In my house I must have something like 3000 books. An entire room full of books downstairs. An entire room full of books upstairs. An upstairs hallway full of books. Plus several bookcases in another room. I dunno, I've been accumulating books all my life. Though 20 years ago, I could still pretty well fit them into a single room.

What if I had to choose 10 books to take with me to a desert island? Well, I suppose the list would look something like this.

  1. The Bible, Oxford Annotated RSV with Apocrypha.

  2. James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson.

  3. Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy.

  4. Michel de Montaigne, Essays.

  5. Henry David Thoreau, Walden.

  6. Jack Kerouac, On the Road.

  7. Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

  8. Thor Heyerdahl, Kon-Tiki.

  9. William Least Heat Moon, Blue Highways.

  10. Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, editor, The Oxford Book of English Verse.

For a desert island, you want books that are not only old favorites, but readable and rereadable. Each of these books I've gone back to, again and again, over the course of years. Several of them are books about long journeys-- I'm not sure quite what that means, though I was past 40 before I settled down in one place.

If I could arrange for a new copy to be delivered yearly, I might choose The Old Farmer's Almanac as one item on the list. If we were counting titles instead of volumes, I would likely choose as one title the eight-volume Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce.