Desert Island Book List

In the last month or so, two of my blogger friends have posted about what books they’d want with them on a desert island (see here and here), and I’ve decided to follow suit.

Of course, the Bible and a handy collection of survival books are a given. And the books I’m selecting aren’t necessarily my favourite books of all time. I love Perelandra, for example, but reading about the Un-Man perusing Ransom through the caves of an almost-deserted island, while marooned on an island myself, would be far from ideal. I’m also looking for books that can bear the weight of repeated re-reads, and even offer new insights with such re-reads.

Anyway, here goes.

  1. Reformed Dogmatics by Herman Bavinck (the abridged one-volume version). I began trying to read this, but gave up. However, I know it’s good, and if I were stuck on a desert island I’d want to be able to do some in-depth theological reading. And since there’d be so little else for me to be distracted by, I know that I’d actually finish it.
  2. The Collected Poems of C. S. Lewis (edited by Don King). This is my favourite collection of poems. There’s beauty and wisdom and joy and wit and Lewis-ness in here, and I wouldn’t want to be without it.
  3. The Book of Common Prayer. I’d want to have words to pray for the times when I had no words of my own, and to be reminded that even in my lonely state, I was part of the church universal.
  4. Gilead by Marilyn Robinson. This one would help to remind me of the loveliness of life.
  5. Emma by Jane Austen. Because if I only have one Austen book, let it be a long one.
  6. Augustine’s Confessions. I haven’t read past the opening few pages, at most, but as with Reformed Dogmatics, I know that it’s worth reading. And re-reading.
  7. The Oxford Book of English Verse. I own The New Oxford Book of English Verse, but I have more than half a suspicion that this one would be the better of the two. There’s be plenty for me to enjoy here, and plenty for me to study. Memorising poems would also help to pass the time.
  8. The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis (volume II or III). I haven’t got far yet in reading these myself, but I’d choose a volume because it’s massive, so I’d get much more of Lewis’ prose than I would were I to choose a single book. Lewis was an excellent letter writer, so there’d be much for me to learn and delight in here.
  9. A Handbook to Literature (Harmon and Holman). I’d use this to help me study the poetry I’d brought, as well as to help me write my own.
  10. The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis. Yes, I know this isn’t exactly (ahem) a single book, but in my defence it’s a series, each book is short, and—and—how could I possibly live the rest of my life, perhaps, without having the opportunity to read Narnia again?

What would your desert island book list be?

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3 thoughts on “Desert Island Book List

  1. These are assuming I will be rescued in 5 years time. If it was a one year stint I would change some of these. And can’t really contemplate longer than 5 years.
    1. Plato’s complete works (edited Cooper)
    2. Works of Aristotle (Revised Oxford edition, 2 vols)
    3. Plato and Aristotle (Reale)
    4. Basic Writings of Augustine (edited Oats)
    4. Augustine through the ages (Fitzgerald)
    5. Dante Divine Comedy (Hollander)
    6. Calvin’s Institutes
    7. Complete Poems George Herbert (edited by Helen Wilcox)
    8. Fire in the Minds of Men (Billington)
    9. Brothers Karamazov (Dostoyevsky)
    10. Letters of CS Lewis (Volume 2)

    I also would want something like this one -Teachers prayer book (BCP with notes and explanations by Rev Alfred Barry) – so may have to swap Brothers Karamazov for it.

    • Really interesting, thanks! Great choices, though I’m not convinced about so much Plato and Aristotle. Why not swap one of them for BCP, rather than swap your only novel? 🙂

      • “If any were worthy of the encomium teacher of human-kind, then it is precisely Plato and Aristotle’ Hegel, Lectures on the History of Philosophy

        and as to why philosophy, try this by Aristotle

        ‘If one must philosophize, then one must philosophize; and if one must not philosophize, then one must philosophize; in any case, therefore, one must philosophize. For if one must, then given that philosophy exists, we are in every way obliged to philosophize. And if one must not, in this case too we are obliged to inquire how it is possible for there to be no philosophy; and in inquiring we philosophise, for inquiry is the case of philosophy.’
        Aristotle, Protrepticus, Frag 2

        but yes, the BCP (with notes) should go – so I will consider giving up either 8 or 9.

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