Desert Island Books

© Carol Cizauskas
Thurs., April 22, 1999
Reno News and Review, Summer Guide, 1999

Sometimes The Best Way To Prepare For Disaster Is To Step Out Of Its Way

You've had it with millennium hysteria. Y2K is a squashed insect you'll scrape off when you shake the dust of civilization from your shoes. You'll head to your favorite atoll to escape the insanity.

Noting the necessity to pack light, you bring nothing more than the necessities, which of course include the great books you've neglected during your years immersed in society. Now's your chance to learn about the civilization you're leaving behind.

Following is a completely arbitrary top ten list.


1. To understand the science that brought us to our current world, read The Science Class You Wish You Had : The Seven Greatest Scientific Discoveries in History and the People Who Made Them, by David Eliot Brody and Arnold R. Brody.

2. Let one of our greatest historians fill you in on what you may have missed during the last few thousand years by reading Daniel J. Boorstin's trilogy, The Discoverers: A History of Man's Search to Know His World and Himself, The Creators: A History of Heroes of the Imagination, and The Seekers: The Story of Man's Continuing Quest to Understand His World.

3. If your crash courses in science and history haven't reminded you of why you left the civilized world behind, read your copy of David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross

4. About now, you'll want to refresh your spirit with one of Charles Dickens' rarer, happy novels, Great Expectations.

5. Continue with another literary genius by reading The Complete Works of Shakespeare, as edited by David Bevington. When society collapses, you'll want to remember the millennium's greatest Western author.

6. Now read the great miniaturist of Western literature, Jane Austen, whose Pride and Prejudice accurately portrays the politics of human interaction separate from the unfolding history surrounding her characters. In viewing Austen's microcosm, recall how our nature remains much the same from one century to the next.

7. Regress in time to Homer's The Odyssey, which will prepare you for your next outstanding literary foray.

8. Now you finally have the time you've always wanted to read and understand James Joyce's Ulysses. Yes!

9. Bring yourself to the more recent half of the twentieth century with Ralph Ellison's The Invisible Man.

10. Finally, immerse yourself in the Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, edited by Thomas H. Johnson, while you ponder this recluse's spiritual depth and astounding knowledge of the world. Then decide if, like Dickinson, you want to remain separate from the outside world for the rest of your days, or if you will return to a society that, if it has survived, is crazy, beautiful, and wild.