Library for Civilization

We asked University of St. Thomas faculty and staff: If you were stranded on an island (or small hostile planetoid), what book would you want to have with you? The following are their suggestions for a library for civilzation, based on the Long Now Foundation's Manual for Civilization. 

Titles are listed in alphabetical order. 

Anne of Green Gables 

by L.M. Montgomery

and the 

Betsy-Tacy series

by Maud Hart Lovelace

These two series of engaging stories that portray the lives of two girls from youth into adulthood emphasize the benefits of a caring community, the power of imagination and risk-taking, and the benefits of tenacity in the face of hardship--and they are delightful reads that don't grow old or tired despite their age.

Submitted by Sara Gross Methner, General Counsel and Chief Human Resources Officer

Being Mortal 

by Atul Gawande

I suggest this book because of its focus on taking control of whatever time you have left in life and spending this time on what is most important to you.

Submitted by Julie Sullivan, President of the University of St. Thomas

The Bible (ESV)

Technology changes; people do not and they need the Lord.

Submitted by Greg Mowry, Associate Professor, School of Engineering


Book of Mormon 182w

Book of Mormon

abridged by prophets Nephi, Mormon, and Moroni

No matter my situation in life, I have always found spiritual direction from this book.

Submitted by Lance Peterson, Assistant Professor, School of Social Work

‌‌Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 182w

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

by Roald Dahl

It's the first book that completely captivated me as a child. and helped me to begin a life time love of reading.

Submitted by Lisa Haberstroh, Child Development Center


The Compleat Angler

by Izaak Walton

Walton's book, a 17th-century guide to life disguished as a how-to, has gone through more editions than any English-language book in history except the Bible. Walton himself was credited with either inventing or perfecting the biography but this little book was his masterpiece.

Submitted by Mark Neuzil, Professor, Communication and Journalism


The Complete Poems: 1927-1979

by Elizabeth Bishop

I would definitely need Bishop's wit and the beauty of her poems while stranded.

Submitted by Ann Johnson, Director, Faculty Development Center


‌‌‌Death in a Tenured Position 182w

Death in a Tenured Position

by Amanda Cross (Carolyn G. Heilbrun)

As the first Director of the Luann Dummer Center for Women (1993-1996), I was thrilled when Carolyn G. Heilbrum, Ph.D. (a.k.a Amanda Cross) accepted our invitation to be the inaugural speaker for the Luann Dummer Lecture Series, March 3, 1994. Even if your life does not unfold in the context of the American university, Fansler’s wit, intelligence and determination in the face of being “the token” (in her case, woman) inspire, as in the quote we printed on the bookmark for the lecture: “Power is the ability to take one’s place in whatever discourse is essential to action and the right to have one’s part matter.” – Carolyn Heilbrun, Ph.D.

Submitted by Meg Wilkes Karraker, Professor, Sociology and Criminal Justice



The Four Loves

by C. S. Lewis

Because without love we are no better than the beasts of the Earth.

Submitted by Nathan Wunrow, Circulation Supervisor, O’Shaughnessy-Frey Library



The Giving Tree

by Shel Silverstein

I selected this title as it has evoked varying opinions on how to interpret the relationship between the tree and the boy. I personally envision it as a representation between Mother Nature and humankind. It is a book my parents read to me when I was young and one I read to my own children.

Submitted by Carolyn Paetzel, Child Development Center




by William Shakespeare

Even if the time comes when people aren't educated to think of Shakespeare as the greatest writer in English, I still feel that we'll find essential and compelling Hamlet's search for an authentic way of being in the world--whatever that world turns out to be.

Submitted by Amy Muse, Associate Professor of English



How to Win Friends and Influence People

by Dale Carnegie

Learning how to disagree with others without degenerating into arguments is a valuable life skill. "You can't win an argument. You can't because if you lose it, you lose it; and if you win it, you lose it.” This simple realization is an important life lesson.

Submitted by Erica Berglund, Administrative Assistant, Office of Academic Affairs


Invisible Man

by Ralph Ellison

Ellison's novel, published in the middle of the last century, is a deep meditation on the relationship between race and American identity. He shows how the wisdom of Black vernacular culture--found in oral storytelling, public oratory, and the blues--can help us understand the perhaps insoluble riddle of what it means to be "American"-- and not just a Black American. It can / should be a touchstone in these times of ongoing social upheaval and transformation in our culture.

Submitted by Andrew Scheiber, Professor, English



‌‌Lateral Thinking 182w

Lateral Thinking

by Edward de Bono

It has sensible but unconventional advice for creative problem solving.

Submitted by Craig Eliason, Associate Professor, Art History



The Log from the Sea of Cortez

by John Steinbeck (and Ed Ricketts)

The Log from the Sea of Cortez is a comprehensive description of a wonderful ecosystem blended with the philosophy of two men who deeply understood the significance (or insignificance) of man’s presence in it. Published as the world edged toward World War II, Steinbeck wrote from their seiner bobbing on the sea in the night, “fifty miles away the Japanese shrimp boats are dredging with overlapping scoops, bringing up tons of shrimps, rapidly destroying the species so that it may never come back, and with the species destroying the ecological balance of the whole region. That isn’t very important in the world. And thousands of miles away the great bombs are falling and the stars are not moved thereby. None of it is important or all of it is.” “The Log” is written with the sense that Steinbeck knew that the course of humanity would someday lead us to a point where we need to press the reboot button.

