Lit Fest authors reveal their stranded-in-the-desert books

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Consider this our twist on a “desert island” book list…

Dubai is about to host 170 international authors for the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, which takes place from March 1 to 10. But what if we left them stranded out in the Dubai desert? What book would they bring for comfort? What’s On finds out…

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PHILIP ARDAGH

Children’s author, primarily known for the Eddie Dickens series.

 

Desert book: The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

“This contains the 56 short stories and four novels that make up Arthur Conan Doyle’s original canon of tales about his great detective. Ideally, it would be an illustrated edition with pictures by Sidney Padget and his successors. These stories stand the test of time.”

NNEDI OKORAFOR

Award-winning author of Africa-based science fiction, including Who Fears Death.

Desert book: Wizard of the Crow by Ngugi wa Thiong’o

“This novel is gargantuan, and at 786 pages, you could use it as a weapon. With each reading, it’ll show you something new. It’s full of strange mysticism, it carries the history of an entire continent and it embodies the essence of soul-transporting storytelling.”

JACQUELINE WILSON

Famous writer of children’s books including The Suitcase Kid and The Story of Tracey Beaker.

Desert book: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

“I’ve probably read it about 10 times, but I always find something new and delightful in the text. It’s a long book so it would keep me going for days if necessary, and because it’s set in cold, bleak Yorkshire it might cool me down if I were suffering from heatstroke in the desert!”

KEN HOM

American chef, author and TV presenter for the BBC.

Desert book: The General: Charles de Gaulle and the France He Saved by Jonathan Fenby

“It is so packed with history and the roots of modern France that I could read it several times. Jonathan Fenby writes in such an erudite way that it never gets boring. It is a book that is extremely well researched, but written and presented in a way that makes reading it such a pleasure. Even in the desert.”

ROBERT MCCRUM

Editor of The Observer and author of My Year Off: Recovering Life After A Stroke.

Desert book: Crime and Punishment

“I would choose the latest and most brilliant translation of Dostoevsky’s classic. This is a version for our times of a great existential thriller – the perfect antidote to the boredom of waiting for a rescue in the desert.”

HARRY BAKER

British spoken word artist, author and poet.

Desert book: Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie

“If I were stranded in the Dubai desert and could only bring one book it would be this. I’d hope that I could keep reading it even as I was slowly losing my mind. I think the setting and imminent delirium would make the idea of water genies a lot more visceral.”

ADRIAN HAYES

Author of K2: The Tragedy and the Triumph.

Desert book: Arabian Sands by Wilfred Thesiger

“I would take a real adventure/survival book that mirrored the circumstances. And it would be historic and real as opposed to modern and reality TV.”

JULIA JOHNSON

Award-winning UAE-based author of The Leopard Boy.

Desert book: The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay

“A huge, sweeping saga set against the backdrop of apartheid South Africa. Gripping and uplifting, with a cast of colourful characters, but above all it’s an empowering story about finding one’s inner strength, essential if one were stranded in the desert.”

JULIA TOTTMAN

Movie animal trainer and author of Superstar Dogs.

Desert book: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

“I love the characters and emotions felt during this book. Anger, sadness, love, excitement and anxiety. It would certainly pass the time away.”

RHIANNA PRATCHETT

Video game writer, journalist and daughter of author Terry Pratchett.

Desert book: JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit

“For spiritual and emotional purposes, I would choose this. It was the first book I remember my father reading to me.”

KAREN OSMAN

Award-winning author of The Good Mother.

Desert book: Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

“If I was stranded in the desert, I’d want a brick of a book. With almost 1,000 pages, it would definitely keep me going for some time.”

ANDY RILEY

Cartoonist and scriptwriter.

Desert book: Moominland Midwinter by Tove Jansson

“It’s about some creatures surviving a very cold winter in Finland, so it would be absolutely useless for teaching me desert survival skills. But it might make me feel a bit cooler as I sit in the baking sun, waiting for rescue.”

EOIN COLFER

Author of children’s series Artemis Fowl.

Desert book: Born Survivor by Bear Grylls

“I’m a writer who spends most of his time in a cosy office, so I have very few life skills. However, once Bear has taught me how to build a shelter from my own clothing then I would relax by my solar water still and read The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.”

CRAIG GLENDAY

Editor of Guinness World Records.

Desert book: Encyclopaedia Britannica

“A desert survival guide would make sense, but I’d prefer the complete Encyclopaedia Britannica. Being stranded in the desert, I’d have time to read it from A to Z. Shackleton took two sets with him on his epic South Pole adventure and ended up burning the pages for warmth.”

ANDREW MORTON

Biographer of Diana, Princess of Wales, Tom Cruise and Madonna.

Desert book: Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien

“When I introduced my youngest daughter Lydia to Tolkien, she became a fanatic, even travelling to New Zealand to visit the sites used for the movie. When I pick up the book in the noon day Dubai desert sun, the story would transport me to a cooler place and remind me of my family.”

Emirates Airline Literature Festival, March 1 to 10, InterContinental Hotel, Dubai Festival City. More info on website.

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