Thursday, September 28, 2006

Of Lists and New Planets

I was taking a brain break at work today while browsing the Cannongate website. They have a book that caught my eye, The Book of Lists. There are two kinds of people in the world, those who love lists and those who don't. I love lists. So I looked up the book at my library and requested it. In the meantime, I've been having fun looking at lists on the Cannongate site. These are not lists from the book, but lists people have sent in. There are lists like Three Famous Commas, Nine People Who Died Laughing (which includes a number of writers), and Roald Dahl's Five Books to Take to a New Planet. Here is Dahl's list:

  1. Price's Textbook of the Practice of Medicine
  2. The Greater Oxford Dictionary
  3. The Pickwick Papers
  4. A book containing all of Beethoven's piano sonatas
  5. Johann Sebastian Bach's B minor Mass
Now, don't get me wrong, I like Mr. Dahl, he wrote some great books. But I must question his five books. It seems to me that while a textbook on medicine is a handy thing to have, one cannot assume all the necessary medical ingredients will be present on the new planet, unless of course you are hauling in the labs and natural and synthetic materials needed for the treatment we are accustomed to. That is simply not cost effective. But I'm probably taking it all too seriously. Now comes the fun part where I get to counter with my own list of five books. Since Mr. Dahl wrote his list in 1983, prior to the luxury of really great computers, he didn't think that he could google his medical and lexicographical needs, or at least carry them on a CD or DVD. Does this make it easier to choose the five books? Heck no! But here they are (they may change tomorrow)
  1. The Complete Essays of Michele de Montaigne
  2. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (and a towel)
  3. 2001: a Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke
  4. Octavia E. Butler's Xenogenesis series (I know there is more than one but they are a set so I'm counting them as one "book")
  5. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
What five books would you take to a new planet?