Desert Island Books

As I’m new to blogging I thought I’d do a simple one to ease myself in. Basically a list of my favourite eight books.

I don’t know how familiar most people are with the concept of Desert Island Discs but having been raised in a Radio 4 kind of family it’s something I often think about. Basically you pick eight songs, one book and one luxury to take with you when you’re abandoned on a desert island on your lonesome. They strand one celebrity per week, 11.15, on a Sunday if you’re interested.

I’ve only picked three of my eight songs so far (if you were wondering – Babe I’m Gonna Leave You by Led Zeppelin, We Both Reached For The Gun from Chicago and 22 by Taylor Swift) but the one book I’m going to take is a more arduous task still. How are you supposed to pick just one book for the rest of your life? One?!?!

There are a lot of songs that I know off my heart that I could sing to myself for variety but I don’t know any books off by heart. Some passages of Jane Austen, yes, and the first two chapters of Stormsearch by Robert Westall thanks to an almost obsessive listening to the audiobook in my younger years (and to be totally honest I still listen to it quite a lot now) but no whole books.

Common sense says to me to just take the longest book that I quite like which would be Anna Karenina. But could I really leave behind Jane Austen? Just never read Pride and Prejudice again? Ever? Unthinkable.

In my version I would take eight books and one song. The song would undoubtedly drive me crazy but I’m probably going to go crazy anyway. I lived alone for one week and that was more than I could bear.

So my list would go like this.

1.   Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I really had no choice in liking this book having been named after Elizabeth Bennett. But it is a firm favourite and should be for everyone. People who say they don’t like Jane Austen are just being awkward.

2.   Stormsearch by Robert Westall

I might know the first two chapters off by heart but the rest of it is so familiar that reading it is like visiting an old friend and maybe help stave off the insanity for a while.

3.   The Importance of Being Ernest by Oscar Wilde

This was a tough one to include because it is so short but it’s just too funny not to take. I find I have a particular laugh for jokes made my Oscar Wilde. It’s much more nasally and like a snort. Because such cultured jokes require a cultured laugh.

4.   Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

There’s a whole blog post in why I regard Mansfield Park so highly when in general it’s dismissed as not really her best but to keep it short here, it’s a great book, I relate a lot to Fanny Price and you can never have too much Jane Austen.

5.   Something by Jacqueline Wilson

Yes this is kind of cheating but when it came to it I just couldn’t choose. I got it down to Vicky Angel (a great story but a little maudlin) versus The Bed and Breakfast Star (not my favourite as a child, mostly due to a mortal fear of house fires started by a much too graphic school trip to a fire station, but now I love it). And I just can’t choose. But there is not space for both. What am I to do?

6.   The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy – A Trilogy of Four by Douglas Adams

The rules are if it comes in one book you can have it and on my shelf sits a single book which contains all four parts of the trilogy. So I’m having it. Again be nice to have some humour when I’m abandoned on my own in the middle of nowhere although the off the wall humour of Douglas Adams might actually speed up the insanity. But I don’t care. Because that bowl of petunias thinking ‘oh no not again’ can cheer me up in absolutely any circumstance.

7.   Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt

Not a very well-known book and it’s a real pity. It follows the four Tillerman children after they are abandoned by their mother and have to travel under their own steam from Rhode Island down the East Coast of America in the hunt for any family member who will take them in. It’s a compelling story (with perhaps one mishit) and the synonyms in it, through some blatant plagiarism, scored me an A* in my English Literature GCSE. It also meant that on a family holiday to Virginia I nagged so much that my parents drove me four hours to Crisfield, Maryland so that I could visit the place where it is set. A tiny town with surely no other claim to fame but where absolutely nobody we spoke to knew that there was a series of books about the place. Very strange.

8.   The Help by Kathryn Stockett

For a bit of variety from classics and teenage books I wanted something more modern. It was either this or Atonement. After a long struggle I decided I’d rather take the more upbeat book. I came a little late to the party for this book, only reading it earlier this year, but I then devoured it in a little over two days. It had been a long time since I’d read a book that I was so desperate to get back to and that the moment I finished I flicked straight back to the beginning and started again.

I reserve the right to make any changes at all. In fact I expect that almost the moment I post this blog I will immediately remember a book I wish I was taking. Already I’m wondering whether I dismissed Atonement too soon. The Importance of Being Ernest is very short, should I be taking Catch-22 instead? So I’ll just have to keep my fingers crossed that if anyone ever does strand me on a desert island with eight books and one song of my choosing they won’t pull out this list as evidence.

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