Jul 072010

You’re about to be marooned on a deserted island, and can take only ten books with you.  These books may be all you have for a lifetime of reading and re-reading.  What would your ten books be?  Drop in a line or two after each to say why. 

Oh yeah…and one more thing…if you can buy it as one bound volume it is fair game as one entry.  If not, something like ‘The Dark Tower’ 1 through 7 is not a valid single choice.  That is seven books.


 Posted by at 12:51 pm

  23 Responses to “Your top 10 deserted island books…”

  1. I guess that rules out Encyclopaedia Brittanica

    My books:

    “How to Build and Sail Small Boats – Canoes, Punts and Rafts” by Tom Read

    “Latitude Hooks and Azimuth Rings: How to Build and Use 18 Traditional Navigational Instruments” by Dennis Fisher

    “Survival on a desert Island for dummies”

    That pretty much covers it.

  2. The question is a cheat because it poses an inherent conflict between what is useful to you as a sole inhabitant of a desert island a la Crusoe, or whether you have all creature comforts and just need to while away time. I am assuming the latter in this list, so no medical texts, survival manuals or how-to building books. And no, my list is in no order:

    — Anna Karenina (Tolstoy) [Dense, scholarly, mystical and religious all at the same time; great character studies of peop;le wrestling with eternal human dilemnas]

    — Alaska/Hawaii (omnibus volume)(James Michener) [Just a large kaleidoscope of history, anecdote, people and events, and large enough to warrant a reread every few years]

    — A History of the World (JM Roberts [Before you ask, yes, I have read it, and yes, I do have it. Roberts is an excellent writer and the book is surprisingly informative without being boring]

    — The Bible [No matter the interpretation, this is one of the world’s great works of literature, social commentary and how to live with fellow man (or not)]

    — Complete Talmud (this may be a cheat since I’m unsure if it comes in one volume) [It’s been said that the Talmud is like a sea of the mind, and you’ll never get to the end of it – what little I’ve read of it suggests it is a concentrated form of man’s religious and moral philosophy…up to a point. But if it makes me think and contemplate existence, how can it be a waste?]

    — The Complete works of Shakespeare [I need to explain this?]

    — The Commentaries of Blackstone [I’m a sucker for logical thought and debate over matters of jurisprudence, and our social contract with our fellows is always worth a read]

    — Political Philosophy [I forget who wrote it, but I have it, and a door-stopper of a book it is, encapsulating huge tracts of the works of all major philosophers who ever wrestled with the single question – “Who should rule?”]

    — The Complete Works of Mark Twain (2 volumes) [Love the guy. More tongue in cheek humour about the human condition, more lighthearted cynicism on man’s nature than any ten other authors combined)

    Assuming my box was made larger:

    — Bhagavad Gita
    — The Koran
    — The Ramayana & The Mahabharata
    — The Aenid (Virgil)
    — Seutonius or Thucydides
    — The Hobbit + Lord of the Rings (JRR Tolkien)
    — Foucalt’s Pendulum (Umberto Eco)[Maybe one day I’l understand this one]
    — The Complete Foundation Series Omnibus Volume (Asimov)
    — Three Men in a Boat (+ dog) – Jerome K. Jerome
    — The Complete Works of Charles Dickens (10 volumes)
    — Four novels by Dick Francis (I had this book once)
    — Ethics, Politics (Aristotle)
    — Thomas Aquinas (anything)
    — The Illiad & Odyssey (Homer)
    — Harry Potter series – JK Rowling (7 volumes)
    — The Gunslinger series – Stephen King (7 volumes)

    And assuming I had just one choice:

    — A complete printout of Wikipedia (beat that)

    In retrospect, I’d probably go nuts long before I finished, just because there are tons of other worthy candidates out there, and I’d always be angry about the ones I missed. Note that I tried to stick with books I have read and which I know stimulate thought, as well as whiling away time – the only book in the first list I don’t have, is actually the Talmud. The second list is probably best seen as a wish list.

    Curt: you might have been better advised to narrow the selection to specific book types (history, classical, humour, fantasy, etc), maybe limit time on the island to five years, or something. This is more and more a futile exercise the longer I spend on it.

  3. You might best have phrased a variant of the question like this:

    “Your house is burning down. Your family and knicknacks and personal mementos are safe – you have one box and one trip left into the house before it goes up. The box can fit only ten books, so which ten will you rescue?”

    This might be even more interesting than the desert island question, since it shows us what you already have that you value. On that basis, I’ll go with my first list minus Blackstone and the Talmud, and substitute

    –“Tales of the Plains & Steppes” by Chingyz Aitmatov
    –“Diplomacy” by Henry Kissinger

  4. Uh…Lance…

    This is one of those age old questions. I didn’t make it up. Google ‘desert island books’ and you’ll find other people’s lists.

