Desert Island Books

A little while ago, fellow Indie author Clare Davidson interviewed me and asked for ten desert island books.  I thought I would share five of them again here, just because I can.  You never know, I might share the other five with you tomorrow…

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The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

I LOVE this book. I’m always telling people how much I love it. Set in England against World War II, it follows the progress of teenager David, who has just lost his mother to cancer.  Shortly afterwards his father meets another woman and a relationship blossoms, one that David finds it hard to accept.  What follows seemingly sets up as a tale of familial conflict, but soon takes the reader by complete surprise. Fleeing an argument, David finds himself trapped behind a wall as a plane crashes in his garden and the only escape is a portal to world of every fairy tale he has ever been told by his mother.  This book makes me cry.  A lot.

Harry Potter by J K Rowling

Sorry, this one is a cheat, as I have to take all seven books.  I’m not even going to bother going over the tale of The Chosen One because unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last twelve years, you’ll already be as obsessed with it as I am.

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson has such a lively, inquisitive mind and his writing is so funny that even if you’re not remotely interested in what a quark is (but I don’t mind admitting that I am) you’ll still love this book.  An engaging, refreshing take on what makes our world tick.

An Utterly Impartial History of Britain by John O’Farrell

Another funny one, because by now I’m so sick of coconuts and watching for ships that I’ll need a good laugh.  John O’Farrell’s hilarious account of what made Britain the place it is today is full of lines like this:

410: Goths overrun Western Roman Empire. Romans forced to wear black and listen to Marilyn Manson.

The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart

This is the story of Merlin as a boy, and quite clearly the inspiration for the BBC show.  There’s a whole series of these books, following Merlin into his adult life and chronicling his role in Arthur’s birth and the building of Camelot, but this book is my favourite and easy enough to read alone.  Merlin starts as a real underdog, an outsider child manipulated by the adults that are supposed to care for him, and you’re desperate to see him come into his power.  It doesn’t always go to plan, but that just makes it a more interesting read.

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Five books that had me weeping from the off (and begging for mercy by the end).

I recently started reading a book that had me crying during the first few pages.  Which got me thinking about other books that have done the same thing.  And then I thought I’d share them with you.  So… my choices are, in no particular order, and there will be others that pop into my head as soon as I switch off the laptop:

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

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I LOVE this book.  I have read it three times and am preparing to use it for my PhD studies.  Set in England against  the backdrop of World War II, it follows the progress of teenager David, who has just lost his mother to cancer.  Shortly afterwards his father meets another woman and a relationship blossoms, one that David finds hard to accept.  What follows seemingly sets up as a tale of familial conflict, but soon takes the reader by complete surprise. Fleeing an argument, David finds himself trapped behind a wall as a plane crashes in his garden and the only escape is a portal to a world of every fairy tale he has ever been told by his mother.

Blub factor:  Tears begin falling on page one, people.

The Road by Cormack McCarthy

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On the face of it, nothing really happens.  But The Road, in my humble opinion, is one of the most finely crafted books I have ever read.  A man and a boy (we never find out their names) travel across America in search of some relief from their horrific life in the wake of an apparent apocalypse.  The most important consideration is food and shelter from the incessant cold, but close to that is perpetual fear from the gangs that roam the country capturing and eating defenceless people.  Terror for the reader comes from the notion that this man and his boy will be taken, and tears are shed for the internal dialogue of the man as he vows to protect his son, even if it means killing him with his own hands rather than let him be taken by one of these evil gangs.

Blub factor:  Page nine.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

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Teenagers with cancer.  Doesn’t take a genius to work out where this is going.  What Green does that is so poignant is that he gives them spirit and a need to wring every last bit from their short lives in the knowledge of their mortality.  Everything they do is like they’re doing it for the last time.  And when the time comes for at least one, as you know it will, it’s all the more tragic.

Blub factor:  Page twelve

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

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Sorry, but I have to put Charlie Boy in here.  I adore this novel and have done since I was a kid.  I can’t even remember how many times I’ve read it.  And as everyone (unless you’ve been living on Venus) knows the story, I’ll spare you the synopsis.  But God love Charlie, he was a master at tear-wringing.  When Oliver’s mother dies right at the start, I’m already in bits, perhaps because I know what’s coming.

Blub factor:  Depending what edition you have, page three.

Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels

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This was a book I read for a university module and something I probably wouldn’t have picked up otherwise.  Sometimes, the books that you don’t choose to read are the ones that turn out to be the most rewarding.  It follows Jakob, a rescued survivor of the Holocaust who is taken to a Greek island away from the fighting to grow up. But as an adult he still struggles to come to terms with what he saw and went through as a boy and is haunted by the ghosts of the family he lost.  Michaels has an assured and poetic style that is both melancholy and a delight to read.

Blub factor:  Page seven