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.