Our Desert Island Lit Lists, or Who Says I’m Not Pop?

Should Jackie Collins books be displayed at the library?

Should Jackie Collins books be displayed at the library?

My cousin the librarian is in-your-face pop culture, as modern librarians tend to be.   She recently created a Jackie Collins display at the branch library.  I do not think the library should display Jackie Collins’ books, though I am sorry Collins died.  “How about a nice dead E. L. Doctorow display?”

“Why not Dickens?” She says I need a reality check because Jackie Collins fans check out more books than “litter-arrrry” readers.

A recent survey of my bookshelves did not reassure her that I am not too bookish. “No, no, no! Long ago discarded!”  she teases me about Gilbert Highet, Christopher Isherwood, and Pamela Hansford Johnson.  “No thinking woman clutters up her house with such rubbish.”

“That rubbish is my desert island list!”


Gilligan’s Island

Today, because of the desert island mention, she insisted we have a “Gilligan’s Island” marathon (it’s about castaways).    After three episodes, we gave up (the show is very dated) decided to make Desert Island Lit Lists.

We’re going to Nantucket.  Of course that’s a desert island!  There’s sand, isn’t there?

My cousin’s shocking list first, then mine.


Phyllis Whitney’s Listen for the Whisperer  (well-written romantic suspense).  The plot:  After her father’s death, Leigh goes to Norway to find the movie star mother she never knew, who  is being stalked by a murderer.   Suspense-full!

Colleen McCullough’s The Thorn Birds.  Set on a sheep station!  Romance with a priest!  Made into a miniseries!

Laura Lippmann’s Tess Monaghan series.  Yes, I am taking the whole series.  Five s, eight, twelve–who cares?

(She can take three Laura Lippmann books or five Laura Lippmann books.  That’s all!)


Dorothy Sayers’s Five Red Herrings.   It’s a Peter Wimsey mystery.  A hilariously fiery artist is murdered.   And there’s a pub in it.  And there’s a bicycle in it.  WHO SAYS I’M NOT POP?

Tolstoy’s War and Peace.  It’s very long, but I absolutely love it.  Sleighs, skating, dressing up, balls, bears strapped to policemen’s backs, travel, war: it has everything.  It is a page-turner.  I mean this.  WHO SAYS I’M NOT POP?

Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed.  Nancy kindly sent me a copy of this. Le Guin is one of the best American SF writers.  Online reviewers sat this dystopian novel is reminiscent of Brave New World.

Poems of Catullus (Latin).  These lyric poems are lovely, entertaining, extremely modern, and mostly short.  Every reader of Roman poetry knows his love poems about his unfaithful girlfriend Lesbia, who is thought to be based on a promiscuous older woman, Clodia Metelli, though I personally do not read these as autobiography.    I love his elegy to Lesbia’s dead pet sparrow, and invectives against Caesar, Cicero, and others.

I’D LOVE TO KNOW YOUR DESERT ISLAND LIT BOOKS.  What island will you go to???

6 thoughts on “Our Desert Island Lit Lists, or Who Says I’m Not Pop?

  1. The Dispossessed is a wonderful book and a great desert island choice…being about a sort of anarchist desert-island planet as it is. When asked this question I always try to think of the longest possible books, because seriously, only five books? So War and Peace also sounds good (though I have yet to read it.)


    • I am so glad to hear The Dispossessed is good! I do like Le Guin so much. And to pick a good “desert island” choice. Yay!

      Long books ARE the best desert island choices, though I do not plan on going to Gilligan’s Island. On “Lost” there was a lot of reading. Plane passengers go prepared.


  2. My problem would be that the list would change every day! Peake probably, and The Lord of the Rings, and a Dickens, and the Master and Margarita. But which Dostoevsky? And what about the rest of the Russians and the Viragos and the Persephones and the Agatha Christies? No, it’s impossible…..


  3. Right now I would want to take Elena Ferrante’s tetralogy, My Brilliant Friend. I’ve read the first three, but would love to have the luxury of time to ponder over them all. Otherwise, I would like to have Henry James’s What Maisie Knew; this is a fascinating novel and one of James’s best. I’d also like to have Virginia Woolf with me, possible Orlando, which is rich with history. It’s so hard to decide. It would ne nice to finally have the time to read all of Proust. These are all very special books and provide a rich reading experience. I also said books were my friends. Even my husband gets upset when I bring too many books into the bedroom.


    • Yes, the Ferrantes would hold up very well, I think. And I love the classics: I still have to finish Proust, too. (I said I would do it last year, and read only two and a half books!) Classics will keep our standards high on the island.


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