Books I want to be buried with

I read an interesting post on Marie Loughin’s blog this morning about her fears for digital books, and that one day, when civilization crumbles (as it surely must) the digital cloud may evaporate, leaving future generations bereft of reading matter.

Except, of course, for those of us who stockpiled a selection of paper books.

Her solution, then, is to select a list of books she would like to be buried with: “That way, books found when I am exhumed by future archaeologists need not be lost forever.”

You can read her list here.

I love this concept, and decided to make my own list of five novels.

The first book, well, all right, series of books, that springs to mind are the Conan novels, by Robert E Howard. After all, if civilization has collapsed, everybody’s going to be on a steep learning curve in the art of simply surviving, and so a few lessons on sword fighting and axe wielding, distressed damsel rescuing and wizard battering will come in handy. Besides, if you are a fan of fantasy novels and you’ve never read any Conan books, what are you waiting for? You should check them out right now. Because I can only take one it would be The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian.

I decided to restrict this list to five books, but I’m having difficulty sticking to that, so, here’s another series, the Matthew Scudder books, by Lawrence Block. For me Matt Scudder is the greatest American fictional private detective ever. So far there are seventeen Scudder books but, in the interests of keeping this list to five, I would have Eight Million Ways to Die entombed with me. In my opinion it’s not only one of the best of the series, and one of Block’s finest too, but for me it’s always going to mark the midpoint of Scudder’s career. The book is actually number five in order, but Scudder goes through such a life-defining, monumental change in the final pages that it will always be the pivotal novel in the series. I love this book, and the first time I read it, I cried at the end.

You may have noticed that I said Scudder was the greatest American fictional private detective ever. Well, that was only so I wouldn’t have to put him second to Sherlock Holmes. I mean, come on, who wouldn’t have The Complete Adventures of Sherlock Holmes in their casket? Sir Arthur Conan Doyle led an amazingly varied life, but he will always be remembered for his Victorian, drug addicted sleuth.

Next up is Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. A great anti-racism book, a plea for tolerance and understanding of those who appear ‘different’, and wonderfully atmospheric, thrilling novel of childhood.


Finally I would have Harry Crews’ The Gospel Singer, partly because I think the idea of one of his books being buried with a corpse might appeal to him, but mainly because it’s an excellent, offbeat, profound book. Set in the sweltering Georgia swamplands, the residents of Enigma (population: 600) await the return of the Gospel Singer, and the hanging of the town’s preacher. Violent, moody, and just downright strange, I’ll be giving this book a full review soon on my other blog Midnight Reads.

So, there you go. Five books to be buried with for future generations to puzzle over once they have exhumed my coffin.

What about you? What books would you take with you? Make your list and link back to it on Marie’s blog in her comments section.


Books I want to be buried with — 19 Comments

  1. Ooo, that’s a toughie.
    Probably the entire Terry Pratchett Discworld series, these are books I can read over and over. The gods only know what future generations would think. The same goes with Douglas Adams and The Hitchhiker series too. Classics are more difficult. George Orwell’s ’1984′ would be one at least. Don’t think there’s room for anymore…

    • I used to love Terry Pratchett when I was younger. Haven’t read any of his books in years, but I’m always tempted to buy one if I see it in a bookshop. Maybe I’ll read one soon. Can you recommend any recent ones?
      I think we will all end up being buried in enormous caskets at this rate, just so we can fit all our books in. I still might take my Kindle with me too, though…
      Thanks for commenting.

      • Haven’t read Snuff yet. But the Tiffany Aching series is good. It’s hard for me a pick a favourite but one of his earlier one is ‘Pyramids’ and any with Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax are always worth a look. :)

    • Thanks Marie. Yes, I do recommend that you check out Lawrence Block’s books, especially Matt Scudder. As Scudder’s character evolves through the series, although they are all standalone stories, you might want to start at the beginning.
      He also writes a series about a burglar, Bernie Rhodenbarr, and these are much more lighthearted in tone.
      Thanks for your list and the inspiration to write my own. Anyone care to join in?

  2. Interesting. I haven’t checked out Marie’s post yet, but plan to head over there shortly.

    I’ll have to think on this one. But regardless of what my choices would be, I’ll have to at least look into The Gospel Singer while I’m still alive. Sounds fascinating.

