Raworths Desert Island Books

You’re stranded on a deserted island with nothing to do but read, stare at the sea and play in the sand. Sound like your ideal scenario? There’s a catch. You can only bring one book to help you through all those hours of solitude.

Ahead of the Raworths Harrogate Literature Festival we asked members of the team at our title sponsors: Raworths Solicitors, to share their ‘desert island books’. Read on to find out which books they couldn’t live without.

Deborah Boylan: My desert island book is Bird Song by Sebastian Faulks

I read this book about 15 years ago, it was exceptionally moving. I encouraged everyone I knew at the time to read it!  It is a story of humankind wrapped around the very powerful imagery of WW1.  This took me back to my English Literature classes where I first experienced the horror in the imagery of Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen’s dramatic and evocative writing (thank you Mrs Frankland, the best English teacher ever).  The story is skilfully combined with more modern times, the 1970’s.  It contrasts between those different eras, but demonstrates the importance to the human soul of love of all kinds.

Linda Harwood: My desert island book would have to be a biggie…and at 1,000 plus pages my choice covers that – The Lord of The Rings – Trilogy by J R R Tolkein.

I still have the hard copy book – the pages are starting to go brown at the edges and the cover is so creased and worn you can hardly see the pictures and words.

It’s basically a good old story about good fighting evil and after many adventures, in the end good wins. It goes into great detail about all the main characters from small hobbits, elves, kings, (who you learn to like and admire) to the baddies (Gollam – who you kind of feel an affection for and feel sorry for) Saruman and the Sauron. It literally takes you into another world, Middle Earth, and whilst there are similarities to real life there is also magic and beings other than man who have amazing powers both for good and evil.

It’s one of those books that can initially be hard to get into but once you are it’s an amazing experience through the power of words and I would recommend it to anyone.

Peter Greswold: My desert island book is Catch 22 by Joseph Heller.

It was absolutely the worst and best book for me to read as a 16 year old with an anarchic disposition.  It highlighted the idiocy and banality of authority, and showed that 16 year old that there is everything to be gained by resisting bland conformity.  The disjointed chronology of the narration itself was stimulatingly non-linear.  Of course it also grimly described the real horror of war and how death can be so utterly random.

Reading it again will, I suspect, trigger a rather different response from me and also cause me to reflect on what happened to that callow youth who read it for the first time.

Sarah Beecher: My Desert Island book is We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury.

This is a widely popular children’s picture story book and holds a special place with all members of my immediate family.

The story tells of a family going on a bear hunt and how they are confronted by various obstacles eg long grass, a river and mud before they eventually find their bear and run home in terror to hide in bed under the covers.  As they battle on through each obstacle there are fantastic onomatopoeic words giving the sound effects of the journey.  When reading it aloud to children you can really go mad with the sound effects and dramatization (or at least I used to!)

If I were stranded on a desert island this book would remind me of all the happy hours I have spent cuddled up with my children reading to them the story we all know off by heart.  Even though my children are now grown-ups, if one person says ‘what a beautiful day’, guaranteed the other person will finish it by adding ‘we’re not scared’…..

Reading it would cheer me up on the island.

Hayley Firth: My desert island book is Kane and Able by Jeffrey Archer.

Not only is it a great read, but it would pass the time on the island easily as it’s such a lengthy book. This would hopefully keep you occupied until being rescued.

A few of the reasons why I find this book such an engaging read is because it follows the lives of two men who superficially seem completely different, but have much more in common than meets the eye. Archer succeeds in bringing his characters to life in a way which allows the reader to invest in them and suspend the belief of the reality that they’re fictional. We feel everything they feel, we hear everything they think.

There were many lessons to be learned throughout the book. One which stood out for me was the power of forgiveness and the downfall of being stubborn.

This is the book I read during Lockdown and it reminds me why it is important to keep the right attitude, not to make assumptions, to appreciate and to forgive. I would recommend for all to give this book a read.