8 Great Books for an Island Adventure
Even if your idea of an island adventure involves lounging on a towel by the shore and kicking back in the sunshine for hours of uninterrupted beach bumming, it’s still possible to get your heart racing on your next tropical trip—with the help of a great book, that is.
Previously, we’ve shared some of our favorite classic beach reads, along with new picks for summer books, and even a few beach books of a different sort—pulse-pounding page turners that are guaranteed to make you fall in love with the sea all over again. Now, we’re rounding out our curated reading list with eight timeless favorites that are not only set in the islands, but will add a dash of adventure to your next island escape, no matter where you may be headed next.
“The Beach” by Alex Garland
A suspenseful novel by Alex Garland that tells the story of a young backpacker named Richard, who sets out to find a secret, idyllic beach in Thailand that is said to be a paradise on earth. After he and a group of fellow travelers discover the beach, they attempt to establish a utopian community, but tensions and conflicts arise as they struggle to maintain their paradise. More than 25 years since its publishing, this 436-page hit still offers a thrilling exploration of the human need for community and belonging—as well as the desire to escape from it.
“The Rum Diary” by Hunter S. Thompson
This semi-autobiographical novel follows the misadventures of a young journalist named Paul Kemp, who moves to San Juan, Puerto Rico, to work for a struggling English-language newspaper in the late 1950s. The book is a hilarious and raucous account of Kemp's experiences, which include drinking copious amounts of rum, becoming embroiled in political intrigue, and falling in love with a beautiful woman who is involved with a shady businessman. In all, a vivid and entertaining portrait of life in the Caribbean during a time of great change.
“The Life of Pi” by Yann Martel
Magic and adventure run deep in this story of a young Indian boy named Pi, who finds himself stranded on a lifeboat in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean following a shipwreck, with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker for company. In this philosophical and imaginative exploration of faith, survival, and the power of storytelling, Pi attempts to survive his harrowing journey and then ultimately make sense of his life-altering experiences.
“The Beach Club” by Elin Hilderbrand
Bestselling author Hilderbrand is known for her rich narratives that focus on the complexities of relationships, set against the backdrop of the beach—and this page-turner is no exception. “The Beach Club” follows the lives of several individuals, including a widowed mother, a millionaire businessman, and a young bartender, as they navigate love, loss, and family drama at a Nantucket beach club. Secrets are revealed and relationships are tested as the characters confront their pasts and fight to move forward into their futures.
“And Then There Were None” by Agatha Christie
For true lovers of murder, intrigue, and genuine whodunnits, "And Then There Were None" is a classic mystery novel by Agatha Christie that follows 10 strangers who are lured to a remote island under false pretenses. Once they arrive, they discover that they have been trapped—and in accordance with the nursery rhyme "Ten Little Indians," they realize they are being picked off one by one by an unknown killer. The novel is widely considered to be one of mystery maven Christie's greatest works, and is still held up as a seminal example of the murder mystery genre today.
“The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society:” by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
This epistolary novel (told in the form of letters) takes place in 1946, just following the end of World War II. It tells the story of a London-based writer named Juliet Ashton who receives a letter from a man living on the island of Guernsey. As they subsequently exchange letters, she feels compelled to visit the island and learn more about the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a book club that formed during the German occupation of the island. Through the letters of its members, Juliet uncovers rich details about their experiences during the war and the ways in which literature helped them to survive.
“Robinson Crusoe” by Daniel Defoe
This literary classic tells the story of a young man named Robinson Crusoe who, against his family's wishes, sets out to sea to find adventure. After several years of misadventure and even slavery, he becomes stranded on a deserted island, where he must learn to survive on his own and face the intense psychological challenges of total solitude. Widely considered a classic of English literature and a highly influential work of the adventure genre, this just may be the ultimate island adventure book even for those who have read it previously.
“Treasure Island” by Robert Louis Stevenson
Another truly classic adventure novel, this is the story of young Jim Hawkins, a boy who discovers a treasure map and sets sail on a quest to find the legendary loot for himself. Along the way, he encounters a colorful cast of characters, including the infamous Long John Silver, and he must use his wits and bravery to survive the dangers of the high seas and claim the treasure. Widely regarded as one of the greatest works of fiction in the English language, “Treasure Island” has inspired countless adaptations and imitations since it was first published and circulated in the late 1880s.