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An apocalypse straight out of The Last of Us—an infection that has turned those it didn’t kill into aggressive, hungry zombies—has decimated the world. You and a small group of others have survived, but you are constantly on the run, moving from place to place in the city. You have a dream of finding a safe area, somewhere, that you can fortify and protect, where you can begin to build a community that will last—a place, in other words, where you can safely begin to rebuild society.

One day, as you’re wandering through the wreckage of the city, you find yourself in a place that is barely recognizable from your former life: the campus of your university. It’s a burned-out ruin. Everything looks potentially dangerous, but you decide to search a few places in the hope of finding supplies. You and your companions head for the library, which is almost entirely destroyed except for one wing of the second floor. You head into what’s left of the second floor looking for whatever you can find but mostly you come across destruction: a smashed piano, lots of broken glass, and heaps of busted office furniture and equipment, some of which looks like it was used as a barricade. But wait, look! There, in the corner of what was once a classroom, you see a dusty, crumpled box. Inside it are books, somehow miraculously preserved, undamaged by the elements.

You hear the clicking and snapping of zombies, not far around a corner and getting closer and closer. You think to yourself with a shudder. In the few seconds you have before you and the others get the hell out of there, you think about that dream you have of your future: a safe place to live and set about rebuilding a new society. You’ll need books for that. (The internet was of course one of the first things to go during the apocalypse, so physical books are once again your only option for knowledge.) You have just barely enough time to grab a few of the books, since trying to carry the whole crumbling box might be awkward with zombies pursuing you. The books you choose are “Genesis”, Niccolo Machiavelli’s “The Prince”, and Emily Wilson’s translation of “The Odyssey” Why would these be of the greatest value to you, as a future leader of what’s left of humanity, and to those who will (hopefully) come after you? Why do you choose these books to survive the apocalypse and contribute—somehow—to the foundation of a new society?

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