Desert Island Library

Updated Jan 2022:  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), and an * means one of my top ten.

  1. 4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster
  2. All Quiet on the Orient Express * by Magnus Mills
  3. A Rage in Harlem by Chester Himes
  4. All the Devils are Here by David Seabrook – NF Psychogeography/lit crit
  5. Beowulf by Seamus Heaney – in the side by side version
  6. Blood Red, Snow White by Marcus Sedgwick
  7. Born Standing Up by Steve Martin – memoir
  8. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  9. Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase & Fable – my one indispensible reference book
  10. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
  11. Complete works by William Shakespeare,
  12. Diaries 1969-1970: The Python Years by Michael Palin – memoir/diaries
  13. Diary of a Film by Niven Govinden
  14. Dirty Snow by Georges Simenon – one of the ‘romans durs
  15. Donovan’s Brain by Curt Siodmak – SF/Psych horror!
  16. Double Indemnity by James M Cain – Perfect noir
  17. Electricity by Ray Robinson
  18. Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
  19. Fair Stood the Wind for France by H.E. Bates
  20. Fiesta: The sun also rises by Ernest Hemingway
  21. Flowers for Algernon by Keyes, Daniel
  22. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
  23. Golden Hill by Francis Spufford
  24. Hangover Square by Patrick Hamilton
  25. Harvest by Jim Crace
  26. Hawksmoor * by Peter Ackroyd
  27. High fidelity by Nick Hornby
  28. High Rise by J.G. Ballard
  29. In a Summer Season by Elizabeth Taylor
  30. Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
  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. Mayflies by Andrew O’Hagan
  35. Marianne Dreams * by Catherine Storr – my fave children’s book ever!
  36. Mischief Acts* by Zoe Gilbert
  37. Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow by Peter Høeg
  38. Moby Dick by Herman Melville – earns its place as the greatest influencer
  39. Mr Loverman by Bernardine Evaristo
  40. Mrs Bridge by Evan S Connell (in an omnibus with Mr Bridge if possible)
  41. Never let me go by Kazuo Ishiguro
  42. Northern Lights by Philip Pullman
  43. Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf
  44. The Quiet American by Graham Greene
  45. Piranesi * by Susanna Clarke
  46. Riddley Walker * by Russell Hoban
  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. Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan
  51. Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel
  52. Sweet William * by Beryl Bainbridge – my favourite Beryl
  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
  60. The Chrysalids by John Wyndham
  61. The Concert Ticket (aka The Queue) by Olga Grushin
  62. The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknabvitch
  63. The Darling Buds of May by HE Bates – Perfick!
  64. The Death of Grass by John Christopher, John
  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 Mervyn 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 Ice Palace by Tarjei Vesaas
  74. The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh
  75. The Mask of Dimitrios by Eric Ambler
  76. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
  77. The New York Trilogy * by Paul Auster – in my top few books.
  78. The Night Watch by Sarah Waters
  79. The Patrick Melrose novels by Edward St Aubyn (anthology of all 5)
  80. The Prestige by Christopher PriestSisters Brothers Patrick DeWitt
  81. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
  82. The sacred art of stealing  by Christopher Brookmyre
  83. The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole age 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend
  84. The Shipping News * by Annie Proulx
  85. The Sisters Brothers * by Patrick DeWitt
  86. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
  87. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold * by John Le Carre
  88. The Summer Book by Tove Jansson
  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 (Trunk 2?!?):

  • 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
  • A Meal in Winter by Hubert Mingarelli
  • Miss Pettigrew lives for a day by Winifred Watson
  • I Claudius/Claudius the God (omnibus) by Robert Graves
  • Magda by Meike Ziervogel – Mrs Goebbels
  • The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson – super-noir!
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  • The Last Pilot by Benjamin Johncock
  • Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey – Yee Haw!
  • The Player of Games  by Iain (M) Banks