Books, to those of us who love them, are a necessity for life. As we go through our reading lives, we may read hundreds or even thousands of them, but there are always a few titles that reward us with more than entertainment or knowledge. These books become part of us. Their images live in our minds. Their characters are as real to us as our dearest friends. These are the books that we return to over and over again. These are our personal “classics.”
If I could only take five books to a deserted island, these would be my choices, my classics.
1. The Young Adult Classic
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
This book makes the cut because Lucy in the snow beneath the lamppost is the first literary image that is a permanent fixture in my mind’s photo album. I found her in a box at a garage sale when I was 11, and she has been with me ever since. This old, musty hardcover copy of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was the first book that I would ever read more than once because C.S. Lewis did what every author hopes to do. He transported me to a non-existent place and made me believe again and again. He opened up my young mind to all the powers of good and evil, and he made me see how hard the choice between the two could be. Twenty-five years later I still find myself going back to Narnia when I want to be lost in another time and place.
2. The Literary Classic
The Complete Stories by Flannery O’Connor
There is no work of literature that has left so many images in my mind that horrify me, make me rethink life in general, humor me, and feed my dark side, often all within a few pages. All of her stories are worth reading time and again. Lucky for me they are all in one volume to delight and terrify me all my reading life.
3. The Heroic Adventure
The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
I would like to take the liberty of including the series as one book. I cannot live without Harry and his friends in my life, plain and simple. With each read something new is gained or realized. I could never tire of them. But you want me to choose one book, right? If I must, it would have to be Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I enjoy it the most because the whole story matures during this book. The characters, the friendships, the element of danger, Voldemort; everything changes. Because I know the story inside and out, this turning point book is the one I would read over and over if I could choose only one.
4. The Beach Read
Sullivan’s Island by Dorothea Benton Frank
Benton Frank made me fall in love with the Low Country of South Carolina long before I ever set foot on its beaches. Sullivan’s Island makes the cut because if I can only escape in my mind, the Low Country is where I want to be. Livvie, a Gullah woman of slave descent who cares for the dysfunctional family, is the character that still visits me when I least expect it. Her voice has even prompted me to include her culture in a novel I’m currently planning. If I’m not actually living the southern life, Benton Frank’s vision is the next best thing.
5. The Undefined Genre, Everything Book
The Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon
While I consider myself a serious fan of one other series I may have mentioned earlier, I am completely, 110%, totally obsessed with the epic series Gabaldon has created. This series cannot be defined by genre because it has everything any reader could need. Love, honor, sacrifice, scathing impropriety, time-travel, history lessons, wars, castles, kilts, witches, secret pasts, hidden futures…you get the idea. The only real obsession I have ever had revolves around these books and the lives of the main characters, Jamie and Claire. I know I am cheating here, but this is my list, so I will not choose one book in this series. I can’t. If this desert island exile ever comes true, I will take the lot with me. But hopefully, it will wait until June 10th when the newest book in the series, Written in My Own Heart’s Blood, arrives in my mailbox. As long as it is making the trip, I’ll be ready to go.
Your Top 5?
I know a lot of people will say these aren’t “the best books ever written in the history of the world.” I know that, but these are the books that I consider friends. Who are your best book friends? Who would you take to a desert island?