Let's Play a Game, Treasure Island Books!

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash *

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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!

25 thoughts on “Let's Play a Game, Treasure Island Books!

  1. Ha! A proper game. I’ll play:

    The 8 books I’ve already read:
    1) Little Women – This is my favorite book of all time. I could reread it over & over and feel at home, so I’d bring this one to have that sense of not being alone.
    2) A Christmas Carol – Jolly, happy, epic human bells! It would make me HAPPY.
    3) Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell – It would make me laugh & remind me of the power of human resilience.
    4) Jane Eyre – Because I would forget where I was even though I’ve read this three times already.
    5) The Little House books – Ha ha! I’d take the whole series! ❤ For the coziness.
    6) To Kill a Mockingbird – For Atticus. This book is a dear favorite.
    7) John Adams by David McCullough – Because I want to reread it & it would make me JOLLY.
    8) WOULD I TAKE ANNE OF GREEN GABLES OR A JANE AUSTEN??? A tough choice, but I'd take Anne of Green Gables, because again, COZY. And laughter.
    9) The book I haven’t read – Middlemarch by George Eliot. I'd like to sink into it finally. 🙂
    10) The complete works of – C.S. Lewis ❤ I'd get to complete the Narnia series and read/reread his essays.

    (I haven't read Cymbeline yet, but it's on my list. My favorite by Shakespeare is Henry V.)

    If there's music on the beach, I want banjo music. 😛

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    1. Hi Jill, thanks for your contribution! Ruth mentioned the little house books the other day, which I hadn’t heard of, but now hearing about them a lot! C.S. Lewis is a great choice for the complete works, I would be happy with that for a year. I love the other choices and your reasons, sounds like your island would be a very happy place! And of course you can have banjo music, it’s your island! Thanks again!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Pete! I meant to answer this & must have forgotten. When I first started blogging my reads I had a list of three hundred titles very much like yours. (Greeks, Russians, etc.)

        Fairly quickly several people mentioned the Little House books.

        I tried them & they have become dear favorites. They’re a fictionalized series from the 1930s about a real pioneer family moving across America in search of opportunity. (A father, a mother, and three little daughters. The series is written by the second daughter, who begins the books as a little girl and grows into an adult as the series moves on. You can look her up if you’re curious: Laura Ingalls Wilder. The books are fictionalized but based upon her real memories.)

        So full of joy. I’m reading them aloud with my mother right now. If you try them, I recommend beginning with The Long Winter. ❤ Bloggers also recommended Jane Austen and Anne of Green Gables to me. Hard to stick to task with so many amazing books out there. ❤

        Also, I CANNOT BELIEVE EVERYONE DOESN'T PREFER BANJO MUSIC. Ha! :p

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      2. Ha ha, yes sorry, I don’t think I have seen anymore requests for banjo music! Thank you for the background on the Little House series, I did have a look at it online earlier. They are clearly greatly loved and popular books, so I think I will indeed read The Long Winter, and see how I get on!

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      1. That’s be amazing to share an island! We’d have FUN. Now, we’d have to add a Vera Brittain if we shared the island. I suggest her biography of John Bunyan which I NOW OWN IN A FIRST EDITION. Jealous? ❤ We can share books if we're on the same island. McCullough? Ruth, start with John Adams. Now you know I am ALWAYS right when it comes to book suggestions. Start with John. x

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  2. This island list is a neat idea. I like reading them and the accompanying commentaries. Here’s mine.

    1. The Bible-God’s road map for life-it gives us the heart and mind of God. For a great quote on what the Bible is, consult Smith Wigglesworth (his Quotes on Goodreads) if interested.
    2. The Anatomy of Melancholy by Robert Burton-A never failing source of interest and delight.
    3. Meditations of Marcus Aurelius-Helpful and consoling Stoic philosophy-how to bear the burdens of life.
    4. Leaves of Grass-Walt Whitman-“He who touches this touches a man.”
    5. The Web and the Rock-Thomas Wolfe-his 3rd novel. Gives us a sense of the richness and wonder of life, from N.C. to NYC to Europe with a love story thrown in-the only love story he ever wrote.
    6. Ulysses by James Joyce-stream-of-consciousness-psychological portraiture-a June day in Dublin.
    7. In Search of Lost Time (formerly titled Remembrance of Things Past) by Marcel Proust. “Something has been rescued from time,” says Joseph Wood Krutch.
    8. The Recognitions by William Gaddis-Opaque, Joycean, mammoth in effect. Worth taking effort to get into.
    9. American Renaissance by F.O. Mathiessen or The Road to Xanadu by John Livingston Lowes. I’ve only dipped into these volumes as I’m no scholar by any stretch, but on the desert island there should be world enough and time.
    10. 50 novels or thereabouts by M.E. Braddon-Victorian “sensation” novelist at the time of Dickens and Trollope. I’m 4 books in to this author-no idea how far I’ll go, but they’re good, long books.

    For one musical selection I like “Old Man River” by William Warfield. Also, Paul Roberson’s version.

