Books I Want to be Buried With

A while back, I ranted about the digitization of literature. Soon we won’t even keep our electronic files in our homes, anymore. Everything will be stored in “the cloud,” an undefined somewhere else.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m not against e-books. Guilt rides me every time I buy a print book, so these days I try to restrict paper purchases to novels I want to keep forever (and books that aren’t available as e-books or cost more as e-books than print). But even as I transition into a completely digital existence, I have this niggling concern that the great works of modern literature will be lost when civilization crumbles and the cloud evaporates into oblivion.

Therefore I feel it’s imperative to select some favorite novels to be buried with. That way, books found when I am exhumed by future archeologists need not be lost forever.

I figure Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter will be covered by other rabid fans, so I’m focusing on books that might be more likely to be omitted from other people’s coffins. Here’s my list, so far.

Holes
Louis Sachar

I have fond memories of reading Holes to my kids during a family road trip. I didn’t quite finish it during the drive. To my surprise, my husband asked to borrow it so he could read the ending. This was the first fiction he’d read since we were married. He borrowed more novels after that, so I figure Holes elevated him to the rank of “casual reader.” Therefore, I’d like to be buried with Holes somewhere near my heart.

Readers of the future dark ages might relate to this book on another level. Without modern plumbing or backhoes, I imagine they’ll be digging a lot of holes by hand.

The Stars My Destination
Alfred Bester 

This classic science fiction novel is a miracle of tight plotting, a masterpiece of pace and characterization. Written back in 1956, aspects may or may not seem quaint to you, but you would not regret the two or three hours it takes you to read it.

I don’t know what the archaeologists of the future will make of this book, but I guess that won’t be my problem.

The Stand
Stephen King

I’m not a Stephen King fan. By that, I mean that I don’t love every book he writes. For example, I only got through two chapters of Tommy Knockers before hurling it against the wall. That was back in the days when I had to skip a meal to buy a book, so it’s saying something if I didn’t finish it.

But when King hits the mark, he hits it well and thoroughly. And my favorite is The Stand.

Not only is The Stand a riveting read, it is a workshop on how to bring character and emotion into my scenes. Particularly the darker variety.

It’s possible that readers of the future dark age might relate to it a little too well.

The Complete Calvin and Hobbes
Bill Waterson

Comics may seem like a frivolous use of coffin space. But how can I let this slice of cynical innocence evaporate into the atmosphere?

True, I do worry that the humor and poignancy of these frames will be lost on the culture of the future. Will they know what kind of creature Hobbes is? Or will they say, “What is that orange and black stripy thing, Mommy? It’s too fuzzy to be a monster.”

Will children understand the concept of sledding if global warming has its way and there is no more snow? Maybe not, but Calvin will seem all the more reckless and daring if kids think he sends his sled barreling down a hillside covered in sand and dirt.

And what of the evil genius of Calvin’s snowmen? I can just picture it—

“What is he making those funny-looking men out of, Mommy?”

“I dunno.”

“Is it dirt, Mommy? How does he make it stick together like that? And what is that pointy orange thingy sticking out of the dirtman’s face where his nose should go?”

“I said I dunno. Now shuddup and eat your algae loaf.”

Fahrenheit 451
Ray Bradbury

This is not my favorite Ray Bradbury book. That would be Something Wicked This Way Comes or Dandelion Wine, depending on season and mood. But it seems oddly appropriate to rescue Fahrenheit 451 from the great book shredding that is the digitization of us all. Maybe the lesson lost on past generations will reach a generation of the future.

As Granger said in the final pages of Fahrenheit 451, “Now, let’s get on upstream….And hold onto one thought: You’re not important. You’re not anything. Someday the load we’re carrying with us may help someone. But even when we had the books on hand, a long time ago, we didn’t use what we got out of them.”

