Which single book would you rather have knowing you'll be shipwrecked on a desert island? Many say the Bible.
It's a preposterous idea, completely out of touch. Which is why Robinson Crusoe is a lie. Why bother trying to survive, let alone read anything, if you're destined to spend the rest of your life alone? Even hope would be useless, for any such hope must center on the idea of beating it, the clawing and the scratching. Indeed, only with the appearance of good boy Friday does the novel assume the aura of credibility. The Lord of the Flies is by far a more realistic portrayal. For all the inherent evil and the darkness of human heart, thinly veiled by upper-class upbringing and the veneer of civilization, at least the boys have one another. They form a community.
Aristotle once said that man is a political animal. Utter nonsense! He's a social animal first and foremost. It's not any great book that will keep you from going insane on a desert island, no musical composition nor the finest work of art, but human interaction. Barring that, you'll have no chance in hell.
A scene from The Cardinal of the Kremlin comes to mind. It's a new KGB, more humane, above such methods of extracting information as torture, water-boarding, and whatnot. Sensory deprivation is the latest thing. They put you in a tank for a day or two, and you're floating. No sense of gravity to tell which side is up or down, no bodily movements to orient yourself by. You're in total darkness, deprived as well of all sound except perhaps the beating of your own heart; and after a while, even of that you're not certain. Yet your mind keeps on racing as never before and your imagination is at its most active, craving input, any input, but none is forthcoming. You experience nothing except your own disembodied self. Soon enough, even this you begin to doubt. Am I dead or alive, in heaven or in hell? Any sensation, even excruciating pain, would be better, infinitely better, than the state you're in. And so it was with Svetlana:
She was lying on a gurney when he got there, the wetsuit already taken off. He sat beside the unconscious form and held her hand as the technician jabbed her with a mild stimulant. She was a pretty one, the doctor thought as her breathing picked up. He waved the technician out of the room, leaving the two of them alone.