    All my selections except Aurelius and Whitman are doorstop size volumes. But ample time is available on this island. Thanks Pete, for putting out this Treasure Island trove of books.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your contribution George! I’m really glad I wrote this blog post, because I wasn’t sure if people would like it or not, but it’s all about enjoyment to me, and seeing yours and everyone else’s list is what this blog is about, learning what books people love and getting ideas to read them myself. Marcel Proust is an inspired choice, and now I think about it, I perhaps would change my choice for that as my book I haven’t read. I did actually did start reading the first volume a couple of years ago, but stopped, not because I wasn’t enjoying it, but because I realised I would have to be in a place in life when I can devote some serious focus and time over a long period. Just haven’t felt in that place for a long time, but absolutely intend to read this at some point, I’ve heard such great things. Lots of other great suggestions, I will definitely look into.

      The other choice that caught my eye was Ulysses. I have read Dubliners and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, so am just preparing for the big one (and then Finnegan’s Wake after that!). It has to be a special moment for me to read Ulysses, because the novel is set on my birthday (16th June) so yeah, I always wish people a happy Bloomsday in return!

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  3. How interesting that your birthday is on Bloomsday, Pete. I’m glad that you’re considering Ulysses. It’s modeled on one of your favorites and you’ve done good preliminary reading with Joyce’s short stories and the Portrait book. Also, It is advisable to read Edmund Wilson’s piece in his Axel’s Castle first. So interesting and insightful. And maybe take Stuart Gilbert’s James Joyce’s Ulysses along as a helpful companion. You will now be well-armed for the Joycean saga.

    As you’ve seen, Proust will make serious demands on your time. You and those you’ve heard from are right. He is great. Knowledgeable commentators say, and I agree, that the best approach is to read the seven lengthy volumes of his novel over a five-year period or so, mixed in with everything else you’re reading. Most likely you will want to return to this work again, in its entirety, if my experience prefigures what your own may be. Harold Bloom, in his late 80’s, says he reads it for consolation even yet.

    Don’t put aside The Brothers K, Pete. It will provide you with a strong and lasting experience. Nothing can deter a man like yourself who is willing to tackle Finnegan’s Wake!

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    1. Thanks for the advice George! Will definitely look up Axel’s Castle first, as you say it will help read Ulysses. It’s great to read your other helpful tips as well. Finnegan’s Wake is not actually on my reading plan, but I can’t read Ulysses and not have another Joyce read ahead, so I’m sure it will end up on there!

      No, won’t be giving up on The Brothers K, as I said, I’ve been made to understand it is Dostoyevsky’s magnum opus, just have to work out which epic to read next. I should try one this year, and I think it will be between Ulysses and Karamazov.

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      1. Pete, I’m glad you’re going to look into Axel’s Castle. Its author, Edmund Wilson, speaks with an authoritative voice and is full of insight that you’ll appreciate. He gives Joyce a fine introduction, and not without some well-chosen criticism. In this book, he also does an acclaimed piece on Proust. You’ll enjoy both of these essays.

        It’s so interesting to hear about your exciting reading plans.

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      2. Just wondering George, does Edmund Wilson say much about the plots of the books? It definitely does sound like a great read and have added to my Amazon list, but just wondering if the essays are best read before or after the novel?

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    1. Thanks Marian! Delighted you found my blog and am heading over to your blog post now. Thanks for sharing! Yes, I love Chekhov’s short stories. I haven’t read the plays yet but they are on my shelf. They’re so beautiful but also very wise as well. I’ve loved everything I’ve read of Zola so far, but still making my way through the Rougon-Macquart series. The last one I read was Germinal and it absolutely blew me away.

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  4. Thanks for creating this! Spotted it at Marian’s and Great Book Study. I hope you’re able to find time to read Brothers Karamazov — I’ve been nibbling at it since Dec but haven’t really committed the way I need to. It’s the last entry in my Classics Club list! I’m playing along over at Readingfreely.com 🙂

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    1. Hi, thanks for your comment! Delighted you found your way to my blog and thanks for your thoughts. Yes, I will certainly be giving Brothers Karamazov a try in the near future. I know what it is like to struggle with time and commitment to read, so hope you manage to find the space to complete the novel. Thank you as well for the link!

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  6. It is definitely best to read Wilson’s essay from Axel’s Castle first, Pete. Here’s a little rundown which I hope will be tantalizing rather than tedious.

    Section 1-features a ten-page overview of Ulysses from beginning to end in the light of its Homeric parallel.
    Section 2-Joyce takes us directly into the consciousness of his characters using methods of which Flaubert never dreamed.
    Section 3-Wilson discusses how Joyce, like Proust, is symphonic rather than narrative, and his work is prodigiously rich and alive.
    Section 4-Concerns Joyce’s genius in presenting the complete recreation of life in the process of being lived.

    The essay on Proust is sixty pages long, Pete, so I’ll just say that plot, structure, symbolic techniques and so forth employed in this masterpiece are fully covered in enough detail to satisfy an expectant prospective reader like yourself. Wilson’s piece also expresses a supreme appreciation for and fascination with the “little man with the sad appealing voice and the metaphysician’s mind in the mansion where he is not long to be master,” which resonates with me more than the technical aspects do, important as they may be.

    I’m sorry for the length I’ve gone into, but this only scratches the surface. May your experience with these books, and many others, be all you could wish for!

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  7. Thanks for this fun game, Pete!
    I’m glad Zola made it to your 1 whole series. To be honest, I don’t think I can read 20 Zola’s when stranded on an island – excpet perhaps Germinal, which is my all time favorite. The rest would make me more depressed! 🙂
    Brothers Karamazov is a great choice, it’s one of my Personal Canon.
    I haven’t read Cymbeline & Meditations, but have been curious of them.

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