My Desert Island Hermitage Library
Whittling it down to only ten items will be difficult for this bibliomaniac. But, as we know, 10 is a Biblical number representing completeness, as are 7, 12, 40, and seventy-seven times seven. Given that, I've come up with a list representing what I consider, at present, my complete bibliography for desert island survival. Granted, the conditions on my particular desert island are not well known. But, let's say that, hypothetically, I have everything I need for material survival. That just leaves spiritual and intelectual survival. For that I'll need the following books, which I've broken down into categories. (Even though I'm Eastern Rite Orthodox, I give free reign to my Latin mind and my Germanic obsession with good order.
All right, so, first and foremost, someone stranded alone on a desert island must take thought to prayer. The question is, what prayers would a bi-ritualist like myself say on a desert island? The answer--any ones he wants to. I would miss the Eastern Rite prayers, but I have many of those memorized and some of them I'll include in the list. Anyway, it would be next to impossible to pray the Eastern Divine Office--you need too many books for all the different saints commemorated every day of the year. (The Eastern Rite has no "ferial" or ordinary days and not a broad complement of Commons, although they definitely do exist.) Thus for purposes of brevity and also because I like the order and structure and simplicity of the Western Rite Divine Office, I'm taking the following with me to my island paradise:
For the Divine Office (prayer books)
The Monastic Diurnal or The Day Hours of the Monastic Breviary in Latin and English, published by Saint Michael's Abbey Press, 2004. This is the book I try to use every day for my prayers. It is the traditional Benedictine Office, edited in 1963, so it's not completely perfect, but it works.
Psautier Latin-Francais du Breviaire Monastique (Latin-French Psalter from the Monastic Breviary), published by the Society of St. John the Evangelist, 1938. This volume has the traditional Benedictine Office. More importantly, it has Matins, which the Diurnal does not.
The Anglican Breviary, published by the Frank Gavin Ligurgical Foundation, 1940. This Breviary is a 1911 reworking of the Secular Roman Breviary, so the Psalter is distributed quite differently, but otherwise its collects, readings, and Preces serve to supplement the Benedictine Office.
The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha, Revised Standard Version. I'd take the Douay-Rheims Version, but it does not have 3 and 4 Maccabbees, Psalm 151, the Prayer of Manasseh, and possibly not 2 Esdras, and I don't know how I'd be able survive without them.
A good Martyrology/Synaxarion/Calendar.
For the Divine Office (music books)
Saint Dunstan's Plainsong Psalter, published by Lancelot Andrewes Press, 2002. For singing the Psalms.
The Monastic Diurnal Noted, published by Lancelot Andrewes Press, 2005. For singing the other parts of the Divine Office.
The Saint Ambrose Hymnal, published by St. Gregory the Great Orthodox Church, 2001. For singing (most) of the hymns of the Divine Office.
Laudes Vespertinae seu Melodiae ad Laudes Vespertinas cum Cantu Gregoriano, published by the Society of St. John the Evangelist, 1927. It's Gregorian Chant in Latin. What more could one ask for except for a larger, more complete volume containing Everything?
Other Prayer Books
St. Andrew Western Rite Service Book, Third Edition, 2005. I would use this book particularly for its Stations of the Cross, which I find superior to all others. (If I were a priest, I'd also need The Orthodox Missal, of course.)
Traditional St. Augustine's Prayer Book, published by the Anglican Parishes Association, 2005. While there is much which I could throw out of this book such as its Stations of the Cross and its rather sappy devotions to the Blessed Sacrament (the Holy Hours), I am beloved of its litanies, prayers for the dead, and pre/post Communion prayers.
Prayer Book, published by Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY, the "new" edition, 1996. It's pretty much the "standard" Eastern Rite prayer book, in my opinion, however it lacks two things which are important to me:
Akathist for the Departed. This is the general akathist for all the departed.
Akathist for a departed loved one. This akathist is for a specific person for whom one is praying.
I think that the two above Akathists help to supplement the Western Rite Office for the Dead.
Next, we have everyone's favorite (or at least I think it should be) Orthodox Prayers from Old England, edited by Fr. Aidan Keller. This book is especially helpful as a book of needs, since it has many prayers for particular circumstances in it. It also has good pre/post Communion prayers.
