Lyra Belacqua is a clever, rambunctious orphan growing up in a world a few shades more magical than our own when she is thrust into a mysterious adventure. After the kidnapping of her friend, Lyra unwittingly finds herself at the center of a power struggle involving a nefarious church, fearless scientists and a talking, armored polar bear. Philip Pullman’s fantasy classic—the first in the His Dark Materials trilogy—kicks off an epic that wrestles with the fate of the universe, the definition of consciousness and the loss of innocence. Its unique forms of magic—”daemon” animals, or souls, that live outside the body; an “alethiometer” that divines the truth; immortal witches who swoop through the skies—only heighten the surreal beauty of the story. Pullman’s book was turned into a 2007 movie starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, and an HBO series starring Lin-Manuel Miranda in 2019. But the books themselves best reflect Pullman’s compassionate curiosity, in which questions are encouraged, corrupt institutions are held accountable and differences are respected and embraced. —Raisa Bruner

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