Stewart Brand’s Selected Books for the Manual for Civilization

Posted on Tuesday, March 4th, 02014 by Alexander Rose - Twitter: @zander
link Categories: Book Lists, Long Now salon (Interval), Manual for Civilization, The Interval   chat 0 Comments

Stewart Brand LibraryStewart Brand selects books from his library, photo by Alexander Rose

Long Now’s Founding Board Member Stewart Brand suggested more than 70 volumes for our Manual for Civilization collection. The Manual will be housed within The Interval at Long Now, our new public space which opens to the public this Spring.

The 3500 books that comprise the Manual for Civilization will serve as the library component of The Interval. A dominant feature, seen immediately upon entering and even visible from outside, on shelves stretching floor to ceiling and set amongst the large scale mechanical prototypes of our 10,000-Year Clock, the Manual will present a compelling image for visitors to our space.

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As construction of The Interval at Long Now nears completion, our fundraising continues. We are in the final stretch of the capital campaign to fund renovations to our San Francisco space that not only houses The Interval but also Long Now’s offices.

If this venue, its unique library, and all its other features capture your imagination, please consider a donation at any level. You can be a part of giving long-term thinkers a beautiful place to gather, full of amazing books. Also please spread the word to others you think would appreciate this project.

Writer, futurist, environmentalist and Long Now co-founder, Stewart Brand keeps three personal libraries. In the last month he walked us through all of them and carefully selected books for the list below. It is a remarkable list of titles 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 the British Science Fiction author Iain M. Banks, who passed away last year.

Keep in mind that like Brian Eno’s list and others we’ll be posting soon, this is not intended as a standalone set of books, but as part of the larger corpus of thousands of texts that we are assembling. That collection will include submissions from Long Now members and the donors to our ‘brickstarter’ campaign to help build the Long Now’s Interval (formerly referred to as Long Now Salon).

Together these books assemble knowledge essential for us to maintain, extend and (if needed) recreate 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.

As we approach The Interval opening this Spring, we will continue this series of lists suggested by friends and associates of Long Now for the Manual. You’ll see books recommended by Neal StephensonViolet BlueKevin KellyMegan & Rick Prelinger, and Danny Hillis.

Manual for Civilization Shelf level

To add your own recommendations of books to include in the Manual for Civilization and vote on which suggested titles should find a place on The Interval’s shelves, just make a donation to support the project. All donors, at any level, can suggest and vote on books.

We look forward to your contributions!

  • Alibaba

    This is just awesome. 60 to go!

  • Helen Rhian

    Please include ‘The Sparrow’ by Mary Doria Russell. A better account of the desperate errors and joys of first contact could not be had – while it is technically a novel, it’s also a textbook.

  • Michael DC Bowen

    I think there should be some more medical and martial texts, as well as basics of camping, survival, and field guides for basic cooking, farming & fishing skills. Also a dummies guide to house construction & homemaking.

  • sickofhayek

    For a Long Now project this list is extremely short sited. I mean extremely. A few literally no brainer old books and a lot of fads from the last decades.

  • michelle pitman

    My suggestion includes the 1920’s Australian Science Fiction novel by Erle Cox, titled “Out of the Silence.” A unique view of very long-term thinking and the intersection between ancient and future with the consequences of discovery in between. It is in print via Amazon (very cheaply) and also over at Project Gutenberg. Highly recommended.

    Has the Manual crew discussed how a future civilisation might perchance, view certain included texts through a spiritualised perspective? What could happen (not saying it will), is the elevation of a perspective, principle or ideal in the works past and present, to that of a Gospel of sorts in the future; influencing future generations in ways not intended by us in the here and now. It is worth assessing some inclusions on the basis of “Could this work be interpreted through alternative lenses and perspectives we have not yet considered?” “What possible consequences could arise if this work was interpreted as a type of gospel?”

  • Justin Lin

    What a wonderful list of books. Thanks for the selection for my benefit.

    Just one minor thing – it seems that the book by Neil MacGregor is “A History…” rather than “The History”. The rest other books look great! Thank you!

  • meliorist

    The list strikes me as misnamed. These don’t look to me like a “manual for civilization”. They seem like a fairly random selection of books, current and classic, that a particular sort of person living at a particular time in a particular place would enjoy reading. It seems almost hubristic to call such a list a manual for civilization.

    I would expect a manual for civilization to be a set of texts that would enable their possessors to reconstruct civilization from scratch in a reasonable duration. This would involve a lot of basic stuff: a DIY manual, a first aid manual, something like the Mechanisms and Mechanical Devices Sourcebook, how-to books on farming and a wide range of useful crafts, a wilderness survival guide, a thorough set of textbooks to teach reading, writing, arithmetic, general mathematics, statistics, economics, physics, biology and chemistry from elementary school to university level, plus university level texts on medicine and engineering. In addition, you’d want a ready-made constitution and set of laws. You’d also want literary classics, books about global history, philosophy, the arts, games, humorous books and children’s stories, but these wouldn’t be part of the “manual”.

  • Thesaurus Rex

    See: St. John’s College Great Books Program for starters including the complete Holy BIble (and other religious texts). Then, as has been suggested by others, practical books on farming and cooking, creating potable water, architecture and construction techniques, medicine and pharmacy, communication technology, energy, engineering, etc. as well as some more basic academic books on language, grammar, arithmetic, art, music, geography, geology, oceanography, astronomy and meteorology.

    This program seems backwards in that it starts by asking artists about books they love rather than starting with an assessment of what knowledge is needed.

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