Bookseller One Grand Books has asked celebrities to name the ten titles they’d take to a desert island, and they’ve shared the results with Vulture. Below is author Ottessa Moshfegh’s list. Her most recent book My Year of Rest and Relaxation follows her lauded collection of stories Homesick for Another World.
If I had to live the rest of my life alone on a desert island, I’d bring books written by my friends. Who else would I want to keep me company? It might make me lonelier to be among my favorite people, knowing I’ll never see them again, but to be immersed in their strange imaginations and feel the strength of their creative visions, I think, would keep me from drowning myself, or gulping enough saltwater to make me lose my mind completely.
Fourteen Stories, None of Them Are Yours, by Luke Goebel
I’m engaged to this brilliant author, so this would be the book I’d probably strap across my heart. It might keep my heart intact somehow, although, ironically, it’s a heartbreaking baker’s dozen of linked short stories about a young seeker on the sprawl, reeling from a recent breakup and the loss of his brother.
West of Eden, by Jean Stein
This is a portrait of a city I love as well as a self-portrait of a woman who changed my life profoundly, and who I miss every day. Through the oral history tradition she helped found with her groundbreaking book, Edie, Stein chronicled the histories of prominent Los Angeles families, including her own, through edited interviews with a huge cast of characters, a masterwork by the most intuitive conversationalist I ever knew.
Binary Star, by Sarah Gerard
This book wowed me and spoke to me so intimately, I knew I had to befriend Sarah Gerard, who is just as powerful, beautiful, and bright as I imagined. It’s a short road trip book about a starving maniac and her terrible boyfriend that seems to expand beyond the limits of the page and the entire universe. It still echoes in my mind.
You Are Having a Good Time, by Amie Barrodale
This is my favorite collection of short stories, and every time I pick it up, it reminds me that there is a genius on Earth with heart and humor so evolved I have to wonder if she is from the future. This book breaks my brain open so it can grow. I’ll be sitting there on my island, praying that someone will drop Barrodale’s next book on my head from heaven.
I Must Have You, by JoAnna Novak
Reading this novel is like going back to a life I didn’t have, but one that feels eerily familiar, as a teenager in high school. There’s such a force in her writing, which is the force of Novak — she looks like a sweet person on the outside, which she is, but inside she is a tornado of passion and strength enough to crush the planet with her pinky finger.
Sorry to Disrupt the Peace, by Patty Yumi Cottrell
Oh, Patty. I miss you! Her debut novel moved me really deeply. It’s so personally written, although it is also a dry dissection of an experience with death, also of a brother. Having lost my own brother recently, Patty’s book, along with Fourteen Stories, reminds me that there is a way out of grief, which is creativity.
The Way to the Spring, by Ben Ehrenreich
If I ever need a reminder to be courageous and keep an open heart, Ehrenreich’s nonfiction book about Palestine is plenty. I can’t believe I know the man who wrote this book, that he’s walking around among us. Living on the West Bank, Ben chronicled the true stories of everyday people with humility, tenderness, and perfect storytelling. Like Patty Yumi Cottrell and Luke Goebel remind me, Ehrenreich proves that art is the ultimate panacea.
Among Strange Victims, by Daniel Saldaña París
Daniel Saldaña París is the Mexican Philip Roth, dare I say, and his novel is both satirical and self-reflective, which is my favorite mode of literary expression. I met him a few years ago, and speaking with him about writing fiction was like talking to a long-lost twin.
What It Feels Like to Cry With Your Brain, by Mark Baumer
We lost this brave genius last year, and the books he gifted us while he lived are so wonderfully strange and honest and beautiful, I can’t believe he even existed. He was more than a poet or performance artist — Baumer’s life itself was a work of art. He was truly radical, and the most openhearted, unjaded human I’ve ever met.
Portrait of an Addict As a Young Man, by Bill Clegg
Clegg’s memoir of hitting bottom made me so grateful, both for him, and for the possibility of recovery from addiction, which so many of us don’t survive. It’s a story of violent indulgence, the saving grace of his own wise spirit, as well as the transformative power of love from true friends.