Voices in the Wilderness: An Anthology of Patristic Prayers, edited by Nikolaos S. Hatzinikolaou, published by Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1998. It's a good horologion with many, many (all, actually) good prayers by Eastern Church Fathers. (St. Augustine of Hippo has one prayer in it. I wish there were more prayers from Western Fathers. Oh, well, then it would be too perfect and we can't have that in this world.)
The Private Prayers of Lancelot Andrewes, translated by John Henry Newman and John Mason Neale. (You can't get better than that.) Lancelot Andrewes was a Greek scholar and wrote his private prayers in Greek. Basically, they read like the Psalter and the Greek Fathers.
Being alone on a desert island makes one a defacto monastic, so one might as well get with the program.
The Rule of St. Benedict
The Rule of St. Augustine
Now we come to a very important category:
What to Read if You Want to Beat Boredom, Despair, and Insanity, Obtain Consolation, or Grow in the Faith if the Above Didn't Help or Sink in (in two sub categories and an honorable mention)
A Spiritual Psalter or Reflections on God, Excerpted by Bishop (St.) Theophan the Recluse from the works of our Holy Father Ephraim the Syrian, published by St. John of Kronstadt Press. It's St. Ephraim, need I say more?
Salt of the Earth: An Encounter with a Holy Russian Elder, Isidore of Gethsemane Hermitage, by St. Paul Florensky, published by St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood. It's my favorite book.
An Early Soviet Saint: The Life of Elder Zachariah, published by Templegate Publishers. It's my second favorite book. It contains the Eastern Rite method for reciting the Holy Rosary to the Mother of God.
Christ is in Our Midst: Letters from a Russian Monk, by Father John of Valaam, published by St. Vladimir's Seminary Press.
Father Arseny, 1893-1973: Priest, Prisoner, Spiritual Father, translated by Vera Bouteneff, published by St. Vladimir's Seminary Press. Good reading for any time.
Father Arseny: A Clound of Witnesses, translated by Vera Bouteneff, published by St. Vladimir's Seminary Press.
Spiritual Counsels: Select Passages from My Life in Christ, by St. John of Kronstadt, edited by W. Jardine Grisbrooke, published by St. Vladimir's Seminary Press.
The Sayings of the Desert Fathers: The Alphabetical Collection, translated by Sister Benedicta Ward, published by Cistercian Publications. The first Orthodox book I ever read. It's been reread several times since then.
Letters to Spiritual Children, by Abbot Nikon, published by Nikodemos Orthodox Publishing Society, 1997. Excellent, to the point. Worth rereading several times.
Athonite Fathers and Athonite Matters, by Elder Paisios of Mount Athos, published by The Holy Convent of the Evangelist St. John the Theologion in Greece, 1993. It's full of little biographies of wonderful Athonite monks. My favorites are Elder Petrakis (Little Pete) and Elder Augustine. It brings a lot of consolation to read about such love-filled people.
The Roots of Christian Mysticism: Texts from the Patristic Era with Commentary, by Olivier Clement, published by New City Press.
Life of Christ, by the ever-memorable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, published by Image Books, 1977. I haven't finished it yet, but I really like it so far. I hope that I will live to see his canonization by the Roman Church. Maybe someone will make a nice icon of him for me.
Well, here we have a bottomless pit of options, but if I absolutely have to narrow it down, I'd pick:
Imperial Unity and Christian Divisions, by Fr. John Meyendorff, published by St. Vladimir's Seminary Press. It's a good East/West overview from 450-680 A.D.
Any/every book by Sir Steven Runciman, especially The Eastern Schism , his book on the Byzantine city of Mystras, and his series on the Crusades.
Henry Chadwick's book The Early Church (I think that's the title. I've misplaced my copy, so I can't give any more information.)
The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
The Chronicles of Naria, by C.S. Lewis
The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkein
The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck, my favorite American author
Some Shakespeare and Chekhov plays to act out for some levity.
Also, the complete P.G. Woodehouse Collection. Everyone needs a good laugh now and again.
Well, there it is. I'm sure that those of you who really know me are not surprised that this post was lacking in brevity. I may have Latin logic and German order, but I've also inherited English verbosity.
People I'm tagging:
Ian, Joe, the Ashlands, and whoever else wants in.