Most of the stories are part of a larger storyline of a rapidly collapsing American sanity, followed by a theocraticdictatorship. A revolution overthrows the theocracy and establishes a free society which, nonetheless, does not save the pseudo-immortal Lazarus Long and his Howard Families from fleeing Earth for their lives. Most editions of the collection include a timeline showing the chronology of the stories (including stories never written, such as "The Stone Pillow", which was to occur during the period of the theocracy), time of birth and death of the significant characters, and commentary by Heinlein.
The specific short stories included vary with the edition, but typically include:
Algis Budrys hailed the collection as "some of the finest writing [science fiction] has ever known," describing it as "a magnificent compendium, coincidentally a rewarding and perhaps accurate cross-section of a writer's career."