Reading Lives: Desert Island Books

This week is spring break. With most of the students gone, the library feels a bit deserted. So our group decided to come up with our own list of desert island books:

Colette: I could whip myself into a frenzy trying to choose only two or three books with which to spend the rest of my days; that seems almost as horrific as being faced with Sophie’s choice.  Well, not quite that awful, but pretty icky. How does one narrow the field of so many great books, down to just a handful?  Honestly, I’ll get catatonic if I even try.

I know what I wouldn’t want.  I would avoid choosing anything too dark or depressing or scary.  No sense sitting on an isolated island, desperate, hungry and alone, and starting each day by reading Heart of Darkness or closing each day with The Shining, just before I pull up my palm frond and try to sleep.  My deserted island would feel a bit like Sartre’s No Exit if I didn’t have any books and then, one day, a piece of pap like Twilight or a Danielle Steel novel washed ashore.  I’d rather be bookless than be mocked by the cruel fate of rereading either of those for an eternity.

I know it wouldn’t feed my soul, but it would be handy to have a couple survival guides like This Plant Will Kill You or Cooking with Sand.  I might skip the pleasure of a Faulkner sentence in favor of not dying too soon, too soon.


  1. The Ultimate Survival Manual by Rich Johnson
  2. Campfire Cuisine by Robin Donavan
  3. A Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust (I’ve never felt the need to read this, but it’s long and I’ll have time.)
  4. Harry Potter series for escapism


  • How to Survive on a Deserted Island by Tim O’Shei
  • David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
  • Naked Into The Wilderness: Primitive Wilderness Living & Survival Skills by John and Geri McPherson
  • The world’s longest book–According to the Guinness Book of World Records, it would be  Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust

SallyThe Guide to Camping and Walking (contains great survival tips), the Harry Potter series, Huckleberry Finn, and The Golden Name Day.

Jolly Librarian: Since I have almost no practical skills, it would be certain I would perish within a week or so. I wouldn’t waste time with survival books. In the week that I had before hunger and exposure carried me away, I would read the following:

  1. Emma by Jane Austen
  2. Middlemarch by George Eliot
  3. One book by Kate Atkinson. It doesn’t matter which one; I would just want one more taste of that dark British wit.
  4. A book of poetry by Billy Collins.

2 thoughts on “Reading Lives: Desert Island Books

  1. Just cataloged an new book that might be good on a desert island: Nature’s Compass: the mystery of animal navigation.

  2. Can’t resist playing along:
    The King James Bible (this English is too beautiful to be picky over the version)
    Shakespeare (anything, but preferably everything)
    Absalom, Absalom (I cannot go without Faulkner; I’ll take any of him)
    My old tattered volume of Edna St. Vincent Millay, esp. the sonnets

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