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The 35 Best Books Set on an Island

Escape to a tropical paradise with these 35 best books set on an island and discover your next favorite book or author right here.

Escape to a tropical paradise with these 35 best books set on an island and discover your next favorite book or author right here. Travel the World in Books with these 35 of the Best Books Set on an Island. Pack your bags and whisk yourself away in one of these island books you are sure to love. Whether you enjoy a gritty nonfiction, a compelling drama or a light beach read, you're sure to find something you love on this list.

Sand in our toes, sun on our skin, and gently crashing waves to relax our minds. Do you fantasize about escaping reality and embracing the island life? What better way to kick off the summer than grabbing one of the 35 best books set on an island and heading on an island adventure with our Travel the World in Books Reading Challenge?

So pack your beach bag with one of these spectacular reads to whisk you away! 

The 35 Best Books Set on an Island

I compiled a list to help you get started on your island hopping reading adventure. I scoured my bookshelves and relied on my book loving friends and bloggers to help me bring you the 35 Best Books set on an island. As soon as I find a book I want to read, I scan it into Goodreads, so many of these are books I want to read myself. You can find me on Goodreads here, synopses are excerpted from Goodreads.

As you can see, this list was so fun to put together, I could NOT stop! I wanted to give you just a handful to choose from but I had so much fun trying to find a good balance of books from all the continents and genres that this became one huge list. I hope you share what you consider are the best books set on an island that you have read or want to read. 

Note: This post contains affiliate links as indicated by an asterisk. Purchases from these links provides a small commission to me at no extra cost to you. Books listed as Free on Kindle or part of a Try Audible and get 2 Audiobooks free promotion are as of this post’s creation date of 5/31/16. Prices are subject to change.

North and Central America

 

Best Books set on North American Islands: The Storied Life of AJ Fikry (Alice Islands), The Best of Us (Caribbean), Waiting for Snow in Havana (Cuba), The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Dominican Republic), Breath, Eyes, Memory (Haiti), Come Away with Me (Hawaii), Diamond Head (Hawaii)

Alice Island

1. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry* by Gabrielle Zevin (fiction, Alice Island, Try on Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks*)

On the faded Island Books sign hanging over the porch of the Victorian cottage is the motto “No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World.” A. J. Fikry, the irascible owner, is about to discover just what that truly means.


A. J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island—from Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who’s always felt kindly toward Fikry; from Ismay, his sister-in-law who is hell-bent on saving him from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who keeps on taking the ferry over to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.’s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, A.J. can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly.

And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. It’s a small package, but large in weight. It’s that unexpected arrival that gives A. J. Fikry the opportunity to make his life over, the ability to see everything anew. It doesn’t take long for the locals to notice the change overcoming A.J.; or for that determined sales rep, Amelia, to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light; or for the wisdom of all those books to become again the lifeblood of A.J.’s world; or for everything to twist again into a version of his life that he didn’t see coming. As surprising as it is moving, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is an unforgettable tale of transformation and second chances, an irresistible affirmation of why we read, and why we love.

One of my favorite books of all time and also recommended by Becca from I’m Lost in Books, my Travel the World in Books Reading Challenge co-host. See I’m Lost in Books review of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry here

 Caribbean

 2. The Best of Us* by Sarah Pekkanen (women’s fiction, Caribbean, Try on Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks*)

Following a once-in-a-lifetime invitation, a group of old college friends leap at the chance to bring their husbands for a week’s vacation at a private villa in Jamaica to celebrate a former classmates’ thirty-fifth birthday.

The week begins idyllically, filled with languorous days and late nights of drinking and laughter. But as a hurricane approaches the island, turmoil builds, forcing each woman to re-evaluate everything she’s known about the others—and herself.

Cuba

3. Waiting for Snow in Havana* by Carlos Eire (nonfiction, Cuba, National Book Award Winner, Try on Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks*)

In 1962, at the age of eleven, Carlos Eire was one of 14,000 children airlifted out of Cuba, his parents left behind. His life until then is the subject of Waiting for Snow in Havana, a wry, heartbreaking, intoxicatingly beautiful memoir of growing up in a privileged Havana household — and of being exiled from his own childhood by the Cuban revolution.

