Skip to main content
Ages 13+
Under 13
Brian Eno

Brian Eno's literary recommendations to rebuild society

Enchant, Evolve, Inspire

The anthologies of would-be deserted islands are substituted by the pillars of a future world based on a carefully selected book collection.

Artists and authors often get asked what books or records they’d take with them to a deserted island. On principle, this is naturally an extreme anthology: urgency and tragedy guide its selection. It’s these books or none at all, now or never. However, the (sadistic exercise) of the selection becomes nutritious and generous when the question is not “what books would you take to a deserted island”, but “which books would you use to rebuild civilization?”

The utopian character of this endeavor is not subordinate to anything other than our imagination: utopian literature is founded on the inexistent, what cannot exist, the world of the future, always unreachable, that synthesizes the residues of our mistakes. It’s for that improbable reader of the synthesis that the cosmic probe with the cultural DNA of our planet, imprinted on a golden disc, was launched into space, but it is also the motivation behind the Manual For Civilization, a curated library with over three-thousand books which could be used to rebuild a society —if this is ever the case.

Different personalities will suggest a few books. The project base will be funded by the Internet Archive and crowdfunding (which hopes to raise over $100 thousand dollars). Among those who have collaborated with the archive we can find the great evolver of electronic music and virtual inventor of ambient, Brian Eno. Philosophy, science, theatre, critical thinking and history of art are some of the pillars the musician has chosen for his selection. These are his twenty recommendations for the future:

Seeing Like a State by James C. Scott

The Mind in the Cave: Consciousness and the Origins of ArtNew Window by David Lewis-Williams

Crowds and Power by Elias Canetti

The Wheels of Commerce by Fernand Braudel

Keeping Together in TimeNew Window by William H. McNeill

Dancing in the StreetsNew Window by Barbara Ehrenreich

Roll Jordan Roll by Eugene D. Genovese

A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander et al

The Face of Battle by John Keegan

A History of the World in 100 ObjectsNew Window by Neil MacGregor

Contingency, Irony and SolidarityNew Window by Richard Rorty

The Notebooks by Leonardo da Vinci

The Confidence Trap by David Runciman

The Discoverers by Daniel Boorstin

Mother Nature: A History of Mothers, Infants, and Natural SelectionNew Window by Sarah Hardy

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

The Cambridge World History of Food (2-Volume Set) by Kenneth F. Kiple & Kriemhild Coneè Ornelas

The Illustrated Flora of Britain and Northern Europe by Marjorie Blamey & Christopher Grey-Wilson

Printing and the Mind of Man by John Carter & Percy H. Muir

Peter the Great: His Life and World by Robert K. Massie

Related Articles