Youve probably heard someone ask someone else what books they would take to a deserted island.Its usually implied that youre bringing books for pleasure, not books that would help you survive on the island or leave it.

People often answer the question with a list of their favorite books, perhaps skewed in favor of long books. But I dont think you should take books that have been your favorites in the past. You should take what you think would be your favorite books on a deserted island . I expect my tastes there would be very different than they are in my current suburban life.

I think of books that I could only read on a desert island, books that Ive enjoyed in small portions but ordinarily would not have the patience to read cover-to-cover. For example, Ive found portions of Donald Knuths series The Art of Computer Programming enjoyable and useful, but Icant say Ive read it all. Perhaps on a deserted island with little to do and few distractions Id enjoy going through it carefully line by line, attempting all the exercises. I might even learn MMIX , something I cant imagine doing under ordinary circumstances.

Along those lines, I might want to take some works by Thomas Aquinas such as his Summa Theologica or his commentaries on Aristotle. The little Ive read of Aquinashas been profound, and more approachable than I expected. Still, I find it hard to read much of him. Alone on an island I might take the time to read him carefully.

For math, I might want to take Spivaks differential geometry series , depending on how long I expect to be on this island. If Im going to be there too long and Im limited on books, I might want to take something else thats more dense and less familiar.

For science, Id take Gravitation by Misner, Thorne, and Wheeler. Ive intended to read that book for many yearsand have starteda couple times. In college I couldnt afford this price; now I cant afford the time.

For fiction, Id take Patrick OBrians Aubrey/Maturin series because I havent read it, Ive heard it is very well written, and its long.


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