Ed. Note: This is the 5th in our series of books we’d take with us on a deserted island if we could only pick ten. Today’s list comes from Jill Grunenwald, a librarian and Collection Development Analyst with OverDrive.


Angels in America by Tony Kushner

Have you ever read a book that digs down deep into your bones? The kind that leaves poignant lines lingering to such a degree that you can quote them decades later? For me, that is Tony Kushner’s brilliant and heartbreaking play which won both the Tony Award for Best Play and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Set in the 1980s at the height of the AIDS epidemic, the themes presented feel just as timely and the conversations just as necessary in 2015.

Candyfreak by Steve Almond

Self-proclaimed candyfreak Steve Almond takes on the delicious task of investigating the small, often regional, candy companies that are struggling to survive in a world where big name chocolate dominates the market. Granted, having this book might make me hungry while on an island but at least I won’t have to worry about all the chocolate melting in the tropical sun.

Daphne’s Book by Mary Downing Hahn

Narrator Jessica is a shy bookworm who struggles with losing friendships amid the perils of middle-school popularity and social hierarchy. To say I self-identified with her is an understatement. When Jessica is forced to work with outcast Daphne on a school writing project, both girls learn lessons that reach far outside the classroom.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

This Slytherin would be remiss if she didn’t include at least one of the Harry Potter books on this list, although I admit that it’s odd to include the penultimate title. But if I can only have one book from the series with me on a deserted island, it would be this one. Graceful and gorgeous, it’s the perfect lead up to saying farewell to beloved characters.

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

A haunted house story told through multiple narratives is probably the best, and least complicated, way of describing this dense opus that plays with form and page layout in a whole new way. Reading this is like attempting to navigate a labyrinth, which is probably not accidental since Danielewski’s debut was partially inspired by the myth of the Minotaur.

I Will Love You For the Rest of My Life: Breakup Stories by Michael Czyzniejewski

I should preface this by saying that Mike was my thesis advisor when I got my BFA in Creative Writing and is still a good friend, but lest you think I’m biased, know that I’d have this on my list regardless. His stories are wild and weird and wonderful with the perfect balance of humor and heartache. “High Treason” is my personal favorite.

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

There are no enough words in the English language to describe how much I love Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel set in a terrifyingly near future. (And by “terrifyingly near,” I mean I would not be surprised to wake up a week from today and find myself in this world.) The first of a trilogy, it was followed by The Year of the Flood and MaddAddam.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

I first discovered du Maurier’s classic gothic romance through my mom, who utterly adores this book. My copy was purchased at my fifth grade book fair and I staunchly remember running out to the kitchen at certain key moments and her just nodding with a knowing smile. I was also completely blown away by the thought of reading a book where we never learn the first name of the narrator.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Set at an elite college in Vermont, Tartt’s debut follows a socially isolated group of students and the lasting effects that come from a murder within the group. Mind you, this is not a spoiler. In fact, The Secret History is not a whodunit but a whydunit as the situation and circumstances leading up to the murder unfold through the eyes of our narrator. Fun Fact: a now grown-up Francis Abernathy makes a cameo appearance in Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize winning The Goldfinch.

Valley of the Dolls by Jacquelinne Susann.

I feel like this one needs a #sorrynotsorry, but, really. Sorry, not sorry. This is one of a handful of books that I read on an annual basis going all the way back to high-school. It’s trashy and tawdry and received horrible reviews when first published in 1966. If anything, though, its disreputable reputation is exactly what made it an overnight success. As I’ve gotten older, my understanding of Anne’s motives has changed, making each reading a new experience.


Jill Grunenwald is a librarian and a Collection Development Analyst with OverDrive