The Desert Island Book List
If you could only take 10 books with you to a desert island, which ones would you choose? I always have a Top 10 list going. It is comprised of books I would ( and do) read over and over again. It has remained unchanged for about four years because in spite of reading a lot of books, I have not found one that deserved to displace something else. Until now. I will post the entire list at the end.
I just finished reading A Prayer For Owen Meany by John Irving. I am still processing the story, but I can tell you that I wept when I closed the book. It is the best book of any kind that I have read this year and the best novel I have read in several years. It was stunning, haunting, beautiful, funny, harsh, sad, and thought provoking in a way few books are. So often I finish a book and simply reach for the next thing to read. Not so with this one. I walked around the house afterwards feeling bereft and unsure what to do with myself. I keep thinking about the characters, the story line and all of the Big Ideas in the novel. I also handed the book to my husband and said, “You’ve got to read this.”
It is a tale of a transcendent friendship in the midst of tragedy and a coming-of-age story that takes on faith, love, miracles, the Vietnam War, and so much more.
I picked it up two weeks ago after reading an interview with Leslie Stahl in The New York Times Book Review in which she praised it as a desert island book. She was right. While it is long at over 600 pages, nothing in the book is extraneous. Irving weaves all of the small details together at the end, which is sad, but also quite fitting.
In addition, A Prayer For Owen Meany has one of the best opening sentences I have ever read. I dare anyone to read it and then put the book down.
Here is my ( revised) Top 10 Please note, these are all novels. If I could only take one book to a desert island it would be my Bible. Of course it has everything you could want in one book: history, adventure, poetry, prophecy, heroes and villains, and more.
My Desert Island Book List
- To Kill a Mockingbird. by Harper Lee. This has been my number one book for over 30 years. I re-read it every couple of years. To me, it is literary perfection.
- Peace Like A River by Leif Enger. This novel, like TKAM, has a young narrator witnessing harsh life events. A beautiful story of the power of a father’s love.
- Broken For You by Stephanie Kallos, who is probably the best writer that most people have never heard of. This novel is about how art can save us, the Holocaust, and creating family in the midst of life’s tragedies.
- 11/22/63 by Stephen King. This is the last book that I added to my list 4 years ago. I stayed up way past midnight several days in a row to finish this 1000 page book. It was so brilliantly conceived and well-written I could not put it down. A man travels back in time in an attempt to thwart the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
- Sing Them Home by Stephanie Kallos. She is the only person to have two books in my Top 10. This magical and redemptive book tells the story of three grown siblings still trying to cope with the death of their mother years before as they now prepare to bury their father.
- The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Nifenegger. A transcendent love story in which the main characters, Henry and Clare, must cope with his tendency to be suddenly and involuntarily whisked to a different point in time.
- Beloved By Toni Morrsion A harrowing story of slavery, infanticide and ghosts. This powerful story left me unable to read anything for days when I first encountered it more than 20 years ago.
- The Forgotten Garden By Kate Morton Two women try to uncover their family’s secret past using a mysterious book of fairy tales.
- A Prayer For Owen Meany.
- The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet By Reif Larsen. A totally original coming-of-age story with a quirky twelve year old narrator who hops a train and heads to Washington, DC to receive a prestigious award. The book is a rambling diary/journal complete with all kinds of fascinating marginalia that helps tell the story.
That’s my desert island list.
What’s on yours?