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About Marie Loughin

I love reading, writing, and editing speculative fiction of all sorts. My current focus is on writing contemporary fantasy, where I get to play god with characters from myth and legend. My Norse-based urban fantasy, Valknut: The Binding, is available at Kindle Books and other e-book retailers. You can find me at my blog (marieloughin.com) and on Twitter (@mmloughin).
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27 Responses to Books I Want to be Buried With

  1. deasbooks says:

    Marie!
    I would put ANY Calvin and Hobbes book on my list!
    I remember the day I discovered them in a bookstore in the mall years ago.
    I was laughing out loud, and a little boy in the aisle with me was quickly removed by his mom–probably did not want her anywhere near the nutty lady giggling in the kid’s section.
    Also almost anything by Stephen King.
    I will have to ponder the rest.
    I can think of albums before books for some reason.

  2. juliabarrett says:

    What a great post! I want to be cremated so I guess mine would be books I’ll be cremated with!

  3. Actually, I want to be cremated, too. I guess that will leave more room in the coffin for books. Probably a better use of space.

  4. Jaye says:

    Fabulous post! So much to think about. I’m going to gather my fave books AND some stupid, obscure object that will let archaeologists of the future make theories!

  5. A little, special interest time capsule. Literally!

  6. Ken Preston says:

    Great post, Marie, loved it. I may well go and make a similar list on my blog, I love this idea so much. I will link back to yours, obviously, and let you know when it’s up.

  7. My list would include: Sylvia Plath’s Ariel (the restored edition);The Dialogues of Plato; Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino; Sputnik Sweetheart by Murakami; and Oryx and Crake by Margret Atwood. My hope, though, is that the books that matter to me will come with me in the sense that my soul will have been impacted enough that even if the details are missing, the deeper truths remain. I believe in reincarnation, so…. My good fortune, if I’m right about the reincarnation but wrong about what stays with me, is that I can find my books again later! Much later – different life later.

    Love this post, Marie.

  8. Excellent list, Marie, probably I think so because I want them, too. I’d add my personal favorites, My Side of the Mountain, Where the Red Fern Grows, The Learning Tree, Grapes of Wrath, The Lathe of Heaven, and 1984. Definitely Calvin and Hobbes! My only problem is that I want to be cremated. Maybe Fahrenheit 451 is then more appropriate!

  9. See my comment above, Cathy — if you are cremated, that just leaves more room in the coffin to store books.

  10. Awesome post! Now I’m going to have to read The Stars My Destination!

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  12. Ken Preston says:

    Inspired by this blog I made my list of five books on my blog. You can read it here – http://www.kenpreston.co.uk/books-i-want-to-be-buried-with/
    Thanks Marie, that was fun. Anybody else want to join in? 🙂

  13. Paul D. Dail says:

    Great list, Marie. I love that you’ve included Calvin and Hobbes. Probably my favorite comic books, in close contention with The Far Side and Bloom County.

    As to King, I have to ask, have you read Misery? And seeing the movie isn’t the same thing. The book is great in that it also includes the manuscript he has to revise using the old typewriter. I won’t say much more than this in case you aren’t familiar with it… or in case you already are. But as a writer, I think it’s one to read.

    I may have to do one of these myself. Of course, I kind of already did. Did you ever see my post, “My Own Works Cited: 10 books that have inspired me”? Here’s the link if not. Kind of in a similar vein.

    http://pauldail.com/2011/07/07/my-own-works-cited-list-10-books-that-have-inspired-me/

    Paul D. Dail
    http://www.pauldail.com- A horror writer’s not necessarily horrific blog

    • I love Bloom County and Far Side, too. Bloom County gets political and I don’t think my own kids would relate to much of it, let alone future generations. I’m re-reading Calvin and Hobbes now, and I’m amazed at how in context it is with today’s world.

      Misery is Stephen King’s best among those I’ve read. It’s tight, controlled, and thoroughly emotionally engaging. I considered including it instead of The Stand, but my test is this: which one would I rather re-read?

      Yours is certainly a good list. I haven’t read all of them, though a couple are on my shelves to be read. I think you have room to do another post, though. There could be a difference between books that inspire you and books you want to rescue for future generations.

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