Recently Time Magazine has released a series of wonderful articles where they asked famous people their ten favorite books or the “ten books they’d take with them if they were marooned on a desert island.” We simply love this idea and wanted to share Team OverDrive’s deserted island reading selections. This first list comes from Cindy Orr, our Digital Collection Advisor.
A note from Cindy: This was incredibly painful, and I’ll change my mind tomorrow…
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
My desert island would most likely not be anything like the Roanoke Valley in Virginia, but Annie Dillard’s book, which won the Pulitzer Prize, would help me to slow down, think deep thoughts, and really see the nature around me while contemplating God, the universe, and everything else. Oh, and did I mention that the whole thing is written in beautiful, poetic language?
Dune by Frank Herbert
This is an epic story, and Herbert did an amazing job of world building, including inventing a language. Some would call it science fiction since it is set thousands of years in the future, but it’s more than that. This book is even more relevant today than it was in 1965 when it was published, as several great powers are duking it out over which will gain control, and its many Middle Eastern references will resonate even more now. You’ll recognize some features that have become iconic in the science fiction world (like sandworms and sand people), but Herbert did it first.
The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert
This book is a sobering account of the five mass extinctions that have occurred on Earth so far, and why the sixth extinction is looming if we don’t do something about it. An amazing overview that puts global warming in a very scary perspective, and if I’m on a desert island, I’ll probably want to know if the water is rising.
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
Gotta have a mystery, I thought. But why not one that is also a gothic novel, an adventure novel, a thriller, a historical novel, all woven together with folklore and a dash of horror, since it’s about Dracula. Even better, one of the themes is the love of books—all of the characters, including Dracula, love books.
Stalin: Vol. I Paradoxes of Power, 1878-1928 by Stephen Kotkin
I know this seems like an odd choice, but three of my four grandparents got out of Russia just in time in the early 1900s. Those in their villages who didn’t leave ended up dead or in Siberia. We’re just beginning to understand how horrible Stalin was, and this book was a Pulitzer Prize finalist.
A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years by Diarmaid MacCulloch
I would need a really long book or two on my island, and this one is definitely long. I read it as quickly as I could once, and realized that I needed to read it again someday and go much more slowly. Everything you ever wanted to know about the history of Christianity in only 1,016 pages.
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
It’s long, so that’s good, but it’s just an awesome story with characters who seem to live and breathe. If I were cheating, I’d add all the books in the series, but this one is the best. Yes, it’s a western, but it’s so much more than that. It will immerse you in the real life of the West in the 1870s.
He, She, and It by Marge Piercy
Terrible title, and you’ll think the first chapter is a cliché, but this book was written in 1993, and a world run by multinational corporations wasn’t a cliché back then. Marge Piercy is a literary writer who some people have said wrote the first cyberpunk novel. (Her reaction: “What is cyberpunk?”) This book has so much going on that you could read it many times and not absorb it all. Deep and layered, it compares the creation of the Golem in 1600s Prague with the creation of an android in the near future about fifty years from now when hackers can kill you through cyberspace.
The Sunbird by Wilbur Smith
I’d need some fun reading on my island too, and The Sunbird is one of those books that stand out over my long career for the sheer number of unsolicited rave reviews from library patrons, so you know it’s a winner. For nearly 2,000 years, a brilliant and unknown civilization has existed in Africa. Archaeology, mysticism, great plot and characters, and it’s long too—perfect for the island.
A Room of One’s by Virginia Woolf
This small book has been a favorite of mine for decades now. I love it not just for its message that women need a room of their own and money of their own in order to have a hope of being creative, but also because its structure is fabulous and it’s even funny at times.
Cindy Orr is a Digital Collection Advisor with OverDrive