Thursday, August 26, 2010

Our Deserted Island Top Five

So, the age-old question: which five books would you choose to take with you if you were stuck on a deserted island? Three Water Street Bookstore booksellers give their answers.


1. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
2. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
3. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
4. The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa
5. Holy Land by Rauan Klassnik


1. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
2. Fall of Giants by Ken Follett (releases 9/28)
3. The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer
4. The Tower, The Zoo, and The Tortoise by Julia Stuart
5. Big History by Cynthia Brown


1. Three by Annie Dillard

This classic volume contains Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, An American Childhood, and The Writing Life. Okay, sure, this is sort of cheating, but I'm using my 5 books wisely by bringing an omnibus! Annie Dillard is quite simply one of my top three favorite writers. In these books, I found paragraph after paragraph of the most fascinating, glittering prose I had ever read. Every blade of grass and star in the sky brings her wonder and joy. She lives her life in a way I could only hope to.

2. We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live: Collected Non-Fiction by Joan Didion

Again, I may be cheating here a little...but how could I choose between Joan Didion's wonderful essay collections? Slouching Towards Bethlehem was a watershed book for me. Reading it made me realize that the way words are hung together matters, that each individual sentence can be a whole world. I'll admit to heavy-handedly Didionizing my writing in college papers after discovering her, though of course I soon realized she's simply inimitable. I'll still pick this book up every once in a while when I just want to be quieted and moved by the written word.

3. A Prayer For Owen Meany by John Irving

My favorite Irving novel, and one of my favorite novels period, this wonderful book will always remind me of my family and my home. By the time I was in sixth grade, my parents and both of my brothers had already read it. The copy that was passed down to me is a bruised and battered paperback that I will never, ever upgrade.

4. Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner

All of Faulkner's great novels are deep reservoirs of meaning and tradition, but Absalom, Absalom! for me surpasses all the others. Each page uncovers secrets and clues that could never be fully picked up in a single reading.

5. Charming Billy by Alice McDermott

McDermott's lyrical prose will always comfort and calm me, and Charming Billy is my favorite of her novels. Her characters are universal figures--we know what they will do wrong before they do, we know how they love and lose, what they fight for and grieve for. Billy is a flawed and desperate character, and one that we cannot help but love. I've read this novel a half dozen times and never tire of it.

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