Ulysses
James Joyce
picked by Ian McEwan

Oh, hello. Well, I have bad news, and good news. I’ll alternate, so as not to shock your delicate sensibilities.

Bad news: your schooner/sailboat/yacht/canoe/dinghy has capsized in a terrible storm and sunk to the bottom of a watery abyss to become home to the eels.

Good news: having clung tenaciously to life and an upturned Styrofoam beer cooler, you have now washed ashore, rumpled, nauseated and salty, but still in one piece.

Bad news: this small island in the middle of the ocean appears to be uninhabited by any other human beings. You are decidedly alone (I recognise that to some of you, this may be good news).

Good news: your basic needs for food, water and shelter are covered with a plethora of fruit trees, a natural spring waterfall, and a conveniently-located cave, warm and dry and free of creatures and guano.

Bad news: There is nary an electrical outlet in sight, so unless that laptop is solar-powered, it has just become a makeshift shovel or paperweight.

Good news: Your waterproof rucksack saves the day! It did its job by protecting its contents, snug and dry: a good supply of matches, and three books: The Holy Bible (or comparable spiritual/religious text), The Works of Shakespeare, and _____________.

The last blank on the list is, of course, yours to fill in.

A La Recherche du Temps Perdu by Marcel Proust
A La Recherche du Temps Perdu
(In Search of Lost Time)

by Marcel Proust

…okay, so we have blatantly stolen the concept from the long-running (since 1942) BBC Radio program 'Desert Island Discs' (it itches my grammatical sensibilities that it is not called 'Deserted Island Discs' – are there a lot of islands in the desert? But I digress.) in which celebrities of different disciplines and varying levels of fame are interviewed and given the chance to choose which eight pieces of music, which book, and which luxury item they would want with them, were they stranded on a deserted island.

The focus on the radio show is the music, but I’m fascinated by the literary aspect, and started to think…. What would I choose? What formula would I employ? There's no telling how long I'm going to be there. I decided to look to the experts, and see what other authors and writers had chosen for their books. Combing through the archives of the radio show, there are certain books and authors that make repeat appearances. John Updike, Tariq Ali, Philip Pullman, Stan Barstow, Richard Adams, Dodie Smith and A.S. Byatt all chose Marcel Proust. Charles Dickens, Leo Tolstoy, W.H. Auden and Oscar Wilde all had repeated showings as well, as did various dictionaries, most often the Oxford English. I enjoyed Bill Bryson's selection - he picked one of his own books. Brazen.

Having surveyed the famous, I decided to turn to the infamous, and ask my coworkers what they thought. After getting rid of the chaff (a million emails with the island-equivalent of "I'd wish for unlimited wishes" -- thanks guys), the wheat was pretty interesting. Some people chose books clearly meant to further their chances of getting off the island (books about building, scavenging, edible types of plants, books about fishing). Some chose books clearly meant to help them to better understand their plight (meditation books, self-help books, spiritual texts), and most, having evidently accepted their predicament, chose a favorite book to keep them company, and for good old-fashioned entertainment.

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What's my Desert Island Read and how did I choose it? Play Video

 

15 Celebrity Desert Island Reads

Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Moby Dick
by Herman Melville

Chosen by: J.G. Ballard
 Collected Works by George Bernard Shaw
Collected Works
by George Bernard Shaw

Chosen by: Thomas Keneally
Men and Horses I Have Known by George Lambton
Men and Horses I Have Known
by George Lambton

Chosen by: Dick Francis
Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens
Barnaby Rudge
by Charles Dickens

Chosen by: Nick Hornby
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Great Gatsby
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Chosen by: Jackie Collins
Selected stories by Anton Chekhov
Selected Stories
by Anton Chekhov

Chosen by: Kazuo Ishiguro
The Complete Works by Oscar Wilde
The Complete Works
by Oscar Wilde

Chosen by: Paulo Coelho
Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis
Lucky Jim
by Kingsley Amis

Chosen by: Sue Townsend
The Lost Continent by Bill Bryson
The Lost Continent
by Bill Bryson

Chosen by: Bill Bryson
Complete Works by Jorge Luis Borges
Complete Works
by Jorge Luis Borges

Chosen by: William Gibson
Complete Poetical Works by John Milton
Complete Poetical Works
by John Milton

Chosen by: Martin Amis
Four Quartets by T S Eliot
Four Quartets
by T S Eliot

Chosen by: Jeanette Winterson

An Instant Guide to Edible Plants by Pamela Forey and Cecilia Fitzsimmons
An Instant Guide to Edible Plants
by Pamela Forey

Chosen by: Terry Pratchett (he wanted Edible Plants of the South Seas by Emile Massal, which we don't have).

15 AbeBooks Staff Desert Island Reads

 

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
War and Peace
by Leo Tolstoy

Chosen by: Stephanie N.
101 Card Games for One: A Comprehensive Guide to Solitaire Games by Brenda Ralph Lewis
101 Card Games for One
by Brenda Ralph Lewis

Chosen by: Brandt L.
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel DeFoe
Robinson Crusoe
by Daniel DeFoe

Chosen by: Shaun J.
The Game of Thrones Series by George R.R. Martin
The Game of Thrones Series
by George R.R. Martin

Chosen by: Thorsten F.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
by Douglas Adams

Chosen by: Scott L.
The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Silmarillion
by J.R.R. Tolkien

Chosen by: Nori N.
Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins
Jitterbug Perfume
by Tom Robbins

Chosen by: Judy H.
The Unofficial MacGyver How-to Handbook: Actual Working Tricks as Seen on TV's MacGyver by Bret Terrill and Greg Dierkers
The Unofficial MacGyver How-to Handbook
by Bret Terrill and Greg Dierkers

Chosen by: Kathleen S.
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
How to Win Friends and Influence People
by Dale Carnegie

Chosen by: Ali N.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
To Kill a Mockingbird
by Harper Lee

Chosen by: Ange G.
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
The Master and Margarita
by Mikhail Bulgakov

Chosen by Kate R.
The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards.
The Memory Keeper’s Daughter
by Kim Edwards

Chosen by: Maddy T.
The Way Things Work, by David Macaulay
The Way Things Work
by David Macaulay

Chosen by: Zac T.
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Hobbit
by J.R.R. Tolkien

Chosen by: Demelza M.

What's My Desert Island Read and how did I choose it?

What book would you want with you on a desert island?


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