Thursday Night Bar Fight #3: The Thinking Person’s Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins Quandary


Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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181 Responses

  1. Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

    Scarne’s New Complete Guide to Gambling
    The Feyman Lectures on Physics (boxed set) – yes, this is technically three volumes, but you gotta be able to find them all bound in one book somewhere. So just that copy.
    An Introduction to General Systems Theory.Report

  2. Avatar Pub Editor says:

    The Oddyssey seems appropriate under the circumstances, as well as being a foundational text for Western culture and a story that lends itself to being read aloud to a group (indeed, was designed as such by the bards).Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

      I thought about this factor, but humanity’s been pretty good at generating fables across all times and spaces regardless of circumstances. And most of the fables wind up covering the same human behaviors.

      It’d be a shame to lose Willie, but Shakespeare’s speaking truths that are pretty self evident after a couple of generations anyway.Report

      • Avatar Pub Editor says:

        Fair points, but to me there’s a value to having links to past culture. And also, there are non-trivial differences between being able to do something, being able to do something well, and being one of the best in the world (or one of the best in human history) at doing something.

        Query to OP whether the Feynman Lectures or Euclid’s Elements would be encompassed by the “various How-To books” already in the life boat.Report

  3. Avatar Glyph says:

    Lord of the Flies, The Prince, and, to blow off steam, a big sudoku book.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      I was tempted to make a joke about taking “The Little Prince” instead because it’ll take up less room, which made me think of what a mashup between “The Prince” and “The Little Prince” would be, and now I really just want someone smarter than I to figure out what that’d look like and write up a few dummy excerpts.Report

  4. Avatar James Hanley says:

    If y’all push me off the lifeboat, you can squeeze in a few more books. The world would surely be profit from the exchange.Report

  5. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Whatever book inspired the Hamster dance.Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      I have no idea what the Hamster dance is, but I can tell you that it is interacting in strange ways with “The Humpty Dance” in my head.Report

      • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

        Dammit, now I need to listen to the Humpty Dance.Report

        • Avatar Glyph says:

          It’s your chance to do the hump!

          (sorry Russell).Report

          • Avatar Kazzy says:

            You don’t know what the Hamster Dance is? Were you not on the internet in middle school?Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              Oh, Kazzy. That came out when I was in grad school. Couldn’t you have just said, “in the late ’90s,” you bastard?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Heh. Sorry. To make it up, I thought of you when I said the following to a student, in response to his complaints that others were singing too loud/much:
                “Sometimes people are going to do things you don’t like and there will be nothing you can do about it. You’ll just have to deal with it. Asking me to help won’t do anything.”Report

  6. Avatar NewDealer says:

    1. A Rememberance of Things Past/In Search of Lost Time by Proust

    2. A Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell

    3. A Norton Anthology of Shakespeare

    Those are long enough to keep me entertained for a whileReport

  7. Avatar zic says:

    The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women. If we’re starting over, I want to start with a lady’s POV.

    Readable Rhymes for the Very Young, edited by Arnold Lobel, For the children that will be.

    and Godel, Escher, Bach because I might finally have quiet time to figure it out.Report

  8. Avatar Kim says:

    Social Contract
    Wealth of Nations
    (… been reading “embers of the world”)
    so three more, to throw to the crowd:
    Two New Sciences
    Skeptical Chymist

  9. Avatar James Hanley says:

    I’d argue that we cover three sets of “things” (whatever “things” in human life we consider most important).

    For politics, I’d battle for taking The Calculus of Consent by James Buchanan and Gordon Tullock, as our basic political theory text.

    For literature, I had several thoughts, but zic’s idea about a Norton anthology beat all of mine. I’d be content with any one of them and would be willing to grab randomly, but since she called out Anthology of Literature by Women first, I’ll support that choice.

