Louise Douglas' Desert Island Books

Louise Douglas' Desert Island Books

My Friend Flicka by Mary O’Hara

This is the first book I ever read that made me realise how strongly words can affect the person reading them – even decades after they were written; I was about 11 the first time I read it. It’s the story of the love between a young daydreamer, Ken McLaughlin and a wild young horse, Flicka. Ken lives on a ranch in Wyoming and is a disappointment to his parents. The first time he glimpses Flicka, he sets his heart on making her his. The book was written in 1941, but it still moves me today.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
I first read this when I was about 17 and was going through my I’m-so-pretentious-I-only-read-gloomy-Russian-literature-death-and-introspection phase. It made me happy and sad. I’ve since bought it at least five times and lent it to people and it never comes back. I don’t mind. On the island it will be all mine.

To Kill A Mockingbird is the perfect book. It has human, believable characters, it deals with the themes of humanity, compassion and tolerance versus hatred, fear and prejudice but in a completely un-preachy way. In Scout, it has one of the most charming narrators ever and in her father, the lawyer Atticus Finch, it has the greatest ever hero.

Winnie The Pooh Collection by A.A. Milne

“If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you.”

“Weeds are flowers, too, once you get to know them.”

“It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn't use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like ‘What about lunch?’”

I’m taking this collection partly to remind me of my three sons and partly as a guide to life. I married and had my children when I was very young and don’t think I will ever be as uncomplicatedly happy as I was when my boys were little and I used to read to them. They always badgered me for Thomas the Tank Engine, I always wanted to read Winnie The Pooh. This book will remind me of the smell of them at bedtime, their faces, their smiles, them. It also has all the wit and wisdom I will need for those island moments when I might feel lonely or sorry for myself.

The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham
While the boys were growing up, I was working and also doing the normal domestic stuff, and I didn’t have the time or energy to read anything too long or challenging. I needed to read strong stories with good characters that would stay in my mind. This was my sci-fi and crime period. It’s really difficult to pick just one book, but in the end I chose The Midwich Cuckoos (which was the basis for the film The Village of the Damned) because it is so beautifully written and constructed, sparsely written but beautifully characterised. I don’t think I would ever be fed up of reading this so it’s coming with me.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
This book feels as if it has always been in my life. Love, sex, passion, death, incest, jealousy, cruelty, a truly horrific ghost scene, wild Yorkshire scenery, storms, snow, a bad-tempered hero – there’s nothing not to enjoy! This is the book to make me forget I’m all alone on a balmy desert island.


The Colour of Milk by Nell Leyshon
I love Nell Leyshon’s writing, it’s lyrical, it’s descriptive and she uses words in such a simple but beautiful way. She also seems to love Somerset as much as I do. This is a very sad little book that manages to summon up exactly the feeling of sunshine in the South West countryside on a late summer day. Also, I’ve lent it to my best friend, so it will remind me of her and we’ll be able to talk about it together after I’m rescued.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

This is my last choice and I haven’t selected anything by Daphne du Maurier or Alice Walker or Alice Munro or Maya d’Angelou, all favourites of mine. But I’m choosing this book because I haven’t actually read it but know I will enjoy it. It will be my treat to myself, something intelligent and well-written and compelling that I can look forward to opening every day.


Louise Douglas is the author of In her Shadow, published by Black Swan.