My last blog post was a bit sombre, so I’ve decided this one will be a lot more upbeat. Yes, I’ve created a game and it’s called Treasure Island Books! I say ‘created’, it’s probably better described as an ‘adaptation’, a bit like the BBC creating another Jane Austen miniseries, but one people will also hopefully enjoy.
My inspirations were the the long-running Radio 4 show ‘Desert Island Discs’ and Mortimer Adler’s own exercise of naming 10 ‘sets’ of works you could have, if you were stuck on a desert island. Desert Island Discs gives you the opportunity to name 8 records, and that means single songs, you could take to a desert island. In the past I thought this meant records, as in albums, because how is 8 records going to sustain you? A playlist of 8 songs…..I’d have jumped into the ocean and swam for it after 3 hours. They give do give you book options though. You are given The Bible and the complete works of Shakespeare, and can take another book of your choice. All in all, a pretty stingy island. Treasure Island will give you more.
Maybe not quite as much as Mortimer Adler’s exercise though. The point of his was to take 10 sets of works that would help grow your sense of understanding over the year, but I think it was too generous with the rules. For instance, on his island he took the complete works of Shakespeare and called it 1 choice. And the dialogues of Plato. Again 1 choice.
My game will be more focussed. So here is the premise: You are stuck on a ‘Treasure Island’ for 1 year, which you landed on due to a complication during a parasailing event. You walk through the island and find a treasure trove. Contained in the treasure are the books you will spend the next year with. They can be books to gain knowledge, information, understanding, spirituality or just to entertain, it’s completely up to you.
These books are made up of the following:
8 books you have read of your choice. Any 8 books you wish to spend the next year with. Pick wisely, you’ll be spending a lot of time with them. In principle, the books you love the most or want to spend more time with.
1 book which you have never read before. You know, all those books on your book shelf, that have been there for years? You get to take one. Which one do you want to read the most?
1 ‘the complete works of’. Now, this can add some volume to your treasure trove. Yes, pick 1 author who you get to take the complete works of with you. You don’t have to have read everything at this moment by the author, but enough to make you want to read everything they have over the next year.
There’ll be some music thrown in as well, so that will be taken care of. You know, music to chill on a beach to, like Bob Marley, Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game’ that kind of thing.
What are your Treasure Island Books? I really want to know. Here are mine:
- The Holy Bible – It’s part of who I am, but also a book with so much to it, that even a year of solid reading wouldn’t be enough. It needs to be read again and again and again. Never has a book been so misunderstood by so many people who haven’t read it. The keys to life are all in there.
- The Odyssey by Homer – I know the Greeks prefer the book that preceded it The Iliad, but for me The Odyssey is simply one of the most enjoyable and enthralling books to be called a classic. It reads like an epic fantasy but contains nearly all of life and it’s lessons to be learned within it. A book I’d never want to be without.
- The Republic by Plato – It is certainly one of the most controversial books in history, and like a lot Plato’s dialogues, it is a mix of philosophy and drama, but is probably the greatest philosophical work ever written. A book I love to read and study again and again. An alternative to this would be Thomas More’s Utopia, which has a similar theme, and is also a great read.
- Meditations by Marcus Aurelius – A stoic masterpiece. A great book to start a classics reading plan with, it is in essence lots and lots of wisdom, in many bite size pieces. It is also an extraordinary view into the mind of a Roman Emperor, and the insecurities and self-doubt he dealt with.
- Cymbeline by William Shakespeare – The obvious choice for Shakespeare is to say Hamlet, which I would generally agree with the Shakespeare purists on, is his greatest play. But Cymbeline for me is not just Shakespeare’s most underrated work, it is indeed one of his best works. It would be a more light hearted choice than Hamlet, and of course it is Shakespeare anyway, so there is still plenty to get from it. Contains probably the most enjoyable dialogue (in my opinion of course) of any Shakespeare play.
- War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy – Tolstoy claimed War and peace was not a novel, and I agree, it is much more than that. It is a powerful story, that is also a study of history and indeed life itself. An epic in every sense of the word. Pierre is my favourite character in all of fiction.
- About Love and other stories by Anton Chekhov – I couldn’t be stuck on a island for a year and not have some Chekhov to read. Any of the many collections of his short stories would be adequate but I especially love the translations of this collection by Rosamund Bartlett, as it spans nearly all of Chekhov’s writing career and was the first Chekhov book I read.
- Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl – I wrote about this book and it’s impact on me in my last blog post. It is the sad and shocking tale of Frankl’s experience as a prisoner in Auschwitz, but also about light in the darkness, and the most mind-blowing wisdom on living in the modern (post-war) world. This book really explained a lot of life to me.
9. The book I haven’t read – The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky. – I have a little confession to make. I wasn’t greatly enthralled by either Crime and Punishment or The Idiot. They are both good novels, but not mind-blowing, as I had hoped they would be. The Idiot especially was a bit of a let down, because the first quarter of the book was really, really, good! However, the rest of the book just seemed to slow down after that. I have always been led to believe that The Brothers Karamazov is Dostoevsky’s magnum opus, and I’m hoping this would make up for my unremarkable views on the previously mentioned novels. It is an epic length novel as, and one I hope I would enjoy over many weeks.
10. The complete works of – Emile Zola – This may be somewhat surprising to many people. I once asked this question to a guy at work, regarding which complete works he would take, and he said ‘Shakespeare, of course!’. But this is a year on treasure island, not a lifetime. If it was for a lifetime, I probably would take Shakespeare too, but I can be happy with my Cymbeline for a year and also have the complete works of Zola. You may have guessed from some of my blog posts that Zola is definitely one of my favourite current authors. I’ve read 5 of his novels in the last year and am sure will read just as many if not more in the next year. Having a year to spend in the company of the 20 Rougon-Macquart novels, as well as Therese Raquin, and Zola’s plays and short stories I haven’t read, would be well worth delaying the rescue boat for. “Hey guys, no I’m fine thanks. Don’t find me too soon!”.
So those are my choices. As I said, I would be delighted to hear of your choices, especially regarding the ‘complete works of’ choice. Maybe you will choose Shakespeare? Or maybe Honoré de Balzac, then you could read the whole of La Comedie Humaine! Or maybe the complete works of Jane Austen, Anthony Trollope, Aristotle, it’s your island! Completely open to classic readers or modern fiction lovers all the same.
Post your list in the comments section below, or hey, write your own blog post about them, I don’t mind! Send me a link though!