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An Island to Oneself: The Story of Six Years on a Desert Island
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An Island to Oneself: The Story of Six Years on a Desert Island

4.34  ·  Rating details ·  705 ratings  ·  81 reviews
What we have all now and then dreamed of doing, Tom Neale did: go and live alone on a desert island. For years while storekeeping in the South Pacific, he planned, read and talked until the great day when he was landed on his little kingdom, aware of (but undismayed by) the fact that he would have to struggle with the full strength of body and mind to survive. Neale's grip ...more
Hardcover, 255 pages
Published September 25th 1990 by Ox Bow Press (first published 1966)
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4.34  · 
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 ·  705 ratings  ·  81 reviews

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Steve Van Slyke
Dec 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Sailors headed for the South Pacific
Shelves: sailing-cruising
You don't have to be a sailor to love this book because it isn't really about sailing. It's about being comfortable being completely alone, and surviving without a grocery store a doctor or a dentist for hundreds of miles. Tom Neale was an amazing guy and he tells an amazing story of what it is truly like to live alone on a tropical island. I desperately wanted to stop at his island (Suvorov) on our way from Bora Bora to American Samoa, but unfortunately there was a dengue fever outbreak amongst ...more
Jul 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
To me this was a life changing book. It is told in first person format about how Tom Neale went to live on an uninhabited island in the Suvorov Atoll. He felt that his whole life was leading to that purpose and then he was finally able to do it in his 50's, in the 1950's. This island was not on a trade route but was an outpost at one point during WWII where a lookout was kept. After the war, all that was really left was a shack and a couple rustic outbuildings. This was Tom Neale's home. The boo ...more
Aug 02, 2007 rated it really liked it
Island of Desire
Terrific book for would-be hermits or just those of us who long for solitude. Neale spent years in the South Pacific dreaming of finding a deserted island before he finally took the plunge, so he had plenty of time to prepare. Still, there were all manner of unexpected setbacks and challenges to face, including a severe bout with fever and an epic storm.

One thing I particularly liked about Neale was how doggedly he clung to his dream. While living an unfulfilling life as a shopk
Really compelling story of Tom Neale, who marooned himself on a desert island in the South Pacific and made it his home for more than six years. The book covers Neale's first two stays on the island as he battled the jungle, established a garden, a fowl run and tried to put aside the need for companionship and living by the clock. His story is warm and engrossing, making this quick read a book to remember.
Dec 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
In the fifties, Neale—then middle-aged—set out to realise a longstanding goal: to live alone on an island in the Pacific. He ended up doing two stints on the same island, with a six-year period between (the first period, roughly a year and a half long, ended when he injured his back; the second period lasted three and a half years). Neale was as good a chance as any to do it—he knew boats, he knew survival skills, he knew the Pacific. Too, he wasn't terribly inclined to make things as rustic/'au ...more
Jun 06, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone who enjoys living a solitary life.
Recommended to Pat by: Read about in a review of another book.
Written by New Zealander Tom Neale, this book was about Neale's time spent on a desert island for about 17 years. Not a hermit or recluse, Neale was just someone who dreamed of living on a desert island, and that dream came true for him at the age of 50. While most people that age are not even remotely thinking of doing such a thing, Neale did so and seemingly never regretted it. His years on the island were interrupted by a few trips back to the mainland mostly for health reasons, but Neale alw ...more
Feb 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
Life is stranger than fiction. No really! It is. This is one man's story about pretty much every little boy's dream of living alone on a desert island where he builds a shelter and hunts for fish.

Tom Neale didn't wash up on the island, he went there willingly like Thoreau did to his pond at Walden. Neale is from New Zealand but travelled the islands of the pacific for many years.

This is a great adventure book. It's stranger than fiction. The Tom Hanks movie "Cast Away" has nothing on the drama
Sep 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I love this book. Tom Neale's decision to live for years on deserted island by himself is one of the boldest, weirdest feats I've ever heard of. Going Robinson Crusoe on purpose seems to me even more audacious than the acts of bravery I usually read about -- climbing Everest, sailing solo around the world, surviving shipwrecks, etc. A more delightful loner you'll never meet. At least on the pages of this book. When I stopped to think about how Neale had parents and (a quick search reveals) a wif ...more
Feb 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: castaways
I'm on a desert-island-book kick at the moment, so when I saw this was available for free, I grabbed it.

