Wednesday, January 19, 2011

My Deserted Island Books

One of the inevitable truths of life is its impermanence. What we think and feel today often changes by tomorrow. When pondering my favorite books, the list remains in constant flux. If I am entrenched in a fiction mood, the list is weighted towards fiction. If I am hiking often, the list leans towards natural history. If I am spending most of my free time on my porch, well, you get the point: the books that shape us change. Despite the exercise containing an ample amount of futility, I find it a worthwhile endeavor to occasionally consider what books at a particular moment mean the most to me. I have tried to distill this fluctuating list to those books that over numerous reflections continue to stand out as important books. These are my deserted island books.

The Bible
A treasure trove of stories and the subject of infinite allusions throughout history and literature

Ralph Waldo Emerson's Essays and Lectures
These writings helped to shape American thought—how a person becomes a fulfilled private individual and public citizen

Thomas Merton's Thoughts in Solitude
A pocket collection of beautifully written short meditations on life, faith, nature, and isolation.

Flannery O'Connor's The Complete Stories
For my money O’Connor wears the crown of short story queen. Tales of broken, hardworking people and the redemption they seek and sometimes find.

The Bhagavad Gita
An epic poem that begins on a battlefield and quickly delves into the crux of humanity: honor, family, war, love, dignity, and duty

Eduardo Galeano's Walking Words
A collection of brief short stories that weave creation myths with modern tragedy and humans’ interconnectivity with it all

Roy Bedichek's Adventures with a Texas Naturalist
A reflection on historical and natural Texas written after a sabbatical in the Hill Country. Written in the 1940s, Bedichek advocates for folks to connect with nature and preserve it.

What are your deserted island books?


tim snead said...

I'd include a well-annotated complete Shakespeare. Shakespeare is like the Bible. It's the origin of so much of modern thought that as you read along you're constantly thinking "Oh that's where that came from!" It's endlessly fascinating, but I'd want footnotes.

Bubba said...

Shakespeare is a must, I would agree with tim snead. For myself, I would want a few others as well:
Iliad & Odyssey - Homer
Metamorphoses - Ovid
Parallel Lives - Plutarch
Gargantua & Pantagruel - Rabelais
Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire - Gibbon
The Brothers Karamazov - Dostoevsky
Ulysses - Joyce
Gravity's Rainbow - Pynchon

Anonymous said...

Not to belittle the choices of literature here, if I were on a deserted island, I would want a book on how to survive on a deserted island.

But, that's just me. :)

tim snead said...

Anonymous: Remember Castaway with Tom Hanks and that box he never opened just because? Somebody asked the director what was in the box and he said, "A cell phone with a GPS system." Har!

Would have been a completely different movie.

liblairian said...

Anon, I agree with you. I considered including books on how to tie fishing knots and how to desalinate water. My exercise used "deserted island books" more as a stand in for the books I would read over and over again if ample shelter, food, and water were covered.