What Three Books Would You Take On Your Next Adventure?

In my previous post, Empty Mansions: Can Those Who Succeed Us Take Care of Themselves?, I noted a few similarities between W.A. Clark, a Gilded Age copper magnate, and Donald J. Trump. Like Trump, Clark was a businessman-turned-politician who gave little to charity and destroyed the environment. Unlike Trump, as I noted in that post, W.A.’s wealth was self-made.*

Another difference is that W.A. Clark liked to read. As Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr. write in their book on W.A. and his daughter Huguette, Empty Mansions:

W. A. chose three books for his journey west [in search of his fortune]: Parsons on Contracts, Hitchcock’s Elements of Geology, and Poems of Robert Burns… He went on to use all three, becoming in the West a sharp negotiator, a prescient judge of the mineral wealth underground, and a lover of the romantic arts.

He read books not only for enjoyment but also for personal improvement. Can you imagine what Donald Trump would be like if he weren’t averse to written words?

The passage on W.A.’s books made me think about what I’d take on my next adventure. With my e-reader, I am able to take a large number of books, but if I had to narrow it down to only three, what would I choose?

A book by Jane Austen is an obvious choice for me. Persuasion has been my favorite for a long time, but after re-reading Prejudice and Prejudice while writing A Case of First Impression, I’d say it’s now a tie. I can repeatedly re-read both of these books without ever getting bored.

I’d also bring The Phantom Tollbooth, a children’s book I read for the first time only a few years ago. It contains life lessons that aren’t just for children.

Finally, I’d choose something related to what I might encounter in my adventure. I’m leaning toward a book on foraging for edible plants and mushrooms, but who knows how long these books will be accurate in our era of climate change (thanks to people like W.A. Clark and Donald J. Trump).


*However, as Dedman and Newell explain: “W.A. Clark could honestly say he rose from a log cabin to the most magnificent mansion on Fifth Avenue… Yet [his] beginnings were not so impoverished as he let on.” His family owned 172 acres of land in Pennsylvania, and W.A. received an education when he wasn’t working on his family’s farm. (Chapter Two).


  1. If I remember correctly, I believe Trump said The Art of the Deal was the best book ever written. I want to bury my head in the sand and pretend that’s not true, but I’m sure it is easy to find his statement via Google.

    If I had to pick three books, I would choose Cruddy by Lynda Barry (so rich in language and setting), Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (not only funny, but loads to unpack), and something by Zora Neale Hurston (maybe her autobiography? Though not completely truthful in loads of places, Hurston’s anecdotes about life and the dozens is gut-busting funny).

  2. We like to think that being readers makes us better people but clearly that isn’t always the case as W.A.Clark shows. I am not certain what three books I would take on an adventure. I think my choices would be highly dependent on what that adventure is. I do know there would definitely be something about the place/region I would be adventuring in. The other two would depend on my mode of travel and the motivation for the adventure 🙂

    1. ‘We like to think that being readers makes us better people but clearly that isn’t always the case as W.A.Clark shows.”

      So true! It made him more competent and knowledgeable, but that’s all. As for me, I try to read for pleasure when I travel, but I usually end up reading books and articles related to my work. It’s a bit frustrating.

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