This idea is not new to me. I find, though, that you can learn alot about a person by finding out about the books that they would take if they knew that they would be stranded on a desert island. Here’s my top ten:
1. Hamlet by William Shakespeare. Quite simply the greatest artistic creation in the history of the universe. I billed it this way to my eleventh grade English students and it managed to live up to this billing. Ol’ Will really hit one out of the park with this one! Can’t say enough great things about it. My favorite book to teach, by far!
2. Homer’s Iliad. Still possibly the greatest epic in human history. Homer is especially unsurpassed for his descriptive powers of blood, guts, and the reality of the battlefield. This always makes me wonder if he is glorying in the heroic ideal, or showing us the futility of the heroic ideal.
3. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. At least I’d have time to finish the darn thing. On several occasions, I’ve gotten about 400 pages into it and found it to be a great story, well written. It’s reputation for being more useful as a doorstop than a book is thoroughly undeserved. I’ve always gotten distracted and never kept the momentum going to finish it.
4. The Abolition of Man by C. S. Lewis. My favorite book by Lewis. I reread it probably once a year to remind myself of why I’m a teacher and what my core values as a teacher are.
5. Summa Theologica by St. Thomas Aquinas. Lest I become conceited or no longer think that I need to be challenged in doctrine and devotion, learning and piety. Possibly the greatest mind who has ever lived, and surely one of the most holy. I’m counting the Summa as one book. You may not think that’s fair, but it’s my post. Again, I’d at least have time to read the whole thing.
6. Calvin’s Institutes. Gotta have at least one book from my own tradition. Same criteria as the Summa.
7. The Book of Common Prayer. Beautiful, well composed, Scripture-saturated prayers. A great resource to remind me of both the transcendence and the immanence of God. Thomas Cranmer makes the English language sing in the service of worship and prayer to our Lord. Wouldn’t want to be without this one.
8. Something by Charles Dickens but I can’t decide which one Maybe Hard Times, Bleak House, or Tale of Two Cities.
9. Bible. I’m a convinced Protestant so this might seem like an odd edition. If I was going away for a while, I’d want to read the Apocrypha. The RSV is not a bad translation either. I’d either go with that, the ESV (which is descended from the RSV), or the Authorized Version.
10. Can I take my Kindle?
What books would you want to take if you were going to be stranded somewhere?
If I knew I were going to be stranded on a deserted island, I would want books like boat building 101, how to survive anything, 101 ways to cook using only tropical island ingredients, and other practical books. I would be too busy just surviving to read for pleasure, most likely.
I’m pretty mechanically inept, so I’d try to make the best of the situation and hope either I could Robinson Crusoe it or that help would come.