Desert Island Reading List

Desert island at sunset, with a single tree

If you were stranded on a desert island, what book(s) would you wish you had with you — and why?

Would you want something fantastical as an imaginary escape?  Or maybe a book on wilderness survival?  Something entertaining to pass the time or something slow and philosophical, allowing you to ponder the meaning of life?  We posed that question to our booksellers to see what they'd think up!  And boy did they deliver.  Check out the list below for a great mix of titles ranging across genres—and maybe learn a little bit about our booksellers as you read!

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Cover art: Touching Spirit Bear by Ben MIkaelsen


Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen

"I read this when I was in elementary school and even though the boy in it nearly gets eaten by a bear and I'm definitely still a little rattled by it, this book is the first thing that comes to my mind when I think about being deserted on an island.  The boy is forced to reckon with his own violent tendencies and nearly dies trying not to die (he deserved most of it tbh).  Definitely an effective read for kids." —Miracle


Cover art: People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry


People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry

"It's a lighthearted read to distract from the impending doom of being on a deserted island.  Also I'm currently reading it and need to know how it ends." —Macsen


Book cover: Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein


Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

"I have been enjoying Shel Silverstein's poems my entire life.  There's yet to be an occasion where I thought, no, I don't want to read that, as a child and now as an adult reading to my children.  I think that means it makes the cut!" —Rachel


Cover art: Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir


Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

"The sequel to Gideon the Ninth, this book is adventure-filled, gritty, and incredibly, incredibly confusing (at least it was for me, who read this book in a single day after blasting through Gideon).  I absolutely loved my first read, but I had no clue what was happening for most of the book.   I need a long while to re-read Harrow and put all the puzzle pieces together: and what better time for puzzling than a potentially endless vacation?" —Leo


Cover art: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel


Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

"There is a certain level of comfort this book brings when you feel utterly alone, despite the anxiety that comes from the idea of society collapsing completely." —Macsen


Cover art: Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis


Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis

"Best friend betrayal turns into tramping in the woods with a busted up leg.  Strong, resourceful teen girl survives alone in the woods.   Reminds me of Katniss surviving on her own in the woods during the Hunger Games minus the dystopian regime and yelling for Peeta" —Miracle


Cover art: His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman


His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

"One of my all time favorite fantasy series. Also a good length, perfect for extended distraction." —Rachel


Cover art: A Children's Bible by Lydia Millet


A Children's Bible by Lydia Millet

"Apocalyptic peril told through a moody teenage girl may reflect the sense of despair one might have while stranded.  Also demands the reader to face the end of the world in a new light.  I personally would love to have a little brother that emulated Jesus if I thought I was going to die" —Miracle


Cover art: The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss


The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss

"I adored this as a kid, and I feel like it would be good inspiration for surviving trapped on a desert island...even if I wasn't shipwrecked with an entire colony's worth of cargo on my ship..." —Caitlin


Cover art: The American Boy's Handy Book by Daniel Carter Beard


The American Boy's Handy Book by Daniel Carter Beard

"This book has two major points in its favor.  Number one, it's fun and it's got lots of cool illustrations.  Number two, it teaches you how to build multiple different kinds of rafts (and other useful skills)!  This one would definitely be handy for survival on a desert island." —Leo


Cover art: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz


Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

"This is one of the only books I'd absolutely have to reread before I die.  Plus, being alone for an extended amount of time certainly forces you to reexamine who you are and how you interact with society, as well as how it interacts with you." —Macsen


Cover art: A Radical Act of Free Magic by H. G. Parry


A Radical Act of Free Magic by H. G. Parry

"Because I loved the first one and haven't had time to read this sequel yet, and being trapped on a desert island would probably be enough time to finally get around to this." —Caitlin


Cover art: Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut


Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut

"Because I'll need some comic relief.  Humans stranded on a remote desert island, an examination of human intelligence and our evolutionary path along with the fall of civilization.  Perfect! " —Rachel


Book cover: The American Heritage Dictionary


The American Heritage Dictionary, Fifth Edition

"As a child a tiny pocket dictionary I could smuggle under the bed sheets was my prime reading material." —Peter


Cover art: Residence on Earth, Bilingual Edition by Pablo Nerudo, translated by Donald D. Walsh


Residence on Earth, Bilingual Edition by Pablo Neruda, translated by Donald D. Walsh

"I’ve been working my way slowly through this bilingual collection of Neruda’s poetry, and I intend to finish the book before I perish.  Walsh’s translations are beautiful, and I love being able to see them alongside the original Spanish.  Reading Neruda’s poems in both Spanish and English deepens my understanding and appreciation of both languages – and I like to think this collection would help me find a little more beauty in the world." —Leo


Cover art: The Book of Delights by Ross Gay


The Book of Delights by Ross Gay

"A reminder that even though I am stranded I can still appreciate the sunlight and the fact that the leaves still bend to the wind.  It is a good reminder to appreciate the most mundane things in life, so I'd imagine cast away it would be all the more uplifting" —Miracle


Cover art: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez


One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

"I really can't think of a better deserted island read—Macondo, the imagined utopia on an island formed by mirrors and the perceptions of its creator!  Perfect inspiration for my new island home, all alone.  Also, knowing that it will all fall apart would be comforting in the end." —Rachel


Cover art: The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway


The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

"Lots of time to think and observe, ruminations on solitude." —Miracle


Book cover: How to Stay Alive in the Woods by Bradford Angier


How to Stay Alive in the Woods by Bradford Angier

"Okay, all these literary ideas are great, but when it comes down to it, I imagine I'd end up using my book to start a fire (depending on what kind of resources I had on my island).  This would probably be more useful." —Rachel


Book cover: The Odyssey by Homer, translated by Robert Fagles


The Odyssey by Homer, translated by Robert Fagles

"What better time to read the entirety of the Odyssey than when stuck on a deserted island?" —Macsen


Book cover: Lord of the Flies by William Golding


Lord of the Flies by William Golding

"As a what not to do." —Miracle


And those are the 21 books that our booksellers would want if they were ever marooned!  We hope you found an intriguing new book—or rekindled your love for a classic.  Whatever your next read is, we hope you enjoy it somewhere a little more comfortable than a desert island.