Books have made all of the difference in my life. I still remember my mom reading the Poky Little Puppy Golden Book to me as a child. When I was 8 years old, I built my first bookshelf, specifically measured to fit my comic-book collection. My reading habits took me to law school and now serve me well as a Judge on the Michigan Court of Appeals. Needless to say, I seem to buy more books than I have time to read…but I will read all of them some day (or so I tell myself).

For this week’s post, I depart a bit from prior topics and offer to you my “Desert Island Books” lists. One caveat—the lists don’t include two books that I would definitely want on the deserted island, The Bible and Shipbuilding for Dummies. So, along with those two books, here are my Top 5 lists, broken out into Fiction and Non-Fiction:


  • The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky—The very best novel, full stop.
  • Ulysses, James Joyce—Confusing but familiar, a story about an epic trip in a single city on a single day, a good reminder that we need not be limited by our geography to have great adventures.
  • The Glass Bead Game, Herman Hesse—A strange, interesting story involving the interplay between Reason and Spirit. I take something new from this book every time I read it.
  • East of Eden, John Steinbeck—Epic story that shows how history repeats itself across generations, but also how one can make a conscious break from that history. We need not be confined by our historical systems.
  • Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry—Gus and Call.

Honorable Mention: To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee; Anthem, Ayn Rand—When stranded alone on an island, it might be nice to read about individuals who fight the good fight.

Non-Fiction (Philosophy/Economics/Biography/Etc)

  • The Iliad, Homer—Almost certainly fiction, but close enough for this category. Take one part The Iliad, add two parts The Bible, throw in several dashes of time and imagination, and a person stranded on an island can make a good start on recreating Western Civilization.
  • Plato’s Complete Works, Plato—Plato’s Socrates has kept men and women mentally tied-up for eons, so it should be a good way to spend some time trapped on an island.
  • Free to Choose, Milton and Rose Friedman—A well-written reminder of the wonders captured by the slogan, “Free Minds, Free Markets.”
  • Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant, Ulysses S. Grant—An American masterpiece written by a quintessential American. Even alone on a deserted island, always an American.
  • The Selected Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ralph Waldo Emerson—I can’t always say precisely why, but I always feel inspired after reading Emerson.

Honorable Mention: Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. Randomly pick a quote and ruminate on it while hunting for the evening’s meal and repairing the island bungalow—I could think of worse ways to spend a day.

Any suggestions for additions to the lists? If so, please send them along, I’m always looking to add to my ever-expanding book collection. And with your help on November 3rd, I will be moving my collection of books into new chambers as your next Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court!