by Alex Baker
Forget a radio or flare gun. If I were on a desert island, I’d just want a backpack full of books.
In the unlikely event that I find myself marooned in the middle of the ocean, I’d want to bring The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb, the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, and a handful of Sarah Dessen books.
The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay is hands-down the best book I’ve ever read. I am going to name my child Peekay after the main protagonist because I’m still in awe of his strength and integrity. Every time I read this novel I fall more in love the passages I hold dear and find new ones to add to my list. Courtenay follows young Peekay growing up during Apartheid while he trains to become welterweight boxing champion. That’s the simple summary- the characters in this novel jump from the pages and into your heart; you mourn their losses and celebrate their wins as if they were your own.
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini changed my outlook and understanding on friendship, integrity, and culture in the Middle East for good. I read this book for the first time in 8th grade and have continued to read it once a year since—each read I gain more insight, a more visceral understanding and empathy for the characters in this novel. Amir, the son of a wealthy merchant, and Hassan, his servant, are best friends. Tensions increase after a personal catastrophe and the external effects of the Afghan war. The novel follows Amir through his journey of redemption, as he returns to Afghan to reunite with his friend Hassan. I was lucky enough to meet Khaled Hosseini in 2012 when he released his third novel And the Mountains Echoed. It was incredible moment to interact with the man who shared with me such an incredible story.
She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb is a must-have for me, because I can’t imagine living without the comic relief and tragedy found in the story of Dolores Price. Lamb introduces us to Dolores, and we follow her through her tumultuous upbringing, her losses, and her hardships as she navigates binge eating and oppressive relationships to find her true self. I LOVE DOLORES. She is one of my favorite characters in literature of all time. Whenever I miss her, I just begin She’s Come Undone again.
The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling is a centerpiece of my childhood and a must-have during this hypothetical stint on a desert island. I’ve worn through the binding of my books to the point that I had buy new copies. I used to think I just loved the series for the sake of nostalgia, but I recently reread the series for the umpteenth time, but with the newly minted eyes of “adulthood,” and it changed my perception of these novels for me. They reach far beyond childhood and continue to engross and entertain me today.
Sarah Dessen has written a slew of young-adult novels, churning out vibrant and dynamic characters to this day. My favorites of hers include Just Listen, The Truth About Forever, This Lullaby, Lock and Key, and Dreamland. These novels were crucial to helping me navigate the hardships of youth and discovering my worth beyond relationships. Dessen has always found a way to brilliantly draw out the young adult experiences and make them feel like they are the reader’s own.
So, where is this desert island? I’m in the mood to read some of my personal favorites.