Books to Take to a Deserted Island

August 8, 2013 2013, discussion post, K. 64

And then it was August. Where has time gone? Summer, we hope, has been good to you! We hope your vacation has been filled with barbecues, sun burn, and good books. We still have about a month left to enjoy but for now, let’s get back to our favorites feature! This month, we are tackling the dreaded question: which books would you bring to a deserted island?

It’s a hard one, this one, because it means forever. And ever. And ever. You make a list then you change it. You are made to make a choice between your classics, guilty pleasures, soul-pleasing, intellect-stimulating, heart-swooning books! But we did it. With difficulty. And if we can, so can you. So read our list and make your own!


K.’s Top Five Books For A Deserted Island

This was hard. At first, I considered bringing with me Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe because — hello! — it’s a novel and a survival guide at the same time. Then I remembered I hated it and had to start all over. 

I ended with a list of books that each had their own particular gift to me. Books that will give me some hope and comfort while I struggle making myself a shelter out of twigs, fishing my dinner from the open sea, and fighting with (and most probably getting killed by) a variety of wild predators.

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
I’m about to die and you’re going to deny me this? I have the box set, so yes, this counts as one. I’m bringing this series because it is my childhood. I figure I’ll need some happy memories as I contemplate my future of doom.

A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin
So much happens in this book and I think it’ll be enough to entertain me for years to come. I don’t intend on surviving too long on my own on this “deserted island” so I think one book out of this series should be enough.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Okay, this is my second non-YA but I had to. I love gothic and this was such a great modern creation. It blew my mind. Reading this while having to sleep alone in complete darkness out in the middle of nowhere is probably not a good idea…but also, I would be losing my mind anyway, so what the heck. (And look at that cover!)

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo
I need this with me because I need Mal.

The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray
I don’t care what people say about this series. It’s not perfect. There’s a lot I would change. And yet the heart of it always reaches me, speaks to me, comforts me, and rouses me. It is that deep breath you take after staying in one position too long. It’s about fight. And never giving up. And hope. And I’ll need this as I face what might actually be a real tragedy.


Tonya’s Top Five Books For A Deserted Island

Let’s be honest: I would never be stranded on a desert island. I would have a heart attack and die before the ship/plane ever went down. Because I am an awkward flaily panic attack on a good day. 

But let’s just say it actually happened? My books better wash up on shore like so many FedEx packages in Cast Away. I’d die of exposure pretty quick anyway, but without my books to keep me sane? I’d just beach myself on the shore and wait for death.

If I had to pick five books that I absolutely HAD to have with me for the rest of my life (and don’t even ask how long it took me to make this Sophie’s Choice), they’d be:

The Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery: (yes, SERIES, we’ll just pretend I had the entire compendium with me). This series is my childhood; I read it every single summer from elementary to middle school, and I’d need the familiar comfort of Green Gables and Ingleside and Rainbow Valley to make me feel at home.

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta: I can live without a lot of things, but Jonah Griggs isn’t one of them.

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving: to remind me to have faith, even when everything is totally awful.

Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon: because seriously, those suckers are LONG, and maybe by the time James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser and Clare’s story is finished, I’ll be rescued? (Here I am assuming I get stranded AFTER the series is complete. Because to contemplate otherwise is cruel.)

Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor: if I’m trapped on a desert island, what better way to escape than in the lush world of Laini Taylor’s words? Also: AKIVA. 


Wendy’s Top Five Books For A Deserted Island

I struggle with this topic, because it’s like the “what’s your favorite book” question. It’s also tricky because you may have to read those books for the rest of your life–and nothing else! *shudder* 

I’m eschewing boring wilderness handbooks and such to focus on feeding the soul for this list. Because if I’m going to die, it’s going to be in the company of books I love.

The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder 
While Farmer Boy is my favorite Little House book, reading about all those groaning tables of food might induce me to violence. Better to have The Long Winter, which is a lesson in endurance, ingenuity, and hope in the face of terrible hardship. Plus we’re most likely to be lost on a hot deserted island, and reading about the cold winter would be a relief! 

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
This tender, beautiful novel was my favorite book of 2012. I recently reread it after coming home from one of my best friends’ wedding to his husband, and I can imagine myself reading it again and again–and crying every single time. I still haven’t found the words for a review yet–the lump in my throat is just too big.