Narrated with the urgency of a confession, Waiting for Snow in Havana is both an exorcism and an ode to a paradise lost. More than that, it captures the terrible beauty of those times in our lives when we are certain we have died — and then are somehow, miraculously, reborn.

My thoughts: We read Waiting for Snow in Havana for our November 2014 Travel the World in Books Readalong. I liked it, rated it a 3*. It was a very thorough account of the author’s childhood and he has an impeccable memory. Rich in detail of the Cuban revolution before the author’s exile.

Dominican Republic

4. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao* (fiction, Dominican Republic,Try on Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks*)

Things have never been easy for Oscar, a sweet but disastrously overweight ghetto nerd, a New Jersey romantic who dreams of becoming the Dominican J.R.R. Tolkien and, most of all, of finding love. But he may never get what he wants, thanks to the fukú — the ancient curse that has haunted Oscar’s family for generations, dooming them to prison, torture, tragic accidents, and, above all, ill-starred love. Oscar, still dreaming of his first kiss, is only its most recent victim – until the fateful summer that he decides to be its last.

With dazzling energy and insight, Junot Díaz immerses us in the uproarious lives of our hero Oscar, his runaway sister Lola, and their ferocious beauty-queen mother Belicia, and in the epic journey from Santo Domingo to Washington Heights to New Jersey’s Bergenline and back again. Rendered with uncommon warmth and humor, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao presents an astonishing vision of the contemporary American experience and the endless human capacity to persevere – and to risk it all – in the name of love.

My thoughts: 3*, this is a book I both loved and intensely disliked. I loved the parts set in the Dominican Republic which is why I recommended it here. While difficult to read, the book definitely depicted what life was like under Trujillo’s dictatorship and the imagery of the food and landscape was beautiful. I was NOT loving the parts set in the US about Oscar’s life itself. See my full review of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao for more.

Haiti

5. Breath, Eyes, Memory* by Edwidge Danticat (historical fiction, Haiti)

At the age of twelve, Sophie Caco is sent from her impoverished village of Croix-des-Rosets to New York, to be reunited with a mother she barely remembers. There she discovers secrets that no child should ever know, and a legacy of shame that can be healed only when she returns to Haiti–to the women who first reared her. What ensues is a passionate journey through a landscape charged with the supernatural and scarred by political violence, in a novel that bears witness to the traditions, suffering, and wisdom of an entire people.

 

 

Hawaii

6. Come Away with Me* by Karma Brown (literary fiction, Hawaii, Try on Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks*)

One minute, Tegan Lawson has everything she could hope for: an adoring husband, Gabe, and a baby on the way. The next, a patch of black ice causes a devastating accident that will change her life in ways she never could have imagined.

Tegan is consumed by grief, not to mention her anger toward Gabe, who was driving on the night of the crash. But just when she thinks she’s hit rock bottom, Gabe reminds her of their Jar of Spontaneity, a collection of their dream destinations and experiences, and so begins an adventure of a lifetime.

My thoughtsCome Away with Me was my favorite book of 2016Come Away with Me by Karma Brown is an exceptional debut novel which transports the reader to Hawaii, Thailand and Italy on an epic and emotional adventure. Read it, you won’t be sorry! 

7. Diamond Head* by Cecily Wong (fiction, Hawaii, Try on Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks*)

At the turn of the nineteenth-century, Frank Leong, a fabulously wealthy shipping industrialist, moves his family from China to the island of Oahu. But something ancient follows the Leongs to Hawaii, haunting them. The parable of the red string of fate, the cord which binds one intended beloved to her perfect match, also punishes for mistakes in love, passing a destructive knot down the family line.

