Most useful books to have around for rebuilding after the Apocalypse?
September 27, 2004 11:41 PM   Subscribe

Bookfilter: It's the day after the end of the world. What book and or books would you want to be able to rebuild? You know, if you want to be able to hunt, plant crops, make clothes, make tools, etc. How does the well educated gentleman prepare for the Apocalypse, practically? Other than the Foxfire books, what should I buy?

I guess what I'm looking for is a Primer on the Basic Arts of Civilization. With a good Appendix.
posted by geekhorde to Society & Culture (20 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
The Bible. You wouldn't want all sense of order and reality to be destroyed, so you need that book. Plus, it has lots of tips and handy advice! Sorry, I couldn't resist ;-)

Y'know, I'd choose a printed out version of Wikipedia. Sure, it's not a book, but I think you could patch together a decent society (together with science) from the knowledge on that one site. Whatever book you choose, I think it has to have a lot of information on science, philosophy, and justice, since I feel these are the three bedrocks of a productive society. I'd venture that art comes naturally, so wouldn't need a how-to guide. Perhaps, given those criteria.. the Bible wouldn't be such a stupid idea (note: I'm not a Christian). Sure, it's not the most consistent book, but it does cover law, justice, and science (though weakly).

Better suggestions forthcoming, I'm sure...
posted by wackybrit at 12:06 AM on September 28, 2004

>How does the well educated gentleman prepare for the Apocalypse, practically?

Well educated gentlemen choose Playboy, but personally, I'd bring a Maxim.

Remember folks, teaching kids to propogate the species is very important after an apocalypse!
posted by shepd at 12:22 AM on September 28, 2004

For the basic art of Survival I would choose the SAS survival handbook just to get through the first few weeks.

After that I would write my own book about the sebas supreme being and start a cult. Can't hurt to have a little fun right?
posted by sebas at 1:18 AM on September 28, 2004

When I was in my early teens (i.e. a long time ago)...I read a series of books by a guy called Jerry Ahern called 'The Survivalist'. All about this McGuyver-esque guy who ran round America 'surviving' after the apocalypse...frighteningly, post apocalyptic America seemed to be populated exclusively by Nazi's, Biker Gangs and people living in trailers...

This was pretty typical:

And the rumbling signaling the coming of Total War was becoming increasingly strong as Rourke, ex-CIA Covert Operations Officer, weapons expert, and survival authority, made his last desperate gambit to save his estranged wife and two children before the button was pressed, the missile launched, the multi-megaton bombs loosed.

For ages - John Thomas Rourke (seriously) - was my hero....I bought CIA survival handbooks at markets in London, and read up on how to survive...even if suburban west london is nowhere near the Rocky Mountain hideout that he had...

I guess there would be some handy tips in how to disassemble a Liberator rifle....the first product to be made in Aherns nightmare vision of America after the balloon went think they might concentrate on Playstations or Coke machines...but oh no....they built a gun.

Now...I wonder if I kept em...
posted by mattr at 2:16 AM on September 28, 2004

Passing Time in the Loo Volume 1.

It's got all you need in there but bitesized...
posted by i_cola at 2:43 AM on September 28, 2004

Lee Valley has a very nice set of reprints that you might be interested in.

Here's a sampling:
* Overshot Water Wheels for Small Streams
* Lee's Priceless Recipies - Not cullinary, but how to clear a field of stones, and similar. From 1895
* The Boy Mechanic (series) - How to make useful things out of junk (1910-1930).
* The Ashley Book of Knots
* Camp Cookery - A wonderful view into how hunting and work camps worked in the early twentieth century.
posted by bonehead at 6:01 AM on September 28, 2004 [2 favorites]

Among other, more practical things, I'd want a Complete Works of William Shakespeare. Presuming everything's "gone," I'd still want future generations to be able to understand that they're not that different, no matter their circumstances, from those who came before them.
posted by JollyWanker at 6:05 AM on September 28, 2004

