Desert Island Books

If I were stranded on a desert island and had to pick just one volume to have with me, it would be Shakespeare’s works. Not a very original choice, but that is certainly one book I could reread any number of times without ever ceasing to discover lots of new and interesting things.

If I could have two, the second would be some particularly pithy Zen collection that I could struggle with indefinitely — probably Dôgen’s Moon in a Dewdrop, or perhaps a koan collection or a good general anthology such as The Roaring Stream.

If I could have a few more, they would be the following:

1. William Shakespeare, Plays and Poems
2. Dôgen, Moon in a Dewdrop
3. Homer, The Iliad and The Odyssey
4. Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote
5. Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
6. Murasaki Shikibu, The Tale of Genji
7. Michel de Montaigne, Essays

After that, the order becomes less definite. Leading contenders for the next few slots would include the Tao Te Ching, The Story of the Stone, Tristram Shandy, War and Peace, Boswell’s Life of Johnson, Buber’s Tales of the Hasidim, Herodotus, Plutarch, Chaucer, Bashô, Baudelaire, Whitman, Chekhov, Proust. But if I had those first seven I would consider myself fortunate indeed. So I’ll leave it at that and not be too greedy!


Section from Gateway to the Vast Realms (Ken Knabb, 2004).

No copyright.