    Paul D. Dail A horror writer’s not necessarily horrific blog

    • Yeah, Marie got me started on this thing, so if you do blog about it yourself make sure to link it back to her blog. Thanks for commenting, I’d be interested to read your list of books.
      Harry Crews is a fascinating author. The Gospel Singer is one of my all time favourite books. Others of his I love include The Knockout Artist, The Gypsy’s Curse and, to a lesser extent although for many it is the best book Crews wrote, A Feast of Snakes. But then there are other Crews books I have attempted, which read like a foreign language to me. Car, in particular, I struggled with, and eventually abandoned.
      I’m sure you will cope fine with him, but a warning to the unwary: his books are not for the squeamish or easily offended. They are not horror stories exactly, well not in the usual sense anyway, but they are, at times, pretty horrific.

  3. I used to love the Conan books when I was much younger man, they, along with Issac Asimov’s sci fi novels and stories, kept my imagination fed for most of my teens.

    To Kill a Mockingbird would be on my list too, along with Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler, Gone Tomorrow by Lee Child (only because I can’t take all the Jack Reacher novels), Turning Angel by Greg Iles, and David Copperfield by Charles Dickens.

    Good post, Ken :)

    • I read Conan, the books and the comics, as a teenager too. It was only a year or two ago that I bought The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian and started reading them again. I expected them to be rubbish, but they weren’t. Of course I love Chandler too, and I gorged on Lee Child for a while, and then got sick of him. My fault for reading so many one after the other. Never heard of Turning Angel, I’ll check it out.
      Thanks for commenting, and the tweet. :-)

      • Turning Angel is just one of Greg Ile’s many thrillers, so I had the same problem picking one as I had with Lee Child’s stuff. I think you are being a little mean restricting the list to five books, it meant I had to leave out stuff like The Empty Chair by Jefferey Deaver, and Killer Instinct by Zoë Sharp. Can you take more with you if you’re cremated? An urn doesn’t take up as much space as a coffin.

        • Ha! Yes, the cremated suggestion has already turned up on Marie’s blog, where this all started anyway. Maybe we could build huge crypts for ourselves, stuffed full of our favourite books with a tiny urn in the middle containing our ashes.
          But then of course I will need a second crypt, containing all the books I intended to read but never got round to. *sigh* This is all getting very complicated.

  4. Great list. To Kill a Mockingbird just narrowly missed my own list. That’s another book that’s just near perfection. Love the reason for adding Conan to the list, and it reminds me that I need to read that series…at least the “good” ones. The one that really caught my eye, though, is the Gospel Singer. That just sounds exactly like something that I would love, and I’m buying it *right now*. Thanks for the recommendation!

      • Hi Jonathan, sorry to not reply earlier to your comments but have been away camping with my eight year old, without the necessary technology to keep up to date with my blog.
        Thanks for the comments on my list. It’s a shame about The Gospel Singer being so hard to get at the moment. I was lucky, and bought it many years ago when it was more widely available. There are some other Harry Crews books I would love to read, but may have to shell out a small fortune if I want to buy them.
        You might find a second hand copy going at a reasonable price, or, the other book of his I recommend is Classic Crews: A Harry Crews Reader, which contains a memoir of his childhood, and The Gypsy’s Curse, along with a couple of other pieces. The essay on losing his firstborn in a tragic accident is one of the most powerful things I have read. I hope you read some of his work, but be warned, I personally have found some of it disturbing and hard going.

  5. Pingback: My Corpse as a Capsule: 5 books to put in my casket | Paul D. Dail

  6. You could always go with The Complete Chronicles of Conan: Centenary Edition, which collects all the stories that are in the Del Rey collections in one big tome: all that’s missing is supplementary material like drafts, synopses and notes. I would’ve gone with “Conquering Sword” over “Coming of Conan,” since it has several of the very best Conan stories, where the latter has nearly all the lesser ones.

    • Okay, that’s interesting, I’ll check ‘Conquering Sword…’ out. I used to read the Conan stories as a teenager, and then picked up the stories again in my 40s. I was surprised how well they held up, as I thought they might be dreadful. I’ll definitely pick up your suggestion, although currently in the middle of reading ‘A Storm of Swords’ and completely gripped. Best in the ‘Song of Ice and Fire’ series so far, IMHO.
      Thanks for commenting.

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