If there was an award for the most divine man in publishing, Tobias Madden would undoubtedly win it. I was lucky enough to meet him a year ago when we were both vacationing in Byron – and we spent a sunny morning at the Byron General Store eating peanut butter smoothie bowls while talking about books. Hollywood handsome and just one of the nicest guys on the planet, his debut YA novel, Anything But Fine, is out now. I loved that not only did he choose two books by the same author (a first for my Desert Island Books series), but he also picked a book he hasn’t read but always wanted (another first). With Fantasy With Young Adult and one of the most underrated books I’ve read, here are the eight books Tobias would take to the sandy shores of a desert island. You can find Tobias online here and follow him here on Instagram.
Buy Anything But Fine at Bookshop.org, Book Depository, Amazon, and Amazon AU.
Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
This book defies the typical narrative structure – consisting of interview transcripts, spacecraft schematics, text conversations, AI data and much more – and it cast a spell over me like nothing else. We throw the term ‘unchallengeable’ around a lot these days, but I honestly couldn’t put this book down. I’m a fan of science fiction and that delivers on all levels. Ingenious characters. Epic action. Twists and turns. So much laughter. It’s just great!
Buy Illuminae from Bookshop.org, Book Depository, Waterstones, Amazon, or Amazon AU.
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
This book blew my mind. The structure, the story, the language, the imagination and the scope of it all – it’s really great. I seldom read books again (so many books, so little time!), But I am incredibly looking forward to reading this again soon; I feel like there are countless levels of history just waiting to be discovered. I’ve read almost all of Mitchell’s books since reading Cloud Atlas and I think he’s a real genius.
Buy Cloud Atlas from Bookshop.org, Book Depository, Waterstones, Amazon or Amazon AU.
Great Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
I read Big Magic long before I read any of Gilbert’s novels, and I’ve read it practically once a year since then. (Yes, that’s definitely the exception to my rule of rarely reading books again.) It’s a bunch of wonderfully entertaining essays on how to live a creative life, and it has helped me tremendously when I got off of my life on stage switched to my career in writing and publishing. The whole book feels like sitting down for coffee with a dear friend and having the best conversation in the world. It’s equally wise and fun, and I recommend it to everyone, whether it’s a writer, actor, dancer, or just someone looking for a little extra motivation and inspiration.
Buy Big Magic at Bookshop.org, Book Depository, Waterstones, Amazon or Amazon AU.
The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
I read this during our first lockdown in March 2020 and it was the perfect escape. I don’t read much fiction, but the book was highly recommended by my colleagues so I thought I should give it a try. Fortunately for her (and me), I was hooked from the first sentence. Gilbert has a magical way of using words – I mean, a chapter on slow growing moss might not be convincing, but it definitely was – and I don’t know if I’ve ever invested so much in the character of a character’s plight. The story is epic and stirring and romantic and heartbreaking and just absolutely brilliant.
Buy The Signature of All Things at Bookshop.org, Book Depository, Waterstones, Amazon or Amazon AU.
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
This one is in case I need a good shout on the desert island because WOW. I’m known for being instant crying in movies and TV shows (MasterChef ugly crying, anyone?), But it takes a lot to make a book cry, and this one did that and much more. All the Bright Places is the most heartbreaking novel for young adults. It covers some pretty heavy subjects, but everything is handled so delicately and honestly. The story is full of rich detail and beautifully flawed characters that really jump out of the page. I would love to read Jennifer Niven’s grocery list, and this is my favorite book for sure.
Buy All the Bright Places at Bookshop.org, Book Depository, Waterstones, Amazon or Amazon AU.
Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend
To me, nothing beats middle-class fantasy when it comes to escapism, and this glorious book has all the whims one could ask for (and I’m pretty sure deserted islands are pretty low-spirited). This was another book that I honestly couldn’t put down. I was totally fascinated by the world of Nevermoor and immediately fell in love with Morrigan Crow and her diverse bunch of friends and classmates. Plus, Townsend’s writing is at a level I’m not sure I’ve experienced since reading this. The way the book stimulates the senses and stimulates the imagination is truly amazing.
Buy Nevermoor at Bookshop.org, Book Depository, Waterstones, Amazon or Amazon AU.
The Magician King by Lev Grossman
Another brilliant escapist read is The Magicians trilogy. Book two, The Magician King, is my favorite, split into two alternating perspectives. It explores the concept of magic in really bold and realistic ways, with the privileged few having access to magical history and structured instruction and formal training, and the rest having to put together scraps of knowledge and teach themselves how to use their innate powers. The magical system in The Magicians is almost like physics – it blurs the lines between science and the supernatural – which gives the book a level of credibility that makes it all the more compelling. It’s a fascinating and exciting story full of brilliant characters and complex dynamics.
Buy The Magician King at Bookshop.org, Book Depository, Waterstones, Amazon, or Amazon AU.
A little life of Hanya Yanagihara
This one is off my to-be-read list, but I’m adding it because I really want to read it and give it the time and attention it deserves instead of squeezing a few pages every morning on the train to get to Job. I assume I’ll have a little more free time on the desert island, so it’s the perfect opportunity to finally read this queer classic!
Buy A Little Life at Bookshop.org, Book Depository, Waterstones, Amazon, or Amazon AU.
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