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
Warrior polar bears, witches, and daemons would be very good company indeed during trying circumstances. And Lyra Belacqua’s wintry adventures would, again, be good escapist reading.

Affinity by Sarah Waters
I thought about choosing Jane Eyre or A Tale of Two Cities, because they’re both on my “favorite books of all time” list, too. But then I realized it might be better to choose one I don’t know as well. This Victorian ghost story is full of torment and suffering and feeling (hey, I enjoy that!) and I think the author’s prose would hold up well under repeat reads.

One more…I only get one more? It should be a happy one, then. I’d probably choose something nostalgic and undemanding, like Fifteen or The Luckiest Girl, by Beverly Cleary. Because it’d be fun to have a “dating” book to read, and it’s too hard to choose a single Ramona book.

I reserve the right to make changes to this list before I get shipwrecked, but in the meantime, I think those are the books I might like to read into eternity. But really, if I’m ever in danger of being stranded, I’m just going to make sure I’m on a lifeboat with someone else who has good taste in books. And maybe my Kindle…just in case there’s a power source.


How did we do? Are any of these books your own personal picks? Let us know below what top five books you’d bring or wish would wash up on shore with you on a deserted island. Fingers-crossed that none of us will ever actually have to make such a choice!

64 Responses to “Books to Take to a Deserted Island”

  1. Shae McDaniel

    My very first thought was HATCHET by Gary Paulsen. If any book could give me a shot at survival, it’s that one. Any chance I could arrange to have an actual hatchet with me as well?

  2. Rain Jeys

    Ooh, what so people say about The Sweet Far Thing? I thought that book was a masterpiece. It would definitely be with me on the island.

  3. Melliane

    oh that’s a wonderful choice! I’ve only read a few of them but I think I’ll have to read the others too!

  4. Molli Moran

    Siege and Storm, Harry Potter, Outlander (!!!!!), and the Gemma Doyle books are WONDERFUL, brilliant choices, ladies. I would definitely want Mal with me, if only in bookish form, on an island.

    I would choose (assuming we can fudge a little bit and bring a set?): Anne Bishop’s The Black Jewels trilogy, The Time Traveler’s Wife, Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, The Archived by Victoria Schwab, and Tempest by Julie Cross. :)

    Interesting topic! Hope y’all have a lovely weekend.

    Molli | Once Upon a Prologue

  5. Ning

    Definitely Harry Potter!! If I don’t get anything else! I’m also thinking the FEVER series by Karen Marie Moning! I think those two would last me a long time. And I wouldn’t survive very long on a deserted island so I don’t think I’d even need five books!

  6. Lauren @ Love is not a triangle

    Here’s something about me, I FREEZE up when I have to come up with these sorts of lists. They terrify me. I have NO IDEA how I’d choose. But I’d probably pick a bunch of series that I could keep reading. However, off the top of my head I’d do 1) To Kill a Mockingbird, 2) Jellicoe Road (or Melina Marchetta, the complete collection – whenever that’s published) 3) The Scorpio Races 4) Bleak House by Dickens (that would take me a while to re-read and it has everything in it!) 5) My kindle??? I know that doesn’t count! Of above I also love – Anne of Green Gables, The Thirteenth Tale, Little House on the Prairie, Siege and Storm, Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I haven’t read Affinity, but it made me think of The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins , which would also be a good pick.

    Love when you do these sorts of posts ladies! I miss seeing you on here too.

    • Wendy Darling

      Lauren, I sat at a loss in front of my computer every time I tried to do this list too, hah. In the end I did the best I could, but I think it’s natural every booklover feels some anxiety about this horrifying scenario. ;)

      I love To Kill a Mockingbird, too. (And of course you’re a fellow Little House fan!)

  7. Nikki

    Oh man, this is SO hard because there are top many great books out there. I think I’d have to choose a variety of genres because I’m fickle and get bored fairly easily (although if I were stranded I’m not sure ‘bored’ would be the best word to describe my feelings in that moment). Okay, here it goes:

    1. The Hunger Games Trilogy – I have a hard time putting into words how much this series affected me, so simply put, I LOVED it and don’t think I could live without it.
    2. The Complete Tales by Beatrix Potter – Peter Rabbit and I have been buds for as long back as I can remember. I have my nan’s hardback copy and I plan to pass it down to my own children some day. This would HAVE to come with, deserted island or not.
    3. Siege & Storm – But not because of Mal. Sturmhond. That is all.
    4. The Hunt for Atlantis by Andy McDermott – Action, adventure, bad-assery. Since I can’t have cinema, this book would be the next best thing. It’s awesomely bad!
    5. Dracula – Always a classic and one of my favs.

