The Dreaded Desert Island Decisions

Okay, before you get your kitten britches in a twist, I KNOW how everyone worthy hates this game, and their immediate response is, “I can’t possibly name my ten favorite books!  It would be blasphemy!”  No, children, that is not so.  What you can’t POSSIBLY do is grow gills or drive across the Atlantic.  You may name your favorite books, and you know why?  Because my friend Suzanna Banana once had this contest wherein she asked, “Quick:  you’re going to be on a desert island alone and you may only take one writer, who is it?”  And I shouted “Nabokov!” like a madwoman.  She smugly said, “I would take Dickens,” and briefly I was inflamed with resentment but guess what?  Two years have passed and I’m ALLOWED TO CHANGE MY MIND. 

So I shall name what I would wish to have with me on this entirely hypothetical and non-existent undiscovered place, unless it’s that horrifying area of the Congo where the 125,000 gorgeous gorillas were discovered and would, frankly eat me.  In which who cares.  After I name my books you must participate, because we love one another.


1.  The Collected Works, and I mean every essay, every poem, every letter, every phone number written on his hand, of Ralph Waldo Emerson, world without end.

Painting by Leslie Staub

2.  Little, Big, by John Crowley.  God, how I have grown tedious about this book. 

3.  South of the Big Four, by Don Kurtz.  Simply the finest novel ever written about the Midwest.

4.  The Dubliners, by James Joyce. 


5.  And then I am torn between Fair and Tender Ladies by Lee Smith; The Devotions of Thomas Kelley, or the Collected Poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay.  I shall perhaps take all of them.

6.  Oh!  And the entire Foxfire Collection, because I’m not stupid.  And I know there are like 27 volumes, so I would just steal Christopher’s Kindle.



1.  Groundhog Day, the most flawlessly religious film ever made.

2.  Harvey.  “I have been kind and I have been clever, and kind is better.”

3.  Funneybones, with Jerry Lewis and Oliver Platt.

OLIVER PLATT: [speaking to a very old lawyer who is trying to help him find his father] Why is it that all the best things in life belong to the past?

OLD ATTORNEY:  [smiles heartbreakingly, shakes his head]  I don’t know.  But they do, don’t they?

4.  The Collected Sopranos, except some people might love me $250.00 worth, but no one loves me $500.00, which I’m totally down with.



1.  Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane, April 16, 1957

2.  Monk’s Dream

3.  Coltrane:  A Love Supreme

4.  Joni Mitchell:  Blue

5.  The Collected Leonard Cohen



1.  Wi-Fi

2.  My entire family, my Otters, Scott, one good horse.

3.  At least three Roman mastiffs with breeding capability.

4.  A chef.


Okay, your turn.

Published in: on September 1, 2008 at 6:07 pm  Comments (84)  


  1. Oh god, see you start this crap of lists and it’s just IMPOSSIBLE and I forgot the most important icon of my wasted life, Johnny Cash. I should take drugs and give myself tattoos with squid ink.

    Also I really REALLY love Frankenstein. One of the first sentences I taught Obadiah was, “Frankstein was MISUNDAHSTOOD.”

  2. Good grief. It is far too difficult to par down my list of favorites. I’ve had an easier time passing a kidney stone. So, I guess here goes in no specific order.

    1. The Used World. I think we all know the author. 😉 I’ve read this book 3 times already and am slain by it every time.

    2. Me Talk Pretty One Day – David Sedaris

    3. The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde

    4. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil – John Berehnt

    5. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte


    1. Bringing Up Baby

    2. Steal Magnolias

    3. Cold Comfort Farm

    4. The Queen

    5. Tie between The Children’s Hour and Breakfast at Tiffany’s


    1. Alanis Morisette’s Jagged Little Pill

    2. Aretha Franklin’s Greatest Hits

    3. Red Hot Chili Peppers

    4. Dixie Chicks

    5. Fleetwood Mac


    1. Have to agree with Wi-Fi…I don’t think I could survive without internet access.

    2. My partner, the dog, the cats, my family and all my friends.

    3. A cleaning person

    4. Vodka & Gin. Heck, if I’m on an Island I want to have some fun too.

    5. Endless supply of chocolate

  3. The rules seem to be a mite squishy here. If you can have all of Ralph W.E,then I take

    1)Half of Dickens, up to and including but no farther than Tale of Two Cities, because Chesterton was right when he said you’d better be careful in praising the late Dickens or Dickens lovers will figure out that you don’t love Dickens at all.

    2) Pilgrim at Tinker Creek/Teaching a Stone to Talk/The Writing Life/American Childhood (look! a new anthology!)

    3) Little, Big, because I’ve been trying to get everyone to read it since the year it came out and so what’s with Harold Bloom “a man who has rarely set pen to paper without [rightly]pissing somebody off” praising it? but that’s balanced by your liking it. But. Bloom?

    4) The River Why by David James Duncan because I’ll take exuberant flaws over sterile perfection any day.

    5)I suppose the Norton Anthology of Poetry because I’ve already used up my allotment of cheating and can’t construct a poetry anthology as well.

    Can I? (B.H. Fairchild’s The Art of the Lathe, collected Thomas Lux, Dorianne Laux’s Smoke… No. Can’t.)

    Music? Take the ipod … but spring for the Brandenbergs first. and make sure I’ve got all of Great Big Sea.

    1) Local Hero
    2) Bull Durham
    3) Moonstruck
    4) The Old Vic Nicholas Nickleby (which would cost someone who loved me MUCH less than the Sopranos)
    5) Oh, hell, Amelie. By this time everyone knows this isn’t a guy typing.

    I hope my husband’s coming — he’ll bring The Blues Brothers.

    I will NOT look at this tomorrow morning and make amendments. I will NOT look at this to…..

