So, for some reason, I’ve been thinking about what book I would take to a desert island to keep me company. (There might not be much rationality in this post, but at least it’s random, and a refreshing break from biotech posts.) Also, by one single book, I really mean one single object, so if it’s two, three, or four books bundled into one paperback, that still counts; or it could be a volleyball with a face on it.
So…which book would I take? Obviously, all non-fiction is automatically excluded. Who the hell cares about relativistic, non-simultaneous space-time, or that nothing is really something, or that there may be 11 dimensions, or that you’re an evolved ape when you’re stranded on, what is most likely, your tomb. As much as I love knowledge for the sake of knowledge; on an island, it would be quite futile. The book can only be fiction.
Up until recently, my favourite fiction book was Lord of the Rings, and that’s a good 1,200 or so pages. It’s a fantastic read and features an easy black and white divide between good and evil, so no need to do much thinking, but it might be tiring to reread time and time again. There is only so many times I can read an entire paragraph devoted to the intricate detail of the Witch King’s crown.
George Orwell’s 1984 is a magnificent read, but it is also a supremely depressing read, and since being on an island all alone would be depressing enough, 1984 would only make it worse. Sorry Orwell, 1984 is out.
Homer’s The Odyssey is a marvelous book full of trickery, deceit, gods, sex, and adventure. It twists, it turns, and comes back on itself in many delightful and fun ways. This book is definitely a top contender. The same can be said of the Iliad, and the Iliad has the benefit of not me not having finished it yet. (A friend gave me a copy of this many years ago, but I lost it, and every few months, I remember that tragic loss.) I can only imagine that both poems are combined somewhere in a single paperback, so these Greek adventures are front-runners.
George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire is, in my opinion, the best fiction I’ve ever read. Problem is, it’s five books long (over 4,000 pages) so it probably violates some single-book physics [ ]. Even then, taking one, whichever it maybe, would only leave you frustrated at the end, even if you could fit all 5 into a single paperback, you’re still missing books 6 and 7, which will be ready who knows when. (But then, you may just write books 6 and 7 of your own accord since you wouldn’t have anything better to do. So, can’t decide if this is a bad or good thing. Probably still bad.)
Then there are the classics I haven’t yet read: The Count of Monte Cristo; Ulysses; War and Peace; The Great Gatsby; Fahrenheit 451; Brave New World; Beowulf; and many a book I’m sure I’ve neglected to mention or forgot about. How to choose a book you haven’t read yet when there is no chance of recompense once stranded? Will I enjoy The Count of Monte Cristo with its swashbuckling adventure or the mythological Beowulf more? That’s a question I need answered before I choose. I’ve never been a very good chooser, but there is a solution, if you are willing to bend the rules just a wee bit.
The solution is simple: a Kindle sprayed with liquipel (water-proofing the Kindle completely if I have to swim to the island) inside a solar-powered case so I never run out of battery. (As long as they are fitted together before departure, they are all–technically–one holdable object.) This approach does have some problems. A Kindle won’t last forever, but it will last long enough. In 2009, I bought the 2nd Gen Kindle, and here in 2013, it having travelled through (and survived) Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Rome, and now find itself, still going strong, in New Delhi. That’s a pretty formidable 4 years and still it’s chugs along. The odds of me surviving 4 years on a desert island are slim-to-none, but, at least I’ll be happily entertained within the confines of my mental universe.
It seems that my problem solved. I’ll put all the books I want, and all those I may ever want, and even more that I’ve never heard of, and if I ever get rescued from that island, I just may become a literary reviewer.
But–because I’m sure a few people are disappointed–if I did really have to choose one singular book. I’d pick Homer’s poems: The Iliad and The Odyssey. Happy? Tell me yours, or would you cheat like me?