My new Desert Island Library – 100 Books

I’ve had a tab entitled ‘Desert Island LIbrary‘ on this blog for ages, in which I imagined if I were stranded on a desert island, which books I’d like washed up onto the shore in a waterproof trunk!  I started off writing short takes on the books to go into this trunk – but it sort of petered out.

Then at the weekend Paula at Book Jotter  was inspired by a story she’d read in another book about books of how a chap pared his huge library down to just 100 books. Paula has taken this idea to create a virtual library of the100 books she’d choose to keep. Read about Paula’s list here.  Paula has invited us to have a go, and who am I to resist this challenge?  Indeed, I am going to make my 100 books into my new Desert Island Library…

The rules are as follows:
a) You may add up to 100 books (fiction or non-fiction) to your figmental collection.
b) Titles may be added or removed at any point, but the number of individual books on your virtual shelf must never exceed 100, i.e. one in, one out. Alternatively, you may set the size of your library at (for instance) 50 or 30. The choice is entirely your own.
c) You can include an author’s collected works (or a series) on your shelf provided it has at some point genuinely been published in a single volume.
d) This isn’t meant to be a list of great titles or the most highbrow books you have read. Indeed, your choices don’t have to be particularly well-known. Please include only published works (it doesn’t matter if they are out of print) that have been significant to you in some way during your life. Books holding your most powerful memories.
e) Please include a link back to Paula’s post.


Here are my 100…  (with links to reviews where available)

  1. 4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster 
  2. All Quiet on the Orient Express by Magnus Mills
  3. An awfully big adventure by Beryl Bainbridge  (1st of 3)
  4. Beowulf by Seamus Heaney – in the side by side version
  5. Beryl Bainbridge: Artist, Writer, Friend by Psiche Hughes (a super biography full of Beryl’s own art)
  6. Blindness by Jose Saramago
  7. Blood Red, Snow White by Marcus Sedgwick
  8. Born Standing Up by Steve Martin – memoir
  9. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  10. Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase & Fable – my one indispensible reference book
  11. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
  12. Complete works by William Shakespeare,
  13. Coraline by Neil Gaiman
  14. Diaries 1969-1970: The Python Years by Michael Palin – memoir/diaries
  15. Dirty Snow by Georges Simenon – one of the ‘romans durs
  16. Donovan’s Brain by Curt Siodmak – SF/Psych horror!
  17. Double Indemnity by James M Cain – Perfect noir
  18. Fiesta: The sun also rises by Ernest Hemingway, Ernest
  19. Flowers for Algernon by Keyes, Daniel
  20. Golden Hill by Francis Spufford
  21. Hangover Square by Patrick Hamilton, Patrick
  22. Harvest by Jim Crace
  23. Hawksmoor by Peter Ackroyd
  24. Here lies Arthur by Philip Reeve – Arthurian YA with a twist
  25. High fidelity by Nick Hornby
  26. I Claudius & Claudius the God (omnibus) by Robert Graves
  27. In a Summer Season by Elizabeth Taylor
  28. Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
  29. Let the Right One in by John Ajvide Lindqvist – modern vampires!
  30. Lightning Rods by Helen DeWitt
  31. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  32. Magda by Meike Ziervogel – Mrs Goebbels
  33. Marianne Dreams by Catherine Storr – my fave children’s book ever!
  34. Miss Pettigrew lives for a day by Winifred Watson, Winifred
  35. Moby Dick by Herman Melville – earns its place as the greatest influencer
  36. Mr Loverman by Bernardine Evaristo
  37. Mrs Bridge by Evan S Connell
  38. My Policeman by Bethan Roberts
  39. Never let me go by Kazuo Ishiguro
  40. No minor chords by Andre Previn – a delightful Hollywood memoir
  41. Northern Lights by Philip Pullman
  42. The Quiet American by Graham Greene
  43. Peyton Place by Grace Metalious,
  44. Remarkable creatures byTracy Chevalier
  45. Revolution in the Head: The Beatles’ Records & the Sixties by Ian MacDonald
  46. Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban
  47. Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey – Yee Haw!
  48. Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch
  49. Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow – Werewolves in plain verse
  50. Slow Horses by Mick Herron – 1st in the best spy series
  51. Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel
  52. Sweet William by Beryl Bainbridge
  53. Tender is the night by F Scott Fitzgerald
  54. Tepper isn’t going out by Calvin Trillin,
  55. Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
  56. The Ballad of Peckham Rye by Muriel Spark
  57. ,The Barrytown Trilogy (for The Van) by Roddy Doyle
  58. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
  59. The Bottle Factory Outing by Beryl Bainbridge, Beryl
  60. The Concert Ticket by Olga Grushin
  61. The CrowRoad by Iain Banks (1st of 3)
  62. The Darling Buds of May by HE Bates – Perfick!
  63. The Death of Grass by John Christopher, John
  64. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
  65. The Explorer by James Smythe (Book group hated it, I loved it)
  66. The Girl with Glass Feet by Ali Shaw
  67. The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters by GW Dahlquist – bonkers!
  68. The Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervun Peake
  69. The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
  70. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Omnibus edition) by Douglas Adams
  71. The Hopkins Manuscript by RC Sheriff
  72. The House of Leaves by Mark Z Danielewski
  73. The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson – super-noir!
  74. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers – SF shouldn’t be this much fun!
  75. The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh
  76. The Mask of Dimitrios by Eric Ambler
  77. The master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
  78. The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster – in my top few books.
  79. The Night Watch by Sarah Waters
  80. The Player of Games  by Iain (M) Banks
  81. The Prestige by Christopher PriestSisters Brothers Patrick DeWitt
  82. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
  83. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  84. The sacred art of stealing  by Christopher Brookmyre
  85. The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole age 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend
  86. The Shipping News by Annie Proulx
  87. The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt
  88. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
  89. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John Le Carre
  90. The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
  91. The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks – one of the best debuts ever.
  92. The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner
  93. Tin Man by Sarah Winman – very moving
  94. To the Ends of the Earth (trilogy) by William Golding
  95. To Throw away unopened by Viv Albertine – best memoir of 2018, so angry, so brilliant
  96. True Grit by Charles Portis
  97. We by Yevgeny Zamyatin,
  98. We have always lived in the castle by Shirley Jackson
  99. Why be happy when you could be normal? by Jeanette Winterson  – memoir
  100. Winter’s bone by Daniel Woodrell

