Top Ten Tuesday: Books I'd Want on a Desert Island

Looking at this week's topic, I'm struck by the fact that if I were stranded alone on an uninhabited island, the books I'd want wouldn't necessarily be my favorites. Even the best novels seem insignificant when stacked up against that level of isolation. What I'd want would be the bedrock-works of culture, community, and religion: the books that would best convince me I wasn't entirely alone. The books with the ideas that would help me stay sane.

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish! Do come join the fun...

Here, then, are the reminders of communal reality I'd want around me if I ended up alone with the coconut palms and the four winds and the tides.

1. The Holy Bible. The full Canon of Trent, please, and heck, if I could get the rest of the Old Testament Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha appendixed into the back, I would. I would want as much reading material around as possible. But all that aside, I'm not interested in a life of solitude that doesn't include the Psalms and the gospel of John.

2. A great big volume of the Desert Fathers' writings. They were all hermits. Their thoughts might prove helpful.

3. The complete works of Shakespeare. No, this is not cheating. We have two of these volumes lying around our house. I'd learn off whole sections and quote Beatrice to the toucans and shout Hamlet at the monsoons.

4. Bulfinch's Mythology. With a fair amount of spare time on my hands, once I'd learned how to harpoon fish with a sharpened stick, I'd catch up on my classical education. And then I'd have a more thorough understanding of the next book on my list, which is:

5. Dante's Divine Comedy. When I got tired of reciting Shakespeare, I could start on cantos of this. And should the island eventually be rediscovered, and my skeleton found in a cave with a trunk of carefully preserved books, I suspect the Purgatorio and Paradiso would be almost illegible from wear. (The Inferno, maybe not so much.)

6. The biggest, most thorough dictionary existing in the English language. Because coming across an unknown word and not being able to find out what it means would just be unbearable.

7. A solid language course, possibly Wheelock's Latin, although I'd also take Spanish or French or Russian or Italian or Greek or Hebrew or Mandarin or Japanese or, or... or even Quenya or Sindarin.

8. A great big book of astronomy. Because the one benefit to being on an uninhabited island would be the view of the stars.

9. All right, maybe I would take one favorite with me. Like the whole Harry Potter series, or the Space Trilogy, or The Chronicles of Narnia, or even The Lord of the Rings. Something epic, anyway.

10. Lastly but not quite leastly: the biggest book of blank pages available to mankind, and an endless supply of pens. Nobody said anything about how many pens I could take, right? I'd want a bushel of them. Then, when that island-rediscovering party comes along and finds my cave, there'll be one little contribution to human society left for them to find: hundreds of pages written through in tiny, tight handwriting. I won't guarantee that it would be an important contribution. But with all that spare time and solitude, it would seem wasteful to leave nothing.

What books would you want with you?


  1. Yes, I think we were on parallel wavelengths on this one...after all, a girl's gotta eat or learn the stars and not just read for pleasure all day! And we had one of those dictionaries in our library in college, with a slanted table all its own...it was GINORMOUS. My friend and I had a nickname for it as well: Big (well, I'll let you guess the second word).

    Here's my link: TTT

    1. HAHA. Now that's my kind of dictionary! Although, when I'm not stranded on a desert island, I like the online variety... takes up a lot less space. :)

  2. If you take a Kindle along you wouldn't have to limit yourself to ten books. You could have thousands.

    Of course you might have to figure out some way to charge the Kindle using skills learned from watching Gilligan's Island. Still, it would give you something to do. ;)

    1. As noted by Arabella below, I don't think I'd be able to pull that off without the Professor. :D

      But I'm afraid that if I took just the Kindle, I'd get angry with it for not being easy to flip through and find random quotes based on where I remember them being located on the page. I might get angry enough to hurl it into the ocean, and then where would I be? :P

    2. Well, it would give you plenty of time to make up stories & tell them to yourself. ;)

    3. Haha. :)

      No, seriously, I do like the Kindle and use it for works I don't plan to re-read, like book club books. :P Also for getting free books! But in any case where I want to do any poking around and re-reading sections, I've not figured out a good substitute for just flipping through the pages of a paper book.

      Let me know if you have such a substitute. :D

  3. Yes, you'd need the Professor with you!


  4. The Divine Comedy! Great idea - I need to read that myself at some point. I love Bulfinch's Mythology, although I will admit that I prefer Hamilton's version myself. :) Great list!

    1. I'm definitely open to arguments on Hamilton vs. Bulfinch! Bulfinch just happens to be the one I possess and have not finished reading. :)

  5. Pardon the language, but d4mn, you're good. I don't even think I'd have the time or excuse to get bored on a desert island with the books you've chosen!

  6. A brief list for me:

    1) The Holy Bible

    2) The Lutheran Confessions

    3) Sermons of Martin Luther

    4) A survival guide either by the U.S. Military or by Les Stroud (Survivorman)

    5) The Hobbit & The Lord of the Rings in one volume

    6) The Chronicles of Narnia in one volume.

    7) Mere Christianity

    8) Till We Have Faces

    9) The Confessions by St. Augustine

    10) And though this would count as more than one book, the complete Harry Potter set or the complete set of Austen's books, or The City of God by St. Augustine.

    1. I bet it's possible to get all of Austen's works in one volume. And if the desert island scenario were at all likely to become real, I'd be angling for an all-in-one HP volume, too. :D

    2. My brother gave me a one volume version of Jane Austen...pretty thick, but it exists! (Or, existed...it was a while ago...Modern Library version).


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