    Whew! That was really hard, ladies!

  8. Christina

    Bahaha, I love it. Box Sets totally count as one because they are contained.
    That still counts as one!

    HP and A Game of Thrones are great choices, because they are long. I am trying to figure out that that other text on The Thirteenth Tale says: donglng ketigabelas? This must be another language but WHAT?

    Oh man, I feel like I need to try jumping to the end of the AoGG series. The ones with the young kids and Anne being all motherly and Christian made me DNF, but the children’s antics sound fun.

    Oooh, I have not heard of this Sarah Waters book. I love how eclectic your collection is, Wendy!

    • Wendy Darling

      I love ALL the Sarah Waters books I’ve read. There’s only one I haven’t gotten to yet, and I’ve had it for years–I’ve just been saving it because I know it’ll have to tide me over for awhile, since she takes ages to get them out.

  9. Sarah Johnson

    Daughter of Smoke & Bone would definitely be a pick for me along with the VA books, Lux series, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower. In all honesty, if I was on a deserted island I don’t think I would be able to read. I would probably go crazy because the thought of just being on an island with no way home makes me want to scream.

  10. Danielle

    Um, Tonya – interwebs HIGH-FIVE for your picks!
    I’d take:

    1. ‘Outlander’ by Diana Gabaldon (agree, only if the series is complete when I’m hypothetically stranded on this hypothetical island. Because otherwise I’d spend my time curled in the fetal position, rocking back and forth and wondering how it all ended for Jamie, Claire, Ian, Rachel, Jenny, William, Bree … and how the Starz TV show was going.)

    2. ‘Saving Francesca’ by Melina Marchetta – tough, tough call having to decide between any Marchetta book. But these characters feel like my old friends, and I’d want to bring them along with me (they’d be my Wilson, basically). Actually, can Tonya and I be stuck on the island together – she brings ‘Jellicoe’, I bring ‘Francesca’? And then maybe I can bring along ‘An Echo in the Bone’ and she can bring ‘Outlander’?.

    3. ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee – I know this book like the back of my heart and it’d be a little bit of home.

    4. ‘Playing Beatie Bow’ by Ruth Park – another Aussie classic from my childhood. And it’d be fortifying, because it’s about a girl who’s stranded far from home (in a different era, but y’know, same-same) but she makes it back.

    5. ‘When You Reach Me’ by Rebecca Stead – because I love it, and I think constantly re-reading and looking for all the clues would keep me entertained. And it’s one book that I think your reading of it changes every single time.

    • K.

      Great answers, Danielle! Love how thorough you are, haha! I love to Kill A Mockingbird, though I think it might be a little too sad for me. It’s a difficult book to read, I find. I also loved Saving Francesca.

  11. Bookworm1858

    I have actually thought about this before.
    My (current) list:
    The complete Jane Austen (if you get 7 HP books and 8 Anne of Green Gables, then I get my 6 Austens)
    Bible-any English translation
    Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
    Poison Study by Maria V Snyder
    Complete Sherlock Holmes stories

  12. Mary @ BookSwarm

    Wow. That’s like asking who you’re going to keep in the lifeboat and who gets the boot!! I’d need Harry Potter. I’d need something Urban Fantasy. The Fever series, I think. AHH!! I CAN’T CHOOSE!!

  13. Wendy Darling

    Let me just say that HAD I KNOWN series were allowed, I would have brought the entire LIW series…and probably changed all the rest of my picks as well. Sheeeeeeeessssh.

    Tonya–I’m totally borrowing Anne!

    K–did I know you were a fellow Thirteenth Tale fan? I adore that book. I’m constantly coming across new quotes to add to my GoodReads from it.

    • K.

      Oh, Wendy, I’m so sorry! Tonya sent me her list and I saw series getting counted as one, and the sheep that I am said OK!