When Frank is murdered, his family is thrown into a perilous downward spiral. Left to rebuild in their patriarch’s shadow, the surviving members of the Leong family try their hand at a new, ordinary life, vowing to bury their gilded past. Still, the island continues to whisper—fragmented pieces of truth and chatter, until a letter arrives two decades later, carrying a confession that shatters the family even further.

My thoughts: 4*, Diamond Head is a beautifully written novel showcasing the beauty of the Hawaiian landscape and Chinese folklore weaved throughout the story. See my full review of Diamond Head here.

This is Paradise (Hawaii), Island of the Blue Dolphins, Anne of Green Gables (Prince Edward Island)

8. Moloka’i* by Alan Brennert (fiction, Hawaii, Try on Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks*)

This richly imagined novel, set in Hawai’i more than a century ago, is an extraordinary epic of a little-known time and place—and a deeply moving testament to the resiliency of the human spirit.

Rachel Kalama, a spirited seven-year-old Hawaiian girl, dreams of visiting far-off lands like her father, a merchant seaman. Then one day a rose-colored mark appears on her skin, and those dreams are stolen from her. Taken from her home and family, Rachel is sent to Kalaupapa, the quarantined leprosy settlement on the island of Moloka’i. Here her life is supposed to end—but instead she discovers it is only just beginning.

Recommended by Sue from Book by Book. See Book by Book’s review of Moloka’i here.

9. This is Paradise* by Kristiana Kahakauwila (literary fiction, Hawaii)

In a stunning collection that announces the arrival of an incredible talent, Kristiana Kahakauwila travels the islands of Hawai’i, making the fabled place her own. Exploring the deep tensions between local and tourist, tradition and expectation, façade and authentic self, This Is Paradise provides an unforgettable portrait of life as it’s truly being lived on Maui, Oahu, Kaua’i and the Big Island.

Exquisitely written and bursting with sharply observed detail, Kahakauwila’s stories remind us of the powerful desire to belong, to put down roots, and to have a place to call home.

Recommended by Aloi from Guiltless Reading, my Travel the World in Books Reading Challenge co-host. See Guiltless Reading’s review of This is Paradise here.

Island of the Blue Dolphins

island of the blue dolphins

10. Island of the Blue Dolphins* by Scott O’Dell (children’s fiction, Island of the Blue Dolphins, based on the true story of a girl who survived on an island off the California coast, Try on Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks*)

In the Pacific there is an island that looks like a big fish sunning itself in the sea. Around it, blue dolphins swim, otters play, and sea elephants and sea birds abound. Once, Indians also lived on the island. And when they left and sailed to the east, one young girl was left behind. — This is the story of Karana, the Indian girl who lived alone for years on the Island of the Blue Dolphins. Year after year, she watched one season pass into another and waited for a ship to take her away. But while she waited, she kept herself alive by building shelter, making weapons, finding food, and fighting her enemies, the wild dogs. It is not only an unusual adventure of survival, but also a tale of natural beauty and personal discovery.

Recommended by Dr. Amy Stenejhem of Mastering Health & Happiness  and The Mindful Shopper. Amy said she read this book as a child and it STILL has an impact on her. As a fellow chronic illness patient, Amy also wrote Lessons Learned from Chronic Illness for my guest post series. 

Prince Edward Island

Anne of Green Gables

11. Anne of Green Gables (Paperback 8 book set)* or Kindle 8 book set for 99 cents* (children’s fiction, Prince Edward Island)

Everyone’s favorite redhead, the spunky Anne Shirley, begins her adventures at Green Gables, a farm outside Avonlea, Prince Edward Island. When the freckled girl realizes that the elderly Cuthberts wanted to adopt a boy instead, she begins to try to win them and, consequently, the reader, over.

South America

Books set on South American Islands: The Galapagos: A Natural History, Island: A Story of the Galapagos, and Robinson Crusoe

The Galapagos Islands

12. The Galapagos: A Natural History* (nonfiction, The Galapagos Islands)

Charles Darwin called it “a little world within itself.” Sailors referred to it as “Las Encantadas”— the enchanted islands. Lying in the eastern Pacific Ocean, straddling the equator off the west coast of South America, the Galápagos is the most pristine archipelago to be found anywhere in the tropics. It is so remote, so untouched, that the act of wading ashore can make you feel like you are the first to do so.

