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Desert Island Books: Lucy Mangan


I’ve been a big fan of Lucy Mangan ever since she started her weekly column in Stylist; a reading ritual I miss since having moved to the land down under. And so it was with a great deal of delight, that while back in the UK on an extended festive break at the end of last year, I discovered she had written a book that went by the name of Bookworm. A memoir of a childhood of reading, it quickly became one of my favourite books, and is one that I have since recommended a number of friends and fellow bookworms. Wonderfully nostalgic, filled with charm and books of yesteryear, it will no doubt reawaken a love of reading in a legion of Mangan’s fans. Clearly an ardent and avid reader, I was delighted when she agreed to take part in my Desert Island Books series, and below she shares the eight books that she would take with her to a far and distant island.

Private – Keep Out by Gwen Grant

This book, about a girl growing up in postwar Nottinghamshire with a blend of stubbornness, fatalism and misanthropy guaranteed to warm the heart of any child, has kept me laughing since I first read it thirty years ago. A desert island must.

Chaos Walking by Patrick Ness

I see that my friend Sam Baker has blatantly cheated and included a trilogy and so I shall too. This is a Carnegie medal-winning instant classic that I’ve only read once so far but is so subtle, multi-layered and all-encompassing – as well as being an absolutely gripping, thrilling read – that it could keep me going for years.

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Anything at all by Dorothy Whipple

Because she is a wonderful, satisfying storyteller, with a perfect mastery of psychology and detail. If I had to chose one, probably They Were Sisters, he story of three siblings who marry very different men and the effect this has on their lives. It is, among other things, a brilliant evocation of domestic violence, and would comfort me in moments of loneliness by reminding me that, in essence, hell is other people.

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Emma by Jane Austen

Any Austen would do, but this is my favourite and I am long overdue a re-read. And a voyage of self-discovery like Emma’s is just what you need to read about when stranded on a desert island.

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

You could plumb this books depths – of content, of form – forever, and I long to. It was the first adult book I ever read that I could feel rearranging my mental furniture as it went along, expanding my notion of what a novel – and a novelist – could do.

Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce 

The most brilliantly-conceived, perfectly paced, exquisitely-written book in children’s literature. I just don’t think I could be without it.

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The Children of the New Forest by Frederick Marryat

Seventeenth-century survivalism… Even if forest skills wont be fully transferable to my sand-based tropical environment, the children’s can-do mindset and steep learning curve when they have to fend for themselves during the Civil War would surely be a help. And I just love this intricately-detailed, fully-realised story. Or I’ll take the Little House on the Prairie series instead, if I’m allowed them all.

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The Phantom Tollboth by Norton Juster

For the endless wordplay and the joyful cleverness. The perfect companion, wherever you are.

Find out more about Bookworm by Lucy Mangan here.

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