Castaway Culture: on my deserted island

Doreen Yakabuski in a corner of her home library.  Photo: Jack Vanderburg

Since any survival skills I learned in Outdoor Education at MVDHS are long forgotten, I hope the necessities of life are easily attainable on my deserted island so my only worry is filling the hours.

Because I was an English teacher for 30 years, it’ll probably come as no surprise that my first choice would be The Complete Works of Shakespeare, preferably the anthology edited by David Bevington. I could enjoy once again my favourite dramas and finally finish reading all the history plays. (One volume equals one book choice, right?)

I would want the childhood book which made me fall in love with language:  The Wonder Clock by Howard Pyle. Originally published in 1887, the book has 24 stories with typical fairy tale characters (mean ogres, talking animals, wicked witches) and 100 wonderful illustrations.

Being a lover of art, I’d opt for Sister Wendy’s 1000 Masterpieces to provide pleasure for the eyes and food for the mind and soul.

As a devotee of Canadian fiction, I’d have to bring a favourite Canadian book, but I’d be hard-pressed to choose just one. I think I’d make a pile of novels by my top 10 contemporary Canadian authors (Joseph Boyden, Michael Crummey, Elizabeth Hay, Wayne Johnston, Lori Lansens, Mary Lawson, Ann-Marie MacDonald, Donna Morrissey, Michael Ondaatje, David Adams Richards), close my eyes and pick one. Of course, I also love short stories so I’d take Selected Stories by Alice Munro for her emotionally complex narratives about ordinary people.

Some humour would definitely be needed to keep up my spirits. For years, I listened to The Vinyl Café on CBC and loved Stuart McLean’s stories. Stuart’s voice was very much part of my enjoyment of his radio show so I’d pack one of his CD collections.

For music, I’d choose a CD with an extremely limited release. In preparation for our marriage (technically an elopement), Jack and I compiled a CD of music we wanted played during and after the ceremony. That CD has traditional wedding music and favourite love songs, including ones in Polish and Dutch to reflect our heritage and “Forever and for Always” by Shania Twain, one of my former students. Listening to the selections on that CD would bring comfort.

The item I would want is a blank book to serve as a journal. I’ve kept a diary since I was 13, so writing daily is a necessity. (Attach a pen, please!)

Note: If I’m to be stranded for an extended period, may I take some 1000+-page tomes from my to-read stack: The Sagas of Icelanders, which I purchased during a visit to Iceland; The Tale of Genji, often designated the world’s first novel; and Pan Tadeusz, the Polish epic poem? Of course, then I mightn’t even get to the island because the weight of my choices would sink any vessel!

About the author: Doreen Yakabuski, a Barry’s Bay native, credits the Barry’s Bay Public Library and the Madonna House Lending Library for cultivating her love of reading. After a career as an English teacher/teacher-librarian in Timmins, she and her husband, Jack Vanderburg, settled near Cornwall. Now, Doreen reviews books on her blog:   She can be spotted in the Valley from time to time.


  1. Joanne Olsen

    Doreen, not only was I wowed by your impressive selection of works for your Island life but it was so great to have a hint of what you have been up to since we left MVDHS in the early 70’s. Look me up next time you are in the valley

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