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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?