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Which book would I save?

Corey V. asked last week, “Which book would you save?” At first, I was just going to post a comment on his blog. Then, I thought maybe it was worth a quick blog post. I realized, though, that a question like that is far, far too difficult for a comment or quick post.

Corey’s post hits one of the core issues on the head: am I saving the book for society as a whole or is it going to be my “desert island book”? At first blush, you might think the book you save would be the same regardless. But I’m not so sure. For example, I’ve never liked Shakespeare. But do my personal tastes mean that the only book future generations have shouldn’t see Shakespeare’s collected works (or something by Twain or Dickens or Tolstoy)?

I ultimately opted for a blend. I figured I’d pick something I know I’d read but that undoubtedly has both literary and social value. Thus, my choice would be George Orwell’s 1984. If we’re in a situation where we need to talk about saving books, then plainly we would be much closer to Winston Smith’s world than we are today. Society undoubtedly will need both literary quality and useful social/political commentary.

Of course, ask me next week or next month and the answer might well be different.


Orthodoxy means not thinking — not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.

George Orwell, 1984

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2 comments to Which book would I save?

  • A great choice, and one I was considering as well. I was always more partial to Animal Farm – maybe it was the Ralph Steadman illustrated copy that did that for me – but 1984 is both important and just plain good.

  • TJ

    A fun post. And I appreciate the distinction you make about what you think society might need and what would keep you happy on the island.