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Desert Island Books

Desert Island Books

I assume some of you are enduring heavy rain this weekend but here in Northern Ireland we had about -4C last night and its still very cold so I'm not going very far. After Annie's great music blog I thought I'd do a books one along the same lines. Which 8 books would you want to have with you if you were stranded on a desert island?

Here are mine.

1. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame

I grew up with this book. There are probably aspects of it that would be considered very politically incorrect now but I still think passages such as the description of Badger's kitchen and Mole's rediscovery of Mole End are to be treasured.

2. Emma. Jane Austen

I re-read Jane Austen from time to time and Emma is always the first one I turn to.

3. Shakespeare's Sonnets

I'd have to have some poetry. I love the sonnet form for the way it encapsulates an idea and I admire the discipline it demands from the poet. And Shakespeare was never bettered.

4. The Name of the Rose. Umberto Eco

When this came out in the 1980s, it was one of those books that everybody had bought but nobody had read. I think it's a wonderful detective story with so much more thrown in. The historical detail, the theological and philosophical debate. And of course it has a labyrinthine library at its heart!

5. Possession. A.S. Byatt

I haven't read this for a long time but I remember how totally absorbing I found it and I really must read it again.

6. A Prayer for Owen Meany. John Irving

John Irving's work can be very uneven but this is a masterpiece with characterisation and a plot to take your breath away.

7. In Another Light. Andrew Greig

For me, Andrew Greig is the greatest Scottish writer working today. He writes wonderful novels (this is one) as well as poetry and non-fiction. I've read books by him that are ostensibly about golf, mountaineering, and fishing, none of which I am interested in, But I've really enjoyed them all. It's hard to choose a favourite among his novels but this is certainly up there.

8. Nice Work. David Lodge

I'd need something that would make me laugh and this would do it. A funny and very clever novel in which academia and industry clash head on.

I'd love to hear what the rest of you would choose.

Linda xx

30 Replies

Hi Linda,

"My Bible" x G x


That's cheating Gwyn - you'd be taking 66 books!!!!!


Haha.... I wonder how long it would take for someone to notice that... teehee you are far to clever for your own good... sore throat or not sore throat LOL

10/10 first as usual x G x :-/ ;-)


Well I think you can take the Bible and a Complete Works of Shakespeare so Linda's going to have to think up another one too.

I also think we should be able to choose one luxury. I'd take Martin.

lol xxx


Ok Annie, as we're playing strictly by the rules, my 8th book would be one of Ray Mears' survival manuals.

I don't think I'll allow Martin as your luxury. Kirsty young definitely wouldn't!

I think my luxury would be a really good pillow.

Love Linda xxxx :-))


That's a good luxury. If I can't take Martin I'll have to take my engagement ring. It's a diamond (like Martin) in a compass setting. It might just help me keep on course for the remainder of my time on the desert island. xxx Annie


Smooooth talker what are you after? " Martin watch out" xx G xx :-/ ;-)


I love these blogs. This is my Desert Island choice:

1 Graham Swift, The Sweetshop Owner. His first novel that compresses a lifetime into 24 hours. I hope it would keep me philosophical about time passing slowly on my own on the desert island, and a reminder of how society evolves elsewhere is still evolving even if I'm not.

2 Troubles, JG Farrell a tragic comedy to remind me to live peacefully with myself - or his Siege of Krishnapur, In fact any of JG Farrell's books. I'd need cheering up on a desert island and keep a perspective on the chaos of 'civilised' society.

3 Bartholomew Fair by Jonson because I admire Shakespeare's contemporaries even more than Shakespeare - and a reminder that even on a desert island you'd need to be true to your morals and religious beliefs.

4 One of those pocket Books of O Level Question Papers you can buy in Smiths. They are absolutely brilliant and would remind me of a period of ideals in the UK when education was free to all and social mobility (for some) was at it's greatest momentum.

