Which books would you want if you were stranded on a desert island? That’s the subject of this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. It immediately made me think of long, weighty books that you can spend a lot of time with. It also made me think about the books I love to re-read.
I decided not to include series or “complete works of” since that seemed like cheating to me.
The common characteristic of these books? They are books with characters I’ve treasured. If I have to be on an island on my own, the characters in these books are the ones I’d want with me.
Here’s my list:
- Outlander by Diana Gabaldon: In the category of really long books, there’s no book I’d rather read over and over again. Gabaldon is far from a perfect writer; her books are full of sexual violence and they could be edited more. But if I’m bringing one book with me to a desert island, it’s this one.
- Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry: This epic story about two friends in the Wild West is the book that has everything and you can recommend to anyone. I read it many years ago but it remains one of my favorites, and I’d love to reread it.
- The Secret History by Donna Tartt: This is a love-it-or-hate-it book, and it remains one of the most memorable I’ve read. The characters are unforgettable, even when you hate them. Tartt draws you into this sometimes-ridiculous story and never lets you go. But it’s not just the suspense; it’s that Tartt perfectly taps into that feeling we’ve all had of feeling like an outsider and wanting desperately to belong.
- David Copperfield by Charles Dickens: This is my favorite Dickens, and I think that’s because it’s closest to Dickens writing about himself. I’d love to reread this one.
- The Stand by Stephen King: This last year, The Stand felt particularly relevant. His pandemic decimates the population and leaves survivors (in the U.S.) to find each other, rebuild, and then fight evil. More than a story about the supernatural, this book stands out because of the characters and King’s way with words. Like many of the other books on my list, Frannie and Stu and Larry feel like friends, like people I’d want to have on my team.
- The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy: This is my favorite classic and my favorite re-read. Eustacia Vye is such an interesting character; she’s flawed and tragic but also strong. She’s someone who goes after what she wants and doesn’t care what people think, and I’ve always admired her for that.
- Middlemarch by George Eliot: Eliot is an amazing writer, and Middemarch would be the perfect book to reread if I had a lot of time on my hands.
- 28 Barbary Lane by Armistead Maupin: This is cheating a bit, but it’s a compilation of the first three books of the Tales of the City series that I physically own, and I really want to have Tales of the City if I’m going to be stranded somewhere. There’s no way I’m islanding without Michael, Maryann and Mrs. Madrigal.
- Emma by Jane Austen: My favorite Jane Austen, for the same reason I like Return of the Native so much. I love a heroine that isn’t “nice”. I love Emma’s independence, and I love that this is a story about her growth as a person more than it’s about romance.
- Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver: There are a number of Kingsolver’s books that could be on this list, but I have a soft spot for this early work about two sisters from a very small town in Arizona. I read and re-read this book in college, and it just wrecked me every time. I wonder how it holds up today.
I see that in making this list, it’s really a list of the books I’d happily reread if I had the time. Maybe I need to turn this into a rereading challenge next year. I’d like to see how some of these old favorites and “comfort reads” hold up over time.
It’s also interesting that so many classics came to mind. The idea of spending hours on an island by myself made me think of the classics — I guess because at the moment, I don’t feel like I have time for 800-page books. Some of the books that almost made the list were The Woman in White, The Count of Monte Cristo, North and South, and East of Eden. I think when you know your books are limited, you want books that pack a lot of drama that also challenge your brain.
Those are my top ten books to bring on a desert island. Which books will you be bringing?