3 Books for a Desert Island

Desert Island Discs – that long British running institution – allows guests to select one book to accompany them on said desert island, in addition to the Complete Works of Shakespeare and the Bible (or other suitable alternative). But what if you’d prefer the complete set of Harry Potter instead of Shakespeare? I know I would. I find Shakespeare wonderful when performed, but I’m not a great a fan of reading him and, as an agnostic, I’m not sure what would count as a Bible alternative. So, I’d tweak the rules to …

  1. The complete works of any one author
  2. A religious publication, a work of philosophy, something uplifting
  3. One standalone book

Given three slots to fill, would it be J K Rowling filling the first slot? And the answer to that is – I don’t know. Certainly I’ve read and re-read the entire Harry Potter series multiple times and on those few occasions when I’ve lost my love of reading, it’s re-reading this series which brings me back into the fold. In truth, the only other candidate is the thrillers of Dick Francis, which have been my comfort reads for many a decade. The first option is relatively easy in that there are two clear choices – and I’d probably be content whichever I chose – but the next two are much harder.

I studied the bible as a teenager but, as someone who became distressed by many of those who practice organized religion, I’m afraid I’d find it depressing rather than uplifting reading. Perhaps something like A Year with Rumi: Daily Readings would meet the need, for I have to admit there’s nothing in my current library I could immediately select.

One standalone book which is much loved and would stand repeated re-reading? Hmmm. Most of my 5-star reads are one-offs – once you know what’s going to happen, the magic is somewhat lost. Anything too dark wouldn’t do, as the situation calls for more of an escape than a mental or emotional challenge. I considered Pride & Prejudice for it’s fun & frivolous with a happy ending, but decided instead on To Kill A Mockingbird as its reading always brings to mind that wonderful film, and being transported away when you’re trapped on a desert island seems the way to go.

What choices would you make?


Β© Debra Carey, 2019

14 comments

  1. What a brain teaser you have set us here Debs!

    Obviously for me the Bible is a no-brainer, but I would like one with commentary, like the Oxford editions of either the Revised English Bible (my favourite) or the New Revised Standard Version which suggest that my standalone book would be something like the Oxford Bible Commentary, except that big encyclopaedias are also verboten!

    I’d happily substitute Shakespeare for the *complete* writings of Dorothy L. Sayers, which I admit is a bit of a cheat because her output other than the Lord Peter Wimsey novels includes a lot of meaty stuff including her translation of Dante (completed by Barbara Reynolds), a lot of theology, plays, reviews of crime books and on and on.

    Single item really has me stumped πŸ™‚ If I hadn’t already got it I would have opted for Sayers’ ‘Nine Tailors’. On a quick impulse I might go for A.D. Wintle’s ‘The Last Englishman’, but I reserve the right to change my mind when I have thought about it a bit more!

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  2. I approve of your choices in all three categories – and your reasoning.

    My choices, with hesitations/reservations:
    1. Complete works of J R R Tolkien – I’ve yet to read everything.
    2. I’m torn between the Bhagavad Gita and some Buddhist writing. But Rumi makes more sense as more profound and uplifting – or Kahlil Gibran.
    3. As the book(s) that I have re-read multiple times – Lord of the Rings – is included in 1., then I’m going with…a childhood classic: C. S. Lewis’s The Magician’s Nephew. I’ve re-read that a few times and it sparks memories of other Narnia stories.
    For 3., I did consider Kate Quinn’s The Huntress, which I read recently and want to read again. But one re-read may be all for that. That applies to many other books – two reads is about right.

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  3. I’m always amused when politicians consistently choose the bible after they’re asked to select a favorite book of theirs. It always seems so insincere. Though certainly for the desert island realm it does make perfect sense.

    I like your modification of choosing an author’s complete works — that opens the door wide to knowing you’d be satisfied in filling the time you’d obviously have on your hands.

    1. My choice for an author’s complete works would be John P. Marquand. He’s not well known, but I always loved his lampooning of the 1930’s and 1940’s northeast establishment society. A favorite of his is “H.M. Pulham, Esq.

    2. For something religious I’d pick “The Chosen” by Chaim Potok. It’s a novel but that works for me. πŸ™‚

    3. The standalone would have to be something funny. “A Confederacy of Dunces” by John Kennedy Toole would suffice.

    This was a fun post. – Marty

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  4. I’m right with you on the happy books requirement LA. I first saw this germ of an idea on another blog and it’s been percolating for a while. It didn’t work for me until I tweaked it. I hate to admit not having read your one selection – yet another lurking away on that TBR pile which I’m trying to work through but getting distracted, as you do πŸ™‚

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  5. Blimey Ally, I didn’t expect to be able to stump you. Maybe when the idea has percolated for a while (and you’ve added your own trademark tweak), inspiration will flow πŸ˜€

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  6. A Bible with commentary – I never knew such a thing existed but that’s catholics for you πŸ˜‰ – how very interesting. Your selection of Dorothy L Sayers works extremely well, not only in her selection as one of your favourite writers, but with such a vast and varied catalogue – perfect! I shall have to check out The Last Englishman …

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  7. Yes Roland, Tolkein is another who I’m sure would either appear on many a list, or at least be a contender, as he fulfils the favourite & numerous offerings requirement. For my number 2 I also considered Kahlil Gibran but the idea of a daily reading just tipped it for me. I need to revisit C S Lewis at some point …

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  8. Hi Marty, nice to see you over here πŸ™‚ I couldn’t agree with you more on your observation of politicians. I wonder if being stuck on a desert island and being forced to read the Bible in its entirely would change them an individuals. Cynically, I suspect not many. As for your selections, you’ve just added considerably to my “go check it out” list as, all but the last, are unknown to me. But I do like a good bookish distraction!

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  9. Hmmm….

    I think it would have to be the complete works of Terry Pratchett – a modern Shakespeare and Dickens combined, IMO. There is so much variety that there is something for every occasion, and a terrific cast of friends to keep one company. I’m really not sure about whether it would be a Bible or not. If I hadn’t already got it, I’d be tempted to suggest Pratchett’s Small Gods. I think something that fitted with some sort of meditative practice. Stand alone book…that really is a puzzler. So many good books to choose from. I might choose Michael Scott Rohan’s and Allan Scott’s collaborative “A Spell of Empire”; I think I would try to get a grip on why I think it is so good. An alternative might be something big and meaty like The Three Musketeers or The Count of Monte Cristo. If I can smuggle a pencil onto the island I can work on my planned novel based on the latter… But ask me another day and I might change my mind!

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  10. Good call on TP – a wonderfully laden back catalogue to keep you company. I was thinking precisely the sort of thing you suggest – a meditative practice – as being alone would take considerable adjustment. Interesting choice in picking something to analyse the why – hmmm, I like that.

    Of course, I like the pencil idea best πŸ™‚

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  11. I’ve always been baffled by the Desert Island Discs idea. But then, I’m not British–at least, not originally. Maybe you have to be. I can’t help wondering if we couldn’t just have a lending library.

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  12. Ellen, my apologies, I’ve no idea how I missed the alert for your comment.

    I love the idea of a desert island with a lending library – it would be the most perfect of havens. Brilliant! You may not be originally British – but I think you’re got us there!

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