Nasa / Space

The Time Traveler's book list

Ever since he read H.G. Wells' The Time Machine, Edmond Woychowsky has been wondering which three books were missing from the library after the Time Traveler's departure. He shares his guesses.

There is a question that's been bothering me ever since I first read H.G. Wells' classic The Time Machine. In the book and in the 1960 movie of the same name, the Time Traveler returns to the 19th century for a short time to relay his story to Filby before returning, presumably to the future. After the Time Traveler's departure, Filby notices that three books are missing from the library, but he doesn't know which books.

Wells has been dead for decades, so no one can say for sure which books were taken, but it is possible to make an educated guess after taking two factors into account. First, the Morlocks are probably still a threat, which means that war is a distinct possibility. And, The Time Machine was published in 1895, so only books published before that date are eligible. This means that all of the Foxfire books are ineligible, while Baden-Powell's Reconnaissance and Scouting, published in 1884, is acceptable. So, I'll select Baden-Powell's book as my first choice.

My second guess is Robinson Crusoe, which dates from 1719. Although a work of fiction, it goes into quite a bit of detail into the skills necessary to build something of a low-tech civilization. Considering the traits that the Eloi display, low tech is definitely the way to go. But, then, the Eloi can't really be blamed for their lack of sophistication, after all, they live in a world where becoming Soylent Green is their only career choice.

My final book selection is Sun Tzu's The Art of War, originally written in the 6th century BC and translated into English in 1772. My main reason for this choice is the Morlocks; I for one would not make a happy meal. Therefore, unless there was a pre-1895 For Dummies book on war, this definitive how-to book is the way to go.

What three titles do you think were on The Time Traveler's book list?

20 comments
trent_slabaugh
trent_slabaugh

Marty! You're not thinking 4th Dimmensionally .. Since we already know that he's invented a time machine, he obviously has a firm grasp on physics and science. The three books would be to help him refine the time machine, add a flux capaciter, add a Mr. Fusion, etc. Then you go forward in time when the morlock race was just evolving and exterminate them like bugs.. with your plasma cannon.

Helmeet_El_Gato
Helmeet_El_Gato

Good Lord, gentlemen, be practical... As he hastily browsed the material at his disposition, he probably had more inmediate needs in mind, like the need of defense against the Morlocks. He wouldn't start an academy, he would start a fire! 19? Century books burn very well and are an adecuate , low-risk fuel for a start... and before my sensible, literate fellows here could horrified stand up in protest, please allow me to argumentate that: a) He may truely find more accurate and convenient material in the future, given time to search it. b) He picked books that no one would miss, hence the impossibility to identify 'em later... and nothing of value was lost.

zclayton2
zclayton2

As to getting books in the future, he may well have. what you need to start from scratch at the primers, as mentioned. a book on nuclear physics would do little good if you don't have a level of understanding of Newtonian physics and Bohr atomic structure as a basis. As to the military books, I would go with the Clauswitz as a more popular book at the time, even if the Sun Tzu has greater applicability. First survival, then Technical growth. So then, Clauswitz, a primer on chemistry, and a primer on biology. The TT obviously has the grasp of engineering and physics needed for his purposes.

00340718
00340718

The Filby's personality should be taken into account. His personal tastes/preferences would dictate which books would ultimately be available to the Traveler. Outside of that, I can only tell you which books I would take.

wesmi
wesmi

Why was he is such a hurry her only took 3 books? He has a time machine, could he not keep coming back for whatever he needed? My List 1. A math primer 2. A reading primer 3. Greys medical or similar. but again my origional question.... why was he rushed ?

Ed Woychowsky
Ed Woychowsky

My guess was that wasn't used to having all the time in the world. Interesting list, I especially like the idea that you picked primers. With the Eloi starting at zero primers are the way to go.

Larry.Barnhill
Larry.Barnhill

Not only not used to the implications of "Time Travel" but probably also concerned that his machine probably would not survive a dozen trips. Aside from that, the books had to be something "he" could understand. A modern medical work would do him no good because it is full of terms that had not been invented yet.

Nesher
Nesher

How about a Bible? You don't have to be a religious person to appreciate its tales and lessons.

Azathoth
Azathoth

Not that it would be in my top three, but given the era that the time traveller was raised in, I could see him taking that.

dritchie
dritchie

The Witchery of Archery, a work on how to use bows and how to make them 1878, On War, 1873 English translation, Lessons for Children, 1777/1778 a set of 4 books for teaching children to read. However, I don't remember the book too well but in the film he chose the books in a matter of minutes so this list wouldn't necessarily work. A very quick list, Bible (for the morality not the religion), Origin of the Species, The English Constitution.

