My very first post on this blog was a run down of the eight books that, were I stranded on a desert island, would make the experience oh so much more bearable. But a year has past since then; new books have been read, my tastes have changed slightly, so it seemed like a good time for an update.
I remember the first time writing this list it being a real struggle to whittle it down whereas this time it was a bit of a breeze. Until I realised that was because I was working to ten books, not eight. And unfortunately, Radio 4 rules say the cut off is eight.
What this list really comes down to is a list of my eight favourite books but phrased to be slightly more interesting. I suppose if I were really planning for a trip to a desert island it would be more sensible to take eight books I’d never read. And make sure they were all really really long. But I just couldn’t live for the rest of my life never being able to read these eight again.
1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Starting this whole thing off with an obvious non-mover. Because it’s one of the best books ever written, by my favourite author of all time, featuring some amazing characters, including my own namesake – it would be rude not to.
2. Stormsearch by Robert Westall
This book is such a throw back to my childhood. The story is almost like a comfort blanket whenever I get a bit down so I could not survive without it. I used to get the audio cassette of this story out of the library at least twice a month and listen to it to death. I mean literally to death because the cassettes actually wore out. Not that it mattered to me because by that point I could already recite most of it word for word. A young boy finds a model ship buried on a beach, inside of which is a letter from the early 1900s. And the boy and his uncle research the history around this and uncover a tragic love story. I mean, even by YA fiction standards it’s tragic and this was a kids book. Probably messed up my expectations of love for life.
The Importance of Being Ernest by Oscar Wilde Wild by Cheryl Strayed
The Importance of Being Earnest was always a bit of a bad choice because it’s just not efficient to choose an 80 page stage play when you could be taking a 800 page tome. And as funny as The Importance of Being Earnest is and as cultured as it makes me feel, Wild is just something else. Absolutely one of my favourite books of all time and I think a pretty helpful one to have if you were stranded on a desert island seen as it’s all about rediscovering yourself and spending long periods of time on your own.
4. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
Because why take one Jane Austen when you could be taking two? I spend inordinate amounts of time trying to decide which is my favourite Jane Austen novel and the answer flip-flops daily between Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park. I can’t aruge that Pride and Prejudice isn’t Jane Austen’s best novel, but Fanny Price, the protagonist of Mansfield Park, is relatable to me in a way that gives the book a particular appeal.
Jacqueline Wilson Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann
Out with the old, teenage Jacqueline and in with the racy new Jacqueline. The moment I bought this book I knew I was in for something special because, well, look at it. It’s just the best looking thing ever bound together. And it also happens to be funny, involving and a brilliant insight into 1950s showbiz.
6. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy – A Trilogy of Five by Douglas Adams
Because being stranded on a desert island is going to be miserable enough, the least I can do is take a book that will cheer me up. This book is just crazy, you can tell it was thought up while the author was drunk – no one sober could ever have invented a spaceship powered by improbability, a company that specialises in designing planets and poetry so bad it kills you.
7. Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt
This book deserves to be so much more famous than it is. As it is I have never met a single other person who has read it. Not even when I convinced my parents to take a three hour car journey to visit the town where it’s set and talked to the locals. Four children are abandoned by their mother in a car park in Rhode Island and slowly make their way down the East Coast trying to find a relative to take them in. It is one of the most beautifully written books I’ve ever read (I actually heavily plagarised it to pass my English Language GCSE, shhhh) and an incredibly moving story.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling
I didn’t have a Harry Potter on the list the first time I did this!! How is that even possible?! What could I have been thinking?! Whether to bring a Harry Potter shouldn’t even be a question; the tricky part is which to bring. But Goblet of Fire strikes just the right balance between the lighthearted friendship in the first three and the darker adventures of the last three.