1. Anonym
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    Anonym Contributing Member

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    Invaluable Books in an Age of Lost Knowledge

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Anonym, Jan 11, 2012.

    tl;dr - What books do you think are invaluable to humanity? Specifically an ignorant, post-apocalyptic society?

    Hey all.

    Essentially, my WIP takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting, where much of the knowledge we have now has been lost over hundreds of years. Except for notable exceptions - very rare enclaves of high-tech, futuristic civilization - the "Old Age" as our own time has come to be called (otherwise TBD), has largely been mythisized by the rural, agrarian masses of the zeitgeist that have settled into a pre-industrial way of life centuries ago. So basically, for 99.999% of humanity, books are scarce or non-existent and what knowledge remains has been passed down and severely distored by generations of oral tradition and legends - "flying boats/carriages" as planes, the internet depicted as something similar to telepathy, etc.

    A brilliant and high-ranking scientist goes AWOL and leaves her native enclave (again, a bastion of industrialism and futuristic technology) for reasons too complicated to explain here, and ventures out into the "wastes", meanwhile anticipating the distant birth of her child (the MC). Being a ravenous learner and lover of knowledge, she resolves to smuggle a hand-full of books out (being a rarity in the mostly digital enclave society) as something of an heirloom for her child, and if nothing else, to be disseminated among the ignorant common-folk.

    I hope that made enough sense. My question for you guys, if you feel so inclined, is: what books do you think would be worthy of this? What texts would be invaluable for a culture that has largely been wiped clean by the tides of time, and is in far too many ways a Tabula Rasa? This extends to literature, philosophy, science, etc, etc, etc.

    One text I'm seriously considering is the Bible and maybe the Koran. Not because she's religious (if I do include it, she makes a point of telling the young MC that they're ancient stories - some people believe they're true, some don't. She doesn't take a stance) but because of the influence it's had on the world and the Old Age. Others? Perhaps an Atlas, map of the world/the US, medicine/biology book, the Constitution/Magna Carta, macro-economics, etc. Just to give a few loose examples.

    So yeah, I'd really appreciate any input, and I suppose it's a somewhat thought-provoking question if nothing else. Thanks in advance!
     
  2. highwaymanlee
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    highwaymanlee Active Member

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    one book you should keep is the divin comady it had a major effect on early christain life and should be rememberd for it
     
  3. tcol4417
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    tcol4417 Member

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    Genuinely unsure how to respond to that.

    Short answer is none. Post apocalypses breaks civilisation back to the stone age, so books aren't necessary - just handy for the knowledge they contain.

    Long answer is depends. If there's a surviving order of some sort, do they pursue historical, military, medical, scientific, religious, economic, mathematical or artistic knowledge? Why?

    The Book of Eli (movie, 2010) involves the ruler of a city trying to find a copy of the bible because of the influence a religious leader can hold.
     
  4. Ziggy Stardust
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    Ziggy Stardust Active Member

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    How would your character know what books are "significant" if the knowledge of the old world has been "lost"? If there was a big jumble of books that she came across, why would she think that for instance, the Bible, is any more significant than some random fantasy novel? Think it would be more realistic just to pick a random bunch of books, some completely meaningless some considered great works of fiction right now. Then choose maybe one that is going to play a significant role in the plot.

    It would be different if it was the people back before the nuclear war who were deciding what books they should stash away somewhere to save, think Fahrenheit 451. And it really depends on what part these books are going to play in the rest of the plot. Communist manifesto could be good for an uprising of the peasants. :D
     
  5. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Because the question is about invaluable books for humanity, I would pick up no religious book.

    I would pick up a major work on philosophy.
    Some text books on biology, medicine, herbology, physics and other sciences, these being most useful.
    I would want books about common diseases and their treatments.
     
  6. Metus
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    Metus Senior Member

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    Books. . . well, medical publications would be the really important ones. Also, agricultural books. If you're looking less for useful books and more for socially important ones, then I recommend Malleus Maleficarum. (To scare off all of the witches.) Also, Twilight, so people can learn to love their vampire overlords.

