You can bring three books to a desert island. Which do you choose?

This is a question that always kills me. For a book lover this type of triage is never a record of what was brought along but a record of what was left behind. But if forced to choose by, say, a shipwreck or an evil Times editor, I’d probably grab novels that I’m still wrestling with. Like Samuel R. Delany’s “Dhalgren” (which in my opinion is one of the greatest and most perplexing novels of the 20th century) or Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” (to be an American writer or to be interested in American literature and not to have read “Beloved,” in my insufferable calculus, is like calling yourself a sailor and never having bothered to touch the sea) or Cormac McCarthy’s “Blood Meridian” (so horrifyingly profound and compellingly ingenious it’s almost sorcery). Maybe Octavia Butler’s “Dawn” (set in a future where the remnants of the human race are forced to “trade” genes (read: breed involuntarily) with our new alien overlords). Or Gilbert Hernandez’s “Beyond Palomar” (if it wasn’t for “Poison River” I don’t think I would have become a writer). Perhaps Leslie Marmon Silko’s “Ceremony” or Alan Moore’s “Miracle-man” or Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” — books that changed everything for me. To be honest I’d probably hold a bunch of these books in hand and only decide at the last instant, as the water was flooding up around my knees, which three I’d bring. And then I’d spend the rest of that time on the desert island dreaming about the books that I left behind and also of all the books, new and old, that I wasn’t getting a chance to read.  

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