10 Escapist Books Set on Islands

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I’ve mentioned multiple times that my summer 2019 reading kept veering to islands. This wasn’t really intentional, but I do enjoy the surreal feeling of a book set on an island.

Depending on both the particular island and the story, an island setting can feel expansive and wholly of another world, claustrophobic and restrictive, or escapist and dreamy.

While I gravitated to escapist and dreamy for my summer reading, the books below run the gamut.

Some are perfect for summer reading (or for the dead of winter when you’re dreaming of summer locales!), while others are set on islands that are more desolate and unforgiving.

No matter what you love, an island setting adds an extra element of interest and a secluded, escapist feel. From contemporary fiction to historical fiction to classic retellings, there’s something here for everyone.

Books Set on Islands

The Islanders: A Novel

The Islanders: A Novel

Summary
One summer on Block Island, three strangers’ lives intersect: Joy is a single mom, struggling to keep her pie business afloat; Anthony is an author, brought down by scandal and trying to put himself back together; and Lu is a mom of two young children, struggling with her feelings of discontent and her desire to build a business.If you like Elin Hilderbrand, give this one a try–the tone and writing felt very similar.
The Island
  • Block Island
  • Somewhat escapist but less ritzy than Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard
Read If You Like:
  • Books about strangers’ lives intersecting
  • Elin Hilderbrand
  • East coast island settings.

More info →

Buy from Amazon
The Summer Wives: A Novel

The Summer Wives: A Novel

Summary
Miranda Schuyler finds herself immersed in the oppressive, secretive world of the Winthrop Island’s rich when her mother marries Hugh Fisher. She forms a fast friendship with her reckless new stepsister, Isobel, who has a complicated relationship with Joseph Vargas, the son of the lighthouse keeper. Miranda’s romance with Joseph culminates in an explosive event that sends him to prison and keeps her from the island for two decades. Upon returning, she finds that old resentments and secrets remain intact and she must dive into them to save Joseph.
The Island
  • Winthrop Island
  • Escapist summer haven for the rich
Read If You Like:
  • Books about the wealthy and powerful
  • East coast island settings.

More info →

Buy from Amazon
The Blue Bistro: A Novel

The Blue Bistro: A Novel

Summary
Adrienne is new to Nantucket and desperately needs a job. Despite having no restaurant experience, Thatcher Smith hires her as the hostess at The Blue Bistro, a wildly popular Nantucket restaurant. Thatcher himself is intriguing, but so is the talented and notoriously private chef, Fiona. Adrienne falls in love with life in the restaurant, while growing closer to Thatcher and trying to unravel the secrets surrounding Fiona. This is great on audio.
The Island
  • Nantucket
  • Escapist setting (but a story with some darker themes)
Read If You Like:
  • Elin Hilderbrand’s various stories set on Nantucket (this one is my favorite!)
  • Foodie books and mouthwatering descriptions

More info →

Buy from Amazon
We Were Liars

We Were Liars

Author: E. Lockhart
Summary
Four friends coming of age spend idyllic summers together on a private island, until one summer when they are undone by secrets, lies, and an accident.
The Island
  • Private island
  • Isolated summer camp feeling
Read If You Like:
  • Suspenseful coming of age stories
  • A “twist” (this one is controversial among readers!)

More info →

Buy from Amazon
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Summary
Told as a series of letters between an author in post-World War II England and the residents of the island of Guernsey, we learn how books helped them survive the German occupation. An impromptu book club, invented as an excuse for missing curfew, becomes a touchpoint for the various residents of the island. Charming as it is, the book doesn’t shy from the realities of the war and what it meant for the island to be occupied.
The Island
  • Guernsey
  • World War II German occupation
Read If You Like:

More info →

Buy from Amazon
Castle of Water: A Novel

Castle of Water: A Novel

Author: Dane Huckelbridge
Genre: Fiction
Summary
A man and woman are the only survivors of a plane crash in the Pacific. Stranded together on a small island, they must learn to depend on one another if they want to survive.
The Island
  • Small island in the South Pacific
Read If You Like:
  • Castaway survival stories
  • Unlikely character pairings

More info →

Buy from Amazon
Moloka’i

Moloka’i

Summary
A young Hawaiian girl is diagnosed with leprosy in the early 20th century and sent to Kalaupapa, the quarantined leprosy settlement on the island of Moloka’i. Presumably sent to die, she instead builds a life.
The Island
  • Moloka’i
Read If You Like:
  • Stories about living with illness
  • Historical fiction about little-known marginalized groups

More info →

Buy from Amazon
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

Summary
A curmudgeonly bookstore owner receives an unexpected package that expands his life and brings unexpected people into it. The bookstore setting and the way books and stories are woven into the lives of the characters–as comfort objects, discussion topics, relationship touchpoints, and contemplations on life–make this especially pleasing for book lovers.
The Island
  • Alice Island, a fictional island near Boston, Massachusetts
Read If You Like:

More info →

Buy from Amazon
The Flight of Gemma Hardy

The Flight of Gemma Hardy

Summary
In this retelling of Jane Eyre, a young girl is sent to Scotland after the death of her father. Following a similar path as Jane, Gemma is sent to boarding school and then gets a job as an au pair for a rich and intriguing man on the Orkney Islands. I’ve visited the Orkneys and they are a fascinating landscape and a world unto themselves.
The Island
  • The Orkneys
  • Isolated islands north of Scotland
Read If You Like:
  • Retellings of beloved classics
  • Stories set in unforgiving locales

More info →

Buy from Amazon
Summer of ’69

Summer of ’69

Summary
In the tumultuous summer of 1969, four siblings each have their own struggles. One is pregnant with twins in Boston, another has a foot in the civil rights movement but is pursuing her independence on Martha’s Vineyard, another is deployed in Vietnam, and the fourth is a young teen on Nantucket with her mother and grandmother. Elin Hilderbrand’s first foray into historical fiction offers a glimpse of the islands during a particularly rocky year in U.S. history.
The Island
  • Nantucket
  • Martha’s Vineyard
Read If You Like:
  • 20th century historical fiction
  • Sibling and family stories

More info →

Buy from Amazon

Do you have any favorite island books?

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10 Must-Read Books Set on Islands

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2 Comments

  1. What a great theme for a book list! I love anything escapist. Throw in some sand and sun and it’s a recipe for success (usually)! I loved Castle of Water, even though I wasn’t too happy with the ending. I also loved Something in the Water.

  2. Have you read Wreckage by Emily Bleeker? It’s a crash on a deserted island story! When the two survivors are rescued, they lie about what happened. So, what happened??

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