Years ago, more years that I care to admit, a number of local NPR stations aired a weekend program called “Desert Island Disks.”  During the course of an hour, local notables would discuss—and play—their all-time favorite recordings. The idea being that this was the music they would bring with them should they happen to find themselves exiled to a desert island.

The result, as you’d expect, was invariably a rich, messy mix. Within the span of 60 minutes, listeners were likely to hear everything from classical to cabaret, from C&W to acid rock, and from pop ballads to straight-no-chaser jazz.

Music, certainly. But what about books?

Music may be the food of life. But so are books. Which got me thinking: what 10 mystery novels would I take with me if I were being marooned somewhere, with no hope of ever buying, begging or borrowing another book?

Here’s my top-of-the-head list:

1. The complete works of Raymond Chandler or, if I had to choose just one novel, a coin toss between Farewell My Lovely and The Big Sleep
2. Dorothy Sayers, another coin toss:  Murder Must Advertise or Gaudy Night
3. Wilkie Collins’ classic (and, some  would argue, the first “real” mystery novel) The Moonstone
4. P.D. James, probably The Lighthouse although anything of hers would do
5. Josephine Tey’s intellectual tour de force, Daughter of Time
6. To make me smile, one from M.C. Beaton’s Agatha Raisin series
7. Peter Tremayne’s latest, whatever that happened to be, OR the entire Brother Cadfael series by Ellis Peters
8. In the over-the-top category, something by Joan Hess, probably Martians in Maggody
9. Dust by Martha Grimes, a truly remarkable comeback novel
10. Tony Hillerman’s entire corpus (except for Finding Moon), starting with The Blessing Way

And one bonus book (cheating, I know):

11. The Shaman Laughs by James D. Doss

What about your list?

For inspiration, you might want to check out “Our 100 Favorite Mysteries of the 20th Century,” a  fascinating list compiled by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association  

And while you’re at it, click into for the current “Best Of” picks by the staff of Aunt Agatha’s Bookstore.

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