Ten books I would take with me to a desert island

Idea came from here.  In no particular order:

  1.  Gödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter – A classic that links the proof of one of the most shocking and bizarre math theorems to what ultimately makes us human. It took me seven months to get through it the first time but it was so worth it.
  2.  The Boer War by Thomas Pakenham – I have not read a better account of a war.   Such complete detail, the characters on both sides come to life as they fight in this fruitless and destructive war.
  3.  The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick – Leave it to Dick to present an alternative history and then an alternative history within the alternative history so that by the end you have no idea what is really the alternative history.  Awesome.
  4.  Fifty-Two Pickup by Elmore Leonard – Some scumbags try to blackmail and intimidate a factory owner.  They picked the wrong factory owner to mess with.  Fun dialogue and plotting make this a great little read.
  5.  Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace – There is so much fun and insight and really just phenomenal, emotional writing here.  And it is wicked hilarious.
  6.  A Course in Pure Mathematics by G. H. Hardy – I have gone through this book several times and have learned something new each time.  Clear, witty, timeless.
  7.  The Winds of War/War and Remembrance by Herman Wouk – These two actually make up a single story about the effect of WWII on a single, American family.  Victor Henry may be the most ridiculous Zelig-type character and Natalie Jastrow may be one of the dumbest women in all literature, but the story they weave is incredible in scope and the history dead nuts on.  The writing is quite good to boot.
  8.  Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro – David Foster Wallace remarked that “Fiction’s about what it is to be a fucking human being.”  No book I have read illustrates that principle more than this.
  9.  The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon –  I love good alternative histories and this one is a doozy.
  10.  Kaddish by Leon Wieseltier – It’s a book whose genesis is sad but embarks on a journey through the most arcane debates about the basic tenants of Jewish tradition.  And it does so with panache and wit and intelligence.  I’ve read through several times and got something new out of it each time.
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Ron Gordon

Math nerd in his early 40’s who seems to have an opinion about everything and an inability to keep it to himself.