However, deciding which five books I'd have with me is much harder. I read a lot, and I reread a lot. A good book is one that can be read and enjoyed multiple times and on multiple levels. In fact, while the surprise and wonder experienced the first time through a book is hard to beat, the only thing that comes close is the satisfaction of inhabiting a great world again, this time not paying so much attention to plot points but rather breathing in the atmosphere. But which books would stand the deserted island test? Good question. Before I move into those, because I am a list-maker, here are my top ten favorite fiction books, to give you a sense of my overall taste:
- Don Quixote by Cervantes
- The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
- The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
- Silence by Shusaku Endo
- Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
- The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton
- Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis
- Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
Here's my rough list:
- The Holy Bible. There is no other book as important as this, and a whole lifetime could not exhaust its treasures. It has it all, and a life without it wouldn't be much of a life at all.
- Don Quixote by Cervantes. This is the book that I would most like to inhabit. I don't use the term "magical" all that often, but this book has that quality to it. Also, Sancho Panza is my favorite literary character. I could reread and reread this book.
- The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky. This book is fiction, but it's almost more philosophy. The images are powerful, the writing is beautiful, and the ideas are ones to continually struggle with. I would definitely want this one on the island with me, if only to try to understand it better.
- A short story collection (probably by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Nikolai Gogol, Flannery O'Connor, or P.G. Wodehouse, or perhaps a short story anthology). The other books on my list, if you haven't noticed, are all fairly long. I'd probably like a short story collection for shorter (if not lighter) fare. I'm guessing an anthology would be the best way to accommodate this, but I don't know which anthology to choose. (I haven't researched them because I haven't been in a position to be stuck on an island before.)
- A dictionary (probably Oxford, but not the OED--that's cheating). Not only would I learn all the words in my books, but I could learn other words besides. Is a man ever alone if he has a dictionary?
- The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. This is a beautiful book, and its heft would not make me feel like I'd be wasting my pick on it.
- The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton. If only this book were longer! Then again, reading through it three times in a row might not be such a bad idea...
- Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton. Another book I could continually reread. A classic.