Welcome to Desert Island Books, a weekly series where I speak to authors, writers and journalists about the eight books they’d take with them to a desert island and why.
This week, my guest is Emma Forrest. Born in London, Emma Forrest began her writing career as a teenage columnist on the Sunday Times, going on to have columns in The Guardian, the Independent and Elle. By thirty, she had published three novels and exited journalism to work in Hollywood as a screenwriter. Her memoir Your Voice In My Head is beloved by Nick Hornby, Dolly Alderton, Bryony Gordon, Emma Gannon, Florence Welch and Elizbeth Gilbert. Emma wrote and directed her first feature Untogether, which premiered at the Tribeca Film festival. Her most recent novel was the Radio 2 Book Club pick, Royals, praised by Marian Keyes, David Nicholls and Emma Jane Unsworth.
If you’d like to buy Emma’s latest memoir, Busy Being Free, please consider doing so from Bookshop.org – an online bookselling platform specifically designed for the benefit of independent bookshops.
Luster by Raven Leilani
I just think it is an astonishing debut, way, way beyond her years. It’s funny, sexy, mortifying, insightful, generous. She has such strong voice, it’s almost like listening to a radio play.
A Concise Chinese English Dictionary for Lovers by Xiaolu Guo
I’ll read anything by Guo – her work is so tender and graceful and ribboned with sadness and longing. But this was my first and my favourite.
Is That A Gun In Your Pocket by Rachel Abramowitz
It’s such a brilliant history of women in Hollywood- the triumphs and tribulations od the pioneering female directors, studio executives, and a particularly genius chapter on Polly Platt, production designer and secret main force behind my favourite film, Paper Moon.
The Deborah Levy Trilogy
I know I’m cheating by including all three of her memoirs, but I think they flow into each other very deliberately like the entire B-side of Abbey Road, and it doesn’t feel right to separate them. Levy’s midlife success fills my heart. She is absolutely one of a kind and deserves every bit of kudos.
Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood
This memoir made me laugh so much, all alone in my flat, that I had to keep calling my Mum to read bits out loud because I was so sure laughing this hard all alone was a sign of insanity.
The Pillowman by Martin McDonagh
I don’t particularly enjoy reading plays, but this one I read every couple of years and it is always a pleasure. I think it’s one of the great pieces of art made in my life time, and I am honoured to have my copy signed by McDonagh: “If you don’t think this is brilliant you must be mental”. I think it’s brilliant.
A Far Cry From Kensington by Muriel Spark
Oh, like a lot of my favourite pieces of pop culture, my Mum turned me onto this novel when I was a teenager. Spark is hands down one of the very greatest writers who ever lived. Sp spare and elegant and witty. A literary world mystery of sorts, Spark’s main preoccupation – transfiguration- is applied here via the heroine’s weight loss plan that makes me laugh but I have also successfully replicated in real life.
A Capote Reader
I mean, he’s considered the best for a reason. The language is so elegant and musical. I particularly love this compendium as it contains his celebrity profiles which are probably my favourite things he wrote, particularly his heartbreaking essay about his friend, Marilyn Monroe.
Feeling inspired? Shop Emma’s Desert Island picks below…