

This is among the novels that broke the ground in my mind on what was possible in fiction, and how a concept being niche shouldn’t discourage me from tackling it, because people will want to explore it along with me, even if it is deemed unpopular or ‘too difficult’ by some. 

Lyra’s arc travels a multiverse on a limited scale, showing us worlds like our own but not quite, which has become among my favored tropes. Across the His Dark Materials series we travel the overlapping worlds starting from the gaslamp fantasy of Lyra’s Oxford to the England of our…

The first of the His Dark Materials Trilogy, Northern Lights kicks off the series with a bang. We are thrust into the shoes of young Lyra as she journeys to the Arctic in search of her missing friend and uncle. Along the way, she must navigate through an engaging cast of characters ranging from ruthless sophisticates to metalsmith polar bear-esque creatures. Besides being wonderfully descriptive, the book delves deep into intriguing themes such as childhood, humanity, morality, identity, religion, and science. Inside the fantastic world Pullman has created, the most captivating part for me personally was the concept of daemons,…

I first read this book in my “voracious book devouring” phase when I was 9 or 10 years old, and having read it I put it away. My daughter got a copy a decade ago and I picked it up out of curiosity. I found a whole new love for Lyra and Roger, with my adult experience I could see how the removal of children’s daemons was not just barbaric but was a traumatic removal of their innocence. I could feel the deep care shown by the Gyptians and the fierce protection of the witches. It’s far too big a…

Although set in Oxford, in England, this book opens with eleven-year-old Lyra living in a world which has a degree of magicaliity in it already. There are the daemons, shape-changing manifestations of their inner selves that children are bonded to and can communicate with which remain with them for the rest of their lives. In common with the other books on this list, I was whirlwinded into another world. A world where everything normal was a smokescreen for the workings of power-hungry adults and where childhood friendships stand strong in the face of magic, deceit, and danger. Like the Harry…

“The war against heaven? Awesome!” Diving into The Golden Compass, the first in Philip Pullman’s epic His Dark Material’s series is diving into a twisting and turning dimension-hopping thriller. Starting in an alternate universe where magic exists, humans have animal soul representations known as daemons, and an evil Church known as the Magisterium hunts down young Lyra Silvertongue and her daemon Pantalaimon, the Golden Compass mixes fantastical elements with steam-punk suspense for a page-turning adventure. Beware, Pullman plays on John Donne’s Paradise Lost to create a religiously subversive young adult speculative fiction steeped in a sort of steam-punk world…

This classic fantasy offers a philosophical exploration of good, evil, religion, and existence. Lyra’s epic journey takes her to places resembling Oxford, London, and Norway as she seeks a friend in need and runs from the bad guys (led by her mother). Every human character has a daemon that may look like, say, a cheetah, owl, or hedgehog, but is so much more. A daemon represents part of its person’s personality, it supplements their soul. They feel each other’s emotions and sense each other’s thoughts. Other characters include witches, “ghasts” and—my favorite—Iorek Byrnison, a grouchy armored bear. This adventure is…

Pullman’s His Dark Materials series is one of my all-time favorite reads, period. Lyra is a stubborn, precocious girl on the cusp of adolescence, trying to rescue her kidnapped friend from a corrupt authority bent on remaking the world. This series is set in an alternate universe in which magic, religion, and science are intertwined, and takes Lyra on an interdimensional journey that puts everything on the line.

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