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. Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
  30. Let the Right One in by John Ajvide Lindqvist – modern Swedish vampires!
  31. Lightning Rods by Helen DeWitt
  32. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  33. Mayflies by Andrew O’Hagan
  34. Marianne Dreams * by Catherine Storr – my fave children’s book ever!
  35. Mischief Acts* by Zoe Gilbert
  36. Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow by Peter Høeg
  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. Northern Lights by Philip Pullman
  41. Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf
  42. The Quiet American by Graham Greene
  43. Piranesi * by Susanna Clarke
  44. Riddley Walker * by Russell Hoban
  45. Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
  46. Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow – Werewolves in plain verse
  47. Slow Horses by Mick Herron – 1st in the best spy series
  48. Slow Motion Ghosts by Jeff Noon – 1st crime novel from acclaimed weird/sf writer
  49. Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan
  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
  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 Ghost Theatre by Mat Osman
  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 IPCRESS File by Len Deighton
  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 Patrick Melrose novels by Edward St Aubyn (anthology of all 5)
  81. The Prestige by Christopher PriestSisters Brothers Patrick DeWitt
  82. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
  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 Summer Book by Tove Jansson
  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. To the Ends of the Earth (trilogy) by William Golding
  94. To Throw away unopened by Viv Albertine – best memoir of 2018, so angry, so brilliant
  95. True Grit by Charles Portis
  96. The Vernon Subutex Trilogy by Virginie Despentes
  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

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
  • West by Carys Davies
  • Never let me go by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • n a Summer Season by Elizabeth Taylor