The Whole Earth Catalog won the National Book Award in 1972. One of the award’s judges thought that it would “probably be the only book published in 1971 that anyone remembers one hundred years in the future.”
It’s too early to see if that prediction comes true but the big book was for a time a very popular counterculture magazine and product catalog promoting self-sufficiency, ecology, alternative education, “do it yourself” (DIY), and holism. Its slogan was “access to tools.”
It was published by Stewart Brand several times a year between 1968 and 1972. After that, it was updated occasionally.
The 1968 catalog divided itself into seven broad sections: Understanding Whole Systems, Shelter and Land Use, Industry and Craft, Communications, Community, Nomadics, and Learning.
The book did look like a catalog and it was rather confusing in its clearly cut and paste early layouts.
An interview with Steward Brand’s biographer, John Markoff, at archive.org discusses the WEC’s origins.
I had an early copy. It seemed like the thing to do and I did have fantasies of living off the land and being self-sufficient in that hippie mixed with Thoreau way that many of us felt during that era.
My copy of the catalog vanished over the years but I found a number of the Whole Earth series on Amazon, and I also found a lot of it freely available at the Internet Archive.
Stewart Brand is a life-long conservationist, defender of Native American rights, and a chronicler of early computers. He became a counter-culture icon. Though he is best known as the editor of the Whole Earth Catalog, he founded a number of organizations, including The WELL, the Global Business Network, and the Long Now Foundation. His most recent book is Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto.