Based on the BBC radio programme ‘Desert Island Discs’, we’ve adapted this idea to ask castaways to list up to eight books, one song and one luxury item that they couldn’t do without on a desert island.
The rules are fairly simple, any type of book can be selected, but we ask that at least half are lesfic. Choices should be justified in a paragraph or two. Any type of music is allowed. The luxury item must be inanimate and of no use in escaping the island or allowing communication from outside.
Quinn Ivins’s Desert Island Books
I’m going to level with you. I would not last long on a desert island. If you’ve ever heard Lucy Ricardo crying, that’s the sound I make when deprived of modern conveniences for even a few minutes.
My wife has remarked that in an apocalypse scenario, she’ll have to do all the work while I lie down and wait to die—and she’s not incorrect. With that in mind, I set out to choose the books, item, and song I would bring to my last days on earth.
My book choices
Hotel Queens by Lee Winter
Huddled alone in an arid sandscape, I will desperately wish I were at a hotel instead. ‘Hotel Queens’ is the perfect book to indulge this fantasy. In addition to the luxury hotel setting, it features a delicious ice queen named Amelia and a secondary character named Quinn. “I think my name is Quinn,” I’ll whisper to myself as hyperthermia sets in.
Wrong Number, Right Woman by Jae
You will see below that my one item is my phone. After she runs out of battery, I will cradle her in my palm and stroke the black screen just trying to feel something. When that fails, I will read ‘Wrong Number, Right Woman’, a novel in which the characters meet thanks to their own phones. Eliza and Denny’s awkward, adorable romance will distract me from the abysmal odds of survival—for a while.
Invisible, as Music by Caren J. Werlinger
In my former life, before Gaby and Jude left me to die, I loved reading about recent history. This book is a beautiful mix of 80s politics and romance—and it concludes with an election outcome that will put my island predicament in much-needed perspective.
Irregular Heartbeat by Chris Zett
This pick will remind me of my loving wife, who is a medical doctor. When we met, I was attracted to her because she was a resident at a hospital “just like on my favorite show, ‘Grey’s Anatomy’”—and just like Diana in ‘Irregular Heartbeat.’ My marriage was sort of a bait-and-switch since she now works in private practice (which is not my favorite show). Nevertheless, I will miss her.
The X Ingredient by Roslyn Sinclair
[Editor’s note: Quinn refused to explain why she would bring this book to the island. She said the reason is “private.”]
Rabbits of the Apocalypse by Benny Lawrence
When days pass without any sign of rescue, ‘Rabbits of the Apocalypse’ will lift my spirits. Set in a dystopian future, the book’s protagonist approaches her fate with cynicism and wit. I’m the sort of person who uses gallows humor to cope with literally everything, so this is exactly what I will need as I languish without food or water—thanks to Gaby and Jude.
Black Maria by Kevin Young
As my strength fades, the thought of reading yet another full-length novel will seem daunting. That’s why I’ll bring my favorite poetry book, ‘Black Maria’—a film noir in verse. It’s full of sexy, clever lines that don’t make sense yet do. For example: “Her eyelashes long / & false as an alarm.” This book is delightful even when you’re not malnourished and delirious.
The Power of Mercy (Graphic novel version) by Fiona Zedde
When my brain malfunctions and my eyeballs dehydrate, even reading words will become difficult. The pictures in this WLW graphic novel will aid comprehension while the story inspires me to contemplate survival. Am I a tragic weakling or a badass like Mercy? The former, unfortunately.
My song choice
“Greenland” by Bob Hillman
In anticipation of unrelenting heat, I will bring a song about a very cold place. I once heard the backstory in concert: Writing on a tight deadline, Bob looked up a bunch of facts about Greenland and related them to his romantic life. The result was a peppy fantasy of leaving a bad relationship for the arctic tundra.
Who needs a summer
when you’ve got autonomy from Denmark
and 98% literacy?
You’re twice as cold as Greenland
After reading the books and listening to my song, I will spend the last of my energy arranging the books to spell HELP. With only enough books to make H and part of E, I will fill in the rest with twigs, stones, and a passing bug.
Then, I will lie down in the sand with my phone and wait for rescue or death—whichever comes first. At least I’ll have some great stories (and one catchy tune) in my head.
My inanimate object choice
My phone, Priscilla. Yes, I know desert islands don’t have reception or a power source. An iPhone will be useless on the first day and dead by the second. Still, even ten hours of offline access to my precious phone is worth more than any other item I could choose.
About Quinn Ivins
Quinnsights (Quinn’s newsletter)