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A Library for the Future

Sundown Schoolhouse presents this new project, continually updated and just starting to take shape, currently in the form of an online resource. We are asking thoughtful individuals: What book would you choose to take us forward?



Earth Abides, by George R. Stewart
{Oliver Sacks - and his thoughts about the selection}

Mulata, by Miguel Angel Asturias
{Devendra Banhart}

The Man Who Planted Trees, by Jean Giono
{Alice Waters}

Datura, by Liliane Lerch
{Pipilotti Rist}

Deep Economy, by Bill McKibben
{Michael Pollan}

The Body in Pain, by Elaine Scarry
{Barbara Kruger}

RSVP Cycles, by Lawrence Halprin
{Anna Halprin}

Tao Te Ching, by Lao-Tsu
{Eric Schlosser}

The Tears of Things: Melancholy and Physical Objects, by Peter Schwenger
{Haim Steinbach}

Pro Domo, by Yona Friedman
{Marjetica Potrč}

Color Standards and Nomenclature, by Robert Ridgway
{Pae White}

Vandalism, edited by Colin Ward
{Doug Aitken}

The Eden Project: A Jungian Perspective on Relationships, by James Hollis
{Ann Magnuson}

The Clock of the Long Now, by Stewart Brand
{Chip Lord}

Istanbul: Memories and the City, by Orhan Pamuk
{Nathalie de Vries}

The Odyssey, by Homer (Robert Fagles translation)
{Cesar Pelli}

McElligot's Pool, by Dr. Seuss
{Ada Tolla}

S/Z, by Roland Barthes
{Vaginal Davis}

Infrastructure: a Field Guide to the Industrial Landscape, by Brian Hayes
{Matthew Coolidge}

The Arcades Project, by Walter Benjamin
{Wayne Koestenbaum}

Permaculture: A Designers' Manual, by Bill Mollison
{Nils Norman}

We Make the Road by Walking, by Myles Horton and Paulo Freire
{Harrell Fletcher}

The Dictionary of Imaginary Places, by Alberto Manguel
{Amy Franceschini}

Conditions for Description, by Peter Zinkernagel
{Stephen Willats}

The Berlin Stories, by Christopher Isherwood
{Emily Roysdon}

Children of the Sun, by Gordon Kennedy
{Robby Herbst}

Melvin Monster Volume One, by John Stanley
{Marc Herbst}

Can't Stop Won't Stop, by Jeff Chang
{Nato Thompson}

Take It, by Joshua Beckman
{Mark Allen}

The Death and Life of Great American Cities, by Jane Jacobs
{Matt Keegan}

A Sand County Almanac, by Aldo Leopold
{Susan Szenasy}

I Ching
{Jonah Bokaer}

Poor Charlies Almanack, edited by Peter D. Kaufman
{Ryan McGinness}

The Principles of Uncertainty, by Maira Kalman
{Allison Arieff}

Out Stealing Horses: A Novel, by Per Petterson
{Robert Hammond}


~ London Sundown Salon: Talking About the Future, October 17, 2009 ~

Candide, by Voltaire
{Alice Rawsthorn}

Giovanni's Room, by James Baldwin
{Ingar Dragset}

The Barefoot Architect (Manual del Arquitecto Descalzo), by Johan Van Lengen
{Pablo Leon de la Barra}

Thoughts of Sorts, by George Perec
{Benjamin Reichen}

Zeros and Ones, by Sadie Plant
{Rob Tufnell}

The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World, by Lewis Hyde
{Ruba Katrib}

Will You Please be Quiet, Please?, by Raymond Carver
{Elias Redstone}

Subnature: Architecture's Other Environments, by David Gissen
{Ben Campkin}

The Book of Daniel, by EL Doctorow
{Noam Toran}

The Paris Review Interviews, published by Picador
{Simon Fujiwara}

Collected Poems 1957-1982, by Wendell Berry
{Sarah Ichioka}

Cohousing: A Contemporary Approach to Housing Ourselves, by Kathryn Mccamat and Charles Durrett
{Daria Martin}

