Sunday, January 6, 2019

Sunday Games - Three Books

On Kim DuToit's former site, he would more or less annually throw out a challenge.

In the 1960 classic flick version of H.G. Wells The Time Machine, seen above, at the end of the movie, the inventor goes back to his own time, grabs three books from his library, and returns to the future, to help the helpless Eloi, bred for food by the Morlochs, re-invent civilization.

"Which three books would you choose?"

If you'd like to play, a few brief rules.

Rule 1) One book from each category:
* General knowledge
* Specialist technical knowledge
* Anything Else

Rule 2) You have to read the posts before yours, because: NO DUPLICATES.
Failure to follow Rule 2 may result in anything from Tsk!Tsk!ing to merciless mocking to blotting your entry into the ether, purely at random whim. Don't muck this up; it isn't that hard to get right.

Rule 3) Any series or multi-volume sets shall count as one book.

Rule 4) Consider the following books already picked, thus OFF LIMITS:

*The Christian Bible, Old & New Testaments
any version you can imagine, and any included subsets, like the Torah, etc.

*Any Dictionary You Can Imagine

*Any Thesaurus You Can Imagine

*Any Set Of Encyclopedias You Can Imagine
Britannica, Americana, etc.

Don't go there, please.
Anything else is fair game.

Comments are wide open.
You may confine yourself to just listing the three titles, or explain yourself as you feel the need.
If you choose to provide Amazon links, that's up to you.

Have at it. The future of the Eloi awaits your decisions.
Survival, and/or every other subject.
I'll throw out the first pitch in the opening comment.
Then it's on.


Aesop said...

General knowledge - The Day The Universe Changed, by James Burke
Human History from roughly Thag and Og to the Internet, in one sweep.

Specialist technical knowledge - Tintinalli's Emergency Medicine, 8th Ed.
Pretty obvious why.

Anything Else - Wooden Books' Trivium and Quadrivium (set)

The Trivium (grammar, logic, and rhetoric) and Quadrivium (Mathematics, Geometry, Music, and Cosmology - AKA astronomy and physics) were the Seven Pillars of classical learning.

Grammar was vocabulary, spelling, and proper ways of using language.
Logic was proper thinking with language.
Rhetoric was the art of combining the first two into expression with perfection and beauty, simplicity and clarity.
(Note how each builds to the next.)

Mathematics is numbers.
Geometry is numbers in space.
Music is numbers in time.
Cosmology is numbers in time and space.

Wooden Books' version is the best palm size compendium of both I've seen.

They have numerous other books, but I'm not shoehorning them in. Those two encompass what used to pass for all education from K-PhD, and if all you did was learn them in depth and detail, you'd surpass most PhDs currently teaching.

igor said...

I have been thinking of the answer to this question for decades, and cannot limit my answer to three, 30, 300, or even 3000. One thing to remember is that the protagonist is something of a polymath, so would have hundreds of books already in his head.

tweell said...

General knowledge - the Foxfire books.
Specialty tech - Grey's Anatomy
Anything else - The Great Books of the Western World.

Night driver said...

General: "How things work" with sequels
Specialty: "Gingery Papers"
All Else: "Federalist/Anti-Federalist Papers with Bullfinch's Mythology" (as a footnote)

tycho said...

Machinery's Handbook - 16th Edition or earlier

Adam said...

The SAS survival handbook.

The Art of War.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Angantyr said...


I was thinking of the Lord of the Rings, as well.

Anonymous said...

"Bostons Gun Bible" by Boston T. Party
"The Iliad and the Odyssey" by Homer
"The Great Thoughts" by George Seldes

If I'm to be disqualified for listing the Iliad and the Odyssey, you're a big old meanie.
They're usually sold/studied together.


Grog said...

General knowledge:
World History: From the Ancient World to the Information Age
ISBN-13: 978-1465462404

Specialty knowledge:
The Survival Medicine Handbook
ISBN-13: 978-0988872530

Anything else:
Pocket Ref 4th Edition
ISBN-13: 978-1885071620

Baldrick said...

1. The Constitution by Page Smith (one of the best books on the U.S. Constitution I've read.)

2. The entire Backwoods Home anthology, all of them, every single back issue. Tons of technical material in there of all sorts, old-fashioned to modern.

3. The Complete Works of Shakespeare. My parent's edition is sadly out of print, but you want something with footnotes and some introductory essays to help new readers become acclimated to the language, the times, and the history. This is the best modern edition I could find. All reviews for the complete works from ANY publisher or author are ALL mashed together at Amazon (pathetic), so take those with a grain of salt. This is expensive because it's a textbook. I hope there's no apologetic SJW crap in it - if so, get a version from the mid-60s. (

Took me a while to find a couple of these on Amazon (too lazy to head out to the living room and grab ISBN numbers right now, enjoying my first coffee), so if I'm repeating, apologies.

