Friday, December 17, 2021

Three Books


A shamelessly-stolen-from-KDT perennial favorite, and it's been a while since I've seen it trotted out.

At the end of The Time Machine (MGM 1960; we shall brook no reference to the atrocious 2002 remake) inventor H. George Wells returns to the distant future, to attempt to rebuild society from scratch amongst the vacuously braindead Eloi (think of a freshmen history class at Berzerkley). He takes with him only three books.

Your turn. "Which three books would you choose?"

Rules: The Dictionary (any dictionary), any multi-volume encyclopedias, and the Bible are off the table. So are any other multi-volume collections of books. You want a one-volume Complete Works Of Shakespeare, and I'll let it slide. Trying to slip in the Durant's Story Of Civilization will not fly.

Any selection violating those few rules will never appear. Otherwise, it's all fair game in Comments.

Bear well in mind that sooner rather than later, this may very well prove to be far more than merely an academic exercise.


Anonymous said...

Unintended Consequences
Principles of Personal Defense

McChuck said...

Ray's New Higher Arithmetic
Sciencia (Walker)
The Complete Kipling

Aesop said...

In the spirit of Time Enough At Last, both your hard drives crashed.
You have died of dysentery.

Mark said...

OK, I'll play.

Beginning with the premise that we're trying to recreate WESTERN Civilization.

Plato's Republic (because Greek philosophy is the beginning of Western Civilization)

Aquinas' Summa Theologica (because to understand Western Civilization you have to understand the Judeo-Christian mindset)

Hobbe's Leviathan (if for no other reason than that it points out the NEED for Civilization, man in his natural state being doomed to live a life that is "solitary, poore, nasty, brutish and short".

Once given the underpinnings of actual successful civilization, science, engineering, art etc will follow apace.

Mark D

grumpy said...

The Book of Common Prayer, 1662 edition
Handley's Principles of Engineering
Locke's Two Treatises of Government

Thomas said...

1984 - George Orwell
Starship Troopers - Robert Heinlein
The Complete Far Side - Gary Larson

Bear Claw Chris Lapp said...

Unintended Consequences.
The Three Lives of James Madison.
Yeats compilation.

Vince said...

Value Engineering: Practical Applications

Prentice Hall Mathematics: Pre-Algebra; ALL-IN-ONE Student Workbook

The Constitution of the United States of America: The Declaration of Independence, The Bill of Rights

There was no mention of books available to Wells in his own time so I went at it as if I were the one doing the rebuilding.

stencil said...

1960? The Chemical Rubber Handbook, Machinery's Handbook, and the RCA Radiotron Designer's Handbook.
Write your own poetry.

Plague Monk said...

Atlas Shrugged
The Federalist Papers
Machinery's Handbook
(Not sure if MH is considered an encyclopedia under your terms. If so, substitute Starship Troopers)

Rick T said...

3 Foxfire volumes:
Volume 5: Making iron and guns, blacksmithing, hunting
Volume 11: Plant use, preserving, cooking, hunting, fishing
Volume 1: Vittles, log cabins, crafts, planting by signs

Anonymous said...

To be taken into account.....he took books already on his bookshelf at home...
I need to upgrade my library somewhat...

Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

If we are talking about educating Elohim, The kids book of simple machines, Tom Brown's field guide to wilderness survival and a basic mathematics book.

For post collapse survival in this society my choices would be different. Although I would still include Tom Brown's field guide I would add Where there is no doctor and basic chemistry.

jl said...

Storey's Basic Country Skills
-John Storey

Gaia's Garden: A guide to homescale permaculture
-Toby Hemenway

Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's childhood pal.
-Christopher Moore

MagisterGreen said...

Gray's Anatomy
Sowell's Basic Economics
Aquinas' Summa Theologica

Anonymous said...

5000 year leap ?

Joe Wooten said...

Two textbooks:
Marks Handbook of Mechanical Engineering

Spin said...