Lutheran Letters, by Pier Paolo Pasolini
{Francesco Manacorda}

The English House, by Herman Muthesius
{Kieran Long}

The Elegant Universe, by Brian Greene
{November Paynter}

Moby Dick, by Herman Melville
{Hanif Kara}

Tools for Conviviality, by Ivan Illich
{Tim Ivison}

An Intimate History of Humanity, by Theodore Zeldin
{Christine Hill}

Temporary Autonomous Zone, by Hakim Bey
{A.L. Steiner}

V for Vendetta, by Alan Moore and David Lloyd
{Sam Ashby}

Waterlog, by Roger Deakin
{Jonathan Griffin}

The Complete Book of Self Sufficiency, by John Seymour

{Eike Sindlinger}

The Welcome Visitor, by John Humphreys & Dr Sarah Jarvis
{Jane Durney}

La Jetée: ciné-roman, by Chris Marker, designed by Bruce Mau
{Celine Condorelli}

Learning Process with a Deadly Outcome, by Alexander Kluge
{Marte Eknaes}

Camps: A Guide to 21st-Century Space, By Charlie Hailey
{Heather Ring}

Tristes Tropiques, by Claude Levi-Strauss
{Katrin Bohn}

Sailing the Farm: Independence on Thirty Feet, a Survival Guide to Homesteading on the Ocean, by Ken Neumeyer
{Andre Viljoen}

Les Guerilleres, by Monique Wittig
{Adelaide Bannerman}

Defiant Gardens: Making Gardens in Wartime, by Kenneth Helphand
{Sukhdev Sandhu}

Improvisation: It's Nature and Practice in Music, by Derek Bailey
{Dan Fox}

Rationale of the Dirty Joke: An Analysis of Sexual Humor, by Gershon Legman
{William Shaw}

The Poetics of Space, by Gaston Bachelard
{Rowan Moore}

Summer With Monika, by Roger McGough
{Kate Burt}

Concept of the Political, by Carl Schmitt
{Ross Adams}

Miracles of Life, by J.G. Ballard
{Achim Borchardt-Hume}

Finnegans Wake, by James Joyce
{Lucas Dietrich}


Dr. Oliver Sacks on his selection of George R. Stewart's Earth Abides

Science and technology always thrilled me, seemed romantic to me, even as a boy, and this romantic view of science and its potentials was especially fed by the early short stories and novels of H. G. Wells. I loved his science-fiction novella (though the term “science-fiction” did not exist at that time) “The Story of the Days to Come” and his prognostications in the 1890s of airplanes, tanks, bathyscaphes, etc. (by 1914, he had even predicted atomic bombs, too).
            When I heard of the bombing of Hiroshima in August 1945 I was just twelve, and I was mainly filled with wonder at the technical achievement involved. But when, a year or two later, I read John Hersey’s "Hiroshima" (originally published as an entire issue of the New Yorker), I was horrified at the scale of the suffering and destruction this scientific wonder had rained on the city, and from this point on I was more tuned to the human values involved, and very conscious of the negative potentials, the downsides, of any technical achievement.
            Although I read Orwell's 1984 when it was published in 1949, I was more impressed, and much more moved, by another novel published the same year--Earth Abides, by George Stewart. The basic theme in this sensitive and intricate novel, with its many levels and sub-themes, is human survival in a world where humans have been nearly exterminated by a disease, a pandemic of unparalleled virulence. The novel's protagonist is a single man, Isherwood ("Ish") Williams, who thinks for many lonely, frightening months that he is the sole survivor of the pandemic, but then he finds another survivor, and another, and another, so gradually a tiny community comes into being, and, finally, an entire tribe. The community is at first parasitic, depending on the supplies and technologies of the old world - its shops, its food supplies, its canned food, its buildings, its still-running water, its electrical system and dynamos. But then, as these start to fail, the survivors discover their own resources and technologies: making fire (when matches run out), bows and arrows (when guns run out), musical instruments, pottery, and even a mythology of their own. While the technical innovations are often suggested by Ish, who has a background in science, it is the profound human sense of two others (Ish’s wife Em and his close friend Ez) which saves the infant community from the inner and outer dangers which threaten it, and guides it in a decent and sane direction.
            Our world is very different from the world of the 1940s--there was no thought then of global warming, of widespread ecological destruction, of critically diminishing supplies of fresh water, etc.--but the human lessons of Earth Abides seem to me no less important now than they were in 1949.
            Indeed, now that we find ourselves in a world increasingly dominated by devaluation of the individual, and gigantism of every kind, Stewart's emphasis on sanity, a human scale, the importance of the individual, and the need for technology that is simple and understood by all is especially relevant. I am not advocating or yearning for an Amish way of life, which cuts itself off from everything contemporary, but for ways of coming to grips with a world that seems to become more complex, and more dangerous, with every passing year.
            I am not entirely optimistic, and if our only resources were technologies and ideologies, I would agree with Martin Rees that humanity may be very close to its suicidal end (he has written about this in a recent book, Our Final Hour: A Scientist's Warning).  But I am intensely aware of the power of the individual, of ordinary human beings, and their actions. This, and perhaps only this, can provide a chance of a viable and worthwhile future. This is what Earth Abides is about, and why I give it my vote.

- Oliver Sacks, Peterborough, New Hampshire, September 10th, 2009


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