Baldrick said...

Grog, I suggested the Pocket Ref to my husband (you won't find an engineer or machinist without one) and he agreed, but said it would likely need context. I'd add that on for certain though. One of the handiest books EVER. I get the husband a new one every few years as his gets tattered.

Anonymous said...

1) Three Felonies a Day (if they want you, they'll get you)
2) Life After Google (blockchain technology and why big data will fail)
3) Killing Clinton (yet to be written by Bill O'reilly but can't wait for it!)

RandyB said...

A basic chemistry book.
Once an Eagle.
FM 7-8

Them Morlock's ain't gonna kill themselves.

cyrus83 said...

General Knowledge - Complete Works of Aristotle
Specialty Knowledge - The Complete Patents of Nikola Tesla
Anything Else - The Everlasting Man (Chesterton)

Grog said...

Agreed, Baldrick, that book is invaluable for a wrench.

Brick said...

The ones I thought of have already been mentioned, but I have already downloaded/ordered some of the other suggestions.
Keep 'em coming.


Unknown said...

CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics 95th Edition
CRC Standard Mathematical Tables & Formulas (Advances in Applied Math) 33rd Edition
Marks' Standard Handbook for Mechanical Engineers 12th Edition

Differ said...

General Knowledge: A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson
Specialist Knowledge: The Complete Metalsmith, Tim McCreight
Other: The Lays of Ancient Rome, Macaulay

James said...

Excellent choices above (Burke, Wooden's Trivium set, Aristotle, Tesla etc).

Mine will build upon the genius works listed above:

1) The Renaissance, DK Books (how Europe built the First World)

2) The Black Swan, N.N. Talib (Most major events are loaded)

3) Lucifer's Hammer by Dr Jerry Pournelle & Larry Niven (excellent examples of preserving knowledge from a coming endarkenment).

Thanks for letting us play the home edition. Aesop, are you going to do a Greatest Hits of this?


Anonymous said...

James, good on you for 'Lucifer's Hammer'.
I can't think why I'd want to help the Eloi. They remind me of liberals.
--Tennessee Budd

Joe Rose said...


John said...

I would also suggest "The Way Things Work" but being as its already suggested I'll go for Diderot's Pictorial Encyclopedia's Volumes I and II for the general knowledge. Most likely more useful for beginning Civilizations as well.
For specialized knowledge I've got to go with Dupuy and Dupuy's The Encyclopedia of Military History of the World. Wicked awesome sack full of learning about tactics and war in general.
More than a thousand pages in one volume.
And for sport, I couldn't live without "101 Best Loved Poems" and a copy of "The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway". I can't get over "A Clean Well Lighted Place", read it regularly.

MMinWA said...

Funny how things stick with you but I distinctly remember walking out of the Skokie Theater after seeing this movie with Glenn Metropolis discussing this very thing when we were 11 years old.

Many great suggestions for reading above so I'm set for quite a while but I've always been a history buff-thanks.

Taking advanced science books without building foundations of understanding is almost pointless. For example, reading my go to reference book, Glass Chemistry, would be gibberish.

1chota said...

Since two of mine are already taken, I will only add "The Art of the Rifle" by Jeff Cooper.

McChuck said...

General: Soldier's Manual of Common Tasks, skill levels 10 and 20-40 (set).

Specific: Summa Theologica by Thomas Acquinas.

Other: The Complete Works of Rudyard Kipling: All novels, short stories, letters and poems (Global Classics)

Anonymous said...

#1. The Odyssey Reader-Styles and Ideas, by Birk and Birk
#2. The Rights of Man, by Thomas Paine
#3. Pre 1965 Boy Scouts handbook

And about a half a dozen cook books, chemistry, biology and horticulture, that sort of thing (non-vegan).
Joe X

Jim Horn said...

For specialty, may I recommend The Feynman Lectures on Physics? The REAL little red books...

Bear Claw Chris Lapp said...

The Fountain Head, Atlas Shrugged, 1984 in no particular order

Sierra47 said...

I see a lot of really good ones...

1) Robert's Rules of Social Order - because if we cannot agree in advance on the rules of engagement for civics, then we will not have civics. (I had wanted to put a nice history book here, but enough people already put them)
2) Gardening when it counts -If your into gardening, this should be the first and last book you ever need to read. This gardening book is Not-Like-The-Others(tm). It was written by someone who grew food for sustenance and business, and has an efficiency-centric approach. You wont find any cheer-leading for growing ancient, heirloom seeds to please God in some way (its more natural, whatever that means) instead of modern open pollinated cultivars for example. I do wish there were a book similar to "when technology fails", but with better organisation and a greater focus on the future, as opposed to the immediate, that I could recommend.
3) O Jerusalem - the story of the Israeli War of Independence.