Yet the Galápagos is far more than a wild paradise on earth—it is one of the most important sites in the history of science. Home to over 4,000 species native to its shores, around 40 percent of them endemic, the islands have often been called a “laboratory of evolution.” The finches collected on the Galápagos inspired Darwin’s revolutionary theory of natural selection.

Beautifully weaving together natural history, evolutionary theory, and his own experience on the islands, Nicholls shows that the story of the Galápagos is not merely an isolated concern, but reflects the future of our species’ relationship with nature—and the fate of our planet.

13. Island: A Story of the Galapagos* (children’s nonfiction, The Galapagos Islands)

Charles Darwin first visited the Galápagos Islands almost 200 years ago, only to discover a land filled with plants and animals that could not be found anywhere else on earth. How did they come to inhabit the island? How long will they remain?

Thoroughly researched and filled with intricate and beautiful paintings, this extraordinary book by Award-winning author and artist Jason Chin is an epic saga of the life of an island—born of fire, rising to greatness, its decline, and finally the emergence of life on new islands.

Island Near Venezuela

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

14. Robinson Crusoe* by Daniel Defoe (fiction, island on mouth of Orinoco River in Venezuela, FREE on Kindle or Try on Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks*)

Robinson Crusoe, set ashore on an island after a terrible storm at sea, is forced to make do with only a knife, some tobacco, and a pipe. He learns how to build a canoe, make bread, and endure endless solitude. That is, until, twenty-four years later, when he confronts another human being.

Europe

Books set on European islands: The Old Man and His Sons (Faroe Islands), The Summer Book (Island near Finland), Love, Lies & Lemon Cake (Greek Isles), Truly, Madly, Geekly (Greek Isles), The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society (Guernsey), Letters from Skye (Isle of Skye), A Secret Kept (Noirmoutier Island)

 

Faroe Islands

15. The Old Man and His Sons* by Heoin Bru (fiction, Faroe Islands)

These are the Faroe Islands as they were some fifty years ago: sea-washed and remote, with one generation still tied to the sea for sustenance, and a younger generation turning toward commerce and clerical work in the towns.

At the post-hunt whale-meat auction, Ketil enthusiastically bids for more meat than he can afford. Thus when Ketil is seventy, he and his wife struggle to repay their debt.

Suggested by Lucy from Fictional 100 and Northern Lights Reading Project and my Travel the World in Books Reading Challenge co-host. Lucy reads the most unique and intriguing titles from the “Northern Lights countries” and this sounds like no exception. 

Island off Finland

16. The Summer Book* by Tove Jansson (fiction, island off Finland)

An elderly artist and her six-year-old granddaughter while away a summer together on a tiny island in the gulf of Finland. Gradually, the two learn to adjust to each other’s fears, whims and yearnings for independence, and a fierce yet understated love emerges – one that encompasses not only the summer inhabitants but the island itself, with its mossy rocks, windswept firs and unpredictable seas.

Full of brusque humour and wisdom, The Summer Book is a profoundly life-affirming story. Tove Jansson captured much of her own experience and spirit in the book, which was her favourite of the novels she wrote for adults. This new edition sees the return of a European literary gem – fresh, authentic and deeply humane.

Greek Islands

17. Love, Lies & Lemon Cake* by Sue Watson (women’s fiction, Greek Islands)

Faye Dobson has lost her sparkle. Living on film star fantasies and vague memories of a marriage that once was, she can’t help feeling that life is passing her by. She dreams of being whisked to Paris for dinner, making three wishes at the Trevi fountain and having sex under the stars. But the wrinkles are multiplying, her husband’s passion is for plumbing, and the nearest she’ll get to Rome is a take-away pizza.

