Rollin' Like Sisyphus

Bug Out Books And The Bedrock Of The Next Civilization

Posted in A Chronicle Of Decline by Huckleberry on May 15, 2014

So all of the Doomsaying that I’ve been writing about has had my wife and I going back and forth on a few things, one of which is the absolute must-have books that may not be come by easily in the post-apocalypse.
While I myself don’t envision books – physical or electronic – going away, it’s an interesting thought experiment that we’ve been trading back and forth on for a few days.
The premise: You have limited space, what are the absolutely crucial 30 books you need to help lay a foundation for your posterity.
I like this list because it isn’t so much about “best” or “most important” but about the books that best exemplify the things we only wish to carry forward. This means that, instead of the entire collected works of Shakespeare, maybe we just take a couple of the tragedies, a couple of the comedies, and squeeze enough room for Milton, Kierkegaard and Aquinas instead of letting 12th Night collect dust on the shelf.
It also maybe means including books that are by no means the “best” of anything, but perhaps will help illustrate the seeds of our current decline as a warning shot to our posterity; books such as Writing and Difference or Das Kapital for example, though I will not put those on my list.
I don’t know.
The wife is currently composing her list.
Here is mine, in no particular order:

    1) Paradise Lost – John Milton
    2) René Descartes’s Principles of Philosophy, Demonstrated According to the Geometric Method – Benedict de Spinoza
    3) Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain
    4) Puddin’head Wilson And Those Extraordinary Twins – Mark Twain
    5) On General Relativity – Albert Einstein
    6) The Divine Comedy – Dante Alighieri
    7) Summa Theologica – Thomas Aquinas
    8) Macbeth – William Shakespeare
    9) Hamlet – William Shakespeare
    10) As I Lay Dying – William Faulkner
    11) The Principia: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy – Isaac Newton
    12) The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire — Edward Gibbon
    13) The History of the Peloponnesian War – Thucydides
    14) Man, Economy & State – Murray Rothbard
    15) Discipline & Punish – Michel Foucault
    16) Moby Dick – Herman Melville
    17) Critique of Pure Reason – Immanuel Kant
    18) The Journals of Soren Kierkegaard – Soren Kierkegaard
    19) The Gay Science – Friedrich Nietzsche
    20) Twice-Told Tales – Nathaniel Hawthorne
    21) Wealth of Nations – Adam Smith
    22) Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
    23) The Three Musketeers – Alexander Dumas
    24) Nova Scientia* – Niccolo Tartaglia
    25) First Principles of Atomic Physics – Richard Franklin Humphreys, Robert Beringer
    26) The Complete Short Story Collection of Edgar Allen Poe – Edgar Allen Poe
    27) Poetics – Aristotle
    28) Illiad/Oddessy – Homer
    29) Aeneid – Virgil
    30) The Big Sleep – Raymond Chandler
    30a) Tishomingo Blues – Elmore Leonard

Not cheating. I’ll just stuff that last one in my ruck or something. It’s barely larger than a deck of cards, for fuck’s sake.
Anyway.
When the wife is done, I’ll throw her list up here. If you want to denigrate any of my choices and offer your own suggestions, please feel free to do so. If you would like me to explain or defend a particular selection(s), ask and I will do so.
Note: I don’t count books like the Bible in this. Obviously you’re making room for your doctrinal religious texts. Also note: this doesn’t count how-to or repair manuals, blueprints, survival guides, field manuals or anything else designed to get you through the day-to-day. I assume you’ve already cleared a space in your head or home for whatever you need in that area.
This exercise is about laying foundations for tomorrow, not getting through today.
* This is a must-read for anyone interested ballistics. Tartaglia was tasked with finding the maximum potential range of Italian military artillery. What he discovered was a new type of math, laying the groundwork for everything Galileo would later “discover” through his experiments on falling bodies. This book contains all of the fundamentals on modern ballistics, chronicles the development of the Gunner’s Quadrant, and includes ballistics tables for every gun in the known world at the time**.
** Admittedly, 16th century Europe wasn’t exactly awash in guns.

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10 Responses

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  1. El Borak said, on May 15, 2014 at 08:56

    Two Twains? You Americans are all the same… I’d like to swap in Aurelius’ Meditations or Pascal’s Penses for Puddin’head Wilson, please.

