reading on this island

What Book Would You Take on an Island?

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?

23 thoughts on “What Book Would You Take on an Island?”

  1. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The likes of Camus and Conrad wouldn’t be good for one’s head. I must say though, i’ve just discovered Pratchett and he’s a devilishly good storyteller.

    New Delhi? Dear Lord, Fourat, what are you doing there?

    1. I’m not there, my old Kindle is there with a friend. It’s still working though. I am curious about Alice in Wonderland ever since I read a shout-out on one of your blog posts. How is it?

      1. Excuse me while i gather my jaw from the floor. Are you saying you’ve never read it? Oh, there’s a special place in hell for you, young man!

        Alice is my literary hero. When you read it remember that the first edition began with Alice eating a mushroom and then becoming very sleepy. It was changed in later editions to Alice ate a cookie… It’s a trip, the best goddamn tale devised by man.

        1. I must, somewhat sheepishly, admit to not having read it. I’ve always thought of it as a child’s book. (That didn’t stop me from reading the Hobbit–multiple times, no less.) I’ll put it on my Kindle and knock it out.

    2. Terry P? Ye gods, there’s no accounting for taste … what took you so long? He’s my all-time writing hero~!

      1. I gave this some more thought after I posted and, ironically Castaway (Tom Hanks) was on the TV a few nights previous.
        How about a book about raft building! 🙂

          1. Then you’d need books about navigating the open seas, then navigating by the stars, then surviving in a storm. I’d rather die comfortably with a tale on my mind than upon the seas, but that’s just me, I’ve never been very smart 🙂

  2. Limited to one object, I think a good ‘all-round’ knife would be object of choice. Otherwise I’d consider a great set of encylcopaiae (dammit, plural of encyclopedia) as one object …

      1. There’s be instructions on boat building, axe making, tar, sails, celestial navigation, grooming, fishing … ol’ Argus wouldn’t be lonesome for long~!

    1. bah! you cheated too! it stipulates “Obviously, all non-fiction is automatically excluded.”
      else-wise my top choice would have been…”how to survive on a deserted island” 😉

      1. Dammit — just goofed and blew away my reply. Try again:

        Okay, I cheated … I’ve seen the Tom Hanks movie where he’s on a desert isle and his only companion is a coconut (I think there’s an allusion to it in the Ice Age movie ‘Dawn of the Dinosaurs’) (love that weasel). By the time you’ve seen the movie you wouldn’t need any book, I tell you!

  3. You soooo cheated! 🙂 but it does seem the way to go…your way I wouldnt have to choose between all my favorites….Tolkien, charles dickens, douglas adams, pratchett, terry brooks, lloyd alexander….(etc.)

    1. Don’t ever say cheating doesn’t, at least occasionally, pay off 🙂 Exactly, this way, no matter what book you choose, you can have the others too. Think about choosing one book, after a while you’d probably hate it so no matter what book you choose, your humped.

      1. Oh indeed…how can you beat waterproof AND solar-powered! let’s take them ALL in one tiny handheld device….leaving some behind is too painful to think about…And we can throw in Argus’s Encyclopedia Set at no extra weight! win win!!

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