Books, Reviews, Misc .

5 Awesome Books for a Desert Island (My Current List. What’s Yours?)

Years ago someone at asked which five books I’d like to have with me – 5 books for a desert island.

Books for a desert island“5 books for a desert island …” Not an easy question. I will assume it’s not a desert, it’s pretty safe, somehow there’s plenty of food and water, and shelter, and a way to keep my books protected!

Think about your own list for a minute before reading my nerdy one.  (Obviously part of my criteria was sheer size, assuming I’m going to be there a long time with little else to do – wishful thinking.)


HERE’S MY CURRENT ANSWER – My 5 Books for a Desert Island:

1. Bible

My NIV hardback, single-column, wide margin, somewhat larger print version. Very comfortable to read, with room for lots of notes. This specific edition is apparently no longer available. NIV is not pedantically literal, but pretty reliable, and has a bit of literary quality. It’s also a very widely-used version.

Why a Bible? a) The Bible’s a big book, so lots to read.  b) Some of it is profound in moral-ethical-spiritual experience and insight, very much worth revisiting, thinking about. c) It’s a big part of my personal (and cultural) heritage.1.

2. Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress   by Steven Pinker

Why? It’s big for a monograph.  It offers digestible presentations of lots of reliable research about progress in a number of areas of human life – lots of detail, lots of realism, actually lots of hope. That’s truthful and very important.  Also, and also very important, his project is to defend the values mentioned in the subtitle: reason, science, humanism, and progress.  This is very important these days!  Further, his vigorous atheism forces me to think, and to try hard to be honest in my thinking.

3. Michael Eric Dyson Reader (2004)

Why this? He’s still writing, to much acclaim; this is a big book with a broad reach; it’s not really very dated.  And his writing is a pleasure to read. Good backgrounds on the near-contemporary and historical USA.  (Or maybe Can You Hear Me Now?  (2009) – if the time comes to go to the island, I’ll have to decide, eh?)

4. The Encyclopedia of Philosophy

books for a desert island

Lots of words …

1st book (of 4), Abbagnano to Entropy – January 1, 1972. I got this set free long ago as a premium for joining the Book of the Month Club.  Well worth it!  I have in fact read a number of articles in these volumes.

Why this?  Lots of words!  Lots of interesting and reputable discussion of interesting ideas – if you’re a bit of a nerd. Some uninteresting discussion of uninteresting ideas of course, but when there’s this much you have lots to choose from! Highly regarded.

5. Shine: An Anthology of Optimistic Science Fiction

Why? Yup – “Optimistic.”  I could use some of that as no doubt all of us could.  And I’d now and then need a break from all that seriousness – in the four above!  Also, sci-fi is fun, not that it isn’t also serious …

SO WHAT’S YOUR LIST – 5 “books for a desert island”?

Hard to pick just five (or ten or twenty!); but it’s fun to think about. You could add a comment, anonymous or otherwise, just below.

And maybe we don’t want to ask this question, but “What do our lists tell us about ourselves – or about how we’d like to think of ourselves?” I’m also wondering – how often do I get to re-do my list?

(Search results for category “Reviews” on this site: Reviews and such … )

BONUS: Maybe write your own books for a desert island?!  Advice for writers:

Never Use a Long Word When a Short One Will Do, by Kathryn and Ross Petras.

🔹Read everything. Read fiction and non-fiction; read hot best-sellers and the classics you never got around to in college.  – Jennifer Weiner (rule #255)

🔹Close the door.  Write with no one looking over your shoulder.  – Barbara Kingsolver (rule #33)

🔹The scariests moment is always just before you start.  – Stephen King (rule #1)

🔹Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.  – Anne Lamott (rule #2)

🔹1. Find a subject you care about.  … 2. Do not ramble though.  – Kurt Vonnegut (rule #3)

🔹Keep working, keep trying, keep believing. You still might not make it, but at least you gave it your best shot. If you don’t have calluses on your soul this isn’t for you. Take up knitting instead.  – David Eddings (rule #295)

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