    • Huckleberry said, on May 15, 2014 at 09:07

      Oh my.
      Honestly, if it has to be just the one Twain, we’re taking out Huckleberry Finn.
      Puddin’head is the better book.

      • El Borak said, on May 15, 2014 at 18:32

        Sure, but given the criteria, I’d have thought you’d have gone with Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.

      • Huckleberry said, on May 16, 2014 at 09:59

        I did think about that one too, but at the heart of Pudd’nhead is a scathing critique of everything that’s wrong with government and systems of power, combined with the asides from Wilson’s calendar, many of which are inspired genius:

        – Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear — not absence of fear. Except a creature be part coward, it is not a compliment to say it is brave; it is merely a loose misapplication of the word. Consider the flea! — incomparably the bravest of all the creatures of God, if ignorance of fear were courage. Whether you are asleep or awake he will attack you, caring nothing for the fact that in bulk and strength you are to him as are the massed armies of the earth to a sucking child; he lives both day and night and all days and nights in the very lap of peril and the immediate presence of death, and yet is no more afraid than is the man who walks the streets of a city that was threatened by an earthquake ten centuries before. When we speak of Clive, Nelson, and Putnam as men who “didn’t know what fear was,” we ought always to add the flea — and put him at the head of the procession.

        – October. This is one of the peculiarly dangerous months to speculate in stocks in. The others are July, January, September, April, November, May, March, June, December, August, and February.

        – The true Southern watermelon is a boon apart, and not to be mentioned with commoner things. It is chief of this world’s luxuries, king by the grace of God over all the fruits of the earth. When one has tasted it, he knows what the angels eat. It was not a Southern watermelon that Eve took: we know it because she repented.

        – Gratitude and treachery are merely the two extremities of the same procession. You have seen all of it that is worth staying for when the band and the gaudy officials have gone by.

        C’mon now.

  2. Huckleberry said, on May 15, 2014 at 10:16

    But I do agree, the Meditations belong on the list.
    See, this is why the exercise is hard.

  3. Giraffe said, on May 15, 2014 at 10:37

    I’d say, bring yer books, but throw in a bunch more on a usb drive or three. Civilization as we know it will be interrupted, but will resume after awhile. Hopefully people will be free to choose which books to read at that point. If not, perhaps in time they will again. I don’t think we will lose the books, unless Islam takes over.

    I’ve only read about a half dozen of the works you’ve listed, so I am unqualified to comment on that. Other than I would say we should concentrate on the great American literature and let the Europeans save their own. Perhaps that is stupid, but I think their works have been around longer and copies exist in more places.

    Maybe think about who would be banning books, what books they’d ban, and save those.

    • Huckleberry said, on May 15, 2014 at 13:30

      let the Europeans save their own

      I would be inclined to agree, except as you noted, Islam is a problem, and much more of one there than here.

  4. Doom said, on May 15, 2014 at 13:02

    Gee, Wally, nice collection. I’ve even read most of them. Not sure I completely agree, but I wouldn’t complain too much. The only major thing I see missing is the bible. Then again, maybe that isn’t your thing? The bible is the first, well before Aquinas… though as barely as human writing compared to the divine goes. Though I consider St Aquinas to be more than faithful… dem natural sciences, is it? Whatever. More to the lad than just holy writ, to be sure.

    Actually, I went through a love-hate affair with Nietzsche before settling on thinking he had some fine points which… I know most moderns don’t get and which, too, I don’t think he himself got. Interesting choice, if hemmed by faith. Something I was losing when… having my initial affair with his ideas… (obviously?).

    As to thirty books? F.U. I’m NOT taking a life raft, or (heaven forbid) a life jacket. I got off the Titanic before she left port! Okay, it wasn’t wisdom, humility, foresight, or any right reason. I was ill, so got off the ship to see a doc, then missed the sailing. But I’ll take it, now. 🙂 And my library.

    • Huckleberry said, on May 15, 2014 at 13:29

      Well, I did say that the Bible wasn’t included in this list, because I assume it would be included separate from this.
      Same for manuals and guides.

      • Doom said, on May 15, 2014 at 13:40

        Reading comprehension, anyone, Bueller, Bueller? Okies, I must have missed that.


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