Ridiculous librarian/nerd confession: Last night I added three books to my earthquake kit. (In Los Angeles, you’re supposed to have things prepared and easy to get to in the event of an earthquake, like food, extra medication, rope, other survival-y kinds of things.) These additions mean that my earthquake kit now contains a grand total of four items: the three books, and one box of Trader Joe’s “fiberful” chocolate chip granola bars. I should probably work on this kit. 🙂 But in all honesty, I think my surviving a catastrophic event would hinge just as much on having good books to keep me going mentally as it would on having food to sustain me physically.
The inspiration for adding books to my earthquake kit came from two very interesting things I watched over the last couple days: the Wes Anderson film Moonrise Kingdom and the AMC series Walking Dead. The two couldn’t be more different – Moonrise Kingdom is a sweet and strange little romance and Walking Dead is like Lost except with zombies and more gore than I thought was possible to show on television. However, both made me think about what books I’d want to take with me if I really thought I might lose everything else. In Moonrise Kingdom, the girl brings books with her when she runs away with the boy. In Walking Dead, a couple times they talk about how they would have brought more interesting books if they knew they were planning for the end of the world. So in the spirit of being prepared for whatever eventuality, I’ve added to my very meager earthquake kit the three books I would take with me to the end of the world:
- Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace: I read this novel during the same summer I was training for the marathon (2008), and finishing it felt like the book equivalent of running a marathon. I spent longer reading this book than I’d ever spent reading any other book, yet I feel like I could read it a million more times and still not fully notice every little thing. Honestly, I don’t feel like I could even explain the plot of the book without writing a short essay, and no one wants to read that. David Foster Wallace is not for everybody, but I never get tired of reading him. Such a shame about his death.
- The Essential Rumi translated by Coleman Barks: I stumbled upon this book when I was somewhere between 13 and 15. I’ve come back to it on and off very often over the years, and there is always a poem that perfectly expresses the very thing I’m feeling, and I better understand the poems the more I experience of life. Rumi was a Sufi mystic in the 13th century, and his poetry explores such an interesting emotional range. You can find many of his poems freely available online if you Google him, but this book also offers really good commentary from the translator, who is a scholar specializing in Rumi.
- Gray’s Anatomy: I know this is a very odd book to choose, but hear me out, as I do actually have some practical reasons for it. I got it from the bargain bin at Barnes and Noble for $6.98 when I was in my early teens. I was really interested in working in medicine at the time (and I kind of have turned out doing that, in a way), so I thought this was something I ought to have. Plus, $6.98! I find anatomy so interesting, though I never exactly got around to just sitting and reading Gray’s cover to cover. However, there’d be plenty of time for that in a catastrophic end-times scenario! Also, I know this is sort of weird, but I love historical anatomical art. For example, I’d love to own a phrenology head. So to me this book is sort of a work of art in addition to a textbook. Finally, practically speaking, it might be useful to have an anatomy book around during some apocalyptic event so that I can be the nerdy librarian hero character who is able to safely pull the arrow out of the leader character’s arm without nicking an artery or something. (Failing that, I’ll be the eccentric librarian character who wears totally impractical shoes but has a kickass dog protecting her.)
So there you go. In the event of a zombie apocalypse, major earthquake, giant meteor crash, or other catastrophe, now you know what I’ll be reading while I await rescue and/or the end of the world.