Desert Island Books
Updated: Apr 6
1. Anne of Green Gables:
· To me there aren’t many books that can beat the writing of L M Montgomery in transporting me straight back to the easy and rose tinted days of childhood. Whilst I read the first and second books in the series as a child and so they have inevitably become intertwined with my sense of what childhood is, the succeeding books in the series I have read for the first time as an adult and so have no hesitation in recommending any of the series to everyone regardless of age. (Another childhood, but able to be enjoyed by an older reader is the work of Eva Ibbotson.)
2. The Kite Runner:
· Few books have reduced me to tears to the same extent that Hosseini’s novel did. The story of Amir and his childhood friend Hassan with its heart-breaking insight into jealousy, hurt and forgiveness had me returning to sections days after I had finished reading. A perfect book for anyone wanting to explore themes of what makes us universally human. (I was surprised by how reminiscent of Hosseini’s writing the Turkish author Orhan Pamuk’s book ‘The Museum of Innocence’ was, and is worth a read for fans of his work.)
3. The Night Circus:
· I have been an avid fan of fantasy and sci-fi writing from the moment I was allowed to pick my own book from the library as a child. The Night Circus stuck with me because I wished myself into believing the story on every page. The realism of the setting paired with the breathtakingly beautiful images caused me to speed through Morgenstern’s book right up until the final chapter which came much too fast! I then proceeded to read at snail speed, as I didn’t want the magic to end, I even re-read the final pages about 5 times to prolong my visit. (For those who may have already read this I would recommend Caraval by Stephanie Garber)
4. The Dragon Keeper:
· Whilst being part of Robin Hobbs’ extensive Realm of the Ederlings series, the Dragon Keeper is the first book in a four-part subseries, which I happened to read first. (I would recommend reading the full series in order as each part enhances the overall reading. This subseries was, however, my overall favourite.) Hobbs’ writing brings the high fantasy landscape alive with mythical creatures such as dragons and magicians (called “skilled”) to life whilst still tackling modern issues like gender identity, fear of the Other and slavery. A perfect book for fans of A Game of Thrones.
5. Good Omens:
· A brief disclaimer that I didn’t in fact read this book the first time, I listened to it narrated by the wonderful Stephen Briggs. Good Omens, co-written by two comic and fantasy geniuses, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, is unsurprisingly to those familiar with their individual work absolutely bonkers. That being said, I promise that you will wish yourself to possess the suave of Crowley (you may know him as the snake from the Garden of Eden) and fall in love with the quirks of the authors, (look out for Elvis!) It is a book that defies, as with most of their work, a single word summary, so this will have to suffice: Armageddon is nigh and the anti-Christ has been misplaced by a demon who wishes to live undisturbed by the politics of heaven and hell.
6. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy:
· If none of the other books on this list have peaked your interest than this one may fail to as well, but I think that the quirkiness of Douglas Adams’ humour and writing is perfect to raise spirits at the moment. His take on the world is completely tongue in cheek. “Goodbye and thank you for the fish”is the parting line of the alien species we know as dolphins imminently before the Earth is due to be demolished to make way for a new interstellar highway! Adams manages to take the utter piss out of philosophy and still make incredibly important points.
· This book is incredibly popular, and for good reason. Harari takes the reader on a tour and analysis of human existence and society from the first tribes to the modern day. It completely changed the way I looked and understood the world and probably led to me really annoying friends and family by constantly referring to it! Unlike a lot of non-fiction books, I found this work highly propelling and gripping, Harari’s writing is perfect for the subject matter he deals with. If you were looking for a general, amazing, gripping history book to get obsessed with, this would be the one I would throw at you.
8. Call Me By Your Name:
· Also a highly popular book, and if you haven’t watched the film adaptation you have to! But you have to read the book first, obviously! The book follows the relationship between a teenage boy and his fathers’ academic houseguest in 1980s Italy. It is relatively slow paced, and leaves a lasting impression of languid, hazy summer days and heart wrenching emotions.
· I read this really recently whilst I was in India and started it on the plane out. Normally I find reading anything good really difficult on planes and resort to plot driven quick reads, or whatever I’ve downloaded to watch. Shantaram is definitely not a quick read, nor is it basic, but the plot is so intricate and breath-taking, particularly as its based on the authors experiences, that you cant put it down easily. Like the previous recommendation there is a sense of philosophical ponderings throughout, which I found surprising given that its about an escaped armed bank robber living in India.
10. My Family and Other Animals
· The semi autobiographical story about Gerald Durrell’s childhood in Corfu. I’ve been trying to think of books that would help lighten the difficult situation, and like many of the others, this has quite a warm hazy feel to it. Its humorous, enjoyable to read and well written, (but not particularly challenging). Like Anne of Green Gables I read this book in my childhood and so have good associations with it, but don’t hesitate to recommend it as an escape to the mad lives of the Durrells in Corfu with their menagerie (the TV show The Durrells is based on Gerald Durrells books, and is also a great way to escape!)