  4. Shite. Cold Comfort Farm in all its forms (if we’re on the same island Brandon can bring the film and I’ll sneak the book in inside my bustle.)

  5. GREAT CHOICES, people. I forgot Glenn Gould. God, I have the intelligence of a salamander.

    A VERY sophisticated choice to take half of Dickens. RIght-0.

    Brandon, I know it’s hard but that’s what makes it worth it! No, it isn’t really worth anything but here we are all anyway!

  6. Cold Comfort Farm was superlative.

  7. I know I’m going to leave something out and feel like an ass about it later.


    1. A Girl Named Zippy and She Got Up Off the Couch- DUH!

    2. The Anne Series and The Little House series because I am a big “comfort reader” and I like to read the same things over and over again, and if my kids are with me I’d like to read these books to them.

    3. A collection of Flannery O’Connor

    4.All the American Lit and British Lit I would have read in college had I finished that English degree instead of dropping out when my Grandpa died, getting married and then getting knocked up (is it called knocked up if you are married? Whatever. I think it’s a funny phrase, maybe more so if you are married.) There’s a lot of great books that I’ve missed and now I’m trying to play catch-up.

    5. Franny & Zooey By J.D. Salinger

    6. Whatever Haven tells me to take.

    7. The Bible. Not because I am especially virtuous, but because maybe being on a desert island will force me to read it once in a while.

    Movies & Television

    1. Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure

    2. The Shop Around the Corner

    3. The Philadelphia Story

    4. Rushmore

    5. This is Spinal Tap

    6. Vertigo

    7. Arrested Development

    8. Seinfeld

    9. The first 8 seasons of The Simpsons

    Haven I will agree with you about Groundhog Day. My teen Sunday School class is doing a film series, and I thought about doing this one next.


    Tchaikovsky Swan Lake

    Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata

    They Might Be Giants

    The Smiths and selected Morrisey (especially Vauxhall & I)

    The Pixies

    Whatever good jazz Haven recommends, I love jazz but am woefully uneducated.


    1. Lindor Truffles (chocolate butter!)

    2. Greek Salad w/ homemade vinaigrette, feta cheese, olives, etc

    3. Homemade Fettuccine Alfredo

    4. Homemade bread with real butter

    5. Ski in glass bottles made with cane sugar


    1. Husband Hugh and children Jarvis, Linus, & Alice

    2. My darling mom

    3. Rachael & Kristen, two friends near and dear to my heart

    4. Anyone else who likes me and wants to have a party

  8. Crap! I forgot Johnny Cash too, and I even forgot him after you said you forgot him!

    I should remember my brain on my desert island…that could come in handy!

  9. Cold Comfort Farm is the berries, to steal a phrase I learned from this blog that is sneaking into my vernacular.

  10. AAAAUUUUGGGHHH!!!! The Shop Around the Corner is one of my favorite movies on the planet called Earth! I fell so in love with Jimmy Stewart that I never, ever recovered. What a perfect, perfect film

  11. I’m going to skip the movies, etc. to save room for books. And choosing favorites is entirely unfair, so I’ll just do what I usually do and promote the authors I want people to read more of:

    Richard Powers, The Goldbug Variations
    Ellen Gilchrist, The Collected Stories
    Elliot Perlman, Seven Types of Ambiguity
    Kelly Link, Stranger Things Happen
    Jhumpa Lahiri, Interpreter of Maladies
    Andrea Barrett, Servants of the Map
    Karen Joy Fowler, The Sweetheart Season
    Diane Ackerman, A Natural History of the Senses
    Sarah Messer, Red House: Being a Mostly Accurate Account of New England’s Oldest Continuously Lived-In House
    David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas
    Julia Glass, Three Junes
    Haven Kimmel, The Solace of Leaving Early

  12. That John M., mercy. HE SUPER SMART.

  13. Since I think I would qualify as one of Brandon’s “friends” that he would take with him, I’ll have everything on his list, plus:

    –Mystic Chords of Memory by Michael Kammen, the reason I went into the history “business”
    –She Got Up Off the Couch, my fave HK book
    –Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, even though as a cynical grown-up I know that this a classic example of muckraker propaganda, I still like to read it when I’m feeling apolitical
    –Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad Together, because I can’t imagine life without this book

    Janis Joplin, Pearl
    Cake, Comfort Eagle
    Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Long Walk to Freedom
    They Might Be Giants, Then
    Jaqueline du Pre, Beethoven Cello Sonatas
    Kanye West, College Dropout
    Queen, A Night at the Opera

    Movies & TV
    The Princess Bride (the best movie ever)
    History on BookTV (gotta love it)
    (I’ve got nothing here…)

    I’ll also underscore the need for Wi-Fi, friends and family, vodka and gin, and chocolate. And marshmallows. Brandon, you can subtract the cleaning person. My hubby does a fine job with that and he even likes it.

  14. I saw Queen four times live, and the last time Freddie Mercury touched my hand. It was CLEARLY one of the shining moments of my existence. They were my favorite band of all-time.

  15. I forgot High Fidelity by Nick Hornby.

    Haven- did you ever wash that hand again?

  16. By the way…this is Kate…I am logged in using wordpress now so I can have an avatar that is not a quilt block.

  17. Oh, Angie. Of course you would be there. Mike can be our man servant since, like you said, he enjoys cleaning, AND he can grill a mean salmon.

    Haven, I hope you that your hand has been hermetically sealed. You were touched by a God.

    Rams, We MUST be on the same island for I desperately need Cold Comfort Farm in book form.

    Better yet we should all be on the same island. Then we’ll be able to create a library. AND then we can create our own version of the Algonquin Round Table.

