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Desert Island Books

There is so much treasure to draw on 'to convert the imagination'.

Here is a list of books to take to a desert island. Conveniently I don't know how long I'm going to stay there, or how much luggage I can take. I can even take a library!


Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo

The Betrothed, by Manzoni - the great Italian novel. The unscrupulous and mysterious character called 'The Unnamed' is suddenly confronted with 'that other life which they told me about when I was a boy' - with amazing results.

The Brothers Karamazov, by Dostoevsky. Also his The Possessed - a story of how evil works.

If there is room, I will take all the novels of Walter Scott, Charles Dickens, John Buchan and George Eliot.

Fortitude, by Hugh Walpole

Robert Falconer by George Macdonald - given by Queen Victoria to all her grandchildren

Light reading:

The latest Wisden's Cricketer's Almanack

A book to identify birds with, depending where my desert island is

Some nature books including: W H Hudson's A Shepherd's Life, Laurens Van Der Post's The Heart of the Hunter, David Lack's The Life of the Robin.

A book on astronomy, including a chart of the stars

(there will be plenty of time to watch and wonder)

A history of the Great Western Railway (I'm an old train-spotter!)


Mahatma Gandhi: The Story of My Experiments with Truth

Winston Churchill: My Early Life

Neville Cardus: Autobiography (Cardus - cricket and music writer)

Rudyard Kipling: Something of Myself


John Buchan: Sir Walter Scott

G M Trevelyan: Grey of Falloden (Edward Grey, British Foreign Secretary 1905-1916)

Garth Lean: Frank Buchman, A Life

Vincent Cronin: A Wise Man from the West (the story of Matteo Ricci, the first Jesuit into China in the 16th century)

Alan Thornhill, Best of Friends (an inspiring collection of short biographical portraits)

Spiritual books:

Augustine's Confessions and The City of God

Thomas à Kempis: The Imitation of Christ

Henry Drummond: The Greatest Thing in the World (a book of his collected addresses)

William Temple: Readings in St John's Gospel

George Adam Smith: The Book of Isaiah

Pope John XXIII: Journal of a Soul

Mother Teresa: In the Silence of the Heart

Andrew Murray: Absolute Surrender

Bishop David Brown: For All Their Splendour (draws out the salient truths of the great faiths)

Father Eloi Leclerc: La Sagesse d'un Pauvre (a life of St Francis)

Through the Year with J B Phillips

Esther de Waal: The Way of Simplicity (the story of the Cistercians)

Watchman Nee: Sit, Walk, Stand (commentary on Ephesians)


The collected poems of Rudyard Kipling and John Masefield

Francis Thompson: 'The Hound of Heaven'

Thomas Gray: 'Elegy in a Country Churchyard' - the first long poem I learned by heart

The Oxford Book of English Poetry

Coleridge wrote:  'Not the poem which we have read but that to which we return with the greatest pleasure possesses the genuine power and claims the name of essential poetry.'

That is what I feel about the books I have mentioned. I would like to read them all again, and here is my chance.

Children's books:

A A Milne: The Pooh Stories

Francis Hodgson-Burnett: The Secret Garden

C S Lewis: The Narnia Stories

Lewis Carroll: Alice in Wonderland

Kenneth Graham: The Wind in the Willows

Violet Needham: The Woods of Windri - perhaps all of her books

I keep thinking of books I've forgotten. I must stop. But I will add R L Stevenson's The Art of Writing.

C S Lewis in his introduction to one of the fantasy novels of George MacDonald wrote:  'Reading Phantastes, I knew that I had crossed a great frontier. The whole world had about it a sort of cool morning innocence. What it did to me was to convert my imagination. The quality which enchanted me was the divine, magical, terrifying and ecstatic reality in which we all live. I should have been shocked in my teens if anyone told me that what I learned to love in Phantastes was goodness.'

There is so much treasure to draw on 'to convert the imagination'.

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