    What’s the other crucial “thing” to cover? Science, I think, but I’m not sure what book to recommend.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      I threw out three above you. They’re pretty old.
      Maybe Feynmann would be a better choice?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        I’m not really qualified to comment on your choices, so I wasn’t intending to reject them. Feynman might be a good choice. I think the problem is that the sciences cover so much territory that we probably can’t choose one book that does them all anything remotely resembling justice. We might have to pick and choose one or a couple of disciplines to cover, and that’s where much of my sticking point comes in. My personal leaning is toward something by Dawkins, but I don’t know that evolution is really the most important thing for us to preserve knowledge of.Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          I’m a physics major. But i’d stick to physics — at least for one book, simply because it’s the simplest science to learn, to teach, and it can take you pretty far.

          We know so much less about biology, if I had to pick one of the mains, I’d leave it out.

          Without a lot of tech, much of biology isn’t useful.

          hmmm… Maybe we ought to include a book on metallurgy!Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew says:

          James, check out my comment here suggesting a book for the pure-science part of your comment. I agree that a book on evolution would be appropriate, not because it’s necessarily the most scientifically significant development of modern science (can that even be defined?), but because it’s (I’d argue) one of the two most important ideas culturally, politically, and philosophically to come out of, well really all of what we know as “science” (natural philosophy as informed by careful observation of the world done since the Renaissance). (The other being the heliocentrism, and I would say that a good exposition of the political/cultural/philosophical, and of course scientific, impact of Copernicus and/or Gallileo would be as good a choice as the work I’m about to name.) The book I’d recommend is Dennett’s Darwin’s Dangerous Idea. I won’t describe it because I assume you know it better than I do. I’ll just say that its accessibility and the philosophical context for the revolutionary nature of Darwin’s ideas make it stand out as a tool for teaching the substance of an important set of scientific ideas, but also the process by which they were arrived and became accepted, and the social and philosophical impact they had when they were.

          I haven’t read a lot of Dawkins, but my sense is that with him you get a lot on the eviednce for the theories themselves and a fair bit on the most specific philosophical implications of the scientific discoveries, but less on their impact on the broader philosophical status quo extant when they occurred. As I say in the other comment, over the long term I think the Principia is probably the best and most sustaining choice. I just fear it would sit on the shelf for a couple generations before some precocious kids comes along and says, ‘What’s this all about?’Report

          • Avatar James Hanley says:

            I doubt I know it better than you do. I have it, I think, and I know I’ve skimmed parts of it. But it is indeed a good selection. I had thought of Dawkins, but off the top of my head could only come up with The Selfish Gene and River Out of Eden. Yours is a far better recommendation.Report

            • Avatar Michael Drew says:

              Thanks. It’s an enjoyable read.Report

            • Avatar Chris says:

              Wait, no Mayr? No Gould? (I’m kidding, in case it’s not obvious.) The second one does have the benefit that it will take up your first 6 months on the island.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Ooh, Mayr would be cool. Gould I’m not fond of. He’s an amazingly mixed bag, having been one of the great popularizers of evolutionary theory and also one of the most responsible for public confusions about it (oddly, like the Lysenkoists, he was driven by political ideology more than science). And his behavior toward E.O. Wilson was inexcusable.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                I’ve never really liked Gould, not because I have any horse in the evolutionary theory debate… umm… race (sorry, had to make that figure of speech work), but precisely because of his behavior. Dawkins I wish had stuck to writing about biology, because he was very accessible. Dennett… well, he looks like Santa.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew says:


      I picked up The Calculus of Consent off of a free book (well, Take-A-Book-Leave-A-Book) shelf (I left a book!) at my grocery co-op in Madison a couple years ago, before Buchanan passed, and hence before I knew much more than his bio on he cover said (it’s an old copy, probably from the seventies, maybe the sixties). When he died and I had occasion to learn how important he was, I thought to myself that i should grab it and take a closer look at it… but I still wasn’t sure if this was one of the major works that established his place, or more of a sidelight (it’s a pretty inauspicious-looking volume). (Yes, I could just look that up, but, ya know, life.) So I’m actually really excited that this work turns out to be certainly the one to read by him, at least by your lights (which are not inconsiderable on the question).