TNT
TNT

It would be better to obtain books on science and economics in the future when knowledge of those areas is more complete. Since he has a time machine he can get books from other eras that would be more helpful than "Gray's Anatomy" or "Origin of the Species and the Preservation of the Favored Races" (the full title of Darwin's work). After all, only a little over 100 years after Darwin, we've demonstrated that literally all his theories are wrong with one exception, the basic theory that one species can turn into another. Better, more accurate books on the sciences would have been obtained in the future. I think the books he'd have taken would be classics through the ages. Books on mathematics, logic and even chess strategies are timeless and have practical use. Works by Aristotle or Plato make sense. I too think a Bible might have been one of the books, but not just for its moral teachings. Even if you don't believe it to be inspired by God its worldview helps make sense of the universe and one's place in it. It was the first book ever printed, and is an all-time international best seller. I think it is a good candidate.

LocoLobo
LocoLobo

Plutarch's Lives were popular in the 19th century. Adam Smith published something on economics that was popular in America. Maybe not so much in England? Caesar's Army by Henry Judson Pratt may have been published then, but may not be adaptable enough for a new civilization's starting army. I don't think Sun Tzu was as popular with non military people back then but don't really know. It's been a long time since I read The Time Machine. After the Moorlocks what was their main problem. Agricultural? Engineering? or Social Psychology? And how does a Mad Scientist perceive these? Let's face it, that's what he was.

LocoLobo
LocoLobo

With a working time machine he can always come back for more.

NotSoChiGuy
NotSoChiGuy

I think he would have picked his three favorite books, and been on his merry way. He could stop off at a myriad of points along the time line to get books of need (would he want a book on medicine from the 1800's or the 2200's); but chances are, his favorite books would remain his favorite books. That, or perhaps personal journals. Makes for a fun discussion, in any event! :)

jbrdshw
jbrdshw

One thing that I would put into consideration would be the fact that this society has been raised as cattle, and as such probably would have little to no education whatsoever. That said, I believe he would take one book back to begin the society's re-education - a simple math book. Secondly a book that would start a level or morals or ideals. Wells was not a particularly religious person, however, he did read a great deal on philosophy. The second book I believe he would have taken would have Utopia, a book he enjoyed as a younger man and book that he would use in order to start building the perfect society in the future. I must disagree with the selection of the Art of War as this book was only translated into French in 1772 and not into English until 1885. It can be argued that HG Wells would have been able to read it, but it doesn't seem quite plausible that the main character would have had a copy so quickly on hand that he could then translate once he arrived. That said, I believe he would have taken a slightly more popular book of the time of that being On War: The Classic Book of Military Strategy by Clausewitz.

CavalierX
CavalierX

1. Gray's Anatomy by Gray and Carter (1858) - the definitive compilation of 19th century medical and surgical knowledge. 2. On Liberty by John Stuart Mill (1869) - one of the most important philosophical works of the 19th century, which lays out the principles of a free society. 3. History of the Inductive Sciences by William Whewell (1837) - a comprehensive, detailed history of the various branches of science. (Originally published in two volumes, true, but allow me to pretend the TT had a boxed set that Filby counted as one.)

Wally Bahny
Wally Bahny

Jules Verne's 1874 novel The Mysterious Island. The engineer, Cyrus Harding, gives decent detail about how many simple technologies are made that might aid in his survival in that future.

doomdreamer
doomdreamer

My three book guesses. "Critique of Pure Reason" by Emmanuel Kant. Published around 1787. Want to ensure you have a legacy of people using logic to derive an intelligent conclusion? Kant is your man. An excellent middle of the road philospher to begin with, Kant's essays on logic and reason are a fantastic way to fastfoward a group into a civilization. "Some Thoughts Concerning Education" by John Locke published in 1693. If you are looking for the best way to teach before 20th century educational reform, John Locke is your man. Even coining the term "Tabula Rasa." Sorry Richard Gariott. "An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations " by Adam smith published in 1776. Is still an often quoted and revisted work of Economics and nation level dynamics. If you want to predict outcomes of massive groups of people before the advent of modern sociology, Adam Smith has you covered. While the original three books are fantastic choices, I think these may be more practical and future thinking.

Ed Woychowsky
Ed Woychowsky

I didn't think of that. I was more concerned with survival and driving the Morlocks to extinction. Perhaps some combination of both our lists would do the job?

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