[Note from Frolic: We are so excited to have author Abbi Waxman guest post on the site today. Take it away Abbi!]
So, here’s the thing about choosing Desert Island Books. One must think strategically: It could be decades before you’re rescued, so which books bear the most re-reading? You have to optimize for entertainment, even if you sound shallow. It’s all very well saying you can’t live without The Brothers Karamazov, but chances are you just said that to look fancy, and it could turn out you hate…hang on, Googling…Dostoevsky. And then where would you be?
Anyway, traditionally, castaways on Desert Island Discs (the show on the BBC that started the whole desert island thing) are allowed eight pieces of music, so I’m going to pick eight books. Having said that, I’m going to start out right away by cheating to an almost ludicrous degree.
The Collected Works of Rex Stout
Rex Stout is the creator of Nero Wolfe, the fat and brilliant detective who lives in Manhattan and never leaves his house. The mysteries are always interesting, the characters are fabulous, and the character of Archie Goodwin – Nero’s right hand man – is my lifelong fictional crush. There are 33 novels and 41 novellas and short stories, and I read them all over and over again. I can’t pick just one, so I’m taking them all.
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Well, obviously, everyone loves Pride and Prejudice, and I am no exception. It might be my favorite book of all time. But S&S is a close second, and I know it much less well. Ergo, it’s the better choice for the island. More to discover.
Neuromancer by William Gibson
It was tough to pick just one William Gibson, the guy who coined the term cyberspace. Neuromancer came out in 1984, when I was 14, and it’s not an exaggeration to say it changed my life. Well, maybe it’s a little bit of an exaggeration, but it definitely had an effect. I love the way he writes, he’s brilliant. Virtual Light is another favorite, maybe I can squeeze that one in as well. Who’s actually checking my backpack on this island? It’s not like someone’s going to turn up in a helicopter to confiscate books, right? I’ve been on this island for a while, what if I’ve spent the whole time perfecting my ninja moves? I could commandeer the helicopter and escape, waving my extra William Gibson as I go.
At Home by Bill Bryson
This is my favorite non-fiction book of all time. Bryson is hilarious, and he uses the medium of a house –the rooms, the contents, the structure – as a basis for the history of science and discovery in England. You think it sounds dry? Well, you’re wrong. It’s fantastic, and it’s really long and has lots of things in it, so again, perfect for killing time between carving notches on a palm tree.
Let’s Pretend this Never Happened by Jenny Lawson
If you’ve gotten this far and haven’t read this book, stop reading and go get it right away. I have never laughed so hard at a book in my life, and after I finished it I put it on the shelf and promised myself I wouldn’t read it again for a decade, so I would have forgotten all the best bits and could laugh myself stupid all over again. It’s that good.
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
I am a huge Golden Age mystery nut. It’s what I grew up reading, and it’s what I turn to when I’m either really happy or really not happy. Christie is the queen. This is her crowning masterpiece. End of story.
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
An incredible book, about the year in which the writer lost both her beloved husband and daughter. One of the greatest writers in English, describing one of the worst experiences possible. Breathtaking.
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
Now, there may be those among you who think I am putting this here just to look fancy, but I have actually read it. I love it…but I’m not sure I completely understand it. I’m almost 96% certain I agree with most of it, and I think a desert island is the perfect place to really knuckle down and get my head around it.
And that’s eight. On the show you’re also allowed to take one luxury item, providing it is of no use getting off the island, so I’ll take my dog. I have to say, an island with a dog and a pile of books sounds pretty fantastic to me, it wouldn’t be any hardship at all. I was tempted to take my laptop, so I can work, but it will run out of juice after a day anyway, and then it will just be a constant, irritating reminder of the books I’m supposed to be writing. So, yeah, the dog it is.
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About the Author:
Abbi Waxman was born in England in 1970, the oldest child of two copywriters who never should have been together in the first place. Once her father ran off to buy cigarettes and never came back, her mother began a highly successful career writing crime fiction. She encouraged Abbi and her sister Emily to read anything and everything they could pull down from the shelves, and they did. Naturally lazy and disinclined to dress up, Abbi went into advertising, working as a copywriter and then a creative director at various advertising agencies in London and New York. Clients ranged from big and traditional, (AT&T, Chase Manhattan Bank, IBM, American Express, Unilever, Mercedes-Benz) to big and morally corrupt (R. J. Reynolds) to big and larcenous (Enron). Eventually she quit advertising, had three kids and started writing books, TV shows and screenplays, largely in order to get a moment’s peace.
Abbi lives in Los Angeles with her husband, three kids, three dogs, three cats, a gecko, two mice and six chickens. Every one of these additions made sense at the time, it’s only in retrospect that it seems foolhardy.
Feel free to drop her a line, she readily welcomes any excuse to stop working and do something else.
The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman, out today!
Meet Nina Hill: A young woman supremely confident in her own…shell.
The only child of a single mother, Nina has her life just as she wants it: a job in a bookstore, a kick-butt trivia team, a world-class planner and a cat named Phil. If she sometimes suspects there might be more to life than reading, she just shrugs and picks up a new book.
When the father Nina never knew existed suddenly dies, leaving behind innumerable sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, Nina is horrified. They all live close by! They’re all—or mostly all—excited to meet her! She’ll have to Speak. To. Strangers. It’s a disaster! And as if that wasn’t enough, Tom, her trivia nemesis, has turned out to be cute, funny, and deeply interested in getting to know her. Doesn’t he realize what a terrible idea that is?
Nina considers her options.
1. Completely change her name and appearance. (Too drastic, plus she likes her hair.)
2. Flee to a deserted island. (Hard pass, see: coffee).
3. Hide in a corner of her apartment and rock back and forth. (Already doing it.)
It’s time for Nina to come out of her comfortable shell, but she isn’t convinced real life could ever live up to fiction. It’s going to take a brand-new family, a persistent suitor, and the combined effects of ice cream and trivia to make her turn her own fresh page.