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?