I first met Francesca Specter when I heard her podcast Alonement, in which she talked to one of my favorite authors – Poorna Bell – about her life-changing solo trips, the pitfalls of work culture, and how to value your time alone. Having shaped Alonement as a cultural movement and as a brand for the time we spend alone – and why it matters – Francesca has since written a book – Alonement: How To Be Alone And Absolutely Own It – And While I Be Patient waiting for my copy to come from there In the UK, I wanted to invite Francesca to join the myDesert Island Books range to learn about the books that make her tick. From the book every creative needs to one of the most beautiful stories she’s ever read, here are the eight books Francesca would take to the sandy beach of a desert island.
Buy Alonement at Book Depository, Waterstones, Amazon or Amazon AU.
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
From the woman who brought us Eat Pray Love, Big Magic is the book that every creative person didn’t know they needed – and it’s often quoted in the group of my Zoom writers! At its core, this book freed me from being creative in a way that felt authentic and in touch with real life – not channeling the tortured artist, but as someone who prioritizes emotional and financial stability while being “art” can make.
Buy Big Magic at Bookshop.org, Book Depository, Waterstones, Amazon or Amazon AU.
We should all be feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
If anyone needs to be convinced of the power of writing to change the world, read this (an adaptation of Adichie’s now famous 2013 Ted Talk). I remember feeling cold reading Adichie, which summed up so many aspects of feminism elegantly and succinctly that I had never found the words to express myself. It’s also a lesson in how to make the specific universal – many of Adichie’s references are to Nigerian culture, but what she wrote is a manifesto for 21st century feminism around the world.
Buy We Should All Be Feminists at Bookshop.org, Book Depository, Waterstones, Amazon or Amazon AU.
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
A beautifully written story of obsessive, nostalgic love in a distant port city (presumably based on Colombia) – what more could you ask for in fiction? It would certainly be a much-needed romantic escapism to be alone on a desert island … I particularly like complex, problematic characters in fiction – and this book is full of them. The cholera context naturally has an additional response after Covid last year.
Buy love in the time of cholera at Bookshop.org, Book Depository, Waterstones, Amazon or Amazon AU.
Modern romance by Aziz Ansari
This should be mandatory read for anyone entering the world of 21st century dating. Written by Aziz Ansari in collaboration with sociologist Eric Klinenberg (the latter I had the pleasure of interviewing on my podcast), this is a fun and factual book about the changing nature of dating and how it creates an intergenerational gap in the Understanding. It was calming and thought-provoking at the same time, and a useful reflection for anyone concerned about their romantic standards is “too high”.
Buy Modern Romance at Bookshop.org, Book Depository, Waterstones, Amazon or Amazon AU.
A little life of Hanya Yanagihara
Quite simply one of the most beautiful and saddest stories I have ever read. A Little Life is a domestic novel about four men who grew up in New York and who have spanned their entire lives from college. It was written by Hanya Yanagihara, editor-in-chief of the New York Times Style Magazine. At 720 words it was a mammoth length and yet I wanted to be so much longer after falling deeply in love with the characters, especially Jude – the central character of the book – who the reader can only feel very protected about. I still think about it every day: On a deeper level, for me this book is about what it means to be human, what it means to claim your own “little life” and to live and love meaningfully – also in view of this the greatest misfortune.
Buy a little life at Bookshop.org, Book Depository, Waterstones, Amazon or Amazon AU.
Expectation from Anna Hope
Like A Little Life, this book traces his characters in their early twenties – instead, they’re three friends who grew up in London. At its core it is a story about female friendship – not in a sugar-sweet way, but in all its complexity, which encounters not only real love but also jealousy and rivalry. “You have to hold on to your friendships, Lissa. The women. They are the only thing that will save you in the end, ”are the words of the wise mother of one of the central characters – and this sets the tone for the context of the book. This was one of the few books that has written about female friendship with the dignity and intensity it deserves – along with an important, understandable coming-of-age story about the “expectation versus reality” of carefully planned lives actually develop.
Buy Expectation at Bookshop.org, Book Depository, Waterstones, Amazon, or Amazon AU.
The house of the birth of Edith Wharton
I wrote my dissertation on this book – and somehow managed to repeat it regularly without getting tired of it – so it passed the test for a Desert Island book! The focus is on the tragic heroine Lily Bart, beautiful and brilliant, who encountered the pressure of the New York upper class in the early twenties. Written by Edith Wharton – a notable celebrity herself – this book is a book that knows what it’s talking about, but it also works on several levels: as a broader reflection on the meaning of life and joy itself, and on whether or not it comes with rigidity Social conventions are compatible and just as (as I wrote in my dissertation) a meditation on the extent to which the female protagonist Lily is really free to make her own decisions.
Buy The House of Mirth at Bookshop.org, Book Depository, Waterstones, Amazon or Amazon AU.
Ghosts by Dolly Alderton
Dolly Alderton’s debut novel is as good as expected (based on her sold-out non-fiction book “Everything I Know About Love”). Ghosts is a hilarious, insightful, and thought-provoking story that sheds light on the pitfalls of modern dating while adding dignity and solemnity to its protagonist, Nina George – who must handle her occasional horror with grace – rather than portraying her as just a ‘victim’. It also ties in with a subplot about dementia, which – like anyone who has seen the effects of this disease on someone close to you, as I have – is likely to be treated sensitively and courageously. I also appreciated that, as with Expectation, female friendship was one of the central love stories in the book.
Buy Ghosts at Bookshop.org, Book Depository, Waterstones, Amazon, or Amazon AU.
Do you love this post? Click here to login.
This post has affiliate links, which means that I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you when you make a purchase through this link.