So when Faye meets Dan the gorgeous Australian surfer guy working in the local deli she can’t help but wonder what it would be like to see the world. He is blonde, tanned, ten years younger and bakes the most amazing lemon cake. Unlike her husband Dan actually listens to Faye, his smile makes her feel fizzy inside, and when he smiles… Oh. My. God.

A laugh-out-loud, bittersweet comedy about taking your life back before it’s too late.

My thoughts: A fun read, 4*, I Really liked it. Of course, I love anything that takes me to the Greek islands which are on the top of my bucket list! 

18. Truly, Madly, Greekly* by Mandy Baggot (women’s fiction, Greek islands)

Sun, sea and a sexy stranger – a whole lot of fun just got a lot more complicated.
Capable, confident and career-driven, Ellen had her dream job and a marriage proposal from boyfriend Ross. Life was good, her future set. Until it wasn’t and everything fell apart…

Whisked off to the beautiful island of Corfu to plan her sister Lacey’s big, fat, Greek wedding, Ellen is hoping some time out will help clear her head and heal her heart. But letting go of her past is not going to be easy.

But Ellen isn’t looking for love or lust, or anything involving too much ouzo…or is she?

Guernsey

19. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society* by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (historical fiction, Guernsey, Try on Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks*

“ I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some sort of secret homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.” January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb….

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.

Isle of Skye

20. Letters from Skye* by Jessica Brockmole (fiction, Isle of Skye, Try on Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks*)

A sweeping story told in letters, spanning two continents and two world wars, Jessica Brockmole’s atmospheric debut novel captures the indelible ways that people fall in love, and celebrates the power of the written word to stir the heart.

Recommended by Isi from From Isi book blog. See what she says about Letters from Skye here.

Noirmoutier Island

21. A Secret Kept* by Tatiana de Rosnay (fiction, Noirmoutier Island, Try on Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks* )

It all began with a simple seaside vacation, a brother and sister recapturing their childhood. Antoine Rey thought he had the perfect surprise for his sister Mélanie’s birthday: a weekend by the sea at Noirmoutier Island, where the pair spent many happy childhood summers playing on the beach. It had been too long, Antoine thought, since they’d returned to the island–over thirty years, since their mother died and the family holidays ceased. But the island’s haunting beauty triggers more than happy memories; it reminds Mélanie of something unexpected and deeply disturbing about their last island summer. When, on the drive home to Paris, she finally summons the courage to reveal what she knows to Antoine, her emotions overcome her and she loses control of the car.

By turns thrilling, seductive and destructive, with a lingering effect that is bittersweet and redeeming, A Secret Kept is the story of a modern family, the invisible ties that hold it together, and the impact it has throughout life.

Related Post: I was haunted by Sarah’s Key, 5*, also by Tatiana de Rosnay.  Set on a French island, A Secret Kept sounds like one I would enjoy.

 

 

 

Africa

Books set on African Islands: Historia, Historia (Cape Verde Islands), The Aye-Aye and I (Madagascar), and The Edge of Eden (Seychelles)

Cape Verde Islands

22. Historia, Historia: Two Years in the Cape Verde Islands* by Eleanor Stanford (nonfiction, Cape Verde Islands).

Twenty-two and newly married, Eleanor Stanford and her husband join the Peace Corps and find themselves on the West African islands of Cape Verde. In this beautifully alien place, as she teaches her students and struggles to come to terms with the island’s fascinating yet frustrating culture, Eleanor watches everything she knows about relationships get flipped upside-down and attempts to hide the eating disorder she’s developed, which threatens both her marriage and her life. Part travelogue, part cultural documentary, Historia, Historia combines journalistic excellence with the gripping style of personal memoirs to bring you this lyrical, moving portrait of an enchanting, little-glimpsed geography. Fans of factually informative and emotionally moving nonfiction will be drawn towards this haunting meditation on love, fidelity and self-image.

