The Complete Ideal Bookshelf

Previously I suggested five books of a possible 10 for my personalized bookshelf in the Swan station were I to be stranded there and have to push a button every 108 minutes to save the world. I have the final five, and now present the complete list. Three are non-fiction works, and seven works of literature.


1. The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Modern Christian Thought ed. Alister E. McGrath. To provoke theological thought so I don’t get bored.

2. The New Oxford Annotated Bible (4th Edition) NRSV, hardcover, with Apocrypha. With the above work, so that I remain a theologian while stranded. It is important to maintain a sense of who you are called to be while stranded on a desert island.

3. Talking about Detective Fiction by P.D. James. I said before that this was so I could write mystery novels while on the desert island. This is true. I thought about bringing more non-fiction to help me produce things while stranded, thinking that fiction/literature was only about consuming. I don’t think this is entirely correct. I realized that literature produces something in me that leads me to be creative. Reading literature is not just a consuming activity, but can also be a creative activity. I still want to bring James along because this reflection is not just a how-to manual but a reflection on what detective fiction is and does. If I couldn’t find my copy of James, I’d bring The Mind of the Maker by Dorothy L. Sayers instead.


4. A one-volume English translation of The Divine Comedy by Dante. I figure on a desert island I’ll make time to read Dante. Right?

5. Possession by A.S. Byatt. Best Book Ever. No further explanation needed.

6. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. In print for 200 years, how can one not bring Austen? For down time.

7. Anathem by Neal Stephenson. I had a debate in my head about whether to bring Cryptonomicon or AnathemCryptonomicon is a Pacific-focused book. The Island is probably in the Pacific. (Though it moves.) But Anathem is about parallel universes, and it is very clear that parallel universes play a part in what happens on the Island.

8. Children of Men by P.D. James. This is not detective fiction, but speculative fiction by James. It is about the end of civilization, or the end of the world as we know it. This seems appropriate reading for the Island somehow.

9. Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers. This is literary detective fiction, not at all brain candy. It is about an island of women in the sea of men at Oxford in the early twentieth century. Again, somehow appropriate.

10. Mystical Paths by Susan Howatch. Howatch wrote a set of books about the Church of England in the twentieth centuryMP is the one I’ve re-read the most. There are ways that some of the action in this book speaks to some of the people and things that happen on the Island in the LOST series.

Clearly I’ve been watching too much LOST. But it is so much fun and full of twists and turns and people running through the jungle yelling each other’s names! And it has lots of books and the potential to talk about ideas and books. Good times.

Do you have a top ten desert island list? You don’t have to put yourself in the LOST series, but which books would you want with you on a desert island?


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