Desert Island Library

Updated Sept 2020:  These are my current desert island books. They are the ones I’d like washed up onto the shore in a large waterproof trunk!  And you could probably fit 100 paperbacks into a large trunk.

I’ll update this list as the mood and new books read take me, but it’ll stay at 100 (or fewer).


  1. 4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster
  2. All Quiet on the Orient Express by Magnus Mills
  3. A Meal in Winter by Hubert Mingarelli
  4. Beowulf by Seamus Heaney – in the side by side version
  5. Blood Red, Snow White by Marcus Sedgwick
  6. Born Standing Up by Steve Martin – memoir
  7. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  8. Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase & Fable – my one indispensible reference book
  9. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
  10. Complete works by William Shakespeare,
  11. Diaries 1969-1970: The Python Years by Michael Palin – memoir/diaries
  12. Dirty Snow by Georges Simenon – one of the ‘romans durs
  13. Donovan’s Brain by Curt Siodmak – SF/Psych horror!
  14. Double Indemnity by James M Cain – Perfect noir
  15. Electricity by Ray Robinson
  16. Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
  17. Fair Stood the Wind for France by H.E. Bates
  18. Fiesta: The sun also rises by Ernest Hemingway
  19. Flowers for Algernon by Keyes, Daniel
  20. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
  21. Golden Hill by Francis Spufford
  22. Hangover Square by Patrick Hamilton
  23. Harvest by Jim Crace
  24. Hawksmoor by Peter Ackroyd
  25. High fidelity by Nick Hornby
  26. High Rise by J.G. Ballard
  27. I Claudius/Claudius the God (omnibus) by Robert Graves
  28. In a Summer Season by Elizabeth Taylor
  29. Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
  30. The Last Pilot by Benjamin Johncock
  31. Let the Right One in by John Ajvide Lindqvist – modern Swedish vampires!
  32. Lightning Rods by Helen DeWitt
  33. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  34. Magda by Meike Ziervogel – Mrs Goebbels
  35. Marianne Dreams by Catherine Storr – my fave children’s book ever!
  36. Miss Pettigrew lives for a day by Winifred Watson, Winifred
  37. Moby Dick by Herman Melville – earns its place as the greatest influencer
  38. Mr Loverman by Bernardine Evaristo
  39. Mrs Bridge by Evan S Connell (in an omnibus with Mr Bridge if possible)
  40. Never let me go by Kazuo Ishiguro
  41. Northern Lights by Philip Pullman
  42. Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf
  43. The Quiet American by Graham Greene
  44. Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
  45. Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban
  46. Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey – Yee Haw!
  47. Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow – Werewolves in plain verse
  48. Slow Horses by Mick Herron – 1st in the best spy series
  49. Slow Motion Ghosts by Jeff Noon – 1st crime novel from acclaimed weird/sf writer
  50. Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel
  51. Sweet William by Beryl Bainbridge – my favourite Beryl
  52. Tender is the night by F Scott Fitzgerald
  53. Tepper isn’t going out by Calvin Trillin,
  54. Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
  55. The Ballad of Peckham Rye by Muriel Spark
  56. The Barrytown Trilogy (for The Van) by Roddy Doyle
  57. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
  58. The Bottle Factory Outing by Beryl Bainbridge, Beryl
  59. The Chrysalids by John Wyndham
  60. The Concert Ticket (aka The Queue) by Olga Grushin
  61. The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknabvitch
  62. The Darling Buds of May by HE Bates – Perfick!
  63. The Death of Grass by John Christopher, John
  64. The Explorer by James Smythe (Book group hated it, I loved it)
  65. The Girl with Glass Feet by Ali Shaw
  66. The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters by GW Dahlquist – bonkers!
  67. The Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake
  68. The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
  69. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Omnibus edition) by Douglas Adams
  70. The Hopkins Manuscript by RC Sheriff
  71. The House of Leaves by Mark Z Danielewski
  72. The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson – super-noir!
  73. The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh
  74. The Mask of Dimitrios by Eric Ambler
  75. The master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
  76. The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster – in my top few books.
  77. The Night Watch by Sarah Waters
  78. The Patrick Melrose novels by Edward St Aubyn (anthology of all 5)
  79. The Player of Games  by Iain (M) Banks
  80. The Prestige by Christopher PriestSisters Brothers Patrick DeWitt
  81. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
  82. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  83. The sacred art of stealing  by Christopher Brookmyre
  84. The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole age 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend
  85. The Shipping News by Annie Proulx
  86. The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt
  87. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
  88. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John Le Carre
  89. The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
  90. The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks – one of the best debuts ever.
  91. The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner
  92. To the Ends of the Earth (trilogy) by William Golding
  93. To Throw away unopened by Viv Albertine – best memoir of 2018, so angry, so brilliant
  94. True Grit by Charles Portis
  95. The Vernon Subutex Trilogy by Virginie Despentes
  96. We by Yevgeny Zamyatin,
  97. We have always lived in the castle by Shirley Jackson
  98. West by Carys Davies
  99. Why be happy when you could be normal? by Jeanette Winterson  – memoir
  100. Winter’s bone by Daniel Woodrell

Books that have come off the list:

  • Mend the Living by Maylis de Kerangal
  • Tin Man by Sarah Winman – very moving
  • A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
  • Coraline by Neil Gaiman
  • My Policeman by Bethan Roberts
  • Remarkable creatures byTracy Chevalier
  • Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch
  • Blindness by Jose Saramago
  • No minor chords by Andre Previn – a delightful Hollywood memoir
  • The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
  • The Chronicles of Narnia (omnibus, she said hopefully, if not The Silver Chair) by C.S.Lewis
  • The Crow Road by Iain Banks
  • Beryl Bainbridge: Artist, Writer, Friend by Psiche Hughes (a super biography full of Beryl’s own art)
  • Here lies Arthur by Philip Reeve – Arthurian YA with a twist
  • An awfully big adventure by Beryl Bainbridge
  • Revolution in the Head: The Beatles’ Records & the Sixties by Ian MacDonald
  • Modesty Blaise by Peter O’Donnell – the best woman agent there is!
  • Peyton Place by Grace Metalious