5 The God of Small Things, an extraordinarily good debut novel Arundhati Roy.

6 The Guardian Book of Cryptic Crossword Puzzles. It might just take a lifetime to complete them all.

7 Le Scaphandre et le Papillon by journalist Jean-Dominique Bauby (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly). A book dictated by the author by blinking with one eye. He had locked-in syndrome after a road accident and managed to write an extraordinary book of his journey. It would inspire me to survive in an environment I'd find very hostile and challenging.

8 A much-loved and much-read university course book, 'An Anthology of Jacobean and Caroline Poetry' to teach and delight.

The choice was difficult Linda! xxx Annie


What a great selection, Annie. Lots to delight there.

L xxx


a result of parents who never had less than 5 library books each out at any one time, 10 years working in a public library, 5 years reading English Literature at University, and a lifetime of voracious reading.

I'm really enjoying this blog and look forward to lots more bookish recommendations. Thanks so much for thinking of this one.

xxx Annie


My 8 in no particular order:-

1. The Woodlanders. Hardy at his best - descriptions so evocative that you can smell the mud and touch the leaves in this tragic tale of poor Giles Winterbourne et al.

2. Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones: An intriguing yet horrifying account of how an eccentric forges a bond with some schoolchidren through reading Great Expectations with them. Set on a paradise island undergoing civil war.

3. The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier. Very atypical for the author. Story of time travel to the middle ages!

4. Tiger Hills by Sarita Mandanna. Sweeping Epic set in early 20th century south India. Very romantic and sad.

5. A Childrens Book by AS Byatt. Based on the life of E Nesbitt. I liked this one in spite of myself. Thought provoking fictitious account of the life of this children's author and her contemporaries with wonderful insights into the art of pottery!

6. Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers - Set in Oxford before Lord Peter Wimsey & Harriet Vane became too annoying.

7. Down & Out in Paris and London by George Orwell - haven't read it for years but remember I loved it.

8. A History of God by Karen Armstrong. What it says on the tin and very interesting!

Can my luxury be a mobile phone that can connect to anywhere??

Monique x


Not all of your choices are familiar to me Monique, but they do sound interesting.

I'm afraid I'll have to confiscate your mobile though. Kirsty wouldn't allow any communications devices.

Love Linda xxx


Aww. Ok then, can I take my dog?


Hi Monique,

I think you are really pushing it taking Raffles he will manage to snaffle all your books and then you'll have nothing to read :-( perhaps you should request a muzzle as well (that's another book off you list) LOL love x G x :-/ ;-)


Your not wrong Gwyn. I'll leave him at home :-)


Ooooh! I think I'd rather have Raffles with muzzle and drop a book as he will be a blanket as well so apart from company he will be useful love x G x :-/ ;-


Love Du Maurier, love Hardy, love Down & Out, loved Mister Pip, loved Tiger Hills.

I know I would love A History of God - so I'll have to dig this one out.

What great choices! xxx Annie


Dear Linda

Many years ago I worked in the County Library and this in fact kicked off the journey that was to take me back to college to do my A Levels and on to university to read English.

Libraries can be daunting places and with so much choice it's difficult to know where to start. I used to long for the librarians to create a reading list. There are a couple on yours that I haven't read so will be looking to download them and read them. Thanks so much for the recommendation. xx Annie


I love sharing book recommendations. I'll be following up on some of yours too!

L x


Here goes

Hard Times by Charles Dickens. I love the teacher's name- Mr. Chokumchild ,and can always visualise the Herkommer painting with the same name as the novel.

Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy- for its erotic descriptions ( now you will all have to read it again!!).

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy: this book goes on for ever before she finally drops her handbag under the train, and then some- what is it really all about?

The Fox by D.H. Lawrence- more of a novella I know but on a par with the Hardy!!

Gigi by Colette- any of her books are worth a read.

The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald - have very fond memories of this author.

The Crow Road by Iain M. Banks for its amazing and unforgettable opening line: It was the day my grandmother exploded.