Madagascar

23. The Aye-Aye and I* by Gerald Durrell (humorous nonfiction, Madagascar)

Here is the riveting tale of Gerald Durrell’s adventures and misadventures in the enchanted forests of Madagascar, in search of the elusive Aye-aye. Once thought to be extinct, the Aye-aye, the beast with the magic finger, still lurks, though in fast dwindling numbers, in the forests of Madagascar. Durrell’s mission to help save this strange creature turns into a madcap journey in which you will meet not only the enigmatic Aye-aye, but the catlike Fosa, the Flat-tailed tortoise, the Gentle lemurs of Lac Alaotra, and the Malagasy chameleons, among others. Truly nothing escapes Durrell’s sharp eye, whether he is describing the great zoma (market), the village dances, the treacherous bridges and river crossings, the strange foods and stranger music, or the vagaries of local officialdom. As the San Francisco Chronicle noted, It is impossible for Gerald Durrell to write anything Bmission, Durrell is, quite simply, at his superb best.

Seychelles 

24. The Edge of Eden* by Helen Benedict (fiction, magic/mystery, Seychelles, Try on Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks*)

In 1960, when her husband, Rupert, a British diplomat, is posted to the remote Seychelle Islands in the Indian Ocean, Penelope is less than thrilled. But she never imagined the danger that awaited her family there. Her sun-kissed children run barefoot on the beach and become enraptured by the ancient magic, orgrigri, in the tropical colonial outpost. Rupert, meanwhile, falls under the spell of a local beauty who won’t stop until she gets what she wants.

Desperate to save her marriage, Penelope turns to black magic, exposing her family to the island’s sinister underbelly. Ultimately, Penny and her family suffer unimaginable casualties, rendering their lives profoundly and forever changed. Helen Benedict’s acerbic wit and lush descriptions serve up a page-turner brimming with jealousy, sex, and witchcraft in a darkly exotic Eden.

 

 

Asia

Books set on Asian Islands: The Bungalow (Bora Bora), Geisha: A Life and Unbroken (Japan), The Ghost Bride (Malaysia), Gagamba: The Spider Man and May Day Eve and Other Stories (Phillipines), 2 Years' Vacation (Somewhere in the Pacific)

 

Bora Bora

25. The Bungalow* by Sarah Jio (historical fiction, WW2, Bora Bora,Try on Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks*)

A sweeping World War II saga of thwarted love, murder, and a long-lost painting. 
In the summer of 1942, twenty-one-year-old Anne Calloway, newly engaged, sets off to serve in the Army Nurse Corps on the Pacific island of Bora-Bora. More exhilarated by the adventure of a lifetime than she ever was by her predictable fiancé, she is drawn to a mysterious soldier named Westry, and their friendship soon blossoms into hues as deep as the hibiscus flowers native to the island. Under the thatched roof of an abandoned beach bungalow, the two share a private world-until they witness a gruesome crime, Westry is suddenly redeployed, and the idyll vanishes into the winds of war.

 

Japan

26. Geisha: A Life* by Mineko Iwasaki (nonfiction, Japan)

“No woman in the three-hundred-year history of the karyukai has ever come forward in public to tell her story. We have been constrained by unwritten rules not to do so, by the robes of tradition and by the sanctity of our exclusive calling…But I feel it is time to speak out.”

Celebrated as the most successful geisha of her generation, Mineko Iwasaki was only five years old when she left her parents’ home for the world of the geisha. For the next twenty-five years, she would live a life filled with extraordinary professional demands and rich rewards. She would learn the formal customs and language of the geisha, and study the ancient arts of Japanese dance and music. She would enchant kings and princes, captains of industry, and titans of the entertainment world, some of whom would become her dearest friends. Through great pride and determination, she would be hailed as one of the most prized geishas in Japan’s history, and one of the last great practitioners of this now fading art form.

27. Unbroken* by Laura Hillenbrand (nonfiction, Japan, WWII, Try on Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks*)

On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.

The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini. In boyhood, he’d been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails. As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile. But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.

Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.

