Monday, April 12, 2010

Desert Island Books

I have often considered my list of the 10 books I'd like to have with me should I ever get stranded on a deserted island. Obviously I need to get a life. Or at least read some more books.

Anyway, I could never narrow it down to just 10.  So here's a list of some faves that I just love no matter where I get stranded:
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
    • I'm not sure why I identified so strongly with Francie Nolan, given that I was not poverty-stricken nor Brooklyn-born at the turn of the 20th century. But she read a lot and wanted to be a writer so I guess that's enough. The details of this story certainly made me think that being poor in Brooklyn was a wonderful thing.
  • The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
    • Such an epic Arthurain tale and told from the point of view of the women. I got to meet Ms Bradley at a book signing once. She seemed highly medicated and out of it, unfortunately, which I am assuming was due to her ill health as she died not many months later. I've read some of the sequels and they are also good but not nearly as compelling as this book.
  • Watership Down by Richard Adams
    • I cry at the end of this book every damn time! LOVE Fiver and Hazel, Bigwig and Kehaar. A thrilling tale full of close calls and near escapes and heart. Wonderful rabbit tale for grownups.
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
    • A highlight of a trip to Massachusetts (second only to visiting with my BFF Lady Chardonnay who lives in New England; okay, maybe third after the chocolate brunch we went to!) was seeing Orchard House where Little Women was written. As a teen I thought the book was a little wordy and I skimmed a lot of it. As a "mature" reader, I enjoy the verbosity of old-style books much more than I used to! The story is just wonderful and also makes me teary every time I read it. I still don't like Amy though because of the whole incident with Jo's book.
  • Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
    • Another "old-style" writer but after seeing the amazing 1995 miniseries I was able to understand every little thing more easily (also the secret to easier Shakespeare reading: see a visual version first, then read). I was also helped by a book called What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew which explains the minutia of life then. I now know P&P almost by heart and it is my go-to book when I need something to read before bed and I'm between books. 
  • ...And Ladies of the Club by Helen Hooven Santmyer
    • From 1866 until the 1930s, this book covers the lives of the members of a ladies club formed in Ohio. Epic in scope and detail, I was able to appreciate this book more once I had a better American history background. The story is mainly character driven against the backdrop of the various political crises of the times. Ohio was once a powerhouse in sending men to the White House: seven presidents from Ohio were elected during the period of this novel.
  • Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy
    • Ms Binchy's books are wonderful in that you always get to know a little something about so many wonderfully drawn characters, from the heroines to the villains, from the shopkeepers to the marginalized people. This books is the tale of an Irish girl and her best friend in the 1950s. I love Benny and her struggles to fit in and adapt to college life despite her large size. She's such a strong character; the ending is absolutely right. The movie version, while lovely in its way, does NOT end the same.
  • The Stand by Stephen King
    • A superflu virus is accidentally released and most of the world's population dies. (Note: not really a spoiler as this happens right at the beginning of the story.) The survivors band together and the supreme battle between good and evil commences. Excellent. The miniseries is quite good too.
  • Sarum bu Edward Rutherfurd
    • Mr Rutherfurd's books follow a general pattern: introduce a set of characters, tell a complete story about them and then move on a few years, decades or centuries and tell a new story featuring their descendants. We get to see traits passed down through the years. Families intermarry, the mighty fall, the little people rise. This tale concerns the area located near Stonehenge and the modern English city of Salisbury. I always want the individual stories to continue! Historical fiction at its best!
  • The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough
    • Another great romance and another epic tale, this one occurring in the Australian Outback. I was able to read this concurrently while watching the miniseries when I was in college. 
  • Honorable Mentions
    • Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell: Yes, it's racist but it's still a damn good story.
    • The Human Comedy by William Saroyan: The movie is amazingly faithful to the book. Such an amazing look at small town life in the 1940s.
    • It by Stephen King: The other big epic novel by Mr King, scary and engrossing with an evil clown!
    • Fatherland by Robert Harris: A thriller taking place in an alternate history where Hitler won WWII.
    • Class Reunion/After the Reunion by Rona Jaffe: Not very well written but still wonderful tale of the women of Radcliffe College, the reunion (duh) and their lives afterward.
Hmm, I did seem to come up with a plausible top ten after all. But what about books series?! How does one pick a favorite Harry Potter novel or the best Captain Underpants tale?! A list for another day...


  1. I prefer my islands to be desserted.

  2. Our Top 10 lists have NO overlap, boo-hoo, though some of your books would probably make it onto my Top 25, so that's what will save our friendship, I guess. I realized recently that I need a Top 10 Adult Book list and a Top 10 Kid Book list, because how can I possibly choose between The Cheerleader and Betsy-Tacy?

    There's an all new chocolate brunch at an all new venue, and we could make a pilgrimage to Maine and stalk the Kings (Stephen's wife Tabitha wrote one of my all-time favorite books) - in other words, isn't it time for a visit to your BFFAAF? Hmm?