  18. Oh, I am going to announce my stupidity by answering first and then reading all of the intelligent comments later. Books: I read “Wuthering Heights” as a child the way most kids read Nancy Drew. These days it is any horrifying memoir that makes my life seem more normal. You know,” A Wolf at the Table” A. Burroughs, Dorothy Allison’s “Bastard out of Carolina”, William Styron’s, “Darkness Visible”, Katherine Armstrong’s “The Spiral Staircase”. “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”, how does he not manage to whine once through that one? I adore the poetry of Billy Collins. Of course I worship Oscar Wilde, particularly “Picture of Dorian Grey”. Dicken’s “Tale of Two Cities makes me cry everytime”, as does Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables.” I LOVE PEOPLE WHO CAN WRITE. Bravo, Haven. You are one of them . Okay, I peeked. QUEEN was genious. I dare anyone not to like “Find me Somebody to Love.” ELO also. And anything David Bowie did. But I digress. This is the problem. With lists.

  19. Haven, I’ve fallen in love with John Crowley and Don Kurtz because you took the time to tell me you love them, too. Like you, I know all the words to “Man is Not the Son of a Monkey,” and had my childhood photos taken by Olan Mills. But I made it to adulthood anyway, and here are books I love.

    1. Richard Bach’s “Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah.” I loved it when I first read it decades ago, and like all true things, it has shed ever-brighter light on my path.

    2. All things Joseph Campbell.

    3. Carolyn Chute’s “The Beans of Egypt, Maine,” “LeTourneau’s Used Auto Parts,” “Merry Men”

    4. J.L. Carr: “A Month in the Country” — a tiny sparkling jewel

    5. Barbara Kingsolver — Turtle and Taylor Greer, and the Price family’s mission in the Congo, among many beloved characters

    6. Rumer Godden — “Thus Far and No Further.” A time and place that was and never will be again

    7. Elizabeth Von Arnin — Elizabeth and Her German Garden. Find an antique copy of this one (published 1901 by The Henneberry Co.) to enjoy the art by Alberta Hall. Elizabeth’s husband, whom she names The Man of Wrath, must stand aside when Elizabeth decides … well, anything. A woman you’d love to lunch with.

    8. Abbie Graham — “On Being Immortal,” “Ceremonials of Common Days,” “Vain Pomp and Glory,” among others. Published by The Woman’s Press in the 1920’s and ’30’s, they’re worth the hunt. The joy of simple pleasures.

    9. Theodore Dreiser — “A Hoosier Holiday.” Dreiser’s road trip from New York City to Warsaw, Indiana and environs in the early 20th century, when cars were novel and roads were unpaved.

    10. Joseph Mitchell — “Up in the Old Hotel.” Especially if you’ve ever lived in New York City. A writer who needed no editor, according to his editors at The New Yorker.

    11. Jack Finney — “Time and Again.” Great story, incorporating great old photos. Time travel with Manhattan’s Dakota apartments as the portal to 1894.

    12. Anything George Eliot.

    It was a pleasure meeting you last October at Earlham when you spoke at the Writers’ Symposium. What a motley group that was … My friends and I skipped all of it but your readings and comments. Thanks for graciously allowing my friend Kathy to drag you over for a photo with me that Friday evening when you were trying to get back to your hotel and your children.

  20. oops. I meant “manage not to whine.”

  21. Jodi…how can I forget my darling Jack Finney? I haven’t finished Time and Again but his short stories are gems!!

    I also need to haul along a really good sci-fi collection..

    This is fun!

  22. Oh, Haven, now I know why I love you so much– Lee Smith and Joni Mitchell. sigh. me too!

    Before the list I have to tell you- my son, Sam, who is 15 (one I would definitely have to take to the island) has a Facebook (of course) and when I looked at it a few minutes ago the comment under his name said (and I am not making this up) “I LOVE HAVEN KIMMEL” Then he copied your previous post and wrote, “this is the best thing I’ve read in a while. Haven Kimmel is amazing. Thanks mom for showing me this>”

    So, he thinks you are amazing and he publicly thanked me. I can die now. 🙂

    Ok, the list. I can tell right now that I am not as smart and literary as y’all, but here is my try:
    All books by Haven and Lee Smith. And, Elizabeth Berg. Plus, Dry by Augusten Burroughs because when I got into recovery earlier this year and couldn’t read another AA book (ok, I still do, but…) I read this and it helped. It really did. Plus, Augusten turned me on to Haven for which I will forever be grateful to him. Honey and Salt by Carl Sandburg. My first and still favorite book of poetry.
    Films- Babette’s Feast, Big Fish, Big Chill, A Muppet’s Christmas Carol
    Music- Join Mitchell’s Miles of Aisles, Reckless Kelly’s Under the Table, Above the Sun (they are a band out of Austin, TX. They rock!), any Bruce Springsteen (saw him live here in Nashville about two weeks ago OMG…), random selection of John Hiatt, Indigo Girls, Roseanne Cash, Shawn Colvin, and Pat Green (because a girl who was born in New Jersey and has lived in Nashville for 22 years needs Springsteen on one arm and a Texas hunk on the other)

  23. oh dear. haven, haven, haven. you are not allowed to change your mind. much like when you biuy a car and you walk into the finance room and you sign the documents/ there is alwyas a sign that reads THERE IS NO COOLING OFF PERIOD.

    and there is no such thing as being able to chamnge your mind about the Dsert Island decision. i made that PERFECTLY CLEAR when we had this exchange,in fact i believe…no, i KNOW i have the email saved somewhere: in it you chose nabokov. i chose dickens. the existence of this blog does not pre-date theexistence of the desert island decision, nor does it alter it in any way, shape or form. furthermore, there was no cherry picking, like…’oh i’ll have me some chekov and some stegner and some ellison and some capote and a schmear of colette. NO NO NO. there was ONE AUTHOR FOR THE ENTIRE DESERT ISLAND. and thogh i love you more than DICKENS? you are not permitted to act about on your fickle, fickle impulses at a later time.

    now if yall want to start chooing movies for the desert island, i think that’s FINE AND ADMIRABLE. however, IMHO i believe the desert island constitution states that the same basic tenets apply…ONE AUTHOR — AND ONE FILM DIRECTOR. in the case of MUSIC? ONE ARTIST. this is a DESERT ISLAND,NOT THE FOUR SEASONS IN BEVERLY HILLS. MY GOD,PEOPLE.

    carry on.

    also? I’ll take Capra, Johnny Cash, and Dickens.

