1. “Anna Karenina” by Leo Tolstoy. Arguably the greatest novel ever written. For a student of the psychology of emotion, a wonderful set of case studies. And what’s not to like about a story with a character named Levin? Happy desert islands are all alike; every unhappy desert island is unhappy in its own way.
2. “The Principles of Psychology” by William James. There is very little truly important in my field that wasn’t anticipated in some way more than a 100 years ago in this original “intro psych” textbook. I find something new here each time I look at it, even though I’ve read some of these chapters more than 10 times.
3. “The Collected Works of David Lodge” by David Lodge. Okay, I admit it: This book doesn’t really exist. But from the dozens of books David Lodge has written spoofing academia in a smart and ironic way, I couldn’t choose a single favorite (though perhaps it would be “Thinks,” with its heavy emphasis on cognitive science). What professor doesn’t like David Lodge?
4. “The Idea of the University: A Reexamination” by Jaroslav Pelikan. This really is one of the most thoughtful books written on the purpose of universities. I chose it for my desert island adventure because I have much to learn from former Yale deans and because Professor Pelikan won the Kluge Prize last week, the highest honor accorded a scholar in the humanities.
5. “Bluegrass: A History” by Neil V. Rosenberg. So, you know that I am passionate about bluegrass music. Well, it turns out that there is really only one scholarly treatment of its history, and this is it. A detailed, respectful and well-annotated account published by the University of Illinois Press.