A little while ago I was listening to Desert Island Discs on Radio 4 and thinking how unfair it is that you only get to pick one book to take with you. I mean, the complete works of Shakespeare is pretty good, but it seemed unfair to have eight music tracks and no real variety of reading material. So, over the course of more than a month, I have been working on my Desert Island Books, the eight books that I feel could sustain me while I slowly went crazy in a tropical paradise (the craziness is inevitable, I am no lone wolf.)
Prayer for Owen Meaney, by John Irving
This book ignited a love of Irving's work that shows no sign of declining. It's a beautifully crafted story that makes me want to read it again as soon as I get to the end, and on a desert island I might actually do just that.
Dracula, by Bram Stoker
I've read Dracula at least fifteen times, as well as a whole range of literary criticism on Stoker's most famous work, and I always find something new to enjoy. It's the reading equivalent of a favourite, most comfortable jumper.
American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
Another one that I've read a few times and can't imagine ever getting tired of. I love the world that Gaiman has created and really enjoy his style. So many people I know read and loved this ages before I did, and I owe a big thanks to my brother and sister-in-law for just buying me a copy and telling me to get on with it.
An Angel at my Table, by Janet Frame
Jane Campion's film is wonderful, and the book is even better. The collected autobiographies of New Zealand poet and writer, Frame was wrongly diagnosed with schizophrenia and spent eight years receiving electro-schock therapy in an insane asylum, but it's a much more positive tale than that fact might imply. I love reading books by poets because the language is always so beautiful.
War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy
I read this about a decade ago and absolutely loved it. It really has something for everyone, humour, romance, intrigue, and it's not as daunting a read as it's reputation makes it seem. I've been meaning to re-read it ever since. Where better than in my tropical paradise?
Bridget Jones' Diary, by Helen Fielding
Again, a book that I've read over and over and always enjoyed. Maybe it's not the height of literary sophistication, but it's really enjoyable and pretty high-class for chick-lit. Sometimes you need a bit of daft romance.
Homeward Bounders, by Diana Wynne Jones
I read this book on a coach trip to Plymouth and nearly ended up in Penzance. In fact, I loved it so much I'm having to restrain myself from writing this whole section in over-excited capitals and exclamation marks (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!). I'm a late adopter of Diana Wynne Jones' work, which is proof that good writing is enjoyable for all ages. A brilliantly crafted story, which doesn't treat it's audience like idiots, and really inspired me to write.
Shantaram, by Gregory David Roberts
This is a wild-card entry because, unlike the rest of the world, I haven't actually read it yet. I bought a copy years ago, but have never quite been in the mood for it, and am a bit concerned that it's been over-hyped. On the beach, under a shady tree, I think I would finally get around to finding out for myself