Five Books

Nuclear war has begun. All the civilized nations in the world are falling. Most of the world will be uninhabitable for a thousand years. Fortunately, you have discovered a pristine island in the middle of the Pacific which has never been seen by any human. You and a small group of friends are on your way there to colonize and to continue the human race for the thousand or so years until the rest of the world can be reclaimed.

Unfortunately, due to space issues, you will only be able to take 5 books with you on your voyage. Only 5 pieces of literature will survive the nuclear holocaust. The question is: what will they be? Keep in mind when choosing that all other books will be known in the future simply as remembered, but lost, works. The 5 books you choose are the only books which will initially exist to shape and mold the characters and ideals of all future humans.

Feel free to put your list in the comments and explain why you chose each book. Or simply comment on what you think my civilization would turn out like based on my list below. Here are my choices:


1. The Bible
I would take a copy of the KJV Bible. I know it would be much better to have Hebrew and Greek manuscripts, but then I would have to take Hebrew and Greek grammars and primers to teach people to read and translate these languages. Don’t have room for that, so a simple KJV will suffice. I know something like the ESV would work also, but I’m taking the KJV because I’m secretly hoping that the way people speak will revert back to 16th and 17th century forms.

2. The Aeneid by Virgil
This would provide a basic overview of the Trojan War legend that so influenced civilization as well as provide the only source for any type of Greek or Roman mythology. This book was so influential on both of my next two choices, Augustine and Dante, that those works would be hard to fully appreciate without having this one first.

3. Confessions by Augustine
Great theology, good discussions about thought, rhetoric, reading and other topics as well. If I’m going to found a new civilization, this would be a good stone to be in that foundation.

4. The Divine Comedy by Dante
How ought a city to live? What does a good civilization look like and what does a bad civilization look like? How can a person be an honest citizen, politician or tradesman? How can a man be saved? How can a man renounce his sin? Dante deals with all of these questions from the big picture of civilizations to the little picture of individual souls. This is the greatest literary work of the middle ages, and possibly the greatest human literary work of all time, the Bible, being divinely inspired, is the only exception. (I would take the Dorothy Sayers’s translation containing her commentary on the text.)

5. The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien
A civilization raised on the values of the Shire, of Gondor, and of Rohan would be a civilization I would love to live in. This story embodies everything that I would like future civilizations to reflect. A great companion to the previous books on the list.

Comments

Rose said…
Hm. This is difficult.

In my fangeekdom it would be hard to part with 'The Screwtape Letters.' And I would sorely miss Dostoevsky and Jack London and The Saga of the Volsungs. Not sure if I would swap any of these out, though.

Maybe I would get some insanely footnotes and appendixes-laden Dante that basically explains Confessions and The Aeneid perfectly. That would buy me two extra spaces--maybe Hamlet and some Dostoevsky? Not sure.
Rick said…
I could probably do without Lewis, but then again, I'm not a huge fangeek. It would be hard to let go of the Saga of the Volsungs, but I'm not sure I want my future society based on it. O_O

I hadn't thought of Hamlet though. Best play ever. Maybe I could bump the Aeneid in order to fit Hamlet in there. In fact, why not just replace the Aeneid with a big 1 volume "Complete Works of Shakespeare"?
Patrick Spain said…
In place of Confessions, I think City of God would be a more apt choice. Although the former is a great work, City of God is an all-encompassing masterpiece, another book which would be a great cornerstone of civilization.

Dante is a good choice, but I'm almost tempted to throw in the Westminster Confession and Catechisms instead, because it is an invaluable foundation for reformed theology and simply summarizes and provides a standard.