19 of the best Desert Island Discs episodes to take your mind off the news

Which one of these episodes would you take on your desert island?

Desert Island Discs

Desert Island Discs has been with us for an incredible 78 years and its appeal never falters.

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It’s currently hosted by Lauren Laverne on BBC Radio 4, but has also been presented by Kirsty Young, Sue Lawley, Michael Parkinson and Roy Plomley.

The show is renowned for its ability to bring out the best of its interviews and often has the biggest and best names in showbiz opening up on their most emotional moments.

Here’s our pick of the ones you can’t miss – and they’re all available now on BBC Sounds to listen to.

Sir David Attenborough

Attenborough has taken part in Desert Island Discs not once, not twice, but four times. Across his 1957, 1979, 1998 and 2012 appearances, the beloved documentary maker recounts his favourite songs and in his most recent episode, would take a piano with him to the island.

Listen to the 2012 episode here.

David Attenborough in Our Planet
David Attenborough in Our Planet (photo: Netflix)

Miriam Margolyes

Boisterous and loud, Margolyes’ Desert Island Discs episode is without a doubt a rollercoaster. From huge laughs, to honest emotions, Margolyes’ interview is a must-listen. She opted for Little Dorrit as a book to keep her company, and a flushing toilet as her luxury item.

Listen here.

Daniel Radcliffe

The Harry Potter star opened up on being thrust into the limelight from such a young age and what it’s like to forever be known as that wizard. Radcliffe would take some pencils and paper with him along with The Norton Anthology of Poetry.

Listen here.

Dame Judi Dench

In 2015, Dench met Young and spoke about her extensive career on stage and screen. In a touching moment, she reveals she would have Other Men’s Flowers by A P Wavell as her chosen book, but it would be read by her daughter, Finty Williams. Sticking with the theme of family, Dench would take cut-out pictures of all her friends and relatives.

Listen here.

Louis Theroux

Theroux had the tables turned on him in his Desert Island Discs episode, as Laverne grilled him in 2019 of his incredible life as a documentary maker. To keep him company, Theroux would take a 40,000 piece jigsaw and Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past.

Listen here.

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Malorie Blackman

The Noughts and Crosses author is vehement in her passion for books and ensuring the youth have access to literature. Positive and uplifting, Blackman recalls how she made it in an industry that tried to knock her back, all the while choosing some truly iconic tunes as the soundtrack of her life.

Listen here.

Charlie Brooker

Black Mirror creator Brooker opened up on his childhood and his fascination with video games, which may serve to explain some of his television work’s themes. Brooker said he would take his Nintendo Switch to his island, and Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut.

Listen here.

John McEnroe

He might be known on the tennis court for his fiery antics, but little is known about the man behind the racquet. McEnroe opened up on his life off court in 2017, and revealed he would take his vintage Martin acoustic guitar and a copy of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest to keep him busy on his island.

Listen here.

June Brown

Dot Branning herself spoke to Young back in 2017 about her incredible career in television, not least on EastEnders. She revealed she would take some tobacco seeds to her desert island and The Story of San Michele by Axel Munthe to keep her company.

Listen here.

eastenders dot branning

Michael Bublé

The world’s most famous crooner, Bublé has certainly lived a full and rich life. After discussing the Big Band music he grew up with, Bublé revealed he would take a Rolex watch and The Power of Now with him.

Listen here.

Ant and Dec

Our beloved Geordie duo obviously had to do Desert Island Discs together. This funny, heartwarming and touching edition will make you want to give your best friend a big cuddle. As for their luxury items? A blow-up chair for Ant and some tweezers for Dec.

Listen here.

Ian Wright

Arsenal’s second top goalscorer Wright gets emotional in this charged episode of Desert Island Discs. While discussing family, friends and those figures in his life who drove him to success, it’s hard not to have a lump in your throat.

Listen here.

Stephen Graham

Liverpudlian Graham caught up with Laverne in 2019, and not only shared his fantastic taste in music, but his honest and raw experience with mental health struggles. He would take Jonathan Livingston Seagull as his chosen book and a pillow to keep him company on his island.

Listen here.

Russell T Davies

The man who brought Doctor Who back to the BBC in 2005, Davies’ career is certainly one to be respected. The most poignant part of his interview with Laverne comes when he discusses the loss of his beloved husband, Andrew Smith, to cancer and how he come to terms with his grief.

Listen here.

Matt Smith 

The Eleventh Doctor himself rocked up in 2018 to chat to Young about his life on Doctor Who and what it was like being thrust into the limelight for his huge role. Smith chose Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes as his one book and an endless supply of English Breakfast Tea for luxury.

Listen here.

Matt Smith in Doctor Who series 5
BBC

Mary Berry

In 2012, Berry gave an emotional interview to Young where she discussed her baking career and how the death of her son, William, led her to change the way she worked.

Listen here.

David Nott

War-zone doctor Nott appeared on Desert Island Discs in 2016 and delivered one of the most moving interviews ever to appear over the 78 years. His tales from Aleppo in Syria are not easy to listen to, but remain incredibly important.

Listen here.

Simon Cowell

X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent mastermind, Cowell needed nothing but a mirror on his island, as he told Young in 2006. As for a book? Hollywood Wives by Jackie Collins. This hysterical and honest episode is not one to miss.

Listen here.

Tom Hanks

The Toy Story actor opened up on his childhood and life in the limelight in 2016 when he spoke to Young. He wanted to take a Hermes 3000 manual typewriter and paper to his island as his luxury item and would choose A World Lit Only by Fire by William Manchester as his one book.

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Listen here.