I read a kid's novel as a child about a boy who goes to live in the wild - I haven't thought of it for literally decades and forget the name (something about a mountain?) - but it went into great detail about what roots and berries to eat and how to trap and kill and cook animals. I have no idea how reliable the info was, but it made me feel as if I could do it if I had to.
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:10 AM on September 28, 2004

I feel alot of the people posting didn't read the whole question.
posted by ChasFile at 6:11 AM on September 28, 2004

Cunning: Hatchet?
posted by ChasFile at 6:13 AM on September 28, 2004

My Side of The Mountain. A fantastic book.

I would like to agree on the foxfire books, second an army survival manual, also something like The Barefoot Doctor's Manual. The complete works of Shakespere and some great works of fiction, poetry, whatever compilations. Also like Bonehead says as many how to manuals from the 1890's through the 1950's, because they would (after getting used to them) be much closer in mindset to what you would need and what would be available.

I think I would also just get all kinds of gunned up and raid a liquor store and then make my den in a big ole bookstore, course then I would probably break my glasses like in that twilight zone with Burgess Meredith.
posted by Divine_Wino at 6:46 AM on September 28, 2004

the older editions of joy of cooking have extensive instructions on cleaning, cooking (and to some extent trapping) game (including squirrel)--so i'd want my meaningfully marked-up 1960's joy of cooking and clausewitz.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:01 AM on September 28, 2004

I urge people to have a look at the book descriptions in mattr's link. Gems include:

...unless John Thomas Rourke can stem the raging Communist death-tide before the ultimate button is pushed, no power on the planet will be able to forestall humanity's extinction (#19)

Neo-Nazi dictator Martin and the hordes of bloodthirsty land pirates from the wastelands crush democracy under the tracks of their huge mobile fortresses equipped with plasma powered mega cannons. (The Legend)

With the Nazis preparing their final assault on the Trans-Global Alliance and madman Deitrich Zimmer infuriated by the destruction of his cloning facility in the Himalayas, time is running out. Overcoming his wounds, Rourke formulates a daring plan to reach a secretly rebellious Nazi officer who envies Zimmer's power--and to trust this man with the fate of the world. For while war rages, an even greater danger looms: a volcanic vent that is tunneling its way eastward and can only be stopped one way: with the last nuclear warheads on earth! (#27)

For some reason my local library when I was a kid stocked loads of these, I tried one, they're not much cop.
posted by biffa at 7:17 AM on September 28, 2004

For initial survival, I would want copies of some of Tom Brown's books. They're all really good. I'm not sure about sources for roots-level agricultural & manufacturing skills. I'd like to see some sources for that myself. In addition, you'd want some books on first-aid & basic medical skills. Also, you'd want good introductory texts on mechanics & electronics, since there would presumably be plenty of technological material around for salvage.

On further thought, it occurs to me that blacksmithing might be an important skill.
posted by tdismukes at 7:25 AM on September 28, 2004

Once things get settled, you'd better get some philosophy going. Start with Socrates and work your way down (up?).
posted by WolfDaddy at 7:55 AM on September 28, 2004

I have a really great old Reader's Digest how-to book called Back to Basics. It has everything from clearing land to raising livestock to cooking to beer making to music. It's my choice.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:55 AM on September 28, 2004

Lindsay Technical Books.

Given a choice selection of their titles, you could rebuild an early-20th century civilization in relatively short order (a few years).

You may also be interested in Rough Science (PBS link).
posted by aramaic at 8:15 AM on September 28, 2004

Those Lindsay Technical Books looks pretty interesting.
posted by tdismukes at 11:52 AM on September 28, 2004

I'd want one of my friends who did the Daedulus Project at my University, none of whom I am currently in touch with, unfortunately.

The Lindsay Technical Books look good. I probably would have brought something much less practical, like Halliday and Resnick's Fundamentals of physics....
posted by weston at 3:21 PM on September 28, 2004

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