Top 5 Books to Take With You to Desert Island

Imagine you get stuck on an island and you can only choose five books to keep you company, what would you choose?

Abbas Ahmadi
Aug 24, 2020 · 7 min read

This question is tricky because there is a lot to pick from, I was reflecting about this a while back, and it really made me think. What five books would I choose, if they were the only books I could read?

You would want a book that you can revisit without getting tired, and one you could use to guide you through loneliness, stress, and paranoia. Because let’s face it, you are going to get paranoid if you’re stuck on an island with a rock to keep you company.

So here are the five books that I would choose. With a bit of background on the book and a dash of reasoning as to why I chose them:

1. The Alchemist

The book tells the tale of Santiago as he meets with a gypsy, a king, an Englishman, his love, and an alchemist all in the pursuit of his personal legend. Reading this book can help people who are creating their lives. It gives you a sense of purpose.

There are many lessons scattered throughout the book which you can apply to your own life, in one way or the other.

The novel was written by Paulo Coelho and published in 1988. It quickly became one of the bestselling books with its themes of:

  • The language Of the universe.
  • Trusting Omens.
  • Listening to your heart.

It teaches you how to read signs and connect to everything around you. Once you do those things, you will see how the universe guides you to your “destiny.”

Here are some quotes that I found to be useful in my life: I hope it helps you too.

“To realize one’s personal legend is a person’s only real obligation. All things are one. And when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

This quote helps people such as myself, who have a superhero complex, I have always wanted to help the people around me, just because I think that I can. Which then it mostly ends up with me neglecting my own needs.

But when you realize that you have only one goal. Which is to reach your “personal legend” you start feeling a sense of freedom like none before. It’s great to help others, but only if it will not hold you back from your own journey. It is true what they say about the universe helping you achieve your goals, trust me on this.

“There is only one way to learn. It’s through action, everything you need to know, you have learned through your journey.”

This quote is somewhat proven to be true. No matter how many books you read or lectures you attended, You won’t have the courage to use your knowledge. Even if you have studied everything in your field, you won’t know how to do it unless you have tried doing it and failed a couple of times.

The main topic of the book is, of course, alchemy: Which is the act of converting any base metal into gold. In addition to the story, in which the protagonist decides to shape his life into something more valuable. By maximizing his talents to achieve his destiny, this is the ultimate carpe diem book.

2. 100 years of Solitude

A novel that brought Latin American literature to the forefront of the global imagination, earning Gabriel Garcia Marquez the 1982 Nobel prize for literature.

The book follows the fortunes and misfortunes of The Buendia family through seven generations. It is not an easy book to read, but it is profoundly rewarding. It including topics such as:

  • Intense romance.
  • Civil war.
  • Political injury.
  • Globe-trotting adventures.

And by showing the past, the present, and the future simultaneously. This book became one of the most famous examples of magical realism.

For those of you who don’t know what magical realism is:

It’s when supernatural events are described in a realistic and matter of fact tone, while the real events of human life and history reveal themselves to be a radical absurdity.

An example from the book would be when an American fruit company opens up a plantation near the village and ends up massacring thousands of striking workers, mirroring the real-life banana massacre in 1928.

In an interview, Gabriel Garcia reflects on Latin America’s long history of civil strife and rampant inequity. But he later ends the speech by affirming the possibility of building a better world in which I quote:

“Where no one would be able to decide for others how they die, where love would prove true, and happiness is possible, and where the races condemned to one hundred years of solitude will have at and forever a second chance on earth.”

3. Crime and Punishment

Dostoevsky’s main protagonist Raskolnikov is a contradiction of moral and immoral impulses. He executes a theory based on the new morality, which is rationalism and logic, but his conscience is rooted in the old morality based on religion and faith.

This is the duality that ends up unbalancing him and leading him to seek redemption. But he can only find redemption if he suffers for what he has done.

Suffering is like a double-edged sword for Dostoevsky. It redeems or destroys depending on the circumstances.

