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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 22 September 2012
This entertaining and engaging book celebrates 70 years of Radio 4's popular programme invented in 1942 by Roy Plomley and presented by him for 43 years, followed by Michael Parkinson (1986-98), Sue Lawley (!988-2006) and now Kirsty Young. Nearly 3,000 castaways have been interviewed including celebrities, politicians, world leaders and prominent figures who have made significant contributions within their own field and have led lives of interest. The editor, Sean Magee, says he made his selection of the 87 interviews in an attempt to reflect the variety of the castaways and nature of individual programmes although they seem to me to be a random choice. The formula is still the same. Each castaway chooses 8 discs, one book and a luxury item (the Bible and Shakespeare's works are considered essential) and an interview that hopefully reveals a lesser known side of the guest of honour in a 'no-holds-barred' fashion often with surprising results.

Magee divides the book into decades with an interesting precis of events and history occurring during each one plus other personalities unable to be accomodated in his interview choice. A listing of all interviewees is at the end of the book. He also provides a summary of the individuals before the interviews that follow. These have been heavily pruned and replaced by fillers provided by Magee between the dialogue that I feel detracts from the the episodes. Each of the presenters have/had their own method and depth of preparation before meeting their guests and style of their interrogation. Plomley's questions in earlier years were scripted. The best are those of any expert interviewer who seizes the opportunity, when it arises, to probe and push for more answers and details. Sue Lawley could be relentless. The reactions and results may be surprisingly personal, sometimes hostile or embarrassing, all adding to the attraction and attention of the listener and now the reader.

This is a book to pick up and thumb through. There is a gem of a find on almost every page. The inevitable question of coping with isolation leads George Formby to say he'd have to live on grass, Princess Margaret would be fearful, especially of the dark, Shirley Bassey would probably starve to death, Enoch Powell thinks it would be a cruel fate because man is a social animal, Gracie Fields "sounds like the places I've been on tour".

Earl Hines, the pianist, describes Al Capone as 'a very congenial fellow' and recalls his acts of kindness, Diana Mosley tells Sue Lawley that Adolph Hitler was 'extraordinarily fascinating' and had mesmeric blue eyes. Johnny Vegas tells Kirsty Young of the fate of his pet rabbit due to family hardship. Luxury items include Kenneth Williams with a crate of cologne, Spike Milligan a Barclaycard and the cooking act Fanny Craddock (a typewriter and paper) and her long-suffering husband Johnnie a get away from her golf clubs and balls. The choice of books is varied and often surprising. The discs likewise are diverse with personal oddities.

Many hours of material are here to explore and discover within the pages of this handsomely produced and presented book. Fuller interviews would have been appreciated with less editorial comment but overall this is packed with enjoyable reading and colourful illustations. It is readable at any time, but would also make an ideal present for fans of the show both old and new. Written interviews will never be a substitute for those spoken. For interested parties the Desert Island Disc website has about 1500 accessible episodes. Invitations to participate in the programme are apparently more prestigious than knighthoods!
P.S The 'Flotsam and Jetsam' publication is an ideal companion book to this. Both are unlikely to be updated or reproduced in the near future. Get them while you can.
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on 2 December 2012
Well researched and written. Bite sized chunks of semi-biography. The linking sections are especially interesting, with their snippets of information about how the interviewees were selected and how the interviews were conducted. With only 3-4 pages per interviewee, little information can be given on each. Good book for picking up and reading one or two entries in a idle moment. With just a little more space for each entry I am sure my mark would have been higher.
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on 20 November 2012
I am a longstanding fan of the radio programme since I discovered it was still going when I returned to UK after a spell in Africa in the seventies. Would you believe I used to listen to Victor Silvester show on BBC World Service short wave? I also made a brief appearanc in the listeners' choice programme put out by BBCWM local radio to celebrate the shows 70th anniversary. So, this book was a natural for me. I loved it and it's three page 'chapters' are ideal for nostalgic bed time reading.
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on 13 March 2014
What a fantastic book, wonderful to see inside other peoples lives that we didn't know about.Please buy this great book for the person who thought they didn't need anything.
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on 6 November 2012
Wonderful publication! Wonderful programme! Wonderful guests! Seventy years of excellent radio interviews.
Beautifully presented. Recommended to all who enjoy BBC at its best!
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on 8 November 2012
This was a hugely enjoyable read, principally because of what some of the castaways revealed themselves e.g. the child abuse suffered by Montgomery of Alamein.

The weakness of the book is that a disproportinate amount of it was taken up with social history, so reducing the word-space that could have been allocated to more interviews.
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on 27 December 2012
I purchased this for hubby for Christmas and was surprised (pleasantly) at how thick and heavy it is! Value for money me thinks!! At the moment he has only read a few pages and has enjoyed it immensely, but its greatest asset is that you can dip in and out of the reading without having to go from cover to cover.

Certainly a reference book for the shelves, but one that be enjoyed by anyone at anytime in the future.
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on 25 December 2013
I knew as soon as I picked this up it was a "heavyweight" tome in all ways!
It probably is the heaviest book I have ever lifted but when you open it and see
exactly the contents it has you understand.
One little criticism, because of the vast number a "castaways" interviewed the
print size is small (and I mean "small").
However, it is the ultimate for biographiles like me!
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on 4 June 2014
Bought this as a christmas present for my father in law and he ravs about it.
A book full of mini autobiography's of some of the worlds most fabulous people for all walks of life.
My father in law states he love picking this book up and getting an insight into the many varied lives, he says there it is a fascinating read and he loves it.

It is a beautiful book and very well complied.
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on 30 January 2013
Got this for the mother for Christmas, luckily she hadn't been near a bookshop in ages and hadn't noticed any of the publicity so didn't even know it was published. Thus when it arrived on Christmas day she was suitably thrilled and set to reading it post Christmas dinner. She was thrilled, and loves it. I want to nick it off her already. Job done.
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