'Lost' Literature: Not Just For Desert Islands

Josh Holloway on 'Lost'

Sawyer (Josh Holloway) settles down for some desert island reading on ABC's Lost. Mario Perez/ABC hide caption

itoggle caption Mario Perez/ABC

Jen Chaney oversees film coverage and, with her colleague Liz Kelly, blogs about Lost at washingtonpost.com.

I am a Lost addict.

I think constantly about the ABC drama: when I'm in the shower, walking my dog, even when I'm watching other TV shows.

I also frequently visit my local library to dig up copies of the books that have appeared on the show. Hold up, you say. There's literature on Lost?

Oh, yes, there is. Lost may center around a mystical island, but it's also about larger themes like religious faith and the importance of community — the stuff of memorable novels. Happily, the show's writers weave in so many literary references that each installment also opens up a world of transcendent reading. Here are three books I re-fell in love with courtesy of Lost.

'Watership Down'

'Watership Down'
Watership Down, by Richard Adams, paperback, 496 pages

Watership Down — the first book ever prominently featured on Lost — is, technically, a story about bunnies. But there is nothing cuddly, or for that matter, wuddly, about it.

Like Lost, the story focuses on the members of one community forced to scrap and struggle their way toward survival. But what makes it a joy to read is the way author Richard Adams personifies those bunnies, endowing them with stubbornness, fear and resourcefulness as well as a unique, melodic vocabulary. Invented words like "Owsla" (a bunny police force) and "silflay" (to go above ground to feed) waft effortlessly into the prose, enveloping the reader in the world Adams has created.

'The Turn Of The Screw'

'The Turn of the Screw'
The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James, paperback, 386 pages

It's also easy to get buried in The Turn of the Screw, the 1898 novella written by Henry James. Well, that is, after you adapt to the author's sometimes flowery Victorian prose. Once that relatively minor adjustment is made, the eerie power of this classic ghost story will inevitably creep up on you.

In this twist-filled tale, a skittish governess begins to care for two spookily well-spoken young charges at an isolated country estate in England. Almost immediately, she sees visions of a seemingly sinister couple. Is this mysterious pair a danger to the children? Or is the governess truly mad?

The reader is never quite sure whether the version of events she's being told in The Turn of the Screw is gospel — a trait it shares in common with Lost. Another connection? In both James' book and the ABC drama, people from the past often return in spectral form to tidy up unfinished business.

'Slaughterhouse-Five'

'Slaughterhouse 5'
Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut, paperback, 288 pages

There are no ghosts in Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five. But there is a plane crash, a former soldier who gets "unstuck in time" and a group of characters connected to each other in ways they don't initially understand. If that all sounds very Lost-esque, it is.

Also like Lost, Slaughterhouse defies genre. Is it a war novel? Science fiction? Social commentary? Yes, yes and yes.

As protagonist Billy Pilgrim attempts to revisit the events of the bombing of Dresden during World War II, he hops backward and forward through the major events in his life. The result is a complicated, thought-provoking and absurd look at the choices that define one man's time on Earth ... and, briefly, away from it.

Vonnegut doesn't follow the standard, linear approach to storytelling. For that, I salute the late author. And, as a Lost addict, I feel grateful that the writers of my favorite show have the courage and the latitude to shake up their narrative every week, too.

Three Books ... is produced and edited by Ellen Silva and Bridget Bentz.

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Books Featured In This Story

Watership Down

by Richard Adams

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The Turn of the Screw

A Case Study in Contemporary Criticism

by Peter G. Beidler and Henry James

Paperback, 386 pages | purchase

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The Turn of the Screw
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A Case Study in Contemporary Criticism
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Slaughterhouse-Five

by Kurt Vonnegut

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