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo- like Annie I once worked in a public library and the time spent in the Children's library was brilliant and I devoured a lot of the books in quiet moments!

I also love to read biographies but favourite novel reading at the moment has to be dark Swedish thrillers!

Got to admit that English was my main subject at college too and was part of my OU degree!

You can't move in my house for books!


Anne xx


I loved Hard Times too Anne. Wasn't that the one which describes a factory machine as moving up and down "like an elephant in a moment of melancholy madness"? Maybe we can swap books from one desert island to another by carrier Albatross or something!


Wow, that's a great list too Anne. So far that's 3 of us with a history in public libraries.

Speaking of dark Swedish thrillers, I'm reading Camilla Läckberg's The Stranger at the minute. Have you come across Mari Jungstedt's novels set on the island of Gotland? We had part of our holiday in Gotland a few years back. Really nice place and the capital, Visby, is a perfect little Hanseatic jewel. I also know the Wallander countryside around Ystad quite well. Really liked the Krister Henriksson portrayal of Wallander on BBC4.

Linda xx


Great selection - but I will have to read Gigi - never heard of that author. My house is also bursting with books and one of our living rooms is affectionately known as the library as every wall is lined with books. They're like old friends.

Have you ever been to Shakespeare's in Paris? Now if you ever want to see somewhere you can't move for books that's it - you can also stay there among the books if you have a sleeping bag but you have to help out in the morning to in payment for free B & B in the centre of Paris.

xxxx Annie


Don't go to Paris and tell them you have never heard of Colette!!!! She's in Pere Lachaise along with Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, Sarha Bernhardt, Piaf and Chopin!


especially as I'm fluent in French and enjoy French fiction. !!!! I didn't have my French hat on when I said I'd never heard of the author - now you've said 'Colette' and Paris I know who you're talking about!!! doh


Carrier albatross- now there's an image!! Had to go and find that quote- 'all the melancholy-mad elephants, polished and oiled up for the day's monotony, were at their heavy exercise again'. We went to New Lanark in March this year and you could really appreciate Dickens description of machinery, although New Lanark is world famous for education and the very opposite of the Gradgrind school of thought!

I'd like to read the book about E. Nesbit on your list: I found her grave quite by chance when we were visiting the Marsh churches ( Romney Marsh that is) to see various art exhibits some time ago.

This has been an interesting game hasn't it- really had to think!


Well done for finding the quote!

One of the strong points of Byatt's book is her descriptions of the Romney Marshes. After reading it I had to go to Dymchurch etc and saw it all with new eyes.


Hi Linda

I've read one Camilla Lackberg but not that one. At the moment I'm reading 'Midwinter Sacrifice' by Mons Kallentoft.

I haven't been to Gotland but it has reminded me of a very funny book by Griff Rhys Jones called 'To the Baltic with Bob'- I'm smiling just thinking about it.

We did have a road trip through Sweden about four years ago. We flew into Arlanda, drove north to Borlange as it was near Carl Larsson's house, then down to Orebro, Gothenberg, Malmo and then over the bridge ( yes, 'The Bridge') to Copenhagen. It was my favourite trip until this year!!

My husband always makes a book, or three about all these wanderings, which have been nice to look back over in difficult times such as the last couple of years.



Anne x


So what's everyone actually reading at the moment? I've on two - reviewing Memoirs of a Debaulked Woman by Susan Gubar for Ovarian Action Research. I'm not enjoying this but then I didn't enjoy Madwoman in the Attic either.

I'm also reading Two Times Twenty by Bethan Darwin. It's lightweight and not my idea of a good book but I'm fascinated as it was written by my solicitor who's one of the top employment law solicitors in Wales. It's been really interesting reading a book by someone I know so well and I admire her for it. Wish I'd put the creative writing module of my degree to better use.



I've just bought Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel and look forward to starting that. Really enjoyed Wolf Hall. And if you haven't read Sebastian Barry you should try him. The Secret Scripture was wonderful.



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