Submitted by Don Weinkauf, Professor and Dean, School of Engineering



The Lyrics: Since 1962

by Bob Dylan

If you have only one book to read/study for a long time, it ought to be one that holds rich potential for thoughts, dreams, interpretation, speculation and wonder. Bob Dylan is the Homer and the Shakespeare of our time and culture and his lyrics are mystical and full of intriguing references and connections. He somehow is a channel for the human collective unconscious. It would be possible for a person to ponder his songs and lyrics for many years in an effort to unravel their mysteries and signs.

Submitted by Dan Gjelten, Director, University Libraries



The Martian

by Andy Weir

This is the adventure of an astronaut who has been stranded on Mars and must use mankind's technical knowledge to survive and make it back alive. It beautifully showcases the awesome power of numerous technical disciplines, including Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Physics, Materials, Biology, Math, Geology, and Computer Science to name just a few.

Submitted by Brittany Nelson-Cheeseman, Assistant Professor, School of Engineering



My Name is Asher Lev

by Chaim Potok

Religious fundamentalism remains one of the most pressing problems of our day. In this novel, Chaim Potok explores a Jewish form of religious fundamentalism, analyzing the complexity of Jewish community after the Holocaust. His examination includes an appraisal of Christianity that can be enlightening for Christian readers.

Submitted by Kimberly Vrudny, Associate Professor, Theology



Oxford English Dictionary

These volumes are so much more than a dictionary. They tell the story (often an emerging story) of the words of the English language. The dictionary is history, sociology, philosophy and more. And at 20 volumes, it would certainly keep me occupied.

Submitted by Wendy Wyatt, Professor, Communication and Journalism


On Food and Cooking

by Harold McGee

It dives into the science of cooking deeper than any other book. Future generations will always need to know how to eat.

Submitted by Alex Kermes, graduate student, Art History and curator of "Designed to Last: A Look at the Projects of the Long Now Foundation"




Peace is Every Step

by Thich Nhat Hanh

This guide to mindfulness helps find peace in the present moment through mindful awareness of the daily situations that might otherwise annoy and antagonize. Civilization requires peaceful coexistence and this book helps each of us re-member society through mindfulness.

Submitted by Mike Klein, Clinical Faculty, Justice and Peace Studies




Plato's Complete Works

A. N. Whitehead said "The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato" (Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology). If that's so, we should probably have the main text.

Submitted by Matthew Lu, Assistant Professor, Philosophy




The Republic

by Plato

It covers almost every topic one would want to explore in philosophy.

Submitted by Stephen J. Laumakis, Professor, Philosophy




by David Quammen

Spillover is a very well written book that takes the reader through the stories of diseases that have moved from animals into humans. The book is written like a mystery novel where the main characters are the scientists piecing together the history of diseases and their impact on human populations. By understanding the events that have caused diseases to emerge in the past, we may be better prepared for the next emerging pandemic. Rather than being written as a doomsday scenario, this book contains the right amount of mystery, history, and science to make a thrilling read.

Submitted by Justin Donato, Assistant Professor, Chemistry



Station Eleven

by Emily St. Vincent Mandel

This novel speaks to enduring the power of theatre, music, and the visual arts.

Submitted by Heather Shirey, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies, Art History




The Tao Te Ching

by Lao Tzu

If only one book is allowed, it has to be the one that says ‘he who knows does not speak. He who speaks does not know.’

Submitted by Jeff Jalkio, Associate Professor, School of Engineering



Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea 

by Jules Verne

When I read it as a young child (~9 years old) it sparked my interest in science, engineering, and adventure! It is fantastic story telling coupled with a great imagination.

Submitted by Marie Lopez del Puerto, Associate Professor, Physics




Where do we go from here? Chaos or Community 

by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

This book provides guidance on how to build a strong community rooted in love, dignity and respect.

Submitted by Artika Tyner, Assistant Professor, Leadership, Policy and Administration




by 300,000 - 48,000,000 contributors

Wikipedia, providing the single broadest snapshot of all human knowledge, can be rendered into a 7,600 volume @ 700 pages/volume English-language book for $500,000.

Submitted by Brad Rubin, Associate Professor, Graduate Programs in Software



The Yearling

by Marjorie Kinnen Rawlings

The Yearling is rich with many beautiful themes: the naiveté and playful longings of youth; the guarded love of a mother who has suffered too much loss; the importance of seeing the humanity of people who aggravate us; and so much more. In addition the book is full of amazing descriptions of a landscape I have never visited, and I think I could read it many times before I had a complete picture in my mind. Each reading would bring new discoveries.

Submitted by Jenny Holte, Distinguished Service Professor, School of Engineering