Books On Which to Build a Civilization: The Thursday Night Bar Fight Results
As many of you know, this week’s Thursday Night Bar Fight was a Survivor-like game where readers had to hash out which three books should be taken to a deserted island to build the culture of a new civilization.
The rules were simple: Make a pitch for three books, make a case against others’ choices, and/or add your votes to others’ suggestions. According to the scenario, basic How-To and survival guides were already guaranteed to be on the island; I therefore chose not to count nominations such as books of how to build simple machines or the Boy Scout Handbook. Books that were technically How-To books but were clearly being brought for other reasons, such as the Kama Sutra, were allowed. Also, I chose to count any nomination that wasn’t named by title where such a book clearly existed, such as “a book that has all of Shakespeare’s works;” however, I did not count a general appeal to an author or genre, such as “something by Terry Pratchett.” Lastly, if you kept nominating books, once you got past 10 I stopped acknowledging the newer entries, unless someone else also nominated that title.
The scoring was somewhat complicated and, I admit, subjective, but it went like this: A book named received a point for each person that nominated that book. An additional point was granted if another reader added positive reinforcement to the title, such as “great choice!” However, a point would be taken away for that title if another reader gave an objection or voiced a negative reaction to book. For example, the book that received the most votes – The Bible – also received the most objections and negative comments, and thus missed the cut.
It turned out there was a tie, and so rather than having three books to take on our tropical island paradise we will instead have four. Those four, in order of total score, are:
- The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, William Shakespeare (7 points)
- The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women, Sandra M. Gilbert, Editor (5 points)
- Principia Mathematica, Isaac Newton (3 points)
- Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace (3 points)
Other notes of interest:
- A total of 61 individual books were nominated
- The League likes tradition: 44% of the works nominated were written prior to the 20th century
- The League also likes to be modern: over 20% of the books were written since 1980.
- Only two writers had more than one work nominated; those were Plato and Ken Follet. (Though it should be noted that Follet’s two works were each nominated by the same person).
- The biggest category was definitely Fiction & Literature, which snagged over 40% of the nominations.
- Philosophy was the next largest, with 18%.
- There were 8 nominations for books on math or science, 4 religious works, 2 comic books, and 1 children’s poetry book.
- This being the Internet, it should surprise no one that Sci-Fi/Fantasy did better than it might have done elsewhere, with 7 nominations.
Here is a complete list of the nominees:
Scarne’s New Complete Guide to Gambling, John Scarne
The Feyman Lectures on Physics, Richard Feynman
An Introduction to General Systems Thinking, Gerald M. Weinberg
The Odyssey, Homer
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, William Shakespeare
Lord of the Flies, William Golding
The Prince, Machiavelli
A Remembrance of Things Past/In Search of Lost Time, Marcel Proust
A Dance to the Music of Time, by Anthony Powell
Norton Anthology of Literature by Women, Sandra M. Gilbert, Editor
Reasonable Rhymes for the Very Young, Arnold Lobel, Editor
Godel, Escher, Bach, Douglas Hofsadter
The Social Contract or Principles of Political Right, Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith
Two New Sciences, by Galileo Galilei
Skeptical Chymist, or Chymico-Physical Doubts & Paradoxes, Robert Boyle
Principia Mathematica, Isaac Newton
The Calculus of Consent, James Buchanan and Gordon Tullock
The Republic, Plato
The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
Kirby’s Fourth World Omnibus, Jack Kirby
Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace
Till We Have Faces, C.S. Lewis
The Civil War: A Narrative, Shelby Foote
To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee
Les Miserables, Victor Hugo
Grimm’s Fairy Tales, The Brothers Grimm
Introduction to the Devout Life, Francis De Sales, John K. Ryan
The Rembrandt Book, Gary Schwartz, Editor
The Jane Austin Anthology, Jane Austin
The Stories of Breece D’J Pancake, Breece D’J Pancake
Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, Hunter S. Thompson
The Collected Works of T.S. Elliot, T. S. Elliot
Democracy, Joan Didion
The Reconstructionist Jewish Prayer Book
Dungeon Master’s Guide, Monte Cook, Jonathan Tweet, Skip Williams
The Elegant Universe, Brian Greene
Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Luo Guanzhong
The Diary of Lady Murasaki, Murasaki Shikibu
A Theory of Justice, John Rawls
A Vindication of the Right’s of Women, Mary Wollstonecraft
Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follet
World Without End, Ken Follet
The Joy of Sex, Alex Comfort
Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
Without Feathers, Woody Allen
Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
The Blue Lagoon, Henry De Vere Stacpoole
Collapse, Jared Diamond
Galapagos, Kurt Vonnegut
Kama Sutra, Vatsyayana
Walden, Henry Thoreau
A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
Meditations, Marcus Aurelius
Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans, Plutarch
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Robert Heinlein
Twenty-Two Foreigners in Funny Shorts, Pete Davies
The Calvin & Hobbes Anthology, Bill Waterson
The Lovecraft Omnibus, H.P. Lovecraft
Thanks again to everyone that played.