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Alternative Culture Magazine

Six Books to Bring to a Desert Island

Which six books would you bring to a desert island, to fill your days and nights, to help you pass the time until your deliverance back to the infinite linguistic resources of civilization?

Here were my choices, made in the moment of packing a box to send to the sandy waste of Forentera, where I was going to spend a month without the prospect of any other books. My choices were made somewhat spontaneously and on impulse, yet with some quickly decided weighting of various considerations: length, richness, variety, inspiration.

Conclusion: I had no regrets. This collection served me well. I survived, and came back positively altered for the experience.


     Two from the spiritual/self-help shelf:

Breathing: Expanding your Power and Energy (1990), by Michael Sky

From Onions to Pearls: A Journal of Awakening and Deliverance (1996), by Satyam Nadeen
The philosophy I've been waiting for--presented in clear, personal terms and with humble humor. Bottom line: "Consciousness is all there is, and you are not the doer."

     Three densely written novels by master prose stylists:

Doctor Faustus: The Life of the German Composer Adrian Leverkühn, as Told by a Friend (1947), by Thomas Mann
The Nobel Prize winner gives us the culmination of European culture and history, in the last great novel of its age. Germany's demise is masterfully wedded with the devil's bargain made by the fictional composer. This heady intellectual prose is not for everyone. Read it as a tour de force of literary genius about the nature of musical genius and historical pride.

A Soldier of the Great War (1991), by Mark Helprin
An epic showcasing Helprin's range and beauty in prose style, while also a riveting story of one man's heroic endurance. The plot stretches belief at times, but we care so much for the character that we keep cheering him on.

Going Native (1994), by Stephen Wright
A surrealistic roller coaster which at the same time shows life just as it is: but you never knew it was so richly detailed and twisted until you see it through Wright's unforgiving prose. An original building of story through a cast of totally different characters given a chapter apiece, through which the main character moves like a deadly ghost. His chapter comes at last.

     A collection of short fiction:

Stories from the New Europe (The Graywolf Annual, Number Nine, 1992), edited by Scott Walker
Surprising literary discoveries from the newest countries--and some of the oldest cultures--of Europe. Regional flavor combines with authorial innovations in this tasty stew.

...and five books I found there

...other current favorites


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