      Even still, I find your choice of it and description here to be pretty remarkable. Political theory (being a subject which that is to a great extent more a part of philosophy than of political science), it seems to me, grants an unusual amount of authority to, basically, large works of straightforward first-principles argumentation. Is there another field that venerates works like The Republic or the Second Treatise of Government the way political theory does, other than philosophy itself? Perhaps, but it still seems distinctive to me.

      In that context, coming from a political scientist, this statement about Buchanan is a significant one (I didn’t want you to think that significance went lost on all the commenters, though I’m late to this post). Beyond just significance as a text on political theory, arguing for including it as the sole text on all matters governmental to be packed on this notional Ark of Tod’s (obviously not as a first best choice, but under the constraint that there be just one…) suggests you also think it would be better to have that along than, say, the Federalist Papers or another history of the U.S. constitution, Blackstone, or other works on how laws work.should work from first principles (which I take C of C to be to some extent, but I would think there’s a lot more out there on that topic that in some sense isn’t political theory so much as applied legal theory…).

      In other words, this isn’t a significant choice just for a political scientist who wants to name an important book, but from one contemplating what basic argument/account would be best to have there at the start of a new society/polity. Well, that’s a big deal (and I presume you hoped that this would be noticed by at least some readers). So please consider this an invitation/request for you to write up your full explanation of why you consider that to be, from the perspective of a political scientist of your persuasion, the one book that would be best to have around as we planned (the government of) our new island society. (When/if you have time.) (…Or maybe it’s already written!)


      • Avatar James Hanley says:


        Indeed it’s seminal. Buchanan and Tullock are generally considered the pioneers of public choice theory. It’s not necessarily a relaxing read, though. And it’s not necessarily the collection I would put together if I had time to create an edited volume of papers before the ship sank, but it would chart a course.

        And you’re right about political science fetishizing Plato, Locke, etc. I find it all a bit horrendous. That’s why I like public choice theory, because it gets away from all the pure speculation of logic and starts examining real world examples in more depth. It begins with some basic postulates about human behavior and the effects of institutional design and builds from that by analyzing them in different situations.

        It’s not perfect, and it’s certainly not the sum of all knowledge, even political knowledge. But if we have to recreate society, there’s going to be demand for government, or at least governance, and nothing does a better job of explaining to us the difficulty of attaining good government than public choice theory (IMO, YMMV, ETC).Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew says:

          Awesome, thanks. I have this thing about serendipity and particular copies of particular books. I don’t believe in fate, but I think it’s pretty interesting that I happened upon that volume and upon, well, you via this blog, around the same time, but that this intersection only now becomes highlighted in this way. Just another cool moment on the internet.Report

  10. Avatar Ethan Gach says:

    The Republic, Count of Monte Cristo, Kirby’s Fourth World Omnibus.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      I hope I don’t offend if I argue against The Republic. Assuming we’re only going to be able to take one work of political theory, I think we should choose one that actually would be a useful foundation for building a political system. Not to knock The Republic’s tremendous historical and intellectual value, but I don’t think it’s the one single work on political theory I’d take into the future.Report

  11. Avatar fnord says:

    How loosely are we defining How To book here? I mean, obviously it includes the stuff useful for immediate survival. But, several generations later when our descendents are starting to rebuild civilization, will they find things like The Industrial Revolution: A How To Guide and Sanitation: A Guide To Avoiding Pestilence For Novice City Builders in the ancestral library?Report

  12. Infinite Jest, Till We Have Faces, and an unabridged copy of the complete works of Shakespeare.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

      Till We have Faces is the first I had never heard of; seeing that it’s by CS Lewis makes me a tad chagrined.Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      Infinite Jest was the most blatant case of false advertising since my suit against the movie The Never-Ending Story.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        And Philip Roth’s The Great American Novel was only very good.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        Gravity’s Rainbow.

