To do in San Francisco: an evening celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Whole Earth Catalog

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Those publications, along with the original Mother Earth News, Eric Sloane’s books about tools and history, Helen and Scott Nearing’s books about homesteading in New England, and many similar books and magazines were hugely influential on me in the 1970s and '80s.

I wish I could be there for the celebration.


I’m at the Mother Earth News Fair right now!

(No, really!)


sold out. rats.

Wow, I’m really envious! I hope you have a great time. :grinning:

They’re awesome. There are five or so each year, in different regions. I’m lucky enough to attend all of ‘em!

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Isn’t it a tad premature? Apollo 8 took place in December 1968, I thought that’s where the classic photo of the earth came from. A search says “Fall 1968”. And of course, that December 8th was Doug Englebart’s Big Demo of things like the mouse, Stewart Brand being there to film things.

I guess no money will be given away this time. It’s been 16 years since the last issue if “Whole Earth” and my impression was that Stewart had little connection at the end. Besides, Fred Moore died in 1997, someone most people don’t know about but who landed in some very important events that only in retrospect are connected (and to some extent connected because he was in them).

My father brought The Last Whole Earth Catalog home back in the day. I would have been nine or ten when it arrived. Blew my mind.
I bought some of the later editions, and became a devoted reader of the Whole Earth magazine. I even had an article published in it, in the issue guest-edited by Bruce Sterling.

I found a couple of garage sale copies of TLWEC. They really are amazing. They have reviews of books I discovered for myself; Olaf Stapledon’s Star Maker, Loren Eiseley’s The Immense Journey.


I’ve got a copy of The Last Whole Earth Catalog, Whole Earth Epilog and The Next Whole Earth Catalog, which has a rather swanky gloss finish to the cover. I used to spend hours scanning through them, but I haven’t taken them off the shelf for years. I’ve just gone and fetched them down, to rectify that oversight.
I bought mine from a bookshop in Bath, England, which sadly doesn’t exist any more, I bought a bunch of amazing books that just couldn’t be found anywhere else, often review copies that came from the States and never had a UK release.

One significant factor was that it was the age of pocket paperbacks. Books so cheap to print that any topic got the treatment, so the ideas travelled well. How many read “Design for the real World”? Accessible in part because it was cheap, but a glossy paper book nonetheless, complete with photos throughout the text. Any other time it would have been an expensive trade paperback.

Golden pocket guides, great intros to the topics they covered, yet small so they could be carried. I have a Penguin Guide to Radio Astronomy, a topic more esoteric than visual astronomy, but in pocket size and cheap. For most people, more than they need to know on the topic. The equivalent today would be a “Dummy’s Guide to…”, more expensive and bulky, speaking down to readers and probably not conveying as much.

These were the books that the Catalog linked to. Big Ideas at a low cost, a way different counterculture from taking on trappings and lingo, though I suppose someone could have said “Hey baby, have you read the latest Ivan Illich?” So much happened because pocket paperbacks were cheap, and fit into actual pockets. Kerouac would not have been so prominent, and portable, if only in trade and/or hardcover. So much of the time was mobile, and pocket paperbacks meant the books, and ideas, travelled, along with people, or traded.

The Catalog was a giant in comparison.

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