I really liked this. It's not an overly long book, but it's well written and in a way a complete opposite to the last book I read of this type, Castaway. The one thing that really stands out is just how happy he is on the island.

There's no real hardships apart from a couple of bouts of fever and a rather poor diet, and even after 14 months alone he's still happy and content, but that adds to
Raechelle Thomas
Nov 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Just brilliant! I thoroughly enjoyed this book; every page I turned made me stop and think, could John & I do something like that? This guy did it-and did it alone! Pure solitude, and self suffiency-the truly simple life...well besides the hard work that comes with self suffiency! And great insight; even though he was very much happy as a loner, even he occasionally would long for some companionship...but only for brief moments..other than that-he was very happy and content for those years t ...more
Theresa Sivelle
Aug 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
What a great book. My cousin recommended it and I have to say I really did enjoy this book. Amazing reading about surviving on an island for years by oneself with very little. He did have a head start in that some things were already on the island, but still very amazing. Even not being sure about some of the things he talked about as he is/was from New Zealand the story was still great and very interesting. Thanks for the recommendation cousin Karen. :-)
Apr 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Going in I knew I was going to rate this book 5 stars. This is my kind of story. Someone who knows what needs to be done and goes out and figures out a way to do it on their own. There's not much excitement. Just a simple book explaining how to live life on your own. I really want my deserted island now.
Jamie Krehbiel
Jul 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Tom Neale decided to live on an island by himself in the South Pacific. He managed to do so for about 20 years. This book was written after the first 10 years. It is interesting to read about how he did it. Plus who doesn't love beautiful islands? It is definitely a fun read.
Mar 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Couldn't find this one anywhere so I ordered it from Amazon. If you've ever wished you could retreat from your hectic lifestyle and find a calmer existance this is the book to read. What an adventure! Wonderful!
Jan 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
Ever wanted to move to a deserted island alone? This guy did, and makes a pretty convincing argument for it. Very good, but there was not enough "action" to make it great.
Lindsay Eaton
Tom Neale's classic story of the 6 years he spent in the 50s and 60s living alone on Anchorage Island at Suvarov atoll in the South Pacific. I loved this - a really amazing story.
Feb 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: new-zealand
I had initially heard about this book a while back, and it was the premise, that this man had spent years by himself on an uninhabited island, that got me interested in it, and now that I've finally read it, there was more to it than just that. There's something admirable in the way Tom eschews modern life and gets away from it all, and you can tell from the text how freeing it was for him, but I think it was his choice of solitude that was what I really liked about it. Here was someone who thou ...more
Lianne Burwell
Dec 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
I live close to the Rideau Trail here in Ontario, and when I got laid off from my job, nearly four years ago, I briefly felt the urge to just throw some things in a backpack and start walking. Then common sense reasserted itself, since I don't have camping gear, or even the right kind of boots, to be doing that in March. Still, it was a tempting thought.

And one that I think Tom Neale would have completely understood. The sort of man who would set out to live alone on a small island in the South
Dec 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
While I haven’t read that many, I absolutely love “desert island” novels, and this seemed like it would be an very interesting read, and particularly close to home since Tom was from New Zealand like myself.

I really enjoyed reading this book. There were times when it got a little bit bogged down in minutiae, but on the flip side there were some fascinating details that only living it could really give you.

Tom had some really great survival skills, and I think they certainly helped him in being
Apr 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
This was an excellent easy read. Neale's adventures are engrossing and inspiring because of how simple and in reach they seem, while still being incredibly exotic and aspirational for us stuck in the 9-5 grind. He talks about his years grinding away in his job as a shopkeeper, before finally throwing it all away and retreating to an abandoned island.

He keeps the book lively with just the right amount of detail in his anecdotes to make them interesting and answering the reader's questions without
Oct 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
An utterly fascinating memoir about a man who chooses to live on a deserted island. Born in New Zealand, Tom Neale is island-hopping in the South Pacific when he falls in love with a deserted atoll called Suvarov. In the 1950s and 60s, he spent a total of six years living alone on the island, where he encountered challenges ranging from growing food to killing predators to surviving medical crises 500+ miles from a hospital. Neale's writing is straight forward, thoughtful, and expertly paced, an ...more
Conrad Wesselhoeft
Oct 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I read this long ago while visiting the Cook Islands (Rarotonga and Aituktaki) and loved it. It's the story of man versus nature. (Spoiler alert: man wins.) Tom Neale is a latter-day Robinson Crusoe, ever resourceful and highly independent. He writes with modesty and grace.