In her long-awaited new book, Laura Hillenbrand writes with the same rich and vivid narrative voice she displayed inSeabiscuit. Telling an unforgettable story of a man’s journey into extremity, Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit.

My thoughts: 4*, I really liked it. An amazing story of resilience, I could not believe what Louis went through. His story puts our own lives in perspective, both for what soldiers endure for our freedoms and what I define as a “challenge” in my daily life. 

Malaysia

28. The Ghost Bride* by Yangsze Choo (fiction, Malaysia, Try on Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks*)

“One evening, my father asked me if I would like to become a ghost bride…”

Though ruled by British overlords, the Chinese of colonial Malaya still cling to ancient customs. And in the sleepy port town of Malacca, ghosts and superstitions abound.

Li Lan, the daughter of a genteel but bankrupt family, has few prospects. But fate intervenes when she receives an unusual proposal from the wealthy and powerful Lim family. They want her to become a ghost bride for the family’s only son, who recently died under mysterious circumstances. Rarely practiced, a traditional ghost marriage is used to placate a restless spirit. Such a union would guarantee Li Lan a home for the rest of her days, but at a terrible price.

Phillipines

29. Gagamba: The Spider Man* by F. Sionil Jose (fiction, Phillipines)

GAGAMBA, the cripple, sells sweepstakes tickets the whole day at the entrance to Camarin, the Ermita restaurant. He sees them all—the big men, politicians, journalists, generals, landlords, and the handsome call-girls who have made Camarin famous. In mid-July 1990, a killer earthquake struck and entombed all the beautiful people dining at the Camarin. Gagamba could have easily gotten killed—but he survived the earthquake, as do two other lucky people who were buried in the rubble.

As told by the Philippines’ most widely translated author, this novel raises a fundamental question about life’s meaning and suggests at the same time the only rational answer.

Recommended by Aloi from Guiltess Reading, my Travel the World in Books Reading Challenge co-host. See Guiltless Reading’s review of Gagamba: The Spider Man here.

30. May Day Eve and Other Stories by Nick Joaquin (fiction, Phillipines)

Stories in this volume: * Three Generations * Dona Jeronima * The Legend of the Dying Wanton * May Day Eve * Guardia de Honor NICK JOAQUIN, novelist, playwright, poet, journalist, historian, and biographer, has been the recipient of almost all of the prestigious awards in literature and the arts, including the National Artist Award for Literature, the highest national recognition given to Filipino artists who have made significant contributions to the development of Philippine arts and to the cultural heritage of the country. Widely regarded as the greatest Filipino writer of the 20th century, he was also conferred, among other recognitions, the Republic Cultural Heritage Award for Literature in 1961, the Journalist of the Year Award in the early 1960’s, the Book of the Year Award in 1979 for his Almanac for Manilenos, the National Book Award for several of his works, the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature, and Creative Communication Arts (the Asian counterpart of the Nobel Prize) in 1996, and the Tanglaw ng Lahi Award in 1997.

Recommended by Aloi from Guiltess Reading, my Travel the World in Books Reading Challenge co-host. See Guiltless Reading’s review of May Day Eve and Other Stories here.

Somewhere in the Pacific Ocean

31. Two Years’ Vacation* by Jules Verne (children’s/middle grade/young adult fiction, somewhere in the Pacific Ocean)

A group of boys find themselves adrift at sea, and after a terrible storm they are cast upon a deserted island, where they must learn to get along together to survive.

Recommended by my IRL friend Patricia. She said she read it as a child and she still loves it. 

 

Australia/New Zealand

Books set on Australian Islands: The Light Between Oceans (Janus Rock), Demon Fish and Euphoria (Papau New Guinea) and The Sex Lives of Cannibals (Tarawa)

Janus Rock

32. The Light Between Oceans* by M.L. Stedman (fiction, Janus Rock,Try on Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks*)

After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.

Tom, whose records as a lighthouse keeper are meticulous and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast. Against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.