“Pain and suffering are always inevitable for a large intelligence and a deep heart.”

Raskolnikov, in Frydor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment.

Suffering can be inflicted by many sources such as crime, illness, disease, poverty, cruelty, self-hatred, Alienation, rejection, and failure. Raskolnikov goes from a cold heart rationalist to a red-blooded human being. This is Dostoevsky’s conclusion that one must endure suffering to achieve redemption.

The use of duality by Dostoevsky in this book should not go unnoticed. Raskolnikov’s name means schism, which in basic English means divide what this suggests is that “Rodya” is playing both sides of the court in a whole bunch of ways from:

  • Good and evil.
  • Sensibility and Intelligence.
  • Self-sacrifice and self-assertion.
  • Man and God.

Dostoevsky took up questions such as:

  • What drives someone to kill in cold blood?
  • What goes through the murder’s mind?
  • What kind of society breeds such people?

He asked critical questions that every society needed the answers to, that is one of the reasons his book became one of the best-known works of Russian literature.

4. Eureka: A Prose Poem

In this book, Allan Poe attempts to explain how the universe operates. He got somethings right and somethings wrong because science marches on. But it is an interesting read if you consider the fact that this book talks about concepts that weren’t even being thought of in 1848.

He talked about things like:

  • Cosmic background radiation.
  • expansion of the universe.
  • And the idea of every atom having a gravitational attraction to every other atom.

Now you have got to respect this guy. He talked about concepts that weren’t ever thought possible in his time. Before general relativity and quantum mechanics, even some of the things he parsed out applied to experiments that were confirmed by those theories.

This book is like his personal attempt to understand the “truth of the universe.”

He uses a sort of storytelling technique to talk about science. Like the way, Neil deGrasse Tyson talks about science. Poe created a big picture of how the world operates. We always need the big picture so we can chisel down the flaws. Otherwise, we have nothing to build on and improve.

And that is what we did. Scientists used his ideas to formulate their theories and attempt to prove them as facts.

With this book, Poe goes from writing masterful horror stories to “An Essay on the Material and Spiritual Universe” which is a side nobody knew about, it is probably the most personal one of his works because of it.

5. The Tao of Wu

This one might have a different vibe compared to the others, but I assure you that you will not be the same person you were after reading this book.

There are many different ways we take to find wisdom.

In this book, The Rza uses different stories in which he examines them into what kind of wisdom is to be found in that particular path and how to obtain said wisdom.

The Rza talks about his inspiration from Kung-fu movies like the 36 chambers of Shaolin and the five deadly venoms and how they help shape the mentality that he has today. I highly recommend watching them if you haven’t already. He talks about his life, his struggles, his sacrifices, and what he had to do to become the man he is today.

As the old Buddhist scripter would say:

“Without wisdom, there is no gain.”

But The Tao of Wu is more than just a biography. He arranges out his spiritual code in what he calls the “7 pillars,” each of which is based on a former life event where he gains some wisdom through the suffering and or prospering times.

The Rza uses many different spiritual systems and teachers from:

  • Islam.
  • Christianity.
  • Buddhism.
  • Taoism.

He walks you through how he has applied these philosophical and spiritual teachings into his life. He also shows the path one might want to take in search of wisdom.

The Rza does a marvelous job of weaving many complex concepts and experiences into an easily digestible story of his own life.

Here are some of the quotes from the book that have helped me to view the world differently:

“Wisdom is the cure to all sickness”

“Lose yourself to improve yourself. Only when we shed all self-definition do we find who we really are.”

“Forces in this world will tell you you’re a victim — of your family, your race, your past, your history. Don’t believe them, they don’t know you. Look inside and find your true self. It’s there. Give it a name.”

This list may vary depending on who you are and where you’re heading. But I hope that you will gain some value from reading these books as I have.

I would love to hear the books that you would pick if you had to choose. Let me know in the responses.


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