      I absolutely love The Thirteenth Tale. She has her second book coming out this year — about time! But I’m a little disappointed with it’s size. It’s like 200 pages! I’m planning to re-reading The Thirteenth Tale soon :)

  14. Jasprit

    This is a great post ladies! I like how K and Tonya have picked series’, very clever, I would never have thought of this and probably would have been sweating away trying to think of my five books. Well done ladies, I don’t think I would have been able to do it. And I adore all your suggestions, so many books you’ve mentioned I’ve never even heard of before!

  15. Christina @ Christina Reads YA


    A THOUSAND TIMES YES TO HARRY POTTER. I… er… may already have the final battle memorized and can recite it by heart. Plus, it’s as you said: childhood. If I’m stuck on an island, only thing that’s getting by are good memories and memorizing good books. Also with with you on the Gemma Doyle trilogy. Sometimes I think I read them too quickly, but because the books are so giant, I’ve not returned. What better a time? As you said, it’s just got this absorbing quality with its themes, despite its imperfections. Also also also, you are a Mal shipper? LE GASP.


    I’m with you on dying before landing. It’s okay, though–we’ll have each other then before the island. (That suddenly reminded me of Lost). Anyway, yes! yes! yes! to Daughter of Smoke and Bone and Jellicoe Road. If we’re going down, might as immerse ourselves in the awesome writing of Marchetta and Taylor and remember the good ole Jonah Griggs and Akiva (WHO SHOULD TOTALLY SAVE US. You know, use his wings for the greater good! Er, though we might have to wait for the war to end and Karou to let him come…)


    Sadly, I have not read any that are on your list, but I’ve always been told of the greatness that is the His Dark Materials trilogy. Plus, what you wrote about the Wolves book makes me super interested in it.

  16. Asheley (@BookwormAsheley)

    Right now, I’d take my Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness, The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly, Heading Out to Wonderful by Robert Goolrick, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor (yay for seeing it up above!), and The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck — HOWEVER, this could change at any given time, any given hour. (:

    • Wendy Darling

      I need to read the first two things you chose, Asheley–particularly Connolly, because it seems like his books might be a good fit for me. I’m glad I’m not the only one who is reserving the right to change her mind about her picks, though! I still have a hard time with choosing.

  17. Keertana

    Great list, ladies!

    K, I’d definitely bring HP with me, not to mention I adore Mal (and S&S) as well as Libba Bray.

    Tonya, I’d definitely need a Marchetta book with me as well, not to mention I’d love to get lost in Laini Taylor’s words. (And Akiva!)

    Wendy, I just LOVE The Golden Compass! I read it years ago, so I desperately need to re-read it, but I adore it all the same. :)

    • Wendy Darling

      I need to reread it, too. I’ve read it a half a dozen times, but I’ve never reread the sequels, isn’t that funny? Maybe this winter!

    • K.

      I actually borrowed the Golden Compass but didn’t have the time to get around to it. Soon, I promise!

  18. Bonnie R

    I would totally pick the Gemma Doyle series too. And Harry Potter. And the Outlander series. And maybe the Fever series. Gosh, I have such a hard time picking ‘favorites’ too but I could definitely see myself doing re-reads of all of those. Oooh and Mira’s Newsflesh trilogy. I guess I should be asking how big my suitcase is. lol

    • K.

      Yay, Bonnie! I love the GM trilogy. And oh yes yes yes, the Fever series. But then wouldn’t one just end up…frustrated…since one would be all alone on a deserted island…with no way to relieve oneself…okay I’ll stop!!

  19. Sharon (A Book Barbie)

    Haha, I hate Robinson Crusoe, too. One of my all-time least favorite books!

    I definitely agree with a lot of these, though! I’d love to have the (complete) Outlander or ASOIAF series with me. And Jellicoe Road! And Laura Ingalls Wilder is always a great choice. ♥

    • K.

      Yea…Robinson Crusoe. I used to actually wish he’d die already just so I could stop reading. Oops!

  20. meg

    I definitely agree with Harry Potter and Jellicoe Road. I’d probably also bring The Night Circus, Stardust and the Newsflesh Trilogy (I have decided that trilogies count as 1 book b/c it’s unfair to pick only one).

