Brian Eno Lists 20 Books for Rebuilding Civilization & 59 Books For Building Your Intellectual World

eno books

Creative Commons image via Wikimedia Commons

Artist and music producer Brian Eno wrote one of my very favorite books: A Year with Swollen Appendices, which takes the form of his personal diary of the year 1995 with essayistic chapters (the “swollen appendices”) on topics like “edge culture,” generative music, new ways of singing, pretension, CD-ROMs (a relevant topic back then), and payment structures for recording artists (a relevant topic again today). It also includes a fair bit of Eno’s correspondence with Stewart Brand, once editor of the Whole Earth Catalog and now president of the Long Now Foundation, “a counterpoint to today’s accelerating culture” meant to “help make long-term thinking more common” and “creatively foster responsibility in the framework of the next 10,000 years.”

It so happens that Eno now sits on the Long Now Foundation’s board and has had a hand in some of its projects. Naturally, he contributed suggested reading material to the foundation’s Manual of Civilization, a collection of books humanity could use to rebuild civilization, should it need rebuilding. Eno’s full list, which spans history, politics, philosophy, sociology, architecture, design, nature, and literature, runs as follows:

If you’d like to know more books that have shaped Eno’s thinking, do pick up a copy of A Year with Swollen Appendices. Like all the best diarists, Eno makes plenty of references to his day-to-day reading material, and at the very end — beyond the last swollen appendix — he includes a bibliography, on which you’ll find more from Christopher Alexander, a reappearance of Rorty’s Contingency, Irony and Solidarity, and even Steward Brand’s own How Buildings Learn (on a television version of which the two would collaborate):

Related Content:

David Bowie’s Top 100 Books

Brian Eno Lists the Benefits of Singing: A Long Life, Increased Intelligence, and a Sound Civilization

Jump Start Your Creative Process with Brian Eno’s “Oblique Strategies”

Brian Eno on Creating Music and Art As Imaginary Landscapes (1989)

What Books Could Be Used to Rebuild Civilization?: Lists by Brian Eno, Stewart Brand, Kevin Kelly & Other Forward-Thinking Minds

What Books Should Every Intelligent Person Read?: Tell Us Your Picks; We’ll Tell You Ours

Neil deGrasse Tyson Lists 8 (Free) Books Every Intelligent Person Should Read

The 10 Greatest Books Ever, According to 125 Top Authors (Download Them for Free)

Colin Marshall writes on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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Comments (23)
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  • Sky says:

    Why are 98% of these books written by old White Males?

    Does society reall yneed to be rebuilt in their image, again, was it so successfult he first time?

    Why not Trans Authors, or Lesbians? Or Women of Color?

  • OneLeggedTransPersonOfColour says:

    You really are a sad bastard.

  • Paul Glover says:

    One might add “Los Angeles; A History of the Future” (1982) the first attempt to systematically describe how a metropolis can be rebuilt toward balance with nature

  • RJD says:

    Oh puh-leeze.

  • Coach says:

    this is what he read and believes in. That in itself is respectable whatever it is, despite your judgment. Moreover, not all of them are old white males. Not that that is important since this is kind of a general ad hominem argument that you’re making, i.e., you are attacking the list based on the people’s background by birth rather than the content or substance of their work, which as we all know is a garbage argument on your part.

  • Coach says:

    this is what he read and believes in. That in itself is respectable whatever it is, despite your judgment. You claim is a kind of a general ad hominem, i.e., you are attacking the list based on the people’s background by birth rather than the content or substance of their work, which as we all know is a garbage argument on your part.

  • Eli says:

    Graham Hancock – Magicians of the Gods … Due later 2015, i think will rewrite history!

  • Mike says:

    The Author isn’t what is important. The work is.

  • Shitlord says:

    0.3 percent of the population identifies as transgender.
    1.5 percent of women self-identify as lesbian.
    African American women make up 6.5 percent of the population in the United States.

    Anyways, go back to Tumblr

  • Ecron Muss says:

    We would love to pick up Eno’s ‘A Year with Swollen Appendices’, how about getting it back into print instead of us having to pay ridiculous “collectors” prices?

  • Tilman says:

    How a website that calls itself “Open Culture” link to Amazon more than 80 times on a single page is beyond me. You should be ashame of yourself. Buy books at the local bookshop!

  • Chris says:

    If you’re asking in good faith, just read some history.

  • Whitney Smith says:

    Hey, this is a good site.

    But, really, calling yourself the ‘best’?

    Come on, guys.

    You’re smarter than that, aren’t you?

  • harry says:

    whats important is how much he gets paid for it.

  • Anton says:

    Limits to Growth

  • DieWachtAmRhein says:

    Sorry for the fact that most outstanding pieces of literature in history have been written by white men. If colored women want to receive more recognition they better step up their game.

  • Jay Barney says:

    I scanned these titles hoping to see why Mr. Eno is so miso-Judaic.

  • Grant says:

    Autobiography of a Yogi

    Paramahansa Yogananda

  • Luther says:

    Please, give us some good titles (science, culture, and art).

  • jeez yall says:

    seconding this Amazon stupidity. what’s the deal with linking to one of the most publically exploitative corps in the world.

    Couldn’t you just link to Abebooks or something?

  • Luther R. Norman says:

    Dear Staff:

    I certainly admire the diversity of books on the list, but I would like to see THE OUTLINE OF HISTORY in both volumes by H.G. Wells, along with THE HISTORICAL ORIGIN OF CHRISTIANITY and THOI (ISLAM) by Walter Williams.

    Williams was a former sideman of Sun Ra in Chicago, and has delved into the arts and even ‘Futurism’, but while visiting museums in Europe on a tour his world was never the same. he wanted to write a tome for people of Afrikan descent to expand their intellect through music interpretation and a new view on real history.

    in the 1980s, I was planning to attend one of Eno’s workshops in San Francisco, however circumstances recalled me to another part of the US, so I trust there is always Europe or Australia!



  • fred nemo says:

    Abebooks now owned by Amazon

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