        /friend’s company did special effects on NES. I’ve still not the heart to say how horrid I thought they were.Report

      • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

        I found myself wishing the other day that I was re-reading Infinite Jest. And, indeed, that could spend my entire life doing nothing but re-reading Infinite Jest.

        It works almost as well as advertised.Report

    • Avatar Jeff No-Last-Name says:

      Can we change that to an annotated unabridged Shakespeare? Preferably by Martin Gardner or Isaac Asimov?Report

  13. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    I have to say, I’m a little surprised that no one has even mentioned the Bible. I’m not a believer, and I might choose that for one of my three.Report

  14. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    Shelby Foote’s: The Civil War: A Narrative
    To Kill a Mockingbird
    The New Testament

    * On the last choice, I’m not particularly devout and I don’t for a second believe it is The Word of God but there’s still some pretty good advice in there.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

      “The New Testament”

      There we go. OOC, why not the whole Bible anthology?

      “Shelby Foote’s: The Civil War: A Narrative”

      I love this choice. May I ask why you made it?Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

        The Old Testament is too ripe for interpretation that leads to stoning and violence. The New Testament, especially Letters, provides some more ‘enlightened’ guidance IMO.

        As for Foote, his history of the Civil War isn’t the best but it’s one of the most complete and it reads like fiction. It’s both a cautionary tale and a tale of heroism and important events. And yeah, it’s a little bit idealistic of the South, but hey, I love that stuff.Report

        • Avatar Mopey Duns says:

          Ah!! I just finished reading that. I would not pick it for the island, but it is a wonderful history. I admit to feeling very conflicted by the scene near the end when (spoiler alert) Davis is being kept chained up in a dark cell. First thought was, terrible thing to do to a man. Second thought; he fought in large part for the right to do that and more to millions of others.

          I admit that my initial interest in Foote was based solely on finding out that he was Walker Percy’s best friend, however.Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

            I was stunned by Davis’s hypocrisy in thinking that being chained was an unspeakable violation. I don’t think Foote intended that reaction.Report

            • Avatar Mopey Duns says:

              It was only an unspeakable violation when it happened to people.

              But then, moral blindness is a universal human failing.

              I think you do too little credit to Foote, however. He may be a Southerner, but he never struck me as being a big fan of slavery. He may not have dwelt on slavery, but he faced up to, for example, the horrendous response by the South when they encountered black men in uniform (hint: it wasn’t usually to take them prisoner).Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                You’ve read it more recently that I have, but I don’t recall Foote making any specific reference to slavery at that point. And Davis’s reaction to being put in irons wasn’t really about slavery either: he was denying being a criminal, rather than a prisoner of war. Thus I felt that the slavery comparison was something I brought to the table.

                I agree that Foote isn’t an apologist for slavery or racial prejudice.Report

    • Avatar NewDealer says:

      There is no New Testmanent without Torah

      There is no Torah without TalmudReport

      • Avatar Anonymous says:

        +1. I’m really pissed off at people who keep shitting on the Tanakh. At least to me, its endlessly more sensible than the New Testament and leads to more rigorous intellectual activity.Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          Yes, sensible. yes, more rigorous. Also less squishy…Report

          • Avatar Anonymous says:

            Thats true. The Tanakh doesn’t shy away from the more unpleseant aspects of life.* The Tanakh ranges from very clear to rather vague in the meaning of its pasages. “Thou shall not commit adultery” is a pretty clear in its meaning. “You shall not cook a calf in its own mother’s milk” is not. To understand the meaning you need to debate the pasages and make comparisons. Its what gave us the Talmud.

            *The Tanakh is also more open to the joys of life. There is nothing in the New Testament that celebrates romantic love and sex like the Song of Songs. The Tanakh is much less puritanical than the New Testament and the Qu’Ran.Report

    • Avatar Jeff No-Last-Name says:

      Rather than the New Testament, I’d rather have a book that explores different ways of looking at the Gospels (which are the best part of the NT anyway). Or perhaps a book of religious critique that examines several of the world religions.