Shakespeare Folio for light reading
Marks Handbook of Mechanical Engineering for rebuilding
PDR drugs for fun and profit


Michael said...

Chuckling sorry Aesop that knowledge is firmly inside me and my MAG's brains. Field sanitation and water purification is something I teach folks and have DONE in 3rd world countries for over a decade since I retired from Uncle Sam.

My selection is for those after me IF I fail to teach my replacements.

ALSO given the 3 previous comments None of them mentioned anything about Field Sanitation nor water purification. So, BAM they be dead from dysentery. Opps....

Although I must admit I am ORDERING a Copy of Sciencia as soon as I get done with this post. THAT Book looks Interesting.

Rollory said...

A high school calculus text, a high school chemistry text, and the 1994 Oxford Classics abridged edition of James George Frazer's "The Golden Bough".

Anonymous said...

The complete Far Side __G. Larson
Democracy in America__Tocqueville
Irish Whiskey;A History Of Distilling, The Spirit Trade, And Excise Controls In Ireland
by Edward B. McGuire

enn ess said...

Niccolo Machiavelli - Sir Isaac Newton - Adam Smith wealth of Nations, and there are others amounting to probably 100 or more that contain all the info you need to rebuild a functioning society. But sine I'm limited to three, I'll choose to stay right here where I am.

Toxicavenger said...

Gieck's Engineering Formulas
The Federalist Papers
Grey's Anatomy

Anonymous said...

Lord of the Flies
Crime and Punishment
The Stand

Mike Guenther said...

Sun Tzu's The Art of War

Homer's The Illiad/Odyssey (combined in one book

Gibbon's The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire (one huge ass book)

Skyler the Weird said...

Audel's Gardeners and Growers Guide
Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy.
FM21-76 Army survival manual

5stonegames said...

One should be

The Book: The Ultimate Guide To Rebuilding A Civilization . I am not sure about the other two

Hammer's Thor said...

So some have already been mentioned, but I'll throw in my choices. None of these may help with dysentery, but for those that don't die from it, these could be important for future generations:
Atlas Shrugged
The Art of War
Tom Sawyer

JL said...

1.) Fieldbook for Canadian Scouting OR Scouting for Boys

2.) Resistance to Tyranny by Joseph P. Martino

3.) Animal Farm

Wheel said...

The Fountainhead (Anthem by Ayn Rand would work too)
Physician's Desk Reference
Mark's Handbook of Mechanical Engineering (if we can't have that, then Robert's Rules of Order)

Michael Powers said...

The Choir Boys-wambaugh...still a good luck at how the cops act and think.

Lord of the flies

The republic...Plato

Anonymous said...

1. Euclid's Elements
2. Aesop's Fables
3. Newton's Principia

Anonymous said...

Where There Is No Doctor
Where There Is No Dentist
One of my blacksmithing texts
Boat Guy

Jim Horn said...

The Feynman Lectures on Physics (Vol 1 if not all 3).
The Federalist Papers.

Bill Henry said...

Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica Issac Newton
Rise and Fall of the Third Reich - William Shirer
Anything by Patrick O Brian

Robin Datta said...

The first two are basically separate books:
3. Gudhartha Dipika (one of the very many commentaries on the Gita)

The Old Freedom Fighter said...

Coup d'Etat: (A practical handbook) on how to overthrow any government, any time, any where, any place. Written by Edward N. Luttwak back in 1968, your comprehensive guide to getting rid of the greatest nemesis ever to man, whether it be capitalism, communism or anything in between. A personal favorite of mind for the past 50+ years!

By the way, back in early 1961, I had choice of going to see the "Time Machine" or the "The Magnificent Seven" one night. Guess which one I chose? Clue, it begins with one of the best, rousing themes of any flick, ever.

pyrrhus said...

Dirt (and the collapse of civilizations)
Complete Works of Aristotle
Desolation Island, by Patrick O'Brien

Pragmatic Skeptic said...

The Household Cyclopedia (1881)
Art of War

Nick Flandrey said...

For those with a bigger budget...

