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The Whole Earth Catalog was a cultural touchstone of the 1960s and 1970s. The iconic cover image of the Earth viewed from space made it one of the most recognizable books on bookstore shelves. Between 1968 and 1971, almost two million copies of its various editions were sold, and not just to commune-dwellers and hippies. Millions of mainstream readers turned to the Whole Earth Catalog for practical advice and intellectual stimulation, finding everything from a review of Buckminster Fuller to recommendations for juicers. Whole Earth Field Guide offers selections from eighty texts from the nearly 1,000 items of "suggested reading" in the Last Whole Earth Catalog.
After an introduction that provides background information on the catalog and its founder, Stewart Brand (interesting fact: Brand got his organizational skills from a stint in the Army), Whole Earth Field Guide presents the texts arranged in nine sections that echo the sections of the Whole Earth Catalog itself. Enlightening juxtapositions abound. For example, "Understanding Whole Systems" maps the holistic terrain with writings by authors from Aldo Leopold to Herbert Simon; "Land Use" features selections from Thoreau's Walden and a report from the United Nations on new energy sources; "Craft" offers excerpts from The Book of Tea and The Illustrated Hassle-Free Make Your Own Clothes Book; "Community" includes Margaret Mead and James Baldwin's odd-couple collaboration, A Rap on Race. Together, these texts offer a sourcebook for the Whole Earth culture of the 1960s and 1970s in all its infinite variety.
Caroline Maniaque-Benton is Professor of the History of Architecture and Design at the Ecole Nationale Superieure d'Architecture Normandie. She is the author of French Encounters with the American Counterculture 1960--1980 and other books. Meredith Gaglio is a doctoral candidate at Columbia University.
"This delicious compendium captures the essence of the multifarious Catalog. Read it and marvel."
– Fred Turner, author of From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism
"Following her investigation of the alternative culture in the United States, Caroline Maniaque-Benton brilliantly unveils the universe the Whole Earth Catalog opened for the eyes of its readers around 1970. Spanning the extended field of knowledge in which today's digital practices have found their roots, her anthology provides an indispensable documentation for the contemporary reader."
– Jean-Louis Cohen, Sheldon H. Solow Professor in the History of Architecture, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University
"Richly illustrated and meticulously documented, this fascinating selection of texts cited as 'suggested reading' in the Whole Earth Catalog gives us a fresh, new look at this bible of a generation. Wonderful juxtapositions abound: Buckminster Fuller and Wendell Berry; Timothy Leary and Lao-Tzu; Thoreau and Marshall McLuhan; the Boston Women's Health Collective and Norbert Wiener; Nicholas Negroponte and Kakuzo Okakura; and Margaret Mead and James Baldwin (their A Rap on Race). At once libertarian and communitarian, practical and mystical, scientific and hands-on, Whole Earth Field Guide reveals the astonishing energy and spirit that motivated thousands of young people to challenge the status quo and to grapple, with remarkable prescience, with issues such as ecology and information technology that still confront us today."
– Mary McLeod, Professor of Architecture, Columbia University