The Manual for Civilization is a crowd-curated collection of the 3500 books you would most want to sustain or rebuild civilization. It is also the library at The Interval, with about 1000 books on shelves floor-to-ceiling throughout the space. We are about a third of the way done with compiling the list and acquiring selected the titles.
We have a set of four categories to guide selections:
- Cultural Canon: Great works of literature, nonfiction, poetry, philosophy, etc
- Mechanics of Civilization: Technical knowledge, to build and understand things
- Rigorous Science Fiction: Speculative stories about potential futures
- Long-term Thinking, Futurism, and relevant history (Books on how to think about the future that may include surveys of the past)
Our list comes from suggestions by Interval donors, Long Now members, and some specially-invited guests with particular expertise. All the book lists we’ve published so far are shown here including lists from Brian Eno, Stewart Brand, Maria Popova, and Neal Stephenson. Interval donors will be the first to get the full list when it is complete.
Today we add selections from science fiction authors Bruce Sterling, David Brin, and Daniel Suarez. All three are known for using contemporary science and technology as a starting point from which to speculate on the future. And that type of practice is exactly why Science Fiction is one of our core categories.
David Brin is a scientist, futurist and author who has won science fiction’s highest honors including the Locus, Campbell, Nebula, and Hugo awards. His 01991 book Earth is filled with predictions for our technological future, many of which have already come true. He has served on numerous advisory committees for his scientific expertise.
David Brin (photo by Cheryl Brigham)
David Brin’s list
- De Nuptiis Philologiae Et Mercurii Et De Septem Artibus Liberalibus Libri Novem by Martianus Capella
- Feynman Lectures by Richard Feynman
- The Complete Sherlock Holmes: All 4 Novels and 56 Short Stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
- Alas Babylon by Pat Frank
- The Disposessed by Ursula K. Le Guin
- Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner
- Tunnel in the Sky by Robert Heinlein
- The Culture Boxed Set: Consider Phlebas, Player of Games and Use of Weapons by Iain Banks
Bruce Sterling‘s first novel was published in 01977. In 01985 he edited Mirrorshades the defining Cyberpunk anthology, and went on to win two Hugos and a Campbell award for his science fiction. His non-fiction writing including his long-running column for Wired are also influential. He spoke for Long Now in 02004.
Bruce Sterling’s list
- Last and First Men and Star Maker : Two Science Fiction Novels by Olaf Stapledon
- Endless Frontier by Pascal Zachary
- Anticipations by H G Wells
- The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction by John Clute and Peter Nicholls
- Trillion Year Spree: The History of Science Fiction by Brian Wilson Aldiss and David Wingrove
Daniel Suarez made a huge stir with his 02006 self-published debut novel Daemon . Its success led to him speaking in 02008 for Long Now’s Seminar series and to a deal with a major publisher. In 02014 he published his fourth novel Influx.
Daniel Suarez’s list
- Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan
- The Medieval Machine: The Industrial Revolution Of The Middle Ages by Jean Gimpel
- The Master Switch by Tim Wu
- The Wild Trees by Richard Preston
- The Age of Reconnaissance: Discovery, Exploration and Settlement, 1450-1650 by J. H. Parry
- The Evolution of Civilizations by Carroll Quigley
- Contact by Carl Sagan
- Old Mans War by John Scalzi
- Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan
- Distraction by Bruce Sterling
- Foundation’s Edge by Isaac Asimov
- Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov
- Foundation by Isaac Asimov
- Perdido Street Station by China Miéville
- Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut
- Neuromancer by William Gibson
- Green Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
- Blue Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
- Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
- The Diamond Age: Or a Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer by Neal Stephenson
- Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
- Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson
- A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge
- Rainbow’s End by Vernor Vinge
- 1491 by Charles C. Mann
- What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly
- The Wild Trees by Richard Preston
Getting science fiction recommendations from great authors is an honor and a privilege. And we appreciation their support for The Interval, in helping to give it the best library possible, as well as of The Long Now Foundation as a whole. Books from all three of these authors will appear in the Manual for Civilization, as well as these selections that they’ve made of books that are important to them.
We hope that you will give us your list, too. If you’ve donated then you should have the link to submit books. And if you haven’t, then hurry up and give before October 1 at 5pm–your last chance to become a charter donor.
Photo by Because We Can