Books that changed the world cover an eclectic set of subjects. When it comes to mankind preserving their memories, setting down their legacies and teaching future generations, nothing survives the test of time better than the written word. Books are one of the most important ways people can share their beliefs, ideologies, way of living and experiences and some have revolutionized people’s lives. Books that changed the world influenced, in one way or another, how the world came to being. They range from proving readers from their own and future generations how to define words, educate people, philosophize and run world politics. This is a list of 8 Books that Changed the World for you to perhaps, one day, read and learn.
1. Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
The origins of ‘Marxism’, is one of the most influential and important political books that changed the world. It is a manuscript that aided the rights and liberation of the working-class, highlighting the flaws in capitalism that contributed to class struggles. Commissioned by the Communist League, this book delivered a historical and contemporary analysis on the nature of Marx’s and Engel’s society and the potential future of communism.
2. Rights of Man by Thomas Paine
A bold book that defended the 1789-1799 French Revolution as an attack against Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790). Because of this, it was a controversial book for the French and English governments. It adamantly argued that political revolutions are permissible if a nation’s government is failing to protect its people, safeguard their natural rights and national interests. It can be seen as the basis for political protests, where groups of people speak their voice and stand up to their governments that are failing to protect their better interests.
3. On the Origins of Species by Charles Darwin
Who hasn’t heard of Darwin’s theory of evolution? The theories and ideas that became popularized and publicized by Darwin in the Victorian era is a book that changed the world, and how we view ourselves and our ancestors. Its effects on science, society and ideologies cannot be understated. Darwin’s research aided the world’s knowledge on animal behavior, breeding, evolution and natural selection. It is widely considered the foundation of evolutionary biology and bridged the gap between animals and humans, showing how we have closer links than what we originally thought.
4. The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud
The man who popularized psychoanalyses, controversial as he is, Sigmund Freud undeniably made uncomfortable, yet compelling, theories on the human psyche. ‘Freudian slip’, ‘Wish-fulfillment’ and ‘penis-envy’ are popular terms we use nowadays to point out the moments when our subconsciousness may be slipping to reveal our unconscious desires and beliefs. The Interpretation of Dreams introduces Freud’s theories on dream interpretation, and how dreams formulate our truest desires. Take it or leave it, I personally hope that my dreams of finding ghosts eating a sandwich in my bathroom isn’t something I wish to be fulfilled, but as one of the books that changed the world, Freud’s theories undeniably formulated interesting and revolutionary ideas on psychology.
5. A Dictionary of the English Language by Samuel Johnson
After nine years of scholarly work and research, Samuel Johnson published what soon was to become one of the most foundational dictionaries in the English Language in 1755. Roughly 170 years after its publication it was considered the pre-eminent English dictionary. The most innovative aspect of his dictionary was using literary quotations to help explain the meaning of words.
6. The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith
Published in 1776 this book is considered to be one of the books that changed the world because it lays the foundations of modern economics. It reflects on the economics at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and its main argument advocates a ‘free market’ economy. It argued that it would be more productive for society. Its ideas have aided the study and implementation of economics today.
7. Philosophae Naturalis Principia Mathematica by Isaac Newton
Latin for ‘Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy’, this book outlined renowned mathematician and physicist, Isaac Newton’s thoughts on gravity, calculus, mechanics, light and even color. Published in 1687, Newton’s work is foundational for today’s understanding of math and physics, stating Newton’s laws of motion (do you remember F=ma?), Newton’s law of universal gravitation and formed the foundation for classical mechanics. This is certainly a book that changed the world’s understanding of how it works.
8. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
Published in America in 1852, this book is considered a huge breakthrough text in changing the views of slavery and failures in humanity. According to Will Kaufman it was a novel that “helped lay the groundwork for the Civil War”, making it both controversial and compelling.
There are plenty of influential books that changed the world, coming from all the different fields that stem from science and art. Books from the past have molded and carved the ideas we have today. Some ideas may be outdated and premature, but the initial foundations laid the brickwork for further thought and innovation for the politics, wisdom, lifestyles and beliefs we nurture and continue to develop today. What are your favorite Books that Changed the World, and why?