  24. SOUTH OF THE BIG FOUR is on a BIBLE STAND in my home. yes it agent is the author’s agent, and she said he was seized by ennui after writing it, because he thought it was MARRED.

    this just shows how even genius has the most tenuous grasp on reality. picasso spent the first four hours of every day privately berating himself for being a talentless hack. true.

  25. Sorry Suzanne, damn the rules.
    All Shakespeare, because I’d finally have time to read it.
    All Dominic Dunne.
    All Flannery O’Connor.
    The Autobio of Malcolm X.

    The World According to Garp.
    Peyton Place and Return to Peyton Place.

    Compilation CDs:
    A CD dedicated to rock from each decade 1950s+.
    A bubblegum CD (c’mon, I can’t be the only one who loves Dizzy. Fess up heathens.)
    Selected Red Hot Chili Peppers, for singing with.
    Anything but very twangy country and very isoteric jazz.
    No Yanni, ever, under any circumstances.

    Authentic Scottish shortbread from my MIL’s recipe.
    Rice Krispie Treats made with the original recipe.
    My beef stew, chicken pies and lazagna.

  26. Ummm, Jodi? Have you and I ever been seen in the same room together at the same time? Because I have my suspicions. I’ve never seen a list so close to mine.

    THE SMITHS!!! AAAHH! And my favorite favorite band all through my goth period, so much so that I still listent to them almost EVERY DAY: The Cure! I failed my beloved Robert Smith!

    Polly is definitely going to be on my island and for the first time in my life, I shall be fat. And happy about it.

    As for the hand Freddie Mercury touched, I had it taxidermied.

  27. Also Jodi/Haven? I just finished an e-mail interview yesterday in which I was asked to name the authors who influence me most, and I said there are two types of generative writers for me: those I Strive to become, and those who make me feel I can go on writing. Both are equally valuable. In the Striving category, first and foremost: Joseph Mitchell. I kid you not. He perfected the form of non-fiction; there is no author who holds a candle to his talent. And the way he virtually vanishes from the work itself is uncanny and makes my heart sing, or else hurt, I can’t tell which.

    Can I take an entire art collection? Yes, Polly? Thank you. I will then be taking the collected paintings of Leslie Staub, even the ones that don’t belong to me, and all of my photographs by John Rosenthal, of which I have many. And my signed photograph of Johnny Cash. And of course all my taxidermy. At this moment I have an ermine tucked into my shirt so just his little head is sticking out. And my father’s pipe, because I miss him every day, and the following poets:

    Anne Carson, everything
    Brigit Pegeen Kelly, everything
    Gjertrude Schnackenberg, everything including what she hasn’t written yet.
    Gerard Manley Hopkins
    Sarah Messer, The Bandit Letters
    Susan Davis, Gathering Sound
    Charles Wright, all
    Philip Levine, ALL ALL
    Galway Kinnell, everything, plus Galway himself
    Jane Hirschfield
    All of Ezra Pound
    Eliot’s Prufrock and The Four Quartets
    Collected Emily Dickinson
    A bunch more — I’ll decide when the ship is leaving.

    AND OH MY GOD — my mother’s MA dissertation, which is an absolute work of genius. I have most of it memorized, but it’s going anyway.

    And you know, this boat is turning out to be bottomless, so I’m going to need the collected works of J. Brent Bill. Otherwise, I can’t understand Silence, Light, or the Sacred Compass of discernment. I’m basically a savage.

    I’ve been planning a blog post solely about Augusten and A WOLF AT THE TABLE for some time now. It will appear soon. Some of you may have noticed that I have a bit of a temper — it appears on that other post? but don’t go look at it because it’s ha ha not important at all, and O Hep Me Jebus you should have seen what Scott DIDN’T let me say, but I should just add that no unkind words about Augusten here, ever, or else we shall cross over to the Darkside. Really, if you had seen the paragraph to which Scott said, NO HAVEN NO!

  28. Miss Suzanne Finnamore Cooper, of the secret girlfriends of the Western Finnamore Coopers, I DEFY YOU to find in those e-mails one word of NO DO-OVERS.

  29. Linda, if you need someone to raise your son for a while, our house is always open. It’s never clean, and there are two massive dogs and one little one, but good times are mostly had by all.


  30. I love your writing so much, Haven, because we seem to appreciate the same genius in writers. And we WERE in the same room at Earlham last October. My girlfriends and I made a weekend of hearing you speak IN PERSON because I can’t shut up about how much I like Haven Kimmel, blahblahblah. (That was me, who wrote the review of “The Used World” for BookPage.) Now that I’ve made a fool of myself because I’m Your Biggest Fan, here are a couple more authors we might have in common …

    Margaret Atwood — The Blind Assassin

    Isak Dinesen — when she gets it right (“the African moon lying on her back …”) it send shivers down one’s spine

    Alfred Lord Tennyson — I once spent a morning slowly reading “In Memoriam” and wept like a baby

    Donna Tartt — I love the slow chill, the creepy fun of her work

    Diane Setterfield — The Thirteenth Tale

    Edward Rutherfurd — He can make a sumptuous buffet of dry history

  31. I adore Margaret Atwood – god. I would take The Blind Assassin, Cat’s Eye, The Robber Bride — those at least. And OF COURSE Isak Dinesen. My daughter has a religious affiliation with The Secret History, because I read it first and thought, Oooooo this done got some scary ass hoodoo in it, and passed it on to her. That said, I shall never forgive her The Little Friend. Except for the first 140 pages, which are flawless. My beloved sister sent me the 13th Tale on audio, and disc three was completely bustass; so she sent me a copy of it, and that wouldn’t play either, so now I must get the book and try again.

