Still nothing quite like a good book

Published 12:48 pm Thursday, September 19, 2019

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“So, you are trapped on a deserted island, but you can take five books with you to pass the time. What would they be?”

This question is a classic icebreaker that has been used to loosen up attendees at corporate meetings and organizational retreats for years. It may sound like a pretty simple query, but the answers are always wildly diverse and often difficult to pinpoint for many people. Many public libraries have done their own version of this game — minus the shipwrecked-in-the-middle-of-the-ocean part.

The recent release of “The Institute” by Stephen King and another entry in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series, albeit written by David Lagercrantz, had me pondering this literary question.

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For me personally, the question has been answered a number of times over the years and has often been expanded to include movies or albums. (Yes, I understand the logic doesn’t quite work if the island is truly deserted and without electricity, but you get the picture.)

My list is always evolving and changes a bit each time with my reading tastes and interests. Here is a current version, with the caveat that classics like “How to Build Life Rafts for Dummies” and “101 Ways to Cook Coconuts” are off the table.

1. “The Bible.” Keeping the faith will be extra important if the stay is longer than a few days.

2. “The Catcher in the Rye.” This coming-of-age story probably helped shape more young people than any other novel of its generation.

3. “The Stand.” Stephen King may be best known for writing horror stories, but this post-apocalyptic tale really is about goodness and the human spirit.

4. “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.” Having read this at a very young age, it had a major impact on me. And Twain’s humor and wit would help keep you sane.

5. “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The sequel did not make the cut, but the original is worth reading over and over again for showcasing our humanity and morality.

Others that may be on the short list or have been on past versions include: “The Outsiders,” “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” “Animal Farm,” “We Were Soldiers Once …”, “The Lord of the Rings,” “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “In Cold Blood,” “And Then There Were None, “The Fault in Our Stars” and many more.

So, what books are you taking along?

Here’s to hoping you won’t get stuck on a deserted island anytime soon but maybe finding a few minutes to reflect on your favorite reads or reading mine will acquaint you with some old friends of help you make some new ones.

Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Advocate-Messenger and Danville Living magazine. He can be reached at (859) 469-6400 or by email at