Top 10 books to bring to a desert island

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Top10 books on a desert island

To which books might you turn if you found yourself shipwrecked on a desert, tropical island? Could the written word help to bring you the companionship, insight and motivation you need to survive?

The long-running BBC Radio Four show Desert Island discs invites celebrities to consider which records they might like to have with them, were they to be marooned on a fictional desert island.

Each guest is also given two books on their island: their book of faith – the Bible, the Qur’an, the Torah, perhaps – and the complete works of Shakespeare. But what other books might you want to have with you on the island?

#1. The Tempest by William Shakespeare

While the complete works of the bard might be a little heavy going, there is one of his plays that might be particularly well-suited to reading whilst on the island. Reading The Tempest, you can be thankful your island isn’t imperilled by the magical whims of a deposed Duke – and be reassured by the imminent rescue awaiting the characters in the end.

#2. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Before the novelty of island life wears off, why not immerse yourself in another classic of British literature and glory in the nineteenth tale of piracy, the hunt for treasure and seafaring life? Robert Louis Stevenson’s swashbuckling tale might add a frisson of excitement to being stranded on an island.

#3. The Outdoor Survival Handbook by Ray Mears

By the time you finish Treasure Island, you’ll probably be needing to buckle down and build a shelter or find a reliable food source. If so, Ray Mears is your go-to resource. This bushcraft book will give you all the essential survival advice you need.

#4. Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint Exupéry

The legendary French aviator’s autobiography is as beautifully written as his iconic tale of The Little Prince. Worth packing for its poetic prose, the story recounts details of the author’s crash in the Libyan Desert and his miraculous survival. So inspirational is the tale that Sophy Roberts included it in her list of the best travellers’ tales for troubled times.

#5. The Tale of the Rose by Consuelo de Saint Exupéry

This one is connected to our entry number 4. Once you’ve finished marvelling at the heroism of her husband, turn your attention to the Tale of the Rose (yes, that rose). Because, in times like these, it’s always worth reminding oneself that there is always (at least) two sides to every story and that our heroes are only human too.

#6. National Geographic Backyard Guide to the Night Sky

After all the tales of stars and princes, what better way to entertain yourself on your island that with a few hours gazing at the night sky? You’ll probably never match such perfect dark sky conditions… and any insomnia can be translated into joy as you wonder of at the beauty of the universe spread out before you.

#7. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

If all that star gazing has got you meditating on your place in the Universe, it would be only natural to turn to this collection of texts by the third century stoic. The themes of finding one’s place in the universe and of nature must surely resonate. Island life would be perfect for practicing his ideas of focus and being without distraction while maintaining strong ethical principles.

#8. Kensuke’s Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo

By now, you’re probably ready for a bit of hope. And this story by brilliant children’s author Michael Morpurgo has hope by the bucket load. This inspiring story of a young boy stranded on an island off the coast of Japan, a surprising friendship and the boy’s eventual rescue is bound to stir good spirits.

#9. Origami in Action by Robert J Lang

While you await your own rescue, why not pass the time with some creative origami exercises, courtesy of engineer Robert Lang? You might have to switch the leaves of paper for leaves from the local greenery, but surely mastering the folding artworks will help you to relax and pass the time pleasurably.

#10. Sandcastles Made Simple: Step-by-Step Instructions, Tips, and Tricks for Building Sensational Sand Creations by Lucinda Wierenga

If origami isn’t your thing, then surely building sand sculptures would be a natural hobby to adopt on your desert island? With ready-made materials in abundance, you could while away many a pleasant hour – and perhaps even create a rescue message in the sands while you’re at it!

Hungry for more reading inspiration?