One unforgettable scene: when a friendly sailing yacht departs Neale's island after a visit of several days, Neale stands on the beach waving goodbye, his expression, according to one friend in the boat, a mix of affection (he
Dec 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
Now what to say about this book which might be my favourite book of all the huge amount of books I have read during my lifetime? It's a very charming book which tells about a man who had a dream for a long time and who went for it. This book is a lot about solitude even though writing style is such that it doesn't reveal much at all about author's inner thoughts and feelings. Those he kept for himself but even the practical preparations and daily life of his on the island was enough for me to en ...more
Apr 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: autobio-bio
My son came in the other day and put this book in my hands. So I read it. It was published in 1966, so the story is an old one, but it is still compelling. Tom Neale dreamed of living alone on a desert island in the South Pacific. He planned and prepared, and he made it happen. The story is well written and interesting, and Neale manages not to spend much time navel gazing, which I appreciated. I wasn't inspired to find a desert island of my own to live on, but I wouldn't mind visiting one for a ...more
Delphine Pontvieux
Dec 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Loved reading this book because i have been in Polynesia before so i can only imagine what life by oneself would be like on a deserted motu. Also we follow Neale as he builds his little island, and we're right by his side when he celebrates a day of Victory (like when he fixed the pier or tamed the duck) and a day of defeat (the big storm, when he runs out of tobacco)...
i recommend everyone to read it, could come in handy if you were marooned some day. (even though he chose to live there, so he
Jan 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Tom Neale is a Kiwi with a love of the islands and atolls of the Pacific. He becomes possessed with the desire to live alone on one of the Cook Islands after hearing about its beauty from a friend. The Island has a shack and water catchment system (abandoned) from previous inhabitants. With his cats, chickens, a duck, and some pigs, Tom makes a home there. The joy of his life on the island is infectious, although you cannot get over the amount of work he did living there. I highly recommend this ...more
Jan 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, essentials
Tom Neale lived the life that I have been dreaming of: purposefully lived alone on an uninhibited island. The fact that he did it after slaving away for fifty years in civilized society is nothing short of remarkable. Filled with valuable insights and humor, Neale provides an inspirational account of his six years of nearly uninterrupted solitude. A weaker storyteller would stretch out the last ten pages to encompass a third of the book, but Neale crafts it as a fitting epilogue to his time on S ...more
Kay Van Slyke
Mar 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
This was a pretty good read but I tend to not agree with many of the reviewers. I was a little disappointed in the way Tom depleted the island of many of its resources without regard to renewing them i.e. the coconut crabs, lobsters and the wild pigs. I realize the pigs caused a lot of problems for him and his garden and they were not indigenous to the island but it seems to me there might have been a better way to deal with them.
Aug 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A very interesting account of life unhinged from the "rat race" we are all engaged with in our modern lifestyles. I must confess, the idea of selling out everything and transporting myself to the island described in this book is somewhat appealing to my sometimes strong desire to be reclusive. A very real and complicated account of life alone on an island without what one would consider normal support mechanisms.
Jul 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
It is hard not to envy Tom Neale’s circumstance, ending up alone (by choice) on a small Polynesian atoll. The account of his day-to-day life and ongoing projects on Suvarov is fascinating, addicting, and inspiring. The simplicity of the narrative mirrors the simplicity of his life.

As of 2014, cruise boats are now periodically stopping by Suvarov, dumping 2,000 passengers at a time onto sweet little Anchorage Island. Does any place like the Suvarov of the 1950s and ‘60s exist anymore?

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Thomas Francis "Tom" Neale was a New Zealander bushcraft and survival enthusiast who spent much of his life in the Cook Islands and 16 years in three sessions living alone on the island of Anchorage in the Suwarrow atoll, which was the basis of his popular autobiography.
“There, in the shimmering distance, was a sail. I stared in momentary disbelief, but there it was, one of the most beautiful sights the Pacific can ever offer — a ship in full sail edging her way through the blue waters.” 3 likes
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