Stewart Brand’s Selected Books for the Manual for Civilization
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:
- Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations by David R. Montgomery
- Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
- The Odyssey by Homer translated by Robert Fagles
- The Iliad by Homer translated by Robert Fagles
- The Memory of the World: The Treasures That Record Our History from 1700 BC to the Present Day by UNESCO
- The History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor
- The Landmark Herodotus: The Histories edited by Robert B. Strassler
- The Landmark Thucydides: A Comprehensive Guide to the Peloponnesian War edited by Robert B. Strassler
- The Complete Greek Tragedies, Volumes 1–4 edited by David Grene and Richmond Lattimore
- The Prince by Machiavelli, translated by George Bull, published by Folio Society
- The Nature of Things by Lucretius
- The Art of the Long View: Planning for the Future in an Uncertain World by Peter Schwartz
- The Way Life Works: The Science Lover’s Illustrated Guide to How Life Grows, Develops, Reproduces, and Gets Along by Mahlon Hoagland and Bert Dodson
- Venice, A Maritime Republic by Frederic Chapin Lane
- The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages by Harold Bloom
- The Map Book by Peter Barber
- Conceptual Physics by Paul G. Hewitt
- The Encyclopedia of Earth: A Complete Visual Guide by Michael Allaby and Dr. Robert Coenraads
- The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov
- Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon
- The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property by Lewis Hyde
- Powers of Ten: About the Relative Size of Things in the Universe by Philip Morrison and Phylis Morrison
- The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe by Theodore Gray
- The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (6 Volumes) by Edward Gibbon
- The Complete Guide to Trail Building and Maintenance by Carl Demrow and David Salisbury
- Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond
- A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction by Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa and Murray Silverstein
- Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
- The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker
- Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier by Edward L. Glaeser
- The Causes of War by Geoffrey Blainey
- Military Misfortunes: The Anatomy of Failure in War by Eliot A. Cohen and John Gooch
- A Short History of Nearly Everything Special Illustrated Edition by Bill Bryson
- The Past From Above: Aerial Photographs of Archaeological Sites edited by Charlotte Trümpler / photos by Georg Gerster
- Turing’s Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe by George Dyson
- Why the West Rules–for Now: The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal About the Future by Ian Morris
- The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community by William H. Mcneill
- A History of Civilizations by Fernand Braudel
- The Pattern on the Stone: The Simple Ideas that Make Computers Work by Daniel Hillis
- Imagined Worlds by Freeman Dyson
- The Story of Writing: Alphabets, Hieroglyphs & Pictograms by Andrew Robinson
- Brave New World (The Folio Society) by Aldous Huxley and illustrated by Leonard Rosoman
- Dune by Frank Herbert
- The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology by Ray Kurzweil
- Infinite in All Directions: Gifford Lectures Given at Aberdeen, Scotland April–November 1985 by Freeman J. Dyson
- What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly
- The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks
- Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks
- Look to Windward by Iain M. Banks
- State of the Art by Iain M. Banks
- Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks
- Excession by Iain M. Banks
- Across Realtime by Vernor Vinge
- The Discoverers: Volumes I and II Deluxe Illustrated Set by Daniel J. Boorstin
- Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action by Elinor Ostrom
- The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order by Samuel P. Huntington
- The Idea of Decline in Western History by Arthur Herman
- Thinking in Time: The Uses of History for Decision Makers by Richard E. Neustadt and Ernest R. May
- Finite and Infinite Games: A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility by James P. Carse
- One True God: Historical Consequences of Monotheism by Rodney Stark
- The Future of Life by Edward O. Wilson
- The Coming Population Crash: And Our Planet’s Surprising Future by Fred Pearce
- Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth by James Lovelock
- The Long Summer: How Climate Changed Civilization by Brian Fagan
- Medieval Civilisation by Jacques Le Goff
- The Civilization of the Middle Ages: A Completely Revised and Expanded Edition of Medieval History by Norman F. Cantor
- Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond
- The Eternal Frontier: An Ecological History of North America and Its Peoples by Tim Flannery
- The Epic of Gilgamesh translated by Andrew George
- Beowulf: A New Verse Translation by Seamus Heaney
- How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They’re Built by Stewart Brand
- Grand Design: The Earth from Above by Georg Gerster
- The Complete Oxford Shakespeare: Histories, Comedies, Tragedies (Three volume set)
- The Merck Manual Home Health Handbook by Robert Porter
- Lao Tzu’s Te-Tao Ching — A New Translation Based on the Recently Discovered Ma-wang-tui Texts by Lao Tzu and translated by Robert G. Henricks
- The King and the Corpse: Tales of the Soul’s Conquest of Evil by Heinrich Zimmer edited by Joseph Campbell
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.
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 blog.longnow.org on March 4, 02014.