Thursday, March 6, 2014

Brian Eno's reading suggestions for The Long Now Foundation







Brian Eno has been one of music's more cerebral musicians. He is also a founding board member of The Long Now Foundation with Stewart Brand (The Whole Earth Catalog) and computer scientist Daniel Hills. The group formed in 1996 with the stated goal to provide a counterpoint to accelerating culture and help make long-term thinking more common. To this end the group hopes to encourage responsibility in the framework of the next 10,000 years. 

The group currently sustains two major efforts, a library of all human language called the Rosetta Project and a 10,000-year clock, designed to run for ten millennia with minimal maintenance and interruption that is currently being constructed in the area around Van Horn, Texas. Recently Eno suggested twenty titles in a list compiled for The Long Now Foundation’s Manual for Civilization, a collaboratively curated library for long-term thinking. 

It's disorienting to think that rock music has moved from "Rock Around the Clock" to Eno's bell studies for The Clock of the Long Now. (The first prototype of the Clock is working and on permanent display at the Science Museum in London.) As Maria Popova at the site Brain Pickings notes, Eno finds his place among the ever-growing list of cultural figures that have contributed twenty titles to The Long Now Foundation project’s intended collection of 3,500 books most essential for sustaining or rebuilding civilization. 

Here's Eno's suggested list. Brain Pickings includes notes where the title is usually available for free in public locations.


  1. Seeing Like a State (public library) by James C. Scott (1998)
  2. The Mind in the Cave: Consciousness and the Origins of Art (public library) by David Lewis-Williams (2002)
  3. Crowds and Power (public library) by Elias Canetti (1962)
  4. The Wheels of Commerce (public library) by Fernand Braudel (1982)
  5. Keeping Together in Time (public library) by William McNeill (1995)
  6. Dancing in the Streets (public library) by Barbara Ehrenreich (2007)
  7. Roll Jordan Roll (public library) by Eugene Genovese (1974)
  8. A Pattern Language (public library) by Christopher Alexander et al (1977)
  9. The Face of Battle (public library) by John Keegan (1976)
  10. A History of the World in 100 Objects (public library) by Neil MacGregor (2010)
  11. Contingency, Irony and Solidarity (public library) by Richard Rorty (1989)
  12. The Notebooks (public library) by Leonardo da Vinci (1952 ed.)
  13. The Confidence Trap (public library) by David Runciman (2013)
  14. The Discoverers by Daniel Boorstein (1983)
  15. Mother Nature: A History of Mothers, Infants, and Natural Selection(public library) by Sarah Hrdy (1999)
  16. War and Peace (public library) by Leo Tolstoy (1869)
  17. The Cambridge World History of Food (2-Volume Set) (public library) by Kenneth F. Kiple and Kriemhild Cone√® Ornelas (2000)
  18. The Illustrated Flora of Britain and Northern Europe (public library) by Marjorie Blamey and Christopher Grey Wilson (1989)
  19. Printing and the Mind of Man (public library) by John Carter and Percy Muir (1983)
  20. Peter the Great: His Life and World (public library) by Richard Massie (1980)


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