There’s a Hole in My Bucket List

One of my good friends and I play a game every so often. Our informal name for it is “Desert Island”, but I really like to think of it as my “Stranded Bucket List”; those things I’d want with me should I ever get stuck anywhere for a long period of time with no immediate rescue. This can be as mundane as a stint at the local clinic, where doctors run behind as a matter of course, or as infrequent as a series of flight cancellations (or sitting on the tarmac for two hours). No matter.
If I had my druthers, I’d include ten movies, ten cds, and an interesting person or two for conversation. This is not always possible. So I concentrate on those authors I’d choose for company on a long flight, train ride or that theoretical palm tree shaded island on which I’m the only sign of life. See if you agree.
I always travel with Illusions by Richard Bach of Jonathan Livingston Seagull fame. On the surface the story seems basic enough; barnstorming with a rather intriguing pilot/mechanic during one Midwestern summer. If you read between the lines, there’s much more. Basically Illusions is a textbook of sorts on how to take hold of your fears and dreams and decide for yourself what to do with them. Simplistic? Maybe. But this book got me through my first flight on a very small plane and I keep it in my carry-on. It’s a talisman.
Charging on alphabetically, I mentally pack a book or two by each of the Burkes—Neon Rain, Black Cherry Blues, or Electric Mist by James Lee Burke. I love the flawless narrative in all of James Lee’s work, but these are the ones I read first–the stories that introduced me to Dave Robicheaux. Alafair Burke has two well-plotted series and compelling stand-a-lone works. In my ‘bucket’? Ellie Hatcher in 212 and her latest, If You Were Here, a story that twists and turns along with the best of them.
Agatha Christie is the author who started it all for me back in those rainy days of June vacations in northern Wisconsin. My favorite of all? The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, a tale of misdirection so well done that I am still pleasantly surprised at the reveal. Other Christie works make their way into my bag sometimes, but this one is a staple.
Gone, a Harlan Coben thriller, joins the pile without another by this author because I can choose only one. This is a great thriller with an unexpected double twist. Marcus Sakey’s The Blade Itself is a work I can re-read and discover new things in each time. I’ve mentioned William Kent Krueger before, but I’ll do so again. Iron Lake and Ordinary Grace are definitely in my bucket. His narrative is seamless and keeps me turning pages no matter what else I may need to do.
I’m not just a fan of mysteries and thrillers, although I could keep going; adding Tasha Alexander, Nancy Martin, Libby Fischer Hellmann, Jamie Freveletti as well as Steve Berry and Michael Harvey to my list of favorites. On any given day I can happily enjoy their stories. But. I also read non-fiction and would be unfair if I did not include several books that thoroughly engaged me.
I’d read anything by David McCullough but have settled on 1776 as my choice here. The Revolutionary War is one of those periods in our history that needs to be re-visited and savored every so often. Thomas Egan’s The Worst Hard Time, the story of the Dust Bowl as seen through the people who endured it, is a true tale of courage, determination, sadness, waste and perseverance. I count my blessings when I remember those who went through what is only a footnote in most history books. December 1941 is another chronicle of an unforgettable day in our history and makes me wonder. Could we have prevented Pearl Harbor?
By now you’ve figured out that my ‘bucket’ is the size of an old fashioned steamer trunk with expandable sides. Or an e-reader. And I’ve only mentioned a few of the authors who manage to fill my brain with wonderfully drawn characters and stories, true or imagined. More of my bucket list to come, but for now….who’s in your ‘bucket’?


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