Deserted Island Fiction

For reasons that remain a mystery to me, there have recently been a glut of book lists on Facebook–you know, the fifty most important mystery novels, the twenty-five books your kid must read before he or she turns twelve, the hundred best novels ever written, etc. I even read a list recently of the ten books one author wishes she had never read. I love to read the lists and pick out the books I’ve read, the ones I liked, the ones I didn’t like, the ones I want to read, the ones I don’t intend to read, the ones with the best covers, etc.

So I thought for this week it would be fun to share the list of the ten books I call my “deserted island fiction.” These are the works of fiction I would want with me if I were ever stranded on a deserted island and I had to read the same books over and over again. The great thing about a list like this is that the books don’t have to be award winners, they don’t have to be critically acclaimed, they don’t have to be anyone else’s picks. They just have to be books that I love.

And books like “Shipbuilding” or “Long Distance Swimming” don’t count, because I wouldn’t enjoy them even if they could help me get off the island.

So without further ado,

10.  A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway. I like most of Hemingway’s books, but this one was always my favorite.

9. The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough. An epic love story. I loved it from the moment I started it. Too bad there’s no DVD player on my deserted island, or I’d insist on the movie, too, starring Richard Chamberlain and Rachel Ward.

8. The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexandre Dumas. An amazing story of love and revenge. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. My husband and I love the book so much that we named our son after the author.

7. All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot. Herriot, the nom de plume of a veterinarian in Yorkshire, England,  is actually the reason I majored in animal science when I went to college. Please note: he’s not the reason I switched to another major. The reason for that was and will always be organic chemistry.

6.  Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. Though I have a daughter of the same name, she was not named after the title character in this book (I never read the book until after she was born). This is a wonderful gothic story complete with a beautiful mansion, a dead ex-wife that “haunts” the present (no real ghosts in this book), and a suspicious and thoroughly creepy housekeeper.

5. Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death by M.C. Beaton. Agatha Raisin is hilarious–she’s rude, obnoxious, and needy, but she has a heart of gold and she finds herself in one jam after another in the Cotswolds of England.

4. Do I get to choose just one book of non-fiction? I guess so–we’re playing by my rules, right? So I choose Mark Twain in Hawaii: Roughing it in the Sandwich Islands by Mark Twain. This is a great read that shows the reader what life was like in the 50th state when it was still a sovereign kingdom.

3. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. You have to read this if you haven’t. And if you have a young girl to read it to, then so much the better. It’s a wonderful story about a girl with big dreams, a big imagination, and a very big heart.

2. Black Amber by Phyllis Whitney. I would read anything by Phyllis Whitney over and over again (and have on many occasions), but I think this one is my favorite. It takes place in Turkey, and I think what drew me to the book is the exotic mystery of the place.

1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Not only does this have the best opening line of any book ever (you’ll have to look it up yourself!), but the book is filled with wisdom and wit. My favorite of Jane Austen’s works.

Incidentally, when I started writing this post, I thought it would be a quick one. But it turned out to be one of the hardest I’ve done, because it was so hard to pick just ten books that I love most.

What books would you take if you knew you were going to be stranded on a deserted island? I’d love to hear!

Until next week,


P.S. As you may know, my second novel, The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor, comes out on April 28th. Woo hoo! Beginning this coming Sunday, I will start posting more and more guest blog posts, excerpts, interviews, etc. on various websites and blogs. I will post on my blog whenever I’m appearing somewhere else, and I hope you’ll follow the links and visit! Thanks.



Location, Location, Location!

I have a friend who has lived in Indiana most of his life, except for going to college in Texas and working for a brief time in Washington, DC. He said to me recently that even though he only spent a few years in Texas, that state feels like home to him. I’m sure there are Texans wondering why everyone doesn’t feel that way.

I understand how he feels. A place can exert a powerful pull on a person, even if the person hasn’t spent much time there. Maybe it can happen even if the person hasn’t spent any time there.

That’s why book settings are so important. Could Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier take place anywhere but the Cornish coast of England? Could The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner take place anywhere but Mississippi? The setting of a story is often its most essential element; in other words, there are stories that simply wouldn’t make sense if they were set somewhere else. IfRebecca took place in Paris, the story wouldn’t have the same heavy atmosphere and spookiness that it has in Cornwall. If The Sound and the Fury were set in small-town Vermont, what would be the source of Quentin’s cultural angst?

Secrets of Hallstead House is set in the Thousand Islands, one of those places that has a strong pull for those who have spent any time there. I don’t know of a single person who has been to the Thousand Islands who didn’t want to return. Could my story be set somewhere else? Not as far as I’m concerned. The St. Lawrence River and Hallstead Island are characters in the story just as much as any of the humans are.

Amy Picture 2

The same is true with The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor, my story set near Charleston, South Carolina. That’s another place that stays with a person. Have you ever been to Charleston? It’s inhabitants are passionate about their city, much more so than lots of other cities. And I can see why–it’s a beautiful city with a rich history and culture all its own. It’s like no other city in the South.

I am lucky enough to live in a place which has that pull, a place that people return to year after year (particularly in the summertime). When I first moved here, I was amazed at the number of kids who went away to college and wanted nothing more than to return to their hometown to find work upon graduation. Their happy memories of many seasons spent at the beach, of surf and sand, of the boardwalk and sunrises over the Atlantic Ocean are strong enough to make those people want to return.

So in that same vein, my third story, as yet unnamed but tentatively entitled Hanging Jade Hale, (pronounced “hah-lay”), is set on the Big Island of Hawaii. I know of exactly two people who have been to Hawaii and didn’t absolutely love it. It’s a place where people experience a kind of magic that is only found there, a magic that comes from the ocean and the mountains and the trade winds and the knowledge that Hawaii is alone in the vastness of the Pacific Ocean. A story set there can’t take place anywhere else in the world, and that makes its setting special.


Is there a place that calls you back, even if you’ve never been there? I’d love to hear about it!

Until next week,