M. L. Stedman’s mesmerizing, beautifully written novel seduces us into accommodating Isabel’s decision to keep this “gift from God.” And we are swept into a story about extraordinarily compelling characters seeking to find their North Star in a world where there is no right answer, where justice for one person is another’s tragic loss.

Papau New Guinea

33. Demon Fish: Travels through the Hidden World of Sharks* by Juliet Elperin (nonfiction, Papau New Guinea)

A group of traders huddles around a pile of dried shark fins on a gleaming white floor in Hong Kong. A Papua New Guinean elder shoves off in his hand-carved canoe, ready to summon a shark with ancient magic. A scientist finds a rare shark in Indonesia and forges a deal with villagers so it and other species can survive.

In this eye-opening adventure that spans the globe, Juliet Eilperin investigates the fascinating ways different individuals and cultures relate to the ocean’s top predator. Along the way, she reminds us why, after millions of years, sharks remain among nature’s most awe-inspiring creatures.

Recommended by Allison of The Book Wheel. See The Book Wheel’s review of Demon Fish here.

34. Euphoria* by Lily King (fiction, Papau New Guinea, Try on Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks*)

Inspired by events in the life of revolutionary anthropologist Margaret Mead, Euphoria is the story of three young, gifted anthropologists of the 1930s caught in a passionate love triangle that threatens their bonds, their careers, and, ultimately, their lives.

Recommended by Allison of The Book Wheel. See The Book Wheel’s review of Euphoria here.

Tarawa

35. The Sex Lives of Cannibals* by J. Maarten Troost (humorous nonfiction, Tarawa, Try on Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks*)

At the age of twenty-six, Maarten Troost who had been pushing the snooze button on the alarm clock of life by racking up useless graduate degrees and muddling through a series of temp jobs decided to pack up his flip-flops and move to Tarawa, a remote South Pacific island in the Republic of Kiribati. He was restless and lacked direction, and the idea of dropping everything and moving to the ends of the earth was irresistibly romantic. He should have known better.

Recommended by Sandie of Booksie’s Blog who said this book was very funny. 

 

Arctic & Antarctica

You tell me, I had trouble finding books set on islands in these regions! 

Well there you have it, the best 35 books set on an island that I found. So, grab a book and enjoy traveling the world in books to an exotic and unusual islands or an islands with a rich history and culture. Until you can get to the islands in person, why not travel the world in books with us and join us this month as we escape to the islands? Happy travels and as always, happy reading! 

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The 35 Best Books Set on An Island. Pack your book bags and head on an island adventure with these books.
Travel the World in Books with these 35 of the Best Books Set on an Island. Pack your bags and whisk yourself away in one of these island books you are sure to love. Whether you enjoy a gritty nonfiction, a compelling drama or a light beach read, you're sure to find something you love on this list.



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23 Comments

  1. Wow, what an awesome list!! I don’t know how I missed this post before 🙂

    You have SO many great options listed here, including some of my favorites, like AJ Fikry, Moloka’i, Anne of Green Gables, and the Light Between the Oceans. I also enjoyed Ghost Bride, Unbroken, and Waiting for Snow in Havana. But you have so many others listed here that I haven’t read yet!

    Thanks for the inspiration –

    Sue

    Book By Book

  2. Oh my goodness! So many great books!! I really liked The Guernsey Potatoe Peel Pie Literary Society and I am going through the Anne books now (I am currently on book 6). I really want to read Island of Dolphins. I didnt realize it was based on a true story!

  3. My book list reads more like Summer Island, Barefoot, The castaways; Funny enough I found that most of my books that are set on an island are often set on fairly local islands (to me) like Nantucket!

  4. Wow! I don’t think I’ve read a single one of these books! I had a huge list of “island” books in my head but none of them matched up with yours. I am so excited to add some of these to my list. My youngest son chose the Aye Aye as his science project report this year and we learned all about Madagascar and the Aye Aye together and I was so surprised to see a book about the Aye Aye on the list; they are not a very popular species (we searched for books for a long time; found a few but not very many!).

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