Best-selling author Neal Stephenson has added a couple dozen books to the Manual for Civilization. Long Now is assembling a corpus of 3,500 volumes that would help sustain or rebuild civilization. This collection will be featured at The Interval, our new public space, as a floor-to-ceiling library available to our visitors. The collection will comprise books suggested by Long Now members and charter donors to the Interval project. We’ve also invited a select group of eminent friends of Long Now, including archivists, artists, authors, educators, scientists and more, to submit lists of the books they believe are essential to Civilization.
Neal Stephenson is an author of speculative fiction whose ground-breaking novels include Snow Crash, Cryptonomicon, and Anathem, a book based in a world of 10,000 Year Clocks inspired by our own Clock of the Long Now. In fact, Neal is both a Long Now member and a charter donor to The Interval. You can join him by making a tax-deductible gift before we open in May. Every donation helps now when we need it most, and we have some wonderful ways to thank you at every level.
For thirty years Neal Stephenson’s writing has been distinguished by how he weaves minutely detailed historical and technical information into his complex stories, usually with a wicked sense of humor. Whether it’s fashion in Victorian England or World War II era cryptography, his dedication to detailed research is readily apparent. The Baroque Cycle novels perhaps most exemplify this, as they focus on key people and events in the development of science across many cultures in the 17th and 18th centuries. We knew his recommendations would be invaluable for this project.
Many of the research sources for his novels can be found in his home library. And it was an honor and privilege that Neal walked me through his library and thoughtfully selected the list of books below for the Manual for Civilization. You can see from his selections that he believes understanding history is essential to creating the best possible future.
- Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volumes 1-6 by Edward Gibbon
- The Odyssey by Homer translated by Robert Fagles
- The Iliad by Homer translated by Robert Fagles
- The: Civilization & Capitalism 15th-18th Century, Volumes 1-3 by Fernand Braudel
- 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann
- Newton’s Principia for the Common Reader by S. Chandrasekhar
- Leviathan: Or the Matter, Forme, and Power of a Commonwealth Ecclesiasticall and Civil by Thomas Hobbes
- The American Practical Navigator: An Epitome of Navigation by Nathaniel Bowditch
- Pax Britannica: A Three Volume Set (Heaven’s Command, Pax Britannica, and Farewell the Trumpets) by James Morris
- Son Of The Morning Star: Custer and the Little Bighorn by Evan S. Connell
- The Siege at Peking by Peter Fleming
- Marlborough, His Life & Times, Volumes 1-6 by Winston Churchill
- The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes
- Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb by Richard Rhodes
- The Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe by Roger Penrose
Many thanks to Neal Stephenson for taking the time and care to recommend these books for our collection. His list adds to suggestions from Kevin Kelly, Maria Popova, Violet Blue, Stewart Brand, Brian Eno and dozens of other Long Now members and supporters.
Starting in late May you can visit the Manual yourself at The Interval, Long Now’s new public venue in San Francisco’s Fort Mason Center. The Interval will also feature Long Now artifacts and prototypes, sound and light art installations by Brian Eno, a cocktail menu designed on the theme of time, fine coffee and tea, and small scale events on long-term thinking and related topics.
Check back for lists from Danny Hillis and Neil Gaiman, amongst others. And for details on The Interval’s May 02014 public opening, as well as pre-opening events for charter donors. Your gifts help us pay for construction, acquire the books for the Manual for Civilization, build the A/V system to present Brian Eno’s art, and everything else that will make The Interval a one-of-a-kind venue worthy of Long Now’s mission to inspire and extol long-term thinking. Thanks for considering a gift.
More from Manual For Civilization —
WNYC’s Radiolab recently released a podcast about what forms of knowledge are worth passing on to future generations. One day in 1961, the famous physicist Richard Feynman stepped in front of a Caltech lecture hall and posed this question to a group ...
Explore over two decades of long-term thinking
- Climate Change