In a story that I’ve been writing1, off and on again, the main character tries to disappear from society in the Alaskan wilderness. He has good reasons for doing this. He brings along with him box of a dozen books. Eleven of these books is the entire set of Will Durant’s Story of Civilization. The twelfth book is The Baseball Encyclopedia. All of these books have significance to the story.
I am currently re-reading the first volume of Will Durant’s Story of Civilization series, Our Oriental Heritage, and in doing so, I recalled the meme that occasionally pops up on the Internet about taking only one book with you if you were stranded on a desert island. I considered this and thought, why just one? What if I could save a box of books, along with myself, upon that desert island. What would be in that box?
Well, as you might guess, the 11-volume Story of Civilization series would make up the bulk of it. It totals upwards of 4 million words across 10,000 pages. Yet, aside from the length, it is populated with every personality of historical significance from the earliest dawning of civilizations, through the transition into the industrial revolution. With these books, you’d never truly be alone. You’d have thousands of years of human history to explore, and tens of thousands of people to meet.
Also in that box would be Isaac Asimov’s 3-volume autobiography, In Memory Yet Green, In Joy Still Felt, and I. Asimov. Although I’ve read each of these books more than a dozen times, they bring a kind of comfort to me, and that would be important, stranded alone as I would be on the island.
That’s 14 books in my box. Can we make it an even 20? I think I’d also bring along Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. It would give me a chance to read it again. I struggled with the series at the beginning, but it grew on me, and by the time I finished the whole thing last year, I was ready to read it over in earnest, looking for the gems that I missed along the way. There are 8 books in this series, which would put me at 22 books, instead of 20, but I can live with that. 22 books, covering the vast majority of human history, the life of one of my favorite writers, and the imagined universe of another of my favorite writers.
If I had to be stranded on a desert island, these are the 22 book I’d want to be stranded with.
- Not the novel. ↩