Five books, one desert island

It's the classic book-nerd question: if you had to spend the rest of your life on a desert island and could only bring five books with you, which books would you bring? Talk about one of life's tough questions. I've spent a fair amount of time thinking about it, and here is my list:

1. The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting

This was my favorite book growing up. My elementary school library had two copies, both ancient, gray hardcovers that were falling apart. I adored them and checked them out repeatedly. In this book, Doctor Dolittle and his young companion, Tommy Stubbins, spend a brief period of time marooned on an island, so the reason for inclusion on my list is obvious. Plus, it's a fantastic story with talking animals. What else can you ask for?

2. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

Yes, Atlas Shrugged. I'm probably one of the very few people who would choose this tome as one of their five essential books, but Ayn Rand's behemoth of a novel is not only long (and I would argue that you want your books to be as long as possible if you're stuck in this hypothetical desert island situation), but when I read it in high school, it taught me more about how to simply think and use my brain than any other book I've ever read. Rand certainly has different perspective on the world than most people, and tapping into such a radical mindset was a revelation for me at that time. If I'm stuck on a desert island, I don't want my brain to atrophy--and this book will help me avoid that sad fate.

3. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

Speaking of using your brain, Infinite Jest is an infinite exercise in brain activity. I'm hauling this one along because no matter how many times I read it, I know that I will still not understand it. Plus it's over 1,000 pages long.

4. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Another big one! Gone with the Wind brings all the romance I could ever want to my little island. I read it for the first time in 2008 and was stunned at how good it was--much better than the movie. So Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler get to come along for the ride.

5. A book that I have always meant to read, but haven't gotten around to yet

You know in the movie Castaway how Tom Hanks saves one of those FedEx boxes and never opens it, just to hang on to the hope that whatever was in the box would be able to save his life and get him off the island? Yeah, this book is going to be my box. It will be my life insurance policy--I can't do anything too stupid if I haven't read this guaranteed-to-be-awesome book yet. Contenders include The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, and Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.

Which books would you bring? Maybe if your island is close to mine, we can set up a lending library and sends a pages back and forth a few at a time, message-in-a-bottle style.