      It would be good for THBFs if nothing else [grin]Report

  15. Avatar Christopher Carr says:

    Les Miserables – to guide the new society as it develops, to teach empathy and humanity and what’s important

    Tom Brown’s Guide to Wild Edible and Medicinal Plants – self-explanatory

    Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy – this will probably be more useful that Origin of Species

    The three above choices give the islanders culture, health, and basic science.

    Honorable mention: Grimm’s Fairy Tales, People’s History of the United States, On the Origin of Species, Lord of the Flies (a tale of the taboo), The Ultimate Guide to US Army Survival Skills, Tactics, and Techniques, anything by Carl Sagan (but not Contact)Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      I chose Lord of the Flies above. I figured that was a good “don’t do this” cautionary text, while The Prince functions both as a “what-to-do” AND a “this is what’s being done to you” text.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        I think you guys have a different understanding of human nature than I do.

        I picture a bunch of people on an island reading Lord of the Flies and saying, “Hey! We could get a conch!” and looking around to see who was the fattest so they could start calling him Piggy.Report

  16. Avatar Kim says:

    What we’re missing, here, is Comedy.
    Politics, we got, religion we got — even science!

    But Comedy? That is important stuff, folks!Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      To wit, I suggest: American Jewish Humor.
      If it can get a man to convert, then it’s good enough to take on an Island.Report

    • Avatar zic says:

      (I did suggest Readable Rhymes for the Very Young. Poetry and comedy, and the single most often requested bed-time reading in our home.)Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

      Kim –

      This is making me picture a Douglas-Adams like future, where the island’s future descendants all pray to the great Chicken that Crosses, and await the Great Coming of the Arab, the Jew and the Catholic.Report

    • Avatar Pinky says:

      Truly great comedy isn’t necessarily written. Anywhere humans go, there’s going to be humor (because we’re ridiculous). A group of friends is going to produce humor comparable to the great works. A thousand poets and playwrights aren’t going to get close to Shakespeare.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Yes. Of course we’re ridiculous. But it takes a real wit to point that out.

        /And I want to preserve that aspect of human society/

        Certain groups of people (few present) aren’t good with humor. I wish one of the foundational books to be humorous.

        And, no, a group of friends does not produce humor comparable to the great works.Report

        • Avatar Pinky says:

          Isn’t humor by its nature reactionary? It’s a response to something else. I see that Hitchhiker’s Guide was on one list. It’s funny – not the funniest – but it’s entirely a reaction to a common approach to fiction. Its deus ex machina style doesn’t make sense as a foundational document.

          I should say that not all humor is reactionary. (I’m fleshing out this theory as I type.) Or maybe the humor of Shakespeare is a response to the human condition, whereas the humor of The Onion is solely derived from its cultural context. You have to understand the style of horoscopes, for example, to be amused by The Onion’s horoscopes. There may be a benefit to founding a society on three books, one of which undercuts the others. It may encourage a less dogmatic type of thinking. But I think the tradeoff is too great. If you were leaving the library of the sinking ship, would you really put down your copy of Shakespeare and pick up the Hitchhiker’s Guide or some other comic work?Report

          • Avatar Kim says:

            Yes. But I’ve chosen it as much for its philosophical implications, and ponderings, as for its comedic value.

            Shakespeare’s humor tends to be of the stage variety, undercutting tension — comedic relief. As such, it is reactionary, but reactionary to the greater work. Full Metal Fumoffu falls within that category.

            I believe you’re discounting physical humor, in general with your theory. Not that I have a better one.Report

            • Avatar Pinky says:

              I’m not familiar with Doumei’s work (but in the grand tradition of internet debate I’m not letting ignorance slow me down).Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        I agree that truly great comedy isn’t necessarily written.
        That’s why I’m not choosing Pratchett, but Doumei (see below).Report

  17. Avatar zic says:

    There are many deep-thought adult books here.

