Top 5 Desert Island Books

Wednesday 6 November 2013 by

One Sunday afternoon tradition at home is to listen to Desert Island Discs, in which celebrities get to pick the songs they would take with them should they be stranded on a desert island and why these songs are so important. Right at the end, they get to choose one book they can take, and this is one of my favourite bits of the whole thing. But no matter how many times I play along, I can never pin it down to just one book. At a stretch, I’d probably say The Book Thief, but then I think of others I want and I’m stuck again. Which is how I’ve attempted just five…

The Book Thief, Markus Zusak, Book

1.       The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I’ve already wittered on about this enough. It’s my all-time favourite book and I can’t get enough of it. It’s funny, sad, loving and magical all at once. I love it so much it’s one of those rare books I can read again and again without break.

The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R Tolkien, Book

2.      The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien

I count the trilogy as a single novel, as Tolkien always wanted it to be. The Lord of the Rings was my biggest venture in to fantasy (after being read The Hobbit as a child, this was the obvious step into self-reading), and it opened up a whole world to me that has never let me go.

The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton, Book

3.      The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton

Think what you will of Blyton, but she has influenced children’s reading for generations. Set aside your Secret Seven and Famous Five, pick up The Magic Faraway Tree and join Moonface and friends in this beautiful, mystical adventure tale. [I’d like to make the point that this jacket is a rubbish one compared to the one from my childhood!]

The Mermaid and the Drunks, Ben Richards, Book

4.      The Mermaid and the Drunks by Ben Richards

You may never have heard of The Mermaid and the Drunks, but this novel made me fall in love with Chile, with haunting writing from the breadth of South America, and set me on the hunt for a good pisco sour.

Catch-22, Joseph Heller, Book

5.      Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

My disappointment with Something Happened hasn’t abated my pure, unadulterated love of Catch-22. This novel confounded me for a few pages, and then something clicked and I realised its perfection. This is a sweeping, acid narrative is wonderful, and if you haven’t read it, you need to. [And this particular jacket is much nicer than the one I have…]

What missed the cut?

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
One of the very few love stories I can stomach. Partly because I love novels set in that era.

Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut
Another fabulously acid novel, dark-humoured and fast-paced.

Carrie by Stephen King
I made the mistake of making the first Stephen King I ever read. It took me years to recover, and even now I get the odd shiver.

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
A clever, twisting fantasy novel that I was introduced to by a very well-read friend. Dazzling.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Clichéd perhaps. But there’s a reason this book is so well-loved.

So there you have it. Any surprises? Have you read any of them and would you agree with any of my choices?

What 5 books would you take with you if you were stranded on a desert island?


  1. Beth Townsend

    You have amazing taste in lit – Zusak and Scott Lynch? Yep yep I like this :D!

  2. Chris Roberts

    Ok, you guessed most of them… World According to Garp, Catch 22, Lord of the Flies, Thomas Hardy’s Tess, now what? Dean Koontz? 1984? Aahh Twelfth Night!

    • Fran

      Don’t forget, you get the complete works of Shakespeare and the bible already (Desert Island Disc rules), so you have Twelfth Night…!

  3. Ana Hellewell

    Has to be: Journey Without Maps, Heart of Darkness, Blood Meridian (have you read this? You really must)! Children of the New Forest and can I have the Chekhov short stories all in a collection?

    • Fran

      I haven’t read it – I nearly picked it up the other day actually! And I’ll let you have the collection of short stories – it is Checkhov after all.

  4. Milnpa

    Weirdly I was going to ask if I could write you a review of The Lies of Locke Lamora. Such an amazing book and I’ve just readthe first sequel


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