Choose Two Books for Your Own Adventure

Alison Morris -- June 6th, 2008

This past Monday, an article in the Rutland Herald entitled "Two Books and a Beach Towel" was referenced in Shelf Awareness. In the article, several booksellers and librarians were asked to imagine that they were being sent off to a deserted island this summer but that "each person is allowed to take only two books: one old favorite to reread, and one not yet read."

As Shelf Awareness noted, "Among the booksellers interviewed were Sandy Scott, Galaxy Bookshop, Hardwick; Stan Hynds and Erik Barnum, Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center; Dennis and Marsene Pryor, Annie’s Book Stop, Rutland; Lynne and Bill Reed, Misty Valley Books, Chester; and Claire Benedict, Bear Pond Books and Rivendell Books, Montpelier."

The challenges for me here are two-fold: the first is trying to figure out WHAT librarian or bookseller could take only TWO books on any outing that would last more than maybe three days!! (That’s where the whole premise of this challenge is insane, but we’ll forget that for a second…) The second is trying to figure out what books I would take in the face of such evil restrictions.

I decided to ask a couple of my colleagues for their thoughts. Like many of those quoted in the Rutland Herald article, our crew is definitely keen on packing the classics.

Lorna Ruby, my book-buying compatriot, says this *might* be cheating (meaning she’s just going for length here) but she picked The Complete Works of Shakespeare to reread and Anna Karenina to read for the first time. (She was tempted to include The Secret Garden instead of The Complete Works…, but if she’s got to choose something that will take her a while, that seemed unwise.) 

Ignoring the "choose a long book" scheme, I’m choosing to reread A Prayer for Owen Meany (which I’m due to read again) and choosing to read O, Pioneers by Willa Cather (which I’ve been hearing my 91-year-old grandmother talk about for years).

The lovely Lisa Fabiano (bookseller extraordinaire) says she’d reread To Kill a Mockingbird and she’d read… some classic she hasn’t read before (she’s still debating which one) as she thinks that would be a good opportunity to read and reflect on it at length. (And apparently being trapped on a desert island would be what it would take for some of us to FINALLY pick up the books we were never forced to read in high school!)

Elizabeth Wolfson, who was my delightful intern last summer and is now a Smith grad looking for a teaching job (anyone in Massachusetts hiring? she’s GREAT!) says she’d reread Matilda by Roald Dahl ("I’ve read it about 100 times and could just keep re-reading it!") and would like to finally try reading Pride and Prejudice ("because I’ve been hearing so many great things about it for so long").

Another of our wonderful booksellers (which describes all of them), Marilyn Lustig said, "I’d want to be writing and enriching myself," and with that in mind she’d reread her very own copy of Amy Krause Rosenthal’s An Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life to which she’s been adding her own entries, making it a combination book and journal. As for what she’d read for the first time, she chose a dictionary! (Clever, clever…)

One little observation we’ve all made about this challenge: because you’re allowed such a small number of books, you could actually decide to make these two titles a reading/re-reading goal for the summer, whether or not a deserted island is available to you. (Though if it is, I recommend sending yourself along with more than just two books! Or, better still, taking me with you. I’ll bring enough books for both of us!)

Now it’s your turn. REMEMBER, you are allowed just TWO books! Two! One you’ve read and one you haven’t. What will you be packing?

14 thoughts on “Choose Two Books for Your Own Adventure

  1. ShelfTalker

    Jessalou, Be prepared to LAUGH OUT LOUD! Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life is an absolute delight. When I’m recommending it to customers at our store I usually flip to the short entry for “Brother” and suggest that they read it to get a taste of Rosenthal’s comic genius. They almost always buy the book after reading that one bit because it’s just SO funny.

  2. jessalou

    I’m going to show my shallowness with “Gone With the Wind” as my re-read; I’m due and it is nice and long. I am now inspired to read Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life. Anything that encourages writing in this situation is perfect!!

  3. Chris

    Great question! My 9 year old would take Diary of a Wimpy Kid II for the one she’s read and for a new one- a Beacon Street Girls book. For myself, an old favorite: Family Happiness and Other Stories by Leo Tolstoy and for my new read, Harry Potter V: The Order of the Phoenix.

  4. Kate G.

    Hmm, a desert island…I would pick Moby Dick and The Old Man and the Sea, BUT I have a feeling fish will be on the menu daily, so…I’ll go with the first two titles of Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast Trilogy. If I’m going to get sunstroke I want to hallucinate in style!

  5. Sarah P

    Reread: Middlemarch (though Kristin Lavransdatter would be pretty delicious too…) or Brothers Karamazov Read: Ulysses (though even on a desert island, it’s still intimidating!) or maybe, what the heck, Secret Garden, Golden Compass, or Dark is Rising. The two books would have to balance well.

  6. Kathy

    I can barely keep to two books in one day! As a school librarian with the summer off – I like to read until I pass out!! 1. Re-read – The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah by Richard Bach or Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 2. Read – tough call here…either A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams or some cassic I haven’t read like Vanity Fair or On the Road or Crime and Punishment or the Hero with a Thousand Faces…

  7. Emily Wallace

    Ouch! Two books for a whole summer! Well, maybe I’d reread Arabian Nights- it seems appropriate for a desert island- or something by Elizabeth Enright or Eleanor Estes (to feel less homesick). For my new book, I’d read Diana Wynne Jones’ latest book (unless I could get my hands on an advanced copy of Inkdeath).

  8. FriendlyNeighbor

    I think I’d reread Cyrano de Bergerac (in French, annotated so I’d have definitions for the words I didn’t know). That way when I got done reading it I could start memorizing it. Or doing my own English translation. For a new book…that’s a toughy. How about the newest Penderwicks book?

  9. sarah

    The great Norwegian classic Kristin Lavransdatter (by Sigrid Undset) for the “reread” and Moby Dick for the classic new read. I miss handselling Kristin!!

  10. Em Kay

    Oh man, this is difficult! Hmmm, well, taking the “cheating” route, my book to read for the first time would be the The Complete Chronicles of Narnia. It’s my (not-so-)deep dark secret that I’ve never read that series. The book I’ve read… I would have to say Good Omens, which will be reread this summer for sure.

  11. Cassie

    Hmm. I think for my re-read, I’d have to choose “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card. I’ve read it about a dozen times and can probably continue to read it endlessly. For my new read, there’s no contest! I’d bring the new Neal Stephenson ARC “Anathem,” which I just got a copy of!

  12. Bethany Paige

    Great question! If allowed to “cheat,” my re-read would be my collection of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Tales and Sketches.” If not, Evelyn Waugh’s “Vile Bodies.” LOVE that one! My new read would have to be Jane Austen’s “Persuasion.” I’ve heard so many good things, it’s already on my summer reading list.

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