I’ve included some memoirs, a little poetry even, and my one indispensable reference book alongside the mixture of novels old and new, for young and older.  It didn’t take long to make my list – I sorted my master spreadsheet by score to bring all the 10/10 books to the top, then mainly picked from there, adding and deleting as I went.  Like Paula – I’m going to keep this one current back up at my Desert Island Books page.

15 thoughts on “My new Desert Island Library – 100 Books

  1. I think Paula may have set something off here! Great list, Annabel. Delighted to see Tepper isn’t Going Out on it. A quirky little gem published by Mr B’s Emporium, my lovely local indie bookshop.

  2. I’ve just visited Paul’s post, and no, I don’t have the strength of character to sift and cull like this, not even virtually, but I can admire those who have. I see you have The Weirdstone of Brisingamen there on your list, that was the first Alan Garner I ever read and it started me off on a Blytonesque pursuit of his other books too:)

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      Alan Garner has been a big influence on me, as a child and adult too. I must re-read more of his children’s books.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      Thanks Paula. I’m glad we share a couple of titles. I’d got the basis of it already, as I’d created a list of 10/10 books on my master spreadsheet for some other purpose! Then it was a gentle prune and insert a few others I thought of.

  3. I do like reading other people’s lists, and yours is great Annabel – I think mine might have quite a bit in common with yours. But I don’t know that I would ever have the strength to prune my library that fiercely….

  4. What a fun idea, and 100 is a generous allotment. I only have 71 on my “absolute favorites” Goodreads shelf. I’m curious — do you own copies of all of these? Because a fair number of my favorite books I probably read from the library or on Kindle but don’t own in print.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      I’ve had a quick count and 94/100 are still chez moi, and Moby Dick is on Kindle (the only book I’ve ever read on the device – hated the experience, glad I read the book though). I am also a couple of decades older than you, so done a lot more reading – so 100 is only fair! 🙂

  5. Fun list! I’ve been putting mine together over the past few days too. And of course I had to count which of yours I’ve read – 18. But I’m about to read Golden Hill for book group!

  6. I’ve read 22 of these and I’ve got Golden Hill on my TBR, too (maybe I’d better do a readalong with Simon!). I could not do this, just couldn’t choose. I don’t think I could anyway. But well done and a lovely range here!

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      It was made easy for me because I score every book in my spreadsheet, so I sorted out the top scores and pruned them, added a few others.

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