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Today's quote:

Friday, September 18, 2020

The must-have desert island read


Your ship is sinking, you’re about to be stranded on a desert island, and instead of salvaging something sane like food or materials for shelter, you rescue one book to read on the beach. What would it be?

To me it's a no-brainer: Tom Neale's AN ISLAND TO ONESELF. It's the story of a life well lived, and even though the book owes a lot to the practised hand of some professional writer (possibly Noel Barber), it is so well executed that it recaptures the childhood thrill of reading "Robinson Crusoe". Here we go:

"I was fifty when I went to live alone on Suvarov, after thirty years of roaming the Pacific, and in this story I will try to describe my feelings, try to put into words what was, for me, the most remarkable and worthwhile experience of my whole life. I chose to live in the Pacific islands because life there moves at the sort of pace which you feel God must have had in mind originally when He made the sun to keep us warm and provided the fruits of the earth for the taking; but though I came to know most of the islands, for the life of me I sometimes wonder what it was in my blood that had brought me to live among them."

I found this book many years ago in an old second-hand shop that has since disappeared. For the sum of a couple of dollars I held in my hands one man's South Pacific island dream, lived out in just under two hundred pages and perhaps a dozen black-and-white photographs.

The eccentric author was a humble 51-year-old New Zealander, Tom Neale, former navyman, storeman, and world-famous hermit. He has never written anything else except for this singular work of a lifetime.

I always keep my copy of the book nearby, and every once in a while when I need some solitude I open it up and go back with Tom to his shack perched on Anchorage Island. And so can you by clicking here.

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