Stewart Brand’s Selected Books for the Manual for Civilization

Stewart Brand selecting books from one of his three personal libraries, photo by Alexander Rose

In 02014 Long Now co-founder Stewart Brand nominated more than 70 books for our Manual for Civilization collection. The Manual is a library which is housed at The Interval at Long Now, our San Francisco headquarters which is also a public cafe and bar.

3500 books in all will comprise the Manual for Civilization filling the floor-to-ceiling shelves of The Interval. We’ve currently left some room as we continue to add to and acquire books on the list.

These are intended to be books that together contain the essence of civilization. They could help us build it back if it were ever lost, but hopefully, by tracking the knowledge in this and similar efforts, they’ll sustain what we already have and continue to improve in coming centuries and millennia.

A writer, futurist, environmentalist, and the President of Long Now’s board, Stewart Brand actually keeps three personal libraries. In March of 02014 he walked through all of them and carefully selected books for this list, assembling a remarkable list of titles both old and new.

From the Epic of Gilgamesh to contemporary science fiction. Homer’s epics and Beowulf, Lao Tzu and Machiavelli. But also Brian Fagan’s The Long Summer: How Climate Changed Civilization and Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman from 02011. There are many past Long Now Seminar speakers: Ian Morris, Jared Diamond, Steven Pinker and Verner Vinge to name only a few. And no less than 6 novels by British science fiction author Iain M. Banks, who passed away in 02013.

Like Brian Eno’s and other book lists we’ve shared, this one is not intended as a standalone library, it will be part of the larger corpus of thousands of texts we’re assembling. Some of our contributors based suggetions on their own libraries or particular expertise. We’ve also been collecitng submissions from Long Now members to help us fill The Interval’s shelves with essential knowledge for the future.

Together these works can help us to maintain, extend, and (if needed) re-create what humans have achieved thus far.

Here are Stewart Brand’s recommendations:

Many thanks to Stewart for taking the time and care to recommend these books for our collection.

This is one of many book lists for the Long Now’s Manual for Civilization. There are more books lists from friends of Long Now to explore including Neal Stephenson, Violet Blue, Kevin Kelly, Megan and Rick Prelinger and many more.

Visit our Manual collection and browse it for yourself at The Interval. Learn more about the Manual for Civilization.

This list is an excerpt of the 3,500 book crowd-curated Manual For Civilization library which we are compiling to back up the essential knowledge of civilization. More than 800 titles are already available online at The Internet Archive.

Originally published at on March 4, 02014.