When it comes to packing, choosing my holiday reads is definitely the best bit. And while I was spoilt for choice this year, I began imagining (with difficulty) which books I would take with me if I was stranded on a desert island. I’ve put this question to some of my fellow Headliners (asking them to ignore the existence of e-readers, which would eliminate this conundrum…) Feel free to take inspiration for your beach book this summer!
I would have to choose E.M. Forster’s Howards End – a book to transport me to the streets of London and travel back in time. It deals with almost everything: issues of class, family, philosophy, gender, art and love, but most importantly, it has a very special place in my heart. My dad once gave me a beautiful edition of Howards End with a message inside, saying he hoped the novel would have the same profound and lasting effect it had on him when he was younger. So as well as keeping me entertained and leaving me enriched, it would help me feel less lonely stranded on a desert island!
John Wordsworth from Fiction Editorial thinks that ‘you have to choose something that lends itself to multiple reads. I ploughed through The Brothers Karamazov when I was far too young and found it simultaneously fascinating and baffling, so I’d consider that. Although being stranded on a desert island would be depressing enough without Dostoyevsky, wouldn’t it? I think I’ll have go for a story that my grandmother used to read to me, one that makes me think of home, and reminds me that things have a funny way of working out: The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins by Dr Seuss.’ Two books at very opposite ends of the spectrum, John!
Laura Ricchetti from Sales would take the complete works of Frank O’Hara, ‘to keep me happy’ and Moby Dick, because ‘it’s a wicked book and might even teach me some sailing stuff so I could get off the island too.’ Good thinking.
Emily Kitchin from Fiction Editorial would take I would take Jilly Cooper’s Score! She says: ‘Other than having obvious physical benefits for a desert island (it’s large and would double up nicely as a pillow, foot stool or weapon), it’s got everything you could want in a novel. All the old favourite characters appear (the arrogant yet charismatic Rupert Campbell-Black; his young yet adorable wife; his snooty but desirable daughter Tabitha, and so on), and are on top form gallivanting about, riding horses and having steamy affairs. In time-honoured Jilly Cooper tradition there’s a host of new characters too, including the hot and sexy Frenchman Tristan who becomes embroiled in a love triangle between icy-but-beautiful Tabitha and plain-but-loyal Lucy. There’s a film set, a blood-curdlingly nasty villain in the form of the monstrous Rannaldini, and a whodunit to rival Eastenders’ ‘Who shot Phil Mitchell?’ storyline. It would keep me entertained for hours.’ I’m sold!
Publicity’s Elaine Egan chose two books. She cleverly picked The Swiss Family Robinson, ‘a handy and practical guide to living in a remote paradise, hopefully without the beastly creatures’ and as her back-up read, Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, where ‘reading about Yossarian’s jinks would keep me somewhat sane.’
Ben Willis from Publicity would also choose Catch-22 – a popular choice! ‘It's terrifying, silly, hilarious, poignant, dense yet readable, vivid and yet almost cartoonish: basically everything you need to make you feel less aware of being stuck on an island with only a volley ball for company.’
Darcy Nicholson from Fiction Editorial went one better than Elaine and picked three desert island reads. Charles Dickens came out on top with Great Expectations, ‘because this is as meaty a novel as I can imagine – every time I read this, I find new depths, new character flaws, new angles. To me this book is endless.’ Time’s Arrow by Martin Amis comes a close second ‘because fascinating doesn’t even cover it with this one. I could spend hours in open-mouthed awe at the sheer brilliance of Amis’s concept.’ And thirdly, Darcy chose William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, ‘because I have never read it and cannot imagine a more apt time to do so.’
Frances Edwards from Editiorial and Publicity also has three emergency picks. How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran, ‘for the times when I want to laugh until it hurts’, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, which comes top of her list of ‘books I’m embarrassed that I haven’t read’ (and what a better time than to conquer this list than when stranded on a desert island) and finally, ‘anything that Patrick Gale’s ever written’ because ‘he’s got a character to complement every mood and moment. And he writes great stories, beautifully.’
Richard Roper from Non-Fiction Editorial would take Kirsty Young's Desert Island Discs book ‘just to see what other people would be reading on a desert island.’ Great answer! Alternatively, he’d choose Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach, partly because ‘it's the first book I can remember properly loving’ and secondly as it would ‘give me hope that other oversized, floatable fruits may lead to my escape.’ Another great answer!
Production’s Ant Simnica has two top choices, and neither is a light read! The Dinner by Herman Koch, which he read in one sitting and ‘then wished I’d saved it. Tense, unsettling and darkly funny, The Dinner follows an evening with two brothers and their wives at a restaurant. As we learn of the horrific crime their sons have committed, and the reaction unfolds, it really made me think about far we might go to shift the blame and protect our own’ and Lionel Shriver’s We Need To Talk About Kevin: ‘obviously everyone loved this book, but for good reason. A captivating take on mother-son relationships and how our whole perceptions of ourselves and those closest to us can change so much. A true page turner that builds to a jaw-dropping ending. Probably the only book I’ve ever read twice.’
Sherise Hobbs from Fiction Editorial would choose anything by Tasmina Perry, whose novels are ‘not only wonderfully escapist but also fantastically chunky so they would help me while away the hours.’ Agreed! She would also take a really good nail-biting thriller: ‘I’m desperate to read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, or the latest by Lee Child, Linwood Barclay or Lisa Gardner, to keep my mind sharp as I puzzle over how to escape from the island.’ And finally, Sherise would have to take the complete set of Anne of Green Gables novels, in case ‘I never escape and I need something I can read again and again…and again…and again…’
So there we have it, a fine selection of books in the event of being stranded on a desert island (if you don’t have an e-reader, that is…) Take your pick!