    Edward Rutherfurd. Have not made his acquaintance.

  32. Jodi, you know all the words to Man Is Not The Son of a Monkey? Is this POSSIBLE? And did I actually sing it on the audio book? I believe I was forced to, yes. My life is one of ceaseless humiliation, which fortunately I can’t feel.

  33. Art! Of course, let there be art!

  34. I took a picture of the ermine in my shirt but I don’t know how to embed it in a comment. Where is Michael T.?!? Why hath he betrayed me so??

  35. Haven- my son would feel right at home at your house because ours is never clean either and we have two massive dogs (well, one is massive in that she is wide, as in, overweight) and a cranky cat.

    My question is- how are we getting to the desert island? Because if we get taken there by a big plane or maybe a cruise ship we could take as much stuff as we like, yes? In that case I would need bagels too. Or, I guess a way to make bagels – a pot, an oven?? Just how does one make bagels anyway? Isn’t boiling water involved?

  36. Non-sequitur: Haven what happened to your other avatar? I kind of liked it. It was too small to see what the image was of, but it made me happy because it looked like Santa.

  37. Some of my favorite books have been listed already, but I must include The Egg and I by Betty MacDonald. It’s a very funny book that was made into a movie with Fred MacMurray and Claudette Colbert.

    Has anybody else read this book?

  38. “I don’t believe in evolution, ’cause the Bible tells me true That if you monkey around with SIIIIIN …” etc. My psyche was also scarred with “I Wish We’d All Been Ready”: “There’s no time to change your mind, The Son has come and You’ve Been Left Behind.” My lucky friend Kathy’s church choir got to sing “One Toke Over the Line, Sweet Jesus,” obviously because the adults could not and did not look up “toke” in Webster’s.

  39. “Two men standing on a hill/
    One disappears and one’s left standing still.
    I wish we’d all been ready.”


  40. It was not Santa! HAHAHAHA! That makes me so happy! It was a little devil in a topcoat, handing a note to a great human hand and the note said, WHERE ARE MY PANTS?

    I just decided to mix things up a bit, you know, use my real face.

  41. Why won’t anyone tell me how to post the photograph of the ermine in my shirt?

  42. “I Saw a Man, I heard him say,
    He said if I be lifted up I’ll draw all men to Me,
    I turned and then I saw the nail-scarred hands that bled for me,
    I touched the hem of his garment that fell ’round him there,
    My life, my all …” I forget (luckily) the rest.

    Let’s not forget the creepy Ralph Carmichael/The Carpenters stuff that was popular in the ’70’s, that all children’s church choirs sang. Ew.

    To atone for this, in my middle school choir this morning we’ll be singing Queen’s “We Will Rock You,” “We Are the Champions,” and “Another One Bites the Dust.” No joke. “Our” music is viewed by twelve-year-olds as history, thus making it appropriate for study. Ye gods.

  43. Jodi, are you from Mooreland? Do you have a sister who pinches?

  44. I am about to add another blogpost, and it isn’t because I’m suffering from mania (I WISH), it’s because I’m about to embark on a book tour, which is like being poked with a cattle prod until your butt is completely numb and all you can do is repeat nonsense words. I could DIE on this trip. It involves AIRPLANES and MIAMI.
    So I wanted to get in as much love as possible before I go. Scott is a tad exhausted by me, frankly. But he doth love.

  45. I’m from Fort Wayne, and no pinchers. Like you, I grew up in the Hoosier wasteland and had to claw my way back to sanity. It’s time for second period, 7th grade choir to meet. Freddie Mercury will save my soul again today.

  46. This is my favorite game! True story — as a child, I used to make my best friend play “the list game” (as I then called it) so often, she to this day hates making lists of any kind. I win.

    If I had to pick just ONE author, I would honestly pick your work. There’s just so much THERE. But if we’re playing the list version of the game…
    1. The Solace of Leaving Early, Haven Kimmel.
    2. Franny and Zooey, JD Salinger.
    3. Can I make a compilation book of Augusten Burroughs and David Sedaris essays? That is what I would do. (Side story: I once had a dream in which compilation books were made like mix CDs. People compiled their favorite short stories, poems, passages from books, essays, into one handy book. I don’t know how on earth making such a thing a reality would be possible, but I want it.)
    4. The Clean House and Other Plays, by Sarah Ruhl. (I don’t know how often you read plays, or maybe you’ve already read her, but if you haven’t, PLEASE DO. Oh my WORD. Stunning.)
    5. Something Fitzgerald. The Great Gatsby seems to easy, his short stories are too fickle, and though I ADORE reading his letters, maybe those wouldn’t be good desert island material? Hm. Suffice it to say that Fitzgerald, something.
    6. Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair, Pablo Neruda. (I was going to stop at 5, but realized that I had no poetry on the list.)

    1. Almost Famous.
    2. Amelie.
    3. The Royal Tenenbaums.

    1. The Very Best of Aretha, Volume 1: The Sixties.
    2. Collected Johnny Cash of some kind.
    3. The Avett Brothers.
    4. Ryan Adams.
    5. A showtunes compilation of some kind.
    6. Some Patsy Cline and Rufus Wainwright to cry to, as their voices are pure, beautiful sorrow to me, and I’d probably be feeling a lot of that on a desert island.

