If you look at the colorful blurbs on the dust jackets of some books, many publishers claim their author has written a book that will change the world. In reality however, very few books come even close to that claim. There are however, a few books that have really made a mark on the world and have even gone so far as to change the way people think. Here are a few of those books:
The Bible – Various Authors (circa 30AD – 90AD)
There can be no doubt that the Bible has done more to change the face of the world than any other book. A mere two hundred years after it was created, it brought about the conversion of the entire Roman Empire from paganism to Christianity. Since then, Christianity has become the largest single religion in the world (with 2.1 billion adherents).
The Qur’an / Koran /Al-Qur’an -Various Authors (650AD to 656AD)
The Qur’an is the holy book of the Islamic religion. The founder of Islam, Mohammed told his followers that he was given revelations by the Angel Gabriel. The Qur’an is considered by Muslims to be the last revealed word of God (after the Old Testament and the New Testament of the Christian Bible). In recent years much debate has occurred over the content of the Qur’an – with its opponents claiming that it advocates war and murder of non-believers. Muslims generally claim that this is not the case and state that opponents of Islam are taking the text out of context.
Magna Carta (1215 ) by various barons of King John of England
Written in Latin, the Magna Carta is quite simply one of the key moments in the history of democracy. Among other things, the charter established habeas corpus meaning that citizens can’t be thrown in jail at the drop of a hat. Much of its content comes from the Charter of Liberties issued by Henry I in 1100.
The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin (1859)
Perhaps the greatest science book of all time, On the Origin of Species established the principle of evolutionary biology (basically the theory that man is descended from the apes). This is a concept that is still being contested in some places south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri (1321)
The Divine Comedy (La Divina Commedia) is an epic poem written by Dante Alighieri between 1308 and his death in 1321. It is widely considered the preeminent work of Italian literature, and is seen as one of the greatest works of world literature. The poem’s imaginative vision of the afterlife is divided into three parts, the Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso. The book also helped establish the Tuscan dialect.
The Art of War by Sun Tzu (6th century BC)
Countless generals and leaders have praised this book as the definitive guide to military strategy and tactics. Thirteen aspects of warfare are each allocated a chapter. The Art of War is one of the oldest and most successful books on military strategy. It has had an influence on Eastern military thinking, business tactics, and beyond.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (1852)
This anti-slavery novel had a profound effect on attitudes toward African Americans and slavery in the United States. It played a role in the build-up to the American Civil War and heavily influenced public opinion in Northern states.
Common Sense by Thomas Paine (1776)
This widely read pamphlet presented the American colonists with a powerful argument for independence from British rule at a time when the question of independence was still undecided. Paine wrote and reasoned Common Sense in a style that common people understood, structuring the pamphlet much like a sermon and relying on Biblical references to make his case to the people.
Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica by Isaac Newton (1687)
This book describes gravity and the laws of motion for the first time. It is the basis for modern engineering and a true landmark in science.
The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud (1899-1900)
Die Traumdeutung revealed Freud’s theory on dream analysis and introduces the ego. A truly influential book that helped to explain and understand the human unconscious.
Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler (Vol-1 1925 & vol-2 1926)
This infamous book is essentially Hilter’s autobiography that also outlined the National Socialist political ideology. The book also became a tool of the Nazi political machine.
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (1947)
The perfect literary reply to Mein Kampf, this book is the diary kept by Anne Frank while she was in hiding for two years with her family during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. The family was apprehended in 1944 and Anne Frank ultimately died of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. After the war, the diary was retrieved by Anne’s father, Otto Frank, the only survivor of the family. The diary has now been published in more than 60 different languages and is deemed one of the most powerful books of the 20th century.
On Liberty by John Stuart Mill (1859)
This book is a key liberal work in proclaiming the rights of an individual. At the time the book was published, it was considered a radical work to Victorian readers because it supported moral and economic freedom of individuals from the state. The ideas presented in the book have remained the basis of much liberal political thought ever since.
The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer (circa 14th century)
The Canterbury Tales is a collection of stories written in Middle English which are told as part of a story-telling contest by a group of pilgrims as they travel together on a journey from Southwark to the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. In a long list of works, including “Troilus and Criseyde”, “House of Fame”, “Parliament of Fowls”, the Canterbury Tales was Chaucer’s magnum opus. He uses the tales and the descriptions of the characters to paint an ironic and critical portrait of English society at the time, and particularly of the Church. This book popularized the use of vernacular English in literature rather than Latin or French. Without Geoffrey, you’d be reading this in Latin.
Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung (1964)
Published by the Chinese Government, this book became known as the Little Red Book in the West. More than 900 million copies were printed and it became essential for every Chinese citizen to own one and became a symbol of Mao’s cultural revolution.
Alcoholics Anonymous by Bill Wilson (1939)
Thousands of alcoholics would argue that this book (nicknamed the Big Book), which introduced the 12-step recovery program, changed their world. First editions are hugely collectible.
Kama Sutra by Mallanaga Vatsyayana. (circa 2nd century AD)
This Indian Hindu text is widely considered to be the standard work on human sexual behavior. When this book was translated to English in 1883, it helped to change Western attitudes towards sex.