    Although, are we all on the same island? If so, can I borrow your Harry Potters and Jellicoe Road? I’ll bring the Lumatere Chronicles and Tiger Lily to trade :D

  21. meg

    Harry Potter and Jellicoe Rosd would definitely be on my list. I’d also take The Night Circus, Stardust and the Newsflesh trilogy (please don’t make me pick one, I can’t). Although, are we all on the same island? If so, can I borrow your Harry Potters and Jellicoe Road? I’ll bring the Lumatere Chronicles and Tiger Lily to trade :D

    • K.

      Meg — I bought The Night Circus and can’t wait to dig in. I LOVE Stardust and the Lumatere series. And Tiger Lily took my breath away. I like you, Meg. I hope we end up on the same island ;)

  22. Becca

    Harry Potter would definitely last me a long, long time on an island. I would totally be satisfied with the Wizarding World :D

    • K.

      Funny because I don’t think it’ll take me long at all. I think the longest I took reading a HP book was 3 days…and that was me reading it slow.

  23. Joyous Reads

    If I could just bring one book then it’ll have to be JELLICOE ROAD. Tonya, you and I are going to be best friends. :)

    Great post, ladies!

  24. Melody Silverleaf

    Oh, I wish I could add photos like you have. If I ended up on Gilligan’s Island my waterproof, floating trunk would contain:
    The Bible
    The Harry Potter series: I have already read this series 8 times and plan another reread. I will never be tired of it.
    The Twilight saga: Same reason as above. I know some do not like it, but I do.
    The Cat Who mystery series by Lilian Jackson Braun: I have all 29 mysteries and the side releases (don’t need those though). Again, it’s a series I read over and over.
    I’d also throw in some Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Rita Mae with Sneaky Pie Brown, Dixon and Keene.
    The Mortal Insturments series by Cassandra Clare.
    A survival guide would be good.
    Just Jenifer by Janet Lambert
    And some stuff on my “to be read” list so I can finally catch up. LOL

    • K.

      There’s quite a bit here that I’ve not heard of, Melody. So thank you for expanding my ever expanding to-read list ;)

      Also, I can’t believe I forgot the Bible :/

  25. Nikki Vanderhoof

    I would definitely want my Dark Tower series by Steven King (it’s 7 books but if K can do it so can I!). Unfortunately I don’t read as many YA books as the rest of your followers so the majority of my reading would consist of sci-fi and horror. So probably Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury, and possibly some zombie/post apocalyptic literature?

    • K.

      I definitely concentrated on YA books since this is a YA blog, but there are many adult books I’d love to bring with me. For example, being stranded might finally give me the time to finish the Grapes of Wrath. Also, I turned down Ender’s Game for YEARS, then I finally read it and it was INCREDIBLE.

  26. Liviania

    I can’t pick! Don’t make me.

    But Watership Down is definitely on the list. And probably The Scorpio Races, since it’s Maggie Stiefvater’s only standalone. (Her prose is quite savory.)

    • Wendy Darling

      We had to pick, and you should, too! > _ < I need to read Watership Down at some point, particularly if you’re choosing it as a “forever after” read. I still haven’t gotten around to it yet. Agreed on Maggie’s prose!

  27. Jackie

    Wow great books! ….I think I’d take a few of those along with some survival books xD

  28. Karen

    I think I would bring silly books or romance books. I love most of the books you all mentioned but if I’m stuck on a deserted island I think I would need a good laugh to keep me sane lol

  29. Mel@Thedailyprophecy

    I would really need Harry Potter and one book from Song of Ice and Fire is more than enough to keep you occupied for a while. I think I would also take The book thief with me, just because I can’t get tired of that story and the beautiful writing-style. I find something special every time I re-read it :) and Juliet Marillier’s Seven water series is welcome, along with a copy of the fairytales from the brothers Grimm :D

    • K.

      I have been meaning to read The Book Thief AND the Seven Water series. Thanks for reminding me :)

    • K.

      Oh, I would also love to bring fairy tales…the original versions. You know, the gory ones.

  30. Tanja - Tanychy

    Yes for Jellicoe Road and I couldn’t agree more! I have no idea how I lived without that book. Also I need to read Siege and Storm soon and it seems like an amazing sequel. Great picks :)

    • K.

      I love Jellicoe Road but I thought maybe its too heavy to read on a deserted island. If I could bring any number of books, you can bet your butt that’d be on my list, too!