    In all seriousness, without knowing a motive to collect the books, it's kind of hard to think of which ones would be important. Every book is important for a different reason.
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    first of all, for practical reasons, 'how-tos' of all kinds...

    after that, i'd say the 'best' books in the following areas [ranked in order of importance]:
    medicine [in the broad sense, including surgery, pharmacology, etc.]
    history
    science [all of the sciences, which includes mathematics, chemistry, natural phenomena, etc.]
    philosophy
    literature
    music
    art

    ...and nothing on religion, if they want their new society to be a peaceful one!
     
  8. daydreams
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    daydreams Member

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    Religious books are fine. It's when people start to consider them holy or sacred that things go bad real fast. They are literature.
     
  9. daydreams
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    daydreams Member

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    double post
     
  10. BFGuru
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    BFGuru Active Member

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    I'm not particularly religious, and wouldn't even want to save most bibles but the Gutenberg Bible would definitely be on my "keeps" list. It's not only a testament to multiple writing styles and civilizations throughout history, but it's a testiment to the beginning of printed text. It's a thing to behold artistically as well.

    But with that I'd keep a copy of Buddhist parables, and the Q'uran.

    I agree with the books on agriculture and medicine.
     
  11. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    In general books that detail major technological advances (such as flight, modern medicine, agriculture, etc) and books that detail history and a few "ethics and morals" texts like people were talking about.

    People bring up that religious texts would be a bad thing to save. Maybe you are right, maybe you aren't. But you aren't going to stop religion from happening by getting rid of religious books. The nature of life and that a lot of things are hard to explain, even today... people automatically turn to the supernatural as the answer to those questions.
     
  12. Anonym
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    Anonym Contributing Member

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    tl;dr: Great ideas everyone, I appreciate the feedback so far. It's encouraging to see that I'm not too far off from what books/subjects others would consider "invaluable" in this context.


    I realize the prospect of including a religious text would be.. controversial. This coming from someone who's a borderline antitheist. It's more so that there, arguably, have been no works of literature, holy revelation, fiction, etc. that have so deeply influenced humanity. But then again, on second thought, I imagine - at least in america - the bible of all books would survive an "apocalypse", for better or worse. Similar to what Agentkirb said, of all facets of civilization I could see religion thriving/festering longest. Perhaps it'd be unnecessary to include such a text. Hmm...

    Anyhow, now that I've got some of the more useful and enriching broad subjects in mind - medicine, agriculture, philosophy, literature, etc. - I'd be open to more specific suggestions, if anyone has any. Ultimately, she'll be carrying around specific books, not entire subjects themselves. Buddhist parables sound interesting, I'll have to look into that.

    Something like Grey's Anatomy, or maybe a Farmers' Almanac? Although it'd undoubtedly be pitifully outdated. Ragnar Benson's "Do-It-Yourself Medicine"? Plato's Republic? The Art of War? A primer on Western History? Maybe a text on Mendelian Inheritance/genetics, so they could breed more productive crops? Things like that. My whole conundrum is the vastness of what could be considered invaluable, and the realistic limitations of lugging around books in a nearly perpetual survival situation. That, and fossil fuels exist almost nowhere outside the enclaves, so many "modern" industrial technologies would be largely unfeasible anywhere else.

    Sorry, I'm trying to boil something very complicated down to something simple and easy to understand. And not feeling I'm doin great at it, lol. If nothing else, I'm more than satisfied with the suggestions so far as it is.

    And just to clarify - not to overemphasize context - it's not like she has any delusions of grandeur of restarting civilization outside the enclaves. Rather, to put it simply, she resents the enclaves' apathy towards anyone but their own, and their miserly hoarding of tech and knowledge that would better the lives of these ignorant peoples, and essentially, she feels disseminating said info is the least she can do.

