Books that changed the world
What books have had the greatest effect on human history? It is likely to be a question that provokes a great debate, but it is clear that, from fiction and history to science and religion, the following works have left their mark on the world and have stood the test of time. They are the books with the greatest effect on the course of history.
These are stories that still resonate in readers despite having been published decades or centuries ago. The books on this list are widely accepted by historians as works that helped shape society, alter social practices, and capture or explain crucial moments in human history.
Reading is not just pleasure: books have the power to touch us in the depths of our being, to open our eyes to injustices and sometimes even to act as a catalyst for social change.
From the works of the English writer William Shakespeare to "1984" also by a British author, George Orwell, these are the books that have had a great impact on our history.
George Orwell’s classic dystopia work released this sub-genre of science fiction to the public. Orwell envisioned a not-so-distant future as a government-controlled nightmare with unbridled censorship and no freedom. Books like Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 or Anthony Burgess’s The Mechanical Orange wouldn’t exist without Orwell having written 1984 first, and Aldous Huxley’s A Happy World a Little Earlier. But 1984 still resonates strongly. We are fortunate that the real world of 1984 did not turn out as Orwell predicted in 1949, but the influence of the book has lasted and will continue to last under the influence of that all-seeing being who dominates everything, the Great Brother who rules using vigilance, fear, force and a generalized cult of personality. The term Big Brother is still used today and the book will always be an important reminder that freedom of expression and thought is worthwhile in society.
This collection of stories was designed to teach a moral lesson. The fables are attributed to a slave in ancient Greece called Aesop -in the sixth century BC. Although many of the stories are prior to these times. It is likely that Aesop did not necessarily write the stories; however, Aesop’s fables have been told all over the world for hundreds of years. There are over 650 and they all have an underlying message about life or how people should or should not behave. The main characters are usually animals with human qualities. The most famous include The Fox and the Grapes, The Turtle and the Hare, The Wolf and the Lamb or The Deer and the Lion.
The 1939 classic tells the story of a penniless Oklahoma family traveling west along Route 66. The book was an immediate bestseller and the novel highlighted the shocking poverty of the Depression era and the misery of hundreds of thousands of migrants traveling to California to find work. The book was highly controversial, banned and even burned in several places, including Kern County, California, where the journey of the Joad family, the protagonist of the story, ended. He received the Pulitzer Prize in 1940.
It is believed that this summary of the thoughts of the Chinese thinker Confucius was written sometime between 475 and 221 BC. Also known simply as "Analectas" or "Lunyu", this book is a collection of sayings and ideas attributed to the philosopher on how to live a virtuous life and to be kind, what he called "Ren Ren". Analectas continues to have a profound influence on Eastern philosophy and ethics, especially in China.
Karl Marx and Freidrich Engels were two of the most influential figures of communism. They have contributed to the theory of communism to such an extent that this movement took the form of a revolution and attracted a considerable part of society to adhere to their policies. This treatise, which was written by Marx and Engels in command of the Communist League, is one of the most influential in the history of politics. He spoke of a course of action that would allow the proletarian (working class) to eliminate the rule of the bourgeoisie (ruling class) in order to establish a classless society. The book produced an evident social change with the set of principles established by Marx and Engels.
This Chinese military treaty has been adopted by businessmen as a book of advice on how to negotiate in the ruthless world of capitalism. Each of the 13 chapters of the book addresses a different aspect of war. Sun Tzu, who was a former Chinese military general and a highly respected strategist, believed that war should be avoided as much as possible and completed quickly and efficiently when necessary. His teachings have been accepted by both the business and legal worlds to learn how to gain leverage in negotiations and what arguments are most effective. He stressed the importance of preparation and flexibility in the face of the unexpected.
Published in 1960, many are convinced that Killing a Mockingbird is one of the best novels of the 20th century. The story tells of a girl named Scout as she grows up in Alabama, in the southern United States, in the 1930s, at a time when injustice and racism were very common. We see history through his eyes. His father, Atticus Finch, is a lawyer who risks everything to defend a Black man on trial for a crime he didn’t commit. One of the main messages of the story is how important it is to defend what is right, rather than follow the crowd, or do what is simply easier, and see the world through the eyes of other people. The book has been translated into many languages and sold millions of copies worldwide and is recommended in the school environment. A famous phrase from the book that the father tells the girl went around the world: "You never really understand a person until you consider things from their point of view. Until you get inside her skin and walk through it.
Slavery is the central theme of this 1852 novel. "So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that started this big war"; in this way the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, addressed Harriet Beecher Stowe when he met her in 1862, a decade after she wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the second best-selling book in the 19th century after the Bible. The story tells of Uncle Tom, an African-American slave, recounting the horrors of slavery on a personal level for the first time in history, which caused a great uproar in society at the time. The novel greatly promoted the abolitionist cause in the north of the country, heightened tensions with southern slaveholders, and, as Lincoln suggested, possibly even helped the country fall into civil war.
Published in 1947, this book is a compilation of the diary entries of Anne Frank, a girl who hid with her family for two years during the Nazi occupation in the Netherlands. The family was caught in 1944, and the young woman died of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp when she was only 15 years old (two months before the camp was released). Since its publication, Anne Frank’s Diary has been translated into more than 60 languages and remains one of Europe’s most famous and influential primary documents of World War II.
This book is an unfinished treatise on theology written by the Catholic philosopher and theologian Thomas Aquinas, which accurately describes the doctrines and beliefs of Christianity. The importance of this book is such that it was used-after the Bible-for reference purposes at the Council of Trent (between 1545 and 1563). As the reforms of the ecumenical council of the Catholic Church were implemented, the influence of this book began to be felt. Even today, Summa Theologica is used as the main teaching medium in Roman Catholic Seminaries.
Betty Friedan’s 1963 classic is credited with the momentum of the feminist movement of the second wave. While the first wave of feminism focused on issues such as women’s suffrage and property rights, the second wave raised questions about sexuality, the family, the workplace and reproductive rights. The American writer was inspired to write the book after asking her to do a survey of her former classmates at Smith College, discovering that most women were very unhappy in their roles as housewives and mothers. The New York Times said the book "permanently transformed the social fabric of the United States".
The Iliad is an ancient Greek epic poem, presenting war, gods, families and great doses of drama. This epic literature served as a common reference