Thursday, 22 January 2009

Five books for a desert island.

The Writers' Group to which I belong has suggested that we all bring a list of the five books we would take to a desert island for the next meeting. I have thought about it, and have made my list.
I always think with Desert Island Discs you never know whether the eight records chosen are really the ones they want or whether there is an element of choosing what will make you look good in the eyes of listeners. I suppose the same applies to my list, so I assure you that these are my most favoured books.

John Steinbeck's "Travels with Charley." I never tire of reading it. I am a dog-lover, as was Steinbeck and I just love every moment of the book, made all the more poignant because he wrote it not so very long before he died.
Evelyn Waugh's "Brideshead Revisited." I am now on my fourth copy of this book, having lent the previous three to various friends who have never returned them! I have lost count of how many times I have read it, but each time I feel like I am reading it for the first time. I find more in it. I love all of his books, but this one smacks of a lost era and I feel that Waugh had got it wrong to some extent, because the war did not see the end of these aristocratic families - they opened their homes up to the public, opened theme parks, safari parks etc., and carried on as they had always done!
The Collected Poems of Edwin Morgan. It is worth taking this for just two of the poems in it - Heron and Kierkegaard's Song - two of the best wildlife poems ever written, I think. And his "Epilogue. Seven Decades" strikes such a chord with me - I would probably keep it open on my mossy bedside on the desert island, for constant reference.
John Lister-Kaye's "Nature's Child" would be my fourth choice. It can be read as separate chapters, so I could pick it up and put it down at will. Each chapter is an episode in the life of Lister-Kaye and his daughter as they search for and observe wildlife. It is enchanting - maybe the best chapter is the one on the stormy petrels.
Finally I would take my father's dog-eared, tattered copy of Palgrave's Golden Treasury. It is well-thumbed and full of the kind of poetry we have heard from our childhood. If I forgot any of the words of "On a favourite cat drowned in a tub of goldfishes" (which I learned by heart when I was about ten years old) I could look them up and re-learn them. Who can forget learning "Oh what can ail thee knight at arms, alone and palely loitering!" when they were at school?
So - there are my five. I would love my blogging friends to tell me their five choices - perhaps I would end up with a reading list for the rest of the year. We all seem kindred spirits - so presumably we should like each other's reading choices. So - what would you choose?

13 comments:

Crafty Green Poet said...

Those are good choices and I'd definitely have Edwin Morgan somewhere in mine. I'll need to think about my exact list though...

Rachel Fox said...

Yes...I'll have to think too! Get back to you in a few weeks time...
x

HelenMHunt said...

Goodness - what a difficult choice.

I'd definitely take Gone With The Wind - it is so reassuringly long and I could happily read it over and over. And an Agatha Christie Omnibus (her complete works if that's allowed!). A Bill Bryson to make me laugh, (maybe Notes From a Small Island)and Villette to make me cry. Not sure about number five - but some sort of poetry collection would work well with my other choices, I think.

Teresa said...

Will get back to you on the five books... but reading your list has given me a couple of ideas... off to email the local library and see if they have them! Great idea.. thanks!

Raph G. Neckmann said...

Goodness me, Weaver - I haven't read any of these! You've certainly whetted my appetite for them with your descriptions. Summer evenings, I think, reading outside - I'll let you know how I get on with them ...

What would I choose for my five? 'The Wind in the Willows' immediately springs to mind (it's always in my mind!). 'Lord of the Rings'. Moomintroll - if I can only have one of them I think it would be 'Comet in Moominland'.

Now it gets more difficult, because there are only two to go and I like so many! I'll have a think before I decide on these!

Heather said...

I fear you are better read than I! My list would include Chocolat by Joanne Harris, an omnibus of all Ellis Peters' Cadfael books (I'm greedy), Elizabeth Jane Howard's quartet of the Cazalet family, The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier and perhaps a collection of Walter de la Mere's poems to remind me of my school days. What would we do without books? I just love them.

Abraham Lincoln said...

Travels with Charley would be my pick. I used to watch an English TV program about a country vet that was interesting. So if I could have television on the island I would want to watch that. Was it All Creatures Great and Small.

Abraham Lincoln's Blog

Poet in Residence said...

What an interesting question your reading group has posed. My 5 books would be: "Poem for the Day" edited by Nicholas Albery (for obvious reasons), "Webster's Comprehensive Dictionary" (a book with information about nearly everything), "The Complete Works of Shakespeare" (where would I be without it), the King James version of the "Holy Bible" (not for any religious reasons but for the sheer quality of the prose and the drama of the stories) and "100 Stories" by O. Henry.

Woman in a Window said...

I'm HORRIBLE with remembering things I've read. Yet, (almost) anything Tom Robbins or maybe even John Irving. Too much fun to leave behind!

thousandflower said...

Okay, if I can take series or complete works (is that cheating?) I would take the Lord of the Rings, Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy (Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars), Jack Whytes Skystone series, The Brother Cadfael books, and either The Secret Garden or the Wind in the Willows. I'll have to think about which one to leave behind.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thanks for your choices. When I have left it for a few days to see if anyone else has anything to add, I will publish the complete list on my blog. When I read through your suggestions one or two whet my appetite for the list to be a dozen instead of five! I love Elizabeth Jane Howard's Cazalet family and I do agree with Poet in Residence that the poetry of the King James Bible takes some beating (especially Ecclesiastes) - aren't we all lucky that we enjoy reading so much?

jinksy said...

Mine would have to be 1) 'The Littlest One His Book' by Marion St John Webb - these glorious poems written as a small child would speak, might help to keep me young.
2) The biggest English dictionary I could find, to improve spelling and expand vocabulary.
3)Collected works of Jane Austen - as many as I could find in one volume.
4)The same for Daphne Du Maurier.
5) Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy, in case I forget the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything is simply 42.

Ngaio said...

Well, it is a difficult choice, but here goes ...
`Being Pakeha Now` Michael King
`The Plumb Trilogy` Maurice Gee
`Nga Uruora` Geoff Park
The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight` Thom Hartmann
`Silent Spring` Rachael Carson

The first 3 are NZ authors, Michael King being my all time favourite, he died tragically afew years ago, he was the the most amazing writer, especially on NZ social issues - I miss him ..