It’s a classic question: What are your top five desert island books? The question is better than you might think, particularly when you think about the definition of a “great book.” A great book is a reliable well, one you can return to for refreshment often, and life on a desert island would demand that.
As much as it’s an old question, almost a chestnut, it’s worth revisiting now and then. It changes over the years, or it has for me, and that’s a good thing. So today’s Five for Friday is “Desert Island Books, 2013 Edition.” (Incidentally, you could also call this a post-zombie apocalypse list. It wouldn’t make great television, but a real apocalypse would probably involve lots of time for reflection.)
1. The Bible, King James Version. I know, I know. We Christians expect the Bible to make the list, but notice the version. This was the version of my childhood, and the version I used to memorize most of the Scripture I remember. So there’s a nostalgia factor, but there’s more to it. The more I read the KJV, the more I love it–as the source of eternal truth, yes, but also for its majestic language and style. Reading Robert Alter’s Pen of Iron this year solidified this pick.
2. The Horse and His Boy, C.S. Lewis. For a long time, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was my favorite Narnian Chronicle, largely on the strength of the Eustace Event. Shasta’s journey from pauper to prince has displaced it for reasons that deserve a post of their own sometime.
3. The Two Towers, J. R. R. Tolkien. One sign of a great book, a potential desert island book, is how often you pick it up. I pick up T3 at least once a month, usually on the pretext of moving it, and end up flipping through to read favorite passages. Again, probably deserves its own post, but certainly makes the Desert Island List.
4. The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard. I’ve been digesting this book (a la Francis Bacon) for nearly two decades now.
5. Poems by George Herbert. Lesser known than his contemporary, John Donne, I like Herbert a bit more. I have fewer of them by heart than I would like, but I am working to change that. I might even settle for a single poem, “Love (III).”