Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Desert-Island Book

I’m often asked (by students, new acquaintances, dentists with their hands in my mouth), “What’s your favorite book?”  Asking a writer and an English professor that question is akin to asking a chef what her favorite food is.  The answer:  it depends.  Like epicureans with food, readers have many favorites.  A better question, I think, is “Which book would you love to have with you if you were marooned on a desert-island?”  Now, notwithstanding books like “How to Get Rescued from a Desert Island A.S.A.P.,” I’d don’t blink when I answer the desert-island question.  Jane Eyre.  Yes, that’s right.  I wouldn’t take Ulysses (how depressing not to be able to understand it after five, ten, fifteen years!) nor The Bible (perhaps for the same reason as Ulysses), but Jane, oh, yes, Jane.  I’ve read Charlotte Brontë’s wonder many times and have taught it over and over.  I always dive deeper into my favorite parts and am continually amazed to find sections I had forgotten about or had mentally sashayed through before.  Besides, if I were stranded on a desert island, I’d be able to draw on Jane’s survival techniques – forcing myself to eat rancid butter or pig slop, if necessary.  Oh, wait – there might not be butter or slop to be found underneath tropical bushes or amid sandy dunes.  The dash with logic, then – I just love the book.

What's your desert-island book?  Why?


  1. Inside Mr. Enderby, by Anthony Burgess. Language so exquisitely wrought that a hundred readings wouldn't reveal all its puzzles and puns. Also, having a book about a writer struggling through life, one who feels like he is on a deserted island, would be comforting.
    -Anne E. Johnson

  2. Comfort, of course, would be a top priority! :)