A recent discussion on DorothyL centered on a character from David Skibbins' Tarot Card mysteries. Warren Ritter is a former radical who doesn't want to be found by the government, and he's also bipolar. I haven't read the books yet, but apparently, in Warren's attempts to stay lost and be able to move easily around, he only owns 7 books at a time. This prompted a discussion on what 7 books DorothyL members would choose if they were in a similar position.
Some could not participate at all, finding the thought of only 7 books physically painful. Others thought it was cheating to include anthologies. I do not agree. After all, if the theory is to have 7 physical books that you can pick up and put in a backpack in one minute, than I can have as many books crammed into one physical volume as I can find, as long as I'm willing to bear the weight of the pack :)
Here's the 7 I would choose today. I don't guarantee I would choose the same 7 tomorrow. After all, you never know when a new book is going to come along and knock you senseless with its brilliance. (And for my purposes, I will not include scriptures. That takes us too dangerously into personal spiritual territory, which I would prefer to keep private.) Otherwise, these books are all single volumes that I have on my bookshelves at this moment.
1. THE COMPLETE WORKS OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE: What's to add? Poetry, tragedy, comedy, history, characters . . . He'll never be equalled. Nor will his language.
2. THE COMPLETE NOVELS OF JANE AUSTEN: Another automatic for me. My daughter is named for two Jane Austen heroines. I could re-read her novels ad infinitum.
3. THE LORD OF THE RINGS: Frodo, Sam, Aragorn, Gandalf, Faramir, Eowyn . . . I read this again every few years and I never get bored. Even though I have large portions of it memorized (particualrly anything to do with Eowyn), I would want these books forever.
4. GAUDY NIGHT by Dorothy L. Sayers: The Golden Age creator of Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane, Sayers' best book (in my opinion) is this one. Harriet returns to her Oxford college to find a poison-pen at work. There isn't a single murder in this book, but it can't be beat for atmosphere, tension, philosophical questions on marriage, women's careers, academic integrity, and ethics. Plus Peter and his Harriet finally confront their relationship head-on.
5. FALCON AT THE PORTAL/HE SHALL THUNDER IN THE SKY by Elizabeth Peters: Okay, I'm cheating slightly here. These are two volumes. If necessary, I will pull the covers off and restitch by hand into one volume. You can't read one without the other. The highpoint of the Amelia Peabody Egyptian mysteries, these are set just before and during WWI and find Ramses doing undercover intelligence work for the British while Nefret tries to sort out her romantic life. I literally threw FALCON AT THE PORTAL at the wall when I finished reading it at 2:00 a.m. because I knew I would have to wait a whole year to read the next one.
6. DAUGHTER OF THE FOREST by Juliet Marillier: I love all Marillier's historical fantasies, but if I had to pick just one to keep, it would her first. Based on the fairy tale of the wicked stepmother who turns her stepsons into swans and the little sister who has to save them by making shirts of nettles without speaking. Marillier bases the story in Ireland of the 8th or 9th century and weaves a wonderful fantasy that's grounded in our own history. I simply love it and Sorcha will forever be my favorite of Marillier's characters.
7. THE BROTHERS OF GWYNEDD QUARTET by Edith Pargeter: Better known for her Brother Cadfael medieval mysteries (written under the name Ellis Peters), Pargeter also wrote fabulous historical novels. I was torn between this volume and Sharon Kay Penman's HERE BE DRAGONS, but had to come down on the side of these four novels in one volume. They follow the life of Llwellyn, the last true prince of Wales. This is a book that, when I put it down, I thought, "If this isn't how it really happened, it should have." I conceived a lasting admiration of Llewellyn and the Welsh, and a lasting resentment of Edward I in these books. I cry every time I reach the end, it doesn't matter that I know what's coming.
This is not an easy exercise. Try it. Assuming you'd still have access to libraries, what 7 books could you not bear to part with, that you simply must be able to lay your hands on whenever you like? Already I'm thinking of dozens I left off this list: ENDER'S GAME, POSSESSION, MIDDLEMARCH, JANE EYRE and VILLETTE, volumes of English poetry, HARRY POTTER in all its storytelling glory . . . and now I'm getting a headache just thinking about it. I think I'll go walk the length of my many bookshelves and appreciate the hundreds of books I own.