My holiday itinerary always seems to involve going to, or staying on, islands. I seem mysteriously to feel the pull of these often isolated places.

There is something about that distance between shore and the mainland, viewed often from a deck of a ferry, as the land behind you vanishes into the distance bringing closer the air of mystery to the oncoming island. When you arrive, there can be an indefinable distance and a sense of separateness between you and the inhabitants you meet. This feeling can only be sampled during the brief sojourn you allow yourself in these isolated peaceful places.

Good advice

There was once a very small bookshop in Gosforth High Street run by David Bell. It was a regular haunt for me on Saturday afternoons. I would ask advice about what to read and for long trips David would advise that I take a book about the intended location. This advice has stuck with me and on holidays I often travel with paperbacks having some connection with my destination. Having these at my side allows me to learn and begin to feel the atmosphere of the place as I travel.

But sadly not this year. Many of us have had our holiday plans disrupted.

Fear not! Through the wonder of books and fiction we can still travel around the world without leaving the safety of our own homes.

Here are some island themed books I can recommend.

If you long to visit Cuba why not read Graham Greene’s ‘Our Man in Havana’, or for Haiti and Jamaica Ian Fleming’s ‘Live and Let Die’. 

For the Hebrides try George McKay Brown’s mysterious ‘Greenvoe’ or Compton McKenzie’s ‘Whiskey Galore’.

For the Channel Islands ‘Mr Pye’ by Mervyn Peake set on Sark, and Annie Barrow and Mary Ann Shaffer’s ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society’.

For the Greek Islands try Louis de Benieres’ ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’ or Gerald Durrell’s ‘My Family and other Animals’. 

Further afield, travelling to the far South Seas it could be Arthur Grimble’s ‘A Pattern of Islands’.

Close to home we can enjoy local crime writer LJ Ross’ eponymous tale ‘Holy Island’.

Revisit your childhood

Maybe you would like to revisit children’s classics ‘Robinson Crusoe’ or ‘Treasure Island’ but no one wants to be on the same island as those children in ‘Lord of the Flies’!

You might prefer to join the ‘Swallows and Amazons’ in the Lake District, they being much nicer and better behaved children.

Planning ahead

I am researching my next island location using the excellent ‘100 Island Poems of Great Britain and Ireland’ edited by James Knox Whittet as my starting point. See you on Jura or the Isle of Man then?

This holiday year may we all enjoy our own (virtual) islands of choice even though circumstances dictate we stay at home and experience separation from the rest of the world.

Over to you…

There are many books set on islands, far too many to list here, so please Tweet, email or drop a note into the Library’s letterbox to indicate your choice as we promote our vast stock of books to our readers and visitors ready for when we reopen. Until then, happy reading!

Paul Taylor -The Random Blogger