    But I struggle with this; because a major purpose of any book selected would be for teaching the children. This will be a foundation upon which to build their education; what we seed here becomes the new world’s literary basis.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      I’m assuming that we’ll be able to still tell them stories, many of which will be based on our memories of those books. It’s the tougher concepts we’ll need to have written down so we can remember what they mean.Report

      • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

        I’m figuring Grimm’s Fairy Tales (edited) will survive any apocalypse that doesn’t exterminate everyone who speaks English.Report

  18. Avatar Roger says:

    I would of course save my favorite works of feminist literature. Tough choices, but I think I would save ManifestA, Are Men Necessary?, and Pink Think.Report

  19. Avatar Pinky says:

    The Bible
    Introduction to the Devout Life
    any book of Rembrandt illustrations

    although I’d argue that Introduction to the Devout Life is a how-to book. Now, I don’t expect to get much agreement with my first two choices, but if you’re going to create a culture, you could do a lot worse than Rembrandt as a starting point. If you could toss a couple of musical instruments on the boat, so much the better.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

      I really like the Rembrandt choice, actually.Report

      • Avatar Pinky says:

        There are a lot of books of art that you could put on the boat, but I assume that there aren’t oils and canvases among the supplies. And da Vinci may be inspiring, but who’s going to learn anything from looking at his paintings? Rembrandt strikes me as the perfect choice, soneone who works with simple tools but could teach a lifetime’s worth of lessons about perspective and realism. His work is also a lot more inspiring than the average “Learn to Draw” book. So I think you get three things out of it – intro lessons, advanced lessons, and inspiration.Report

  20. Avatar lincoln's beard says:

    Will the demographics of the survivors match those of the commentariat here? If so, I’m thinking we might want to invest one of our three picks in some kind of pornographic material.Report

  21. Avatar Marchmaine says:

    It wouldn’t be a proper picnic on the island without my Jane Austen anthology.

    Is the 2nd edition Dungeon Master’s Guide a how-to?Report

  22. Avatar Roger says:

    Can we choose Wikipedia? Go to their home page and hit “print all.”Report

  23. Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

    The Elegant Universe
    Principia Mathematica
    The Complete Aubrey-Maturin SeriesReport

  24. Avatar Creon Critic says:

    John Rawls’ ToJ, Yale Shakespeare, and Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman.Report

  25. Avatar mark boggs says:

    Pillars of the Earth and World Without End by Ken Follett. So we’d know how to build cathedrals again and to know that everbody is a backstabber for their own benefit. My last choice would be The Joy of Sex…for the pictures.Report

  26. Avatar carr1on says:

    Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
    Without Feathers by Woody Allen
    Lord of the Rings Trilogy (the set) by J R R TolkienReport

    • Avatar Bufflyer says:

      You took 2 of mine: HHGTTG and LOTR, definitely.

      I was thinking Game of Thrones, collected series, since it is a never-ending saga, but since George R R Martin is now (hypothetically) dead, that means no more books???

      In that case, why are we trying to preserve the species?? What’s the point?Report

  27. Avatar dhex says:

    the novel version of the blue lagoon.

    my giggling about that would annoy someone else in the group to the point where i become a scapegoat and eventual martyr.

    which means i become jesus of this new civilization after enough time has passed.

    check and mate.Report

  28. Avatar dexter says:

    Collapse by Jared Diamond.
    Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut
    And the Karma Sutra, unless that is considered a “how to” book and then I would like the complete works of Escher so I would have projects.Report

  29. Avatar LWA says:

    Tale of Two Cities
    Meditations, Marcus AureliusReport

  30. Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

    I think the problem with 3 is that you’re going to end up with a ton of eurocentric choices, and not even touch anything east of say, Turkey.Report

    • Avatar Mopey Duns says:

      People save what they know.

      I’m not sure why a bunch of largely English-speaking white guys being Eurocentric is a huge surprise.