    This isn't actually a huge part of the plot. More than anything, it explains why the MC (this woman's son) is exceptionally educated about the world despite having been born and raised without ever setting foot in an enclave, and why he's been able to survive in the wilderness by himself for most of his life. Except for perhaps one (TBD), what books he doesn't end up being forced to begrudgingly sell and trade throughout his life - never to be seen again - he is eventually forced to burn for tinder in the harsh winters in the many years after her... untimely death.

    This isn't exactly a lighthearted story. Sometimes good intentions are nothing more than that. But it's really a fascinating idea to me, and one I want to make airtight. Sorry for rambling, and thanks again everyone. You've got my creative juices flowing.
     
  13. agentkirb
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    Educated in what though? If we're talking about books needed to ensure a "smooth" transition after a major apocalyptic event... the best books would be tangible things that it took "actual" civilization a long time to discover on its own (stuff like agriculture, currency, electricity, math, etc.). Stuff that a layperson probably couldn't just re-write based off of what he learned in high school. So for specific books... it would be like college text books in those subjects (Advanced physics, advanced math, advanced economics, etc).

    But if we're talking about just one kid that is educated despite not ever stepping foot outside "society". Then perhaps that's where more artsy stuff would come in handy. Philosophy, history, culture, etc. Maybe just fiction texts that describe other cultures to give the kid an idea of what other people before the "event" were like.
     
  14. BFGuru
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    BFGuru Active Member

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    If you are going to keep Grey's Anatomy (which actually has some things I don't agree with as accurate), you need to also keep a physiology book as well. Anatomy means little without the understanding of how it all works together.
     
  15. Anonym
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    Anonym Contributing Member

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    Again, I'm trying not to get bogged down in context - for the sake of people (as in everyone) not familiar with my WIP. This is centuries after, perhaps the better part of a millennium after - not a major and acute - but a slow and painfully drawn out collapse of modern society. Which is to say that this is far beyond a smooth transition. More so not merely stuff that someone fresh out of contemporary highschool couldn't understand/re-write, but someone in one of the least developed third world countries couldn't. Perhaps bordering on the edge of being entirely incomprehensible to said people at all.

    I'm not reaching for the highest levels of modern technological development. Without fossil fuels and a semi-modern/industrial infrastructure, they're essentially useless anyhow. I'm thinkin more along the lines of enriching a much more.... "primitive" culture, with practical and technological principles that they can both understand and implement. At least, that was her original intent, however futile.

    Good ideas though, that helps.

    That's more like it. Again, her aspirations and attempts to enrich/educate the regional masses end up mostly concentrated in her son - due either (arguably) to his selfishness or sentimental attachment to the "heirlooms". So yeah, that's about right. Of course, I'd be open to specific personal recommendations. Thanks again!

    BFguru: I'm not definitely deciding on anything at this point. Grey's Anatomy was just an idea, if nothing else to jar people's memories on the subject. But if I do commit to it, I'll look into relevant physiological texts. Good point, thank you.
     
  16. TheIllustratedMan
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    TheIllustratedMan Active Member

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    A couple of thoughts:

    - Do people generally know how to read? As a scientist (whatever that means in this world), the mother probably has some ability to read, but can she read English? or have they developed their own written language that specifically suits their needs?

    - I kind of agree with the "random books" point, and going along with that I have to wonder what kinds of books have even survived almost a millennium in a "primitive" world. Your inclination toward The Bible, Grey's Anatomy, The Art of War seems to follow for me. Those are the types of books that people would hold on to. Generic practical texts would be next, and very specific fictional works would follow. It's possible that there are a thousand Bibles, but only one "1984", for instance.

    - Thinking about how people might save books (and going with the last thought), it's possible that there are twenty copies of the Bible in whatever passes for a library in this enclave. There could be just as many Korans, Grey's Anatomys, Torahs, etc. Maybe there are two or three each of different practical texts, and twenty fictional works combined. To the mother, she would see the fictional works as most valuable, because they are the most rare. If she were to choose books to take with her, she would take those that she didn't feel were replaceable. If she knows that this enclave has twenty Bibles, for instance, she can safely assume that other enclaves have just as many, and that random individuals might have a copy or two floating around outside the walls.