    1. Sushi (perhaps I could make my own there!).
    2. Pigs-in-a-blanket.
    3. Fresh blueberries.
    4. Greek salad.

    1. My best friend, Blake. That’s the only category in which I’ll play by Suzanne’s rules of one, because he’s all I need.

    I’m not even proofing this comment… List remorse is not allowed!

  47. I lied! T.S. Eliot! Prufrock! Dickinson! Wuthering Heights! Shakespeare!

    I have officially spent more time on this list than either project I have due tomorrow.

  48. AND I said “to easy” instead of “too easy”. I should just be shot.

  49. The thing about a list like this is that allows you to look at your own tastes and your loves and your past and then say to yourself, “Wow, I really am a very refined and fabulous person, and we all shall be happy on our island.” I LOVE lists. Every day I think, “Now THIS is my favorite book.” I don’t care if I’m fickle, I have a weasel in my shirt.

  50. You’ve hit upon a sickness of mine. I so enjoy
    making a list.

    Books would include, though not limited to the following:

    Songs of Home _ James Whitcomb Riley
    The Ride of our Lives _ Mike Leonard
    Jesus Land _ Julia Scheers
    Of Mice and Men _ John Steinbeck
    In Cold Blood _ Truman Capote

    Schindler’s List
    It’s a Wonderful Life
    To Kill a Mockingbird
    Breakfast at Tiffanys
    Out of Africa
    A Time to Kill

    Aretha Franklin
    Marc Broussard
    Macy Gray
    Chet Baker
    Johnny Cash
    Pasty Cline
    Brett Harris
    Don Henley
    Etta James
    Corinne Bailey Rae

    Best Friend
    Jimmy Carter

    Oh heck, why not?
    Elvis Presley
    Walt Disney
    Martin Luther King
    Susan B. Anthony
    Helen Keller
    Jackie Kennedy
    Audrey Hepburn
    Vincent van Gogh

    I could spend countless hours tweaking.
    I will not succumb.

  51. You guys went to some freaky churches, and I’m a NAZARENE.

    Maybe I am just 10 years too late for all that stuff, or maybe it’s because we went to churches so small that we made up half the congregation, but I feel like I have been spared. Thanks, Mom & Dad, for running the place!

    Speaking of church, my three year old son just said “We have to stand in church a long time, just like Arock Obama.” I am not sure what that’s all about..

  52. Dee, I love your list but you are not my Mama Dee, because I’m looking at this list and I can tell it ain’t hers. Let me see if I can guess some of what she’d say.

    All of Isaac Asimov
    Star Trek, volumes 1-872
    Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
    The Solace of Leaving Early
    ALL of Shakespeare and ALL Shakespeare conspiracy theories
    All Harry Potters

    Collected Television Series:
    Star Trek
    Stark Trek: The Next Generation
    Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
    Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    Battlestar Gallactica (the new one)
    All filmed versions of Shakespeare plays, all of which she has seen at least 44 times.

    That Good Old-Time Gospel
    Frankie Laine

    Her daughters and her grandchildren and great granchildren
    Jean-Luc Picard
    Her friends John Clark, Rose Rector, and Sherita Campbell, also Juanita and the various women who are in her ‘circle.’ Do not ask what that means.
    Richard Boone

    Mama? How close am I?

  53. When John, who is a musical genius, asked me which Queen song I’d like for him to learn first, I chose “It’s Late” from News of the World. And damn damn did it sound good.

  54. You know it isn’t so COMFORTABLE sitting with an ermine in your shirt. ONE PERSON could tell me how to embed the picture. JUST ONE.

  55. Jodi, I remember you very well from Earlham, because when you told me you’d written the BookPage review I believe I offered you my mother’s first-born child.

  56. I love you too, Haven. =0)

  57. Jodi — I wasn’t merely grateful for your kindness, as I said, but because there is nothing in this world that compares to a reader who really gets it — who reads above and below and connects all the threads and then is articulate enough to convey that. So I thank you again.

    And thank you, Brandon.

  58. Haven ~ I will never wash my hand that drug the mouse over your compliment to me. Thank you for
    “invent[ing] a game in which my name is …”
    Your profound gifts make the investment of my time (the greatest gift one can give a writer, I suppose) an offering of profound joy and laughter and astonished introspection.

    As for offering me your mother’s first-born child … is she still a pincher?

    “If I know a song of Africa, of the giraffe and the African new moon lying on her back, of the plows in the fields and the sweaty faces of the coffee pickers, does Africa know a song of me? Will the air over the plain quiver with a color that I have had on, or the children invent a game in which my name is, or the full moon throw a shadow over the gravel of the drive that was like me, or will the eagles of the Ngong Hills look out for me?”

  59. Haven, I believe you have to upload the photo to photobucket and then copy and paste the HTML code wherever you would like the photo to be.

  60. Am I too late? My heavens, you people post quickly, and I’m just catching up.

    Since I’m late, I’ll be brief:

    Books: Anything by Rainer Maria Rilke, Naomi Shihab Nye, Haven Kimmel (not. sucking. up.), and anything Maurice Sendak in any way touched. Plus Flannery O’Connor.

    Films: Citizen Kane. The Princess Bride.

    Music: Without Sam Phillips’ music (not Elvis’ buddy), I might wither away; Louis Armstrong; Jeff Buckley to break my heart; some bluegrass; and The Beatles. Oh, and this old record I used to have, which I can’t find, of Andy Griffith re-telling some of the classics, like Romeo and Juliet and Carmen. Funniest damn thing ever. Wish I could find it.

    Miscellaneous: Lots of batteries for my stereo and DVD player. Some bug spray. My husband and children, esp. the latter, ’cause my four-year-old starts her first Parents Day Out EVER tomorrow, and I’m a mess, people. A MESS. How can I give her up to the care of people who may not have exquisite taste, like all you people here?