    Don’t put too much thought into it. You’re alone on an island for the rest of your life. You have ten books that you’ll be able to read and re-read as your entertainment. That’s it. They should be entertaining. If I am alone on an island the last thing I want to read is the bible.

  5. I understand, but there’s no reason for us to let our minds vegetate just because we are surrounded by ocean and have one palm tree. Entertainment wears thin rather rapidly, and there’s no way I could stay entertained by a mere ten books…as I’m sure you could not, either.

    Anyway, rather than diss my list…where’s yours?

  6. Hey, I don’t discount the validity of your list, I simply responded to your criticism of the question.

    List to follow.

  7. Curt:

    1. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand) – You had to know this would top the list.

    2. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand) – Nearly as good as Atlas.

    3. Pillars Of The Earth (Ken Follett) – Massive and sprawling. Takes you away and creates a new world. Not to mention epic and time-consuming.

    4. World Without End (Ken Follett) – See above. This one is just as good.

    5. The Stand (Stephen King) – Again…see comments for Pillars. Applies here as well.

    6. Moby Dick (Herman Melville) – Bloody brilliant. Great long slow read. What better place to read it than from an island.

    7. The Lord Of The Rings (JRR Tolkien) – Yes…I have seen it in one volume. Gotta read this some day.

    8. Perfume (Patrick Suskind) – Its all about the escapism.

    9. Of Mice And Men (John Steinbeck) – Love this tale.

    10. Complete Shakespeare – As Lance says…need I explain this one? Well…to Robert, yes.

  8. Interesting, but I think you’ll have finished them within the year (in between foraging and building your raft, of course)

    Also-rans I had considered were Moby Dick and Atlas Shrugged, so we’re not too far apart in the fiction field as I might have thought.

    I think we both agree ten is too little, though.

    Hey: you didn’t comment on the “complete prinout of Wikipedia” – I thought that would have drawn at least an amused snort, but you seemed to have accepted it as is.

    • Yeah…would definitely finish them in within a year, but I picked books I could re-read ad nauseum.

      Before I concede your wiki printout, I want to see it in one volume. Get printing…

  9. …still fetching the paper 🙂

  10. I’d take 11 playboy issues post 1990( the cartoons are hilarious)

    and salem’s lot

  11. Top ten deserted Island books;

    1- Robinson Crusoe , might need the company
    2- Les Miserables , just a great story
    3- Finnegans Wake, all things Irish and I now have the time to try and fully understand it.
    4- War and Peace , again what a great story
    5- Adventures of Huckleberry Finn , have to have some Clemens in my life
    6- The Gulag Archipelago ,can only make you better
    7- Hobbit/ Lord of the Rings , can read this over and over and still enjoy
    8- The Old Man and the Sea , all things Hemingway
    9- The Seventh Scroll , ok …….so I Wilbur Smith
    10- Clive Cussler? , ok …..so I like Cussler


    I have kleptomania . . . when it gets bad, I take something for it

  12. Hey…anyone who finishes either of those beasts gets crezzzzzzy respect from me.


    March 2006 Jim McEwan of Bruichladdich on a violent stormy night creates a new Whisky called X4. This is filled into bourbon barrels at 90%.

    March 2008 Duncan, Andrew and Mark decide for public safety that this whisky needs to disappear .In the middle of the night they start dumping barrels into Loch Indaal.

    February 2010 one barrel of X4 washes ashore Maltland, named after Malt Monster. This deserted Island was in early 2010 made a tax free zone. 2010 short form census showed the occupancies to be a Mr. Wilson and Malt Monster.

    Other Deserted Island Land Depraved Owners (referred to hereafter as Dildos) jealous at the tax free zone of Maltland decides to invade.

    March 2010 seeing other Dildos on other Islands building rafts , Malt decides to build a Trebuchets .Having no cows to fling, a quick decision is make to use hollow coconuts filled with a very spirited X4 whisky combined with a wick made from an Irish book for added explosive power.

    April 1 2010 War ensued and was quickly over followed by Peace when Malt offered to share his X4 for drinking.

    Note – Wouldn’t the best books to take to Deserted Island be ones that might take you the rest of your life to fully understand.

    FYI -Always remember to pillage BEFORE you burn

  14. This

    MM….where are you?
    We need to share a drink (or maybe we can each have one).

    Best comment on the site


    • I live just outside of Calgary. Maybe we can share a dram in September at WP.

      Slainte Mhath

      • Nice! You gonna join us for the club then?

        You definitely seem to know what you’re talking about. Exactly the type of person that makes these things enjoyable.

  15. Old dialogue, but had forgotten about this fun l’il exchange. Worthy of a re-read.

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