      That being said, pretty sure that Israel and Saudi Arabia are East of Turkey (sort of), so surely the source texts for the Abrahamic faiths make the cut (pretty sure they’ve already been mentioned).

      Honestly, the thought of saving only 3 books is enough to make me feel ill, since so much would be lost, and I do not think I am half so well read as to be up to the task.

      Incidentally, I think I now need to find a translation to read the Romance of the Three Kingdoms and the Dream of the Red Chamber, because they sound really interesting. I kinda wish I hadn’t given up on Mandarin.

      Anyway, my list:

      1)The Bible
      2)Plutarch’s Lives
      3)Romance of the Three KingdomsReport

    • Avatar Kim says:

      The End of Sexual Instinct and the Hydrogen Bomb War
      (I seriously meant to put this on before you made that comment. nyaah.)Report

  31. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    Another solid resource for those rebuilding society is Jane Jacobs’ Death and Life of Great American Cities.Report

  32. Avatar Damon says:

    1) The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Heinlein.
    2) The Prince (as was mentioned above)
    3) The Old and New Testament

    If the first two don’t do the job, maybe the third will.Report

  33. Avatar Matty says:

    can’t do it – only three books is unthinkable. I have at least two in every room so I can pick them up at random when I feel like reading something.Report

  34. Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

    It astonishes me that no one has yet mentioned the Boy Scout Handbook and Fieldbook, which will help a great deal with survival skills. As well as retaining a good deal of culture and civilization.Report

    • Avatar RTod says:

      Remember, that you already have a complete supply of basic how-to and survival books; you probably don’t need (or already have) the Boy Scouts book.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Does we get a complete guide to field surgery?
        I’d say that’s part of the basics, but then again,
        most people probably don’t do field surgery in a Vegas hotel room.
        (injured by a granny in a wheelchair on her way to a big payout)Report

      • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

        It wasn’t clear to me that it fell precisely in that category. But as a manual for how to be decent to people, it’s pretty good as well.Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:


      Usually whenever anyone asks me what book influenced me the most in my life I say the Boy Scout Handbook. I didn’t put it on my list because I thought it would violate the rules laid out by Tod about survival how-to. With that said, it’s really about a whole list of good info on morality, good citizenship, etc and I should have put it in. I would also put the Fieldbook right up there too. I actually keep my old copy in a very special place in my house and it is so dog-eared that it’s hard to read. If you have a similar edition to mine you probably remember the part about using foam to create mukluks and other apparel in arctic conditions. I used to love reading that section.Report

  35. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    Confined to a desert island with only three books? The same three, year after dreary year? Couldn’t manage.

    If, however, I was allowed to bring along a typewriter and a few pallets of paper, I’d write my own. And I’d write more than three.Report

  36. Avatar Michelle says:

    I’d have to have a book of poetry, either the collected works of T.S. Eliot or Rainer Marie Rilke.
    A Joan Didion novel, probably Democracy .
    The Reconstructionist Jewish prayer book for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

    Fairly idiosyncratic, I admit.Report

  37. Avatar Johanna says:

    I get too hung up on the idea of choosing responsibly. The three books of most importance to me or humanity, I can’t choose for myself so I would be derelict in not passing that decision to someone more well-read than myself. If I picked one, I would pick a Calvin and Hobbes Anthology. The combination of imagery, humor, fantasy, social interactions, and an ability to be enjoyable to both young children and adults seems a good way to start any new civilization.Report

  38. Avatar Kim says:

    Okay, my for real picks:
    Something Positive (collected work)
    The end of Sexual Instinct and the Hydrogen Bomb War
    ShadowWorld/Rolemaster (It’s a set, you need the whole set for the game).Report

  39. Avatar Jochen Mevius says:

    Complete works of Shakespeare, so we can get a drama group going.
    The popular history on how world war three started in the first place, lest we forget.
    Lovecraft Omnibus for founding our new religion.Report