    Plus, some stationery. And empty bottles in which to place said stationery.

  61. First, I will ask my children to raise themselves. And feed and walk Dad. Then, I will read everything Haven and Jodi tell me to. I will listen to everything they recommend. I will, when I tire of reading, watch all movies mentioned. Only then will I feel worthy of adding to the above lists. Its like having my own personal “to do” list -sent to me via Havens blog-of things much more interesting to do than “call math tutor for Steph” or “teach Jack cursive since you “homeschooled” him last year and left that out and now he is the only 4th grader who started school today who will print his name”

  62. Haven, I can’t stand to see a grown woman suffer. Or a young unformed one, for that matter.

    If this works (embedding your avatar) then it should show you how to embed an image in a comment. Let’s see:

  63. Nope. Didn’t work. I don’t think WordPress allows the img tag in the body of comments (even though it uses that tag to display the avatars next to people’s names). Sorry!

  64. How about if I just send the link? Does that work?


  65. Andy Griffith: Romeo! Romeo! Wherefore artcha?

  66. Jodi, my mother’s first born child was my brother.

  67. Brandon, sweet boy, I tried to buy you a taxidermied squirrel on e-bay and was outbid in the last five seconds by some scoundrel. It was no Stumpy, but it was something.


  68. I forgot Neruda. I know this will sound impossibly romantic — too much so to even be true — but about ten years ago John and I were snowed in apart from one another. We weren’t married yet. And he spent those days translating Neruda’s 100 Love Sonnets from the Castillion for me. Because here are the things he can do masterfully:

    1. He is a renowned potter.
    2. He’s a master carpenter.
    3. He can fix absolutely anything.
    4. He is fluent in Spanish (both Mexican and Castillian) and can pick up any other language in any country in about five minutes.
    5. He’s a gourmet cook — just astonishing.
    6. He gets up before dawn.
    7. He is, beyond a doubt, a musical genius, and when we met he was a SWEATY ROCK STAR. At the end I shall include a photograph of him from Rolling Stone which will make him miserable. Sorry!
    8. He reminds me of no one so much as Jeff Buckley.
    9. He never, ever loses his temper. He can spend all day with a two-year-old and not once ever show he’s frustrated.
    10. He gets up three days a week and runs my mastiffs five miles BEFORE the baby wakes up, so I don’t have to walk them. (One of them outweighs me, if that works in my favor at all.)
    11. He has built his entire life around the belief that I’m a genius who must be protected at all costs. Secretly, I am both insane and retarded, but he doesn’t know it.
    12. To see him walk shirtless across a yard, in old blue jeans and workboots, with a tool belt around his hip, is to know that there is a God.


  69. My list is easy – I would just bring Haven Kimmel, because her adroit mind would keep any and all endlessly amused.

  70. Martha Grove, you sweetpea.

  71. Haven ~ Does your brother Dan know you’re offering him as a token of appreciation? Would he even be surprised? And my question still stands — is he, too, a pincher?

  72. Dan is a tickler. Also a pick Zippy upper and swing her arounder. He is also so brutally handsome — and I am not exaggerating in the least — at my father’s funeral he was standing by the casket, and all my childhood friends came in teary-eyed and consoling, saying, “Oh sweetheart, your dad was one in a mill — is that YOUR BROTHER?” He looks like an extremely macho, gun-toting George Clooney.

  73. On your very worst days, Haven, or maybe just on a rather mundane day, do you read delightful sentences you’ve tossed off — for example, “Also a pick Zippy upper and swing her arounder.” — just TOSSED OFF, and feel … oh, I don’t know … satisfaction? Because there are those of us who DO exactly that: read your written thoughts and think Life is Better because you make us Feel. Stuff. Stuff we knew but didn’t know somebody else knew that is so minute and layered … Well, anyway, you rock.

    I’m glad Dan is a tickler and not a pincher like some people’s sister(s), but just remember A Prophet Is Without Honor In Her Own Land and the person who makes the most fun of you is actually the person who wants, yea longs, to be Just Like You. JUST like you. Changelings are the worst offenders, in my experience.

    How did I get onto that? Considering that the prize for writing a positive book review is “an extremely macho, gun-toting George Clooney,” is there anything else you’ll be needing?

  74. Lordy, my britches are in a twist. After my previous post I couldn’t stop thinking about this question you pose, and what books really matter to me, and I can barely parent tonight Im so distracted. Because I’ve already admitted I still need to read most of whats on your list and many of the lists if Im to be honest, I asked myself what books have mattered to me in the past 5 years-especially as this is as far back as my memory goes these days. The list looks like this;
    The Mercy of Thin Air by Ronlyn Domingue
    The Killing Jar-Nicola Monaghan
    Up high in the Trees-Kiara Brinkman
    A Good and Happy Child by Justin Evans
    We don’t live here Anymore- Andre Dubus
    The Glass Castle-Jeanette Walls
    The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
    Behind the Scenes at the Museum-Kate Atkinson
    To Kill a Mockingbird
    One Drop- Bliss Broyard
    Missing Mom by Joyce Carol Oates
    Jhumpa Lahiri- Unaccustomed Earth
    I Know this Much is True- Wally Lamb
    The Girls-Lori Lansens
    Everything by you and I know like everybody else I will remember something as soon as I post this. Thank you for always bringing books to the forefront of our minds and thank you again for Eudora Welty and Katherine Porter.

  75. Oh Caryl! Kate Atkinson! I adore her beyond all reason, my god. That book, and everything that has followed. She’s like a great secret — her twisty turny ways and beautiful prose. In MUSEUM she brought WWII to LIFE. She made it real in ways that McEwan did in ATONEMENT, but only in one section. Atkinson never missed a beat. Ah, I love her.

