Boy there has been a lot of head-scratching around the country for the latest Books are My Bag campaign. And I have been scratching with the best of them.
Bookshops are challenging everyone to pick just eight books they would take if stranded on a desert island. Yes, just eight.
This was difficult enough, but as I noticed as I scribbled mine down that many of my choices are for adults, I thought just for Space on the Bookshelf I thought I would challenge myself further and pick my eight books by just sticking to children's books.
Top of the list obviously is reserved for Harry Potter. But unlike lots of people who have been tweeting they would take the whole set – I am sorry but that is CHEATING. That is not one book. That is seven (or eight if you include the new illustrated version).
(No apologies for the shameless opportunity to include pictures of the magnificent new illustrated edition.)
Arguably, you could just take the whole Harry Potter collection for your eight books and have done with it. Choice made. And a sound idea because they just score the highest ever as books you want to read again. And again, which might be jolly useful on a desert island. It is stopping I have always had a problem with.
My son was set some dangerous English homework this week based on just a small section the first Harry Potter book and just had to re-read just that tiny bit. But oh no, that was it. Then he just couldn’t stop.
‘Why is it that so many books I like I wouldn’t want to read again but with Harry Potter I always want to re-read them again, every time?’ he asked me.
This what they call a Very Good Question. I think the easy answer is JK Rowling is a genius. But really – how does she do that? Perhaps on my desert island I might find time to finally get an answer.
But I cannot seriously take all eight books by one author.
. . . I mean,if entire collections are allowed, it is tempting to go for Skulduggery Pleasant as well as/instead of?, because you actually get more books and more words.
In fact, if we were allowing author collections then a complete Dickens and a complete Jane Austen are definitely up there – because they do these in children’s editions don’t they. So these count – right?
So my ideal list looks something like this at the moment:
- Complete Harry Potter (including the illustrated edition)
- Complete Skulduggery Pleasant
- Complete works of Charles Dickens
- Complete works of Jane Austen
- Douglas Adams Hitchhiker's trilogy (five books that only count as three! I am getting good at this)
That is a seriously nice lot of pages. I think I might just about be happy with that on my desert island. Most of them are kids books (sort of).
It is also possibly closer to about 50 actual books (sigh).
And I haven’t really got started yet. Roald Dahl? I think so.
I have decided choosing eight books is, in fact, far too difficult, so I am probably going to just do a longlist while I whittle them down to just eight. This may take some time.
I need some criteria.
Books I would want by my side are definitely those I would happy to read again and again and ones also that are nice and chunky. (I wasn’t planning on using them to fend off starvation, I think am assuming if I am stranded there for a long time there will be readily available delicious food, but if not I am definitely taking The Hunger Games because I will need all that great intel about catching and eating wild animals.)
I can't just have classics. I also need favourite current reads and one that I can happily re-read, and in children's books that definitely means something by Marcus Sedgwick or Meg Rosoff or Frank Cottrell Boyce.
I am thinking this might have to be ‘Broccoli Boy’ just because it is so unbeatably funny and I think I would need some humour on my desert island. I am pretty sure it will be ‘She is Not Invisible’ by Marcus Sedgwick, which is quite unlike his usual style, no whiff of the Gothic about it. But a sublimely good thriller with a main character who is blind and has to kidnap her younger brother to be her ‘eyes’ when she takes off to New York, convinced her father is in trouble. It also manages to be about maths, which is a superb achievement for a thriller and definitely is worth re-reading.
And talking of current favourites My most recent discovery are Jonathan Stroud’s totally brilliant and very scary ‘Lockwood and Co’ that I am recommending to anyone who will stand still long enough. I think I may have to take ‘The Hollow Boy’ because I haven’t read that one yet but I just know I am going to love it. Taking a book I haven’t read yet is going to be such a treat.
All right. Eight. Just eight.
I think it is going to be:
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
- Skulduggery Pleasant Dark Days (because Valkyrie is so brave)
- She is not Invisible
- The Astounding Broccoli Boy
- Lockwood & Co: the Hollow Boy
- A classic, either ‘Bleak House’, ‘Rebecca’, ‘Persuasion’, or ‘Little Women’
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
I am nearly there.
Only, thinking of ‘Little Women’ does make me realise I only have UK authors on my list, which surely cannot be right.
I think I may just have to start all over again.