1. Handbook of engineering fundamentals. Wiley.

2. Some diagnostic manual from about 1970, or earlier, because - no meds, no labs, no imaging.

3. Someone's farm manual from 1950 or earlier, because - no machines, no sprays, no cultivars.

or alternatively

1. Engineering in Emergencies, A practical guide for relief workers.
2. the Special Forces medical book
3. Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning: Traditional Techniques Using Salt, Oil, Sugar, Alcohol, Vinegar, Drying, Cold Storage, and Lactic Fermentation

or if we're scavenging in the ruins

1. a recent PDR.
2. How Things Work
3. Machinery's Handbook


Nick Flandrey said...

I'm looking at the bookshelf in my office.

3 ft of engineering and math, including log tables, most pre-1950.
4 ft of radio and electronics, and electrical
1 ft of gun, gunsmithing, gun identification
3 ft machine shop and metal working
3 ft of construction, wood and electrical, commercial and residential
2 ft of camping, woodcraft, scouting
1 ft of sailing, navigation, seamanship
3 ft of 'handbooks' and pocket guides for various trades
2 ft of vet and animal husbandry
2 ft of Foxfire, 1-8 plus wine making

in the other room,

12 feet of classics, mostly in single volume collections by author, plus classical works, and US founding docs, and some other history
6 ft of gardening, orcharding, foraging, basically plants
3 ft of medical (most of my practical medical is offsite, where I have another 2 ft)
2 ft of woodworking, cabinet and furniture making
2 ft of How it's made, how it works, popular science and science history
3 ft famous plays
3 ft of cookbooks, most focused on wild game, "church lady" recipe collections, and general purpose books pre-1970s

and another couple feet of stuff like how sundials work and are made, surveying, knots, climbing, more math and geometry, and plant and animal identification.

There is also a great deal of contemporary fiction... and offsite another 6 feet of guns, hunting, fishing, and similar.

That's just the sort of stuff I can remember or see from where I sitting at the moment.

I like books, and I like older books. I keep trying to get the 1965 Encyclopedia Britannica but keep missing out. I've got a set of one of the others from the early 70s until I finally get the Britannica. I foolishly sold an almost complete set of The Harvard Library on a Shelf, for very little money. I'll be kicking myself for that one for a while.

I add books pretty much every week, but not always to the apocalypse library.


John Wilder said...

(Grins in 1959 Britannica)

Anonymous said...

1) Machinery's Handbook; any version between 1930 and 1940

2) The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy

3) The Prince, by Niccolo Machiavelli
alternate: The Art of War by Sun Tzu

The three would tell you how to deal with enemies, the tools to do it, and means of keeping your troops and population alive in combat and afterward. A number of sources have claimed WWII was the first major conflict there fewer troops were lost from disease than from combat.

The Merck manual is useful mostly for what is *possible*; a pre-WWII general medical book, or one aimed at survival or "third world" medicine, might be more suitable.


Anonymous said...

" attempt to rebuild society from scratch amongst the vacuously braindead Eloi"

It was crumbling down about them, but the Eloi had some version of a society. They did not have passion, drive, honor, loyalty, or love (fraternal or otherwise). All the calculus and physics, gardening and medical knowledge in the world would make no difference.

The Glory of the Trenches -- Coningsby Dawson
Starship Troopers -- Heinlein
The Screwtape Letters -- CS Lewis

Aesop said...

@Anonymous 4:11P,

Ah, but you're thinking of the Pre-Eloi. Once their Morloch zookeepers were destroyed, the gravy train ended, and they would suddenly be keen to learn everything they needed to fend for themselves.

"When the pupil is ready, the teacher will appear."

In this case, cold and hunger, two of the best lesson masters in human history.

Anonymous said...

@Aesop -- I don't know about pre- or post-, but I dug out the book and realized my suggestions would make as much sense as Quantum Physics to the Eloi of the Upper World. I am now hoping folks come up with some genuinely practical lists for the here-and-now humans ...