    But I have read almost nothing else on your list! I am so far behind our ship might sail without me! I’m very interested in THE GIRLS, and almost ordered it recently. Then I wasn’t sure. Adore Jhumpa Lahiri and Andre Dubus.

    Elizabeth Berg’s last book made me cry from the beginning to the end. It’s like she tricked me. The funny thing is that years ago, when she was first working on it, we were sitting on her front porch drinking (when I used to drink) and we were talking about titles and she said, “I’m going to call it, THE DAY I ATE ANYTHING I FUCKING WANTED TO,” and I had CONVULSIONS. Of course Random House said not so much.

  76. Jodi — no, I never think of myself that way. You should hear what goes on in my HEAD. Although the other day Augusten needed the text of an e-mail I’d send him a couple weeks before and I came across one I’d sent him that said, merely:

    Josh Groban does nothing BUT give.

    Which — is you knew the two of us — was so hysterically funny I laughed at myself for like two minutes.

    But thank you dearly.

  77. Oh, Haven. You are my sunshine! I am forlorn at the ebay loss of the taxidermied squirrel. 😦

    I just had the greatest idea for a blogpost for you. You should dedicate one post to your taxidermy collection. Although, I fear that could possibly make my life complete and I would be struck down to make way for another soul. Isn’t it grand when the little things make us happy?

  78. I seriously thought about listing Pablo Neruda too, Haven, because all of the books I have of his are so dog eared and worn and droopy from being cried upon, BUT I didn’t list him because I thought it might hurt too much to read on an island where I might be so far away from a lover. And what is Neruda without a lover? I know, he writes about that too, but I dont’ know if I could bear it. But now i am feeling guilty about my choice. I am such a sap.

  79. Never fear, Brandon Angel, I’ve bid on another one and this one is even better!

    My taxidermy will feature prominently in my blogposts when I return from the Bataan Death March. I have some really good ideas. Although I notice no one helped me post the picture of the weasel in my shirt.

    Linda, Neruda can make me cry in like TWO LINES. He was greatness itself.

  80. I can’t decide whether I love or hate this blog. There’s no question I’m addicted to it. I seriously check it every other minute to see what wicked-smart thing Haven has said, or what crazy-insightful comments have been added.

    But it also makes my stomach hurt with intense desire/jealousy/yearning/longing/craving to be what you all clearly (and seemingly effortlessly) are: WRITERS.

    What to do. But keep checking in, hungrily devouring the next nugget that will inevitably pain my insides.

  81. On a whim last weekend I purchased my first MP3 player: an S2 Pebble, in the shape of a polished river rock measuring one-and-one-half inches in circumference. (An astonishing thing to a person who recalls carting around many cassette tapes and a WalkMan in the long-ago ‘80s and feeling oh-so-hip.) Among the imports I loaded on my musical stone is the audio book of “The Used World.” After which I pushed “Shuffle.” Haven’s words fit perfectly between Clapton’s “Got You On My Mind” and a tune on a Celtic harp, for example. And how lovely to have the text scrambled, so that a track beginning “Indiana: Corn or Death” may precede a track beginning “Chapter One.” It brings unexpected and delightful dimensions to Hazel, Rebekah and Claudia.

  82. My friend Leslie has listened to me read COUCH nine times. That is love.

  83. 1. A Girl Named Zippy. I would need to laugh because I’d be lonely and this would keep me feeling giggly and less alone.

    2. Cultivating Delight-Diane Ackerman so I would remember to appreciate the beauty on my desert island

    3. Traveling Mercies-Anne Lamott

    4. Amazing Grace-Kathleen Norris because there is a ton to contemplate and I’d have the time and I’ve always said I’d re-read it.

    5. Something really long and really hard to keep me busy: maybe War and Peace?


    1. Amelie. If you’ve never seen it, shame on you.

    2. Castaway. So I would know loving a soccer ball after awhile is normal.

    3. Carrington. Though this might make me terribly depressed but it was sooooo good, who cares?

    4. The first Thin Man movie.

    5. Into the Great Silence…hopefully I’d appreciate the island more


    1. Indigo Girls 1200 Curfews bc nothing brings me comfort and joy like the Girls of this era

    2. Patty Griffin Flaming Red and Impossible Dream

    3. Paul Simon Graceland

    4. Simon and Garfunkel whatever the biggest collection is.

    5. REM-Monster. I would need to rock out at some point!


    1. Have to agree with Wi-Fi…I don’t think I could survive without internet access.

    2. Well, I assumed I’d be alone and I see others say not so. I’d bring Marie and Ryan. That should satisfy.

    3. A handyman.

    4. Lip balm.

    5. Something comfy to sleep and read on.

  84. I am late coming to this, but I had to do some real thinking. I wanted to get my list pared to the barest of essentials, so here it is:

    Revised Standard Bible
    Collected works of Gerard Manley Hopkins
    Boy Scout Manual Fifth Edition

    one MP3 player loaded with the 1000+ songs I have already collected (these include an eclectic mix of everything from 60s-style country honky-tonk to Herbie Hancock with some Bach, Beatles, Dick Dale, the Tornados and Alex de Grassi…did I mention Frank Sinatra’s Capitol years, Dusty Springfield, Bobby Darin and of course everything by Joni Mitchell.

    Solar oven, solar charger, crank-up/solar radio and LED lamp, Swiss Army knife, multi-function tool, hatchet, magnifying glass, aluminum foil, aluminum duct tape, high-tech camp towel, already assembled very handy tool kit from my old sail boat, assorted seeds (vegetable and flowers), a week’s worth of MRE’s and a bunch of boxes of Stove Top Stuffing, zip ties, rope and nylon twine.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: