The Reader's Survival Guide: Books You'd Take to a Desert Island

From Jesus Christ to Jamie Fraser—this is the reading material that would pull you through.

desert island books
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  • Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox

We asked you to pick your "desert island book"—the Wilson to your Tom Hanks in a Cast Away-style disaster.

As usual, we loved reading your responses, and it was especially interesting to see how you approached the question. Some chose their favorites, or whoppers like War and Peace to finally take a crack at their bucket lists. Team Practical championed the trusty guidebook. “How to Build a Boat” was a popular answer, while others mentioned bringing their fully-loaded Kindles. One Early Birder took it a step further with “a book of matches.” Honestly, you guys are too clever for your own good!

We've compiled your responses to create a list of 14 essential reads for a desert island exile. Think of it as the reader's survival guide in the off-chance you're stranded somewhere in the Bermuda Triangle. Just don't let the books float away.



By Diana Gabaldon

“I would bring Diana Gabaldon's Outlander Series because I would then have time to read them all and I could also get some tips about surviving in wild areas.” —Barb Lavell

Outlander! All the books in the set!” —Melanie Nordquist

“The Outlander Series. 1400+ pages per books, 8 books. I'd be set for a long time.” —Janet Kortright

“Just one?! Oh the humanity!!!! Lol. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon if I have to choose.” —LeeAnn Race Sunderlin


The Bible

By King James Version

“I guess I should say the Bible because I would be doing a lot of praying. There are so many good books out there. And to choose just one is impossible.” —Beth Collins Harrison

“It has everything. Inspiration, poetry, stories, drama, and history.” —Harriest Foshee

“The Bible because it contains every genre known to man.” —Becky Scarberry

“No matter how many times I read through it I learn new things every single time and it feels like a new experience. AND it takes about a year to read all the way through so it would never get old!” —Cherie Drewes Silas

Testimony of Two Men

Testimony of Two Men

By Taylor Caldwell

“I used parts of this book in five different college papers and just recently read it again on my Kindle and found things that are helpful in today's society.” —Rebecca Farrar



By George Eliot

“That's what it may take for me to finally read it!” —Pam Spicer

“Something like Middlemarch that I have never finished. Maybe then I could wade my way through it.” —Linda Holt

Hobbit Day

The Lord of the Rings

By J.R.R. Tolkien

The Lord of the Rings, a long epic that would take up my time to read and explore, but also entertaining!” —Brittany Lyles


Complete Works of William Shakespeare

By William Shakespeare

“The complete works of William Shakespeare—I love Mr. Will, or Badass Survival Secrets by James Henry!” —Penny Carter 

“Laughter and tears.” —Michele Hamilton

“I’d finally get to read everything.” —Cynthia Boyd

Related: Words Shakespeare Invented That We Still Use Today

War and Peace

War and Peace

By Leo Tolstoy

Gone With the Wind or War and Peace because of their length. Maybe by the time I finished reading someone would've found me.” —Mary Anne Maxwell

War and Peace. Maybe I could finish it.😀” —Debbie Sikes

must read fantasy books series harry potter

The Harry Potter Series

By J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban—because if I'm trapped on an island I'll need a magical book to ‘take me away.’” —Sarah Mangiola Finneran

And also...

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. This book is one of the best books I read as a child...and as an adult if I'm being honest. 🤓” —Kelsey Bigler


Beautiful Disaster

By Jamie McGuire

“It is true love story that is powerful and touching with enough angst to keep you on the edge and wonder how they are going to make it. Both the main characters are strong and beautiful but they are better together than they are apart. They give hope to their relationship.” —Celest Schisler Weast

The Erma Bombeck Collection

The Erma Bombeck Collection

By Erma Bombeck

The Erma Bombeck Collection because if I died, I would die laughing.” —Bonnie Smith King

Related: The Best Erma Bombeck Quotes and Books



By Sherrilyn Kenyon

“Sherrilyn Kenyon's Acheron or Styxx. They are super thick and have so much story and backstory that I could probably find something I've missed every time I read it.” —Deborah Dryden Walls


Life After Life

By Kate Atkinson

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson because I find it endlessly fascinating.” —Rosemary Halligan

Les Misérables

Les Misérables

By Victor Hugo

 “Because maybe I would be bored enough to finish it. LOL.” —Lisa Rooks Rusmiselle


Winter's Tale

By Mark Helprin

“It's a magical journey that never gets old.” —Larry Lanier

Featured still from "Cast Away" via Twentieth Century Fox