    So, it seems to me that the mother would take fictional works only. Maybe she's read them, maybe she hasn't. Maybe they're particularly insightful, maybe they're just good reads that someone decided to hang onto. That's your call to make.
     
  17. Anonym
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    Anonym Contributing Member

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    Hmmm.... I can see the logistics of this concept might be a thorn in my side, but these are very good ideas/suggestions/etc for me to consider.

    I could probably keep this dialogue going, but I don't want to get too bogged down in, or revealing of the contextual stuff it'd require. That, and I'm kind of paranoid, so I'm happy with what feedback I've got. This has been... surprisingly productive, and I got a bit more to mull over now, in a good way. Thank you, and everyone, again, for the input!
     
  18. psychotick
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    Have you considered the Encyclopedia Britanica?
     
  19. Cosmic Latte
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    Cosmic Latte Member

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    How about Augustine's City of God? Augustine formulated how civilization thought of God and Christianity for centuries that followed.
    What about Plato's Republic? Haven't read it, but I've got a copy of it on a shelf.
    Plutarch's Lives? Next to the Bible, this was the most influential book on America's founding fathers.

    You know, even Webster's Dictionary in paperback would be an heirloom, but then so could anything by Danielle Steele if you go far enough into the future. :)
     
  20. Cosmic Latte
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    Cosmic Latte Member

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    Here's another thought. Today's papers are acidic, so it's not likely most books published today would last that far into the future. However, books published on rag paper or rice paper would be more longer lasting, or vellum.
    .
    You might want to do some internet research and check out the Huntington Library or similar website. I've been to Huntington and gawked at the old texts displayed there. It's truly a feast for the eyes. I think they even have a whole research facility; maybe you could contact someone there (or similar type of museum) or see if they have any publications on document storage. This might give you clues on how a document or book could last through the timespan it sounds like you're dealing with. Also, who's to say it's a complete work? Binding glues from the 1800's would have been water soluble, inks fade, and insects and the elements might destroy what's left.
     
  21. James Berkley
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    James Berkley Banned

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    didnt that show have someone bring a person out of asystole with just pattle shocks?

    i am just an emt but seriously you need to atlest have a beat of some sorts for the shocks to work
     
  22. James Berkley
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    James Berkley Banned

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    this is my thought.
    as a scientist she whould probably see no value in the fiction books. however the usefull ones she whould. so books on servial, warfare, economics, industry, sciances whould be what she whould one ouside the fence. depending on whats going on, books on battle feild tactics, and one on wepons production chould give you the edge to alow a groupe to call the shots
     
  23. Anonym
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    Psychotik
    Great idea, not sure why it didn't come to mind. Perhaps a (then) "contemporary" version or something...

    Cosmic Latte
    City of God and Plutarch's Lives, alright I'll definitely check them out. Thank you :)
    And yes, I have actually considered the... difficulties of preserving what I suppose would be called an "original" in the future. Realistically, I imagine something like that would be locked up like the Declaration of Independence is - in glass, protected, etc. Probably unable to be snuck out without effort and means that she lacks. If I can't figure out a way around that I may just have the Enclaves make a habit of having relatively newly printed copies in supply, perhaps for the same reason that some people prefer actual books in our modern era of e-readers, nooks, etc. Something like that.
    Otherwise, an archaic one-of-a-kind text would be awesome if I can refine the idea, and would present interesting challenges to preserving them outside the 'claves. It would be more intriguing, if only I can work out the logistics, realistic limitations, etc. Good ideas!

    James Berkley
    Good suggestions, thank you. Except for texts on industrial, fossil fueled technologies, that's along the lines of what I've thought would be useful. I actually would like to include at least one good work of fiction - for the sake of enriching their primitive society if nothing else, but that poses it's own problems. Hmm....

    Thanks again everyone, I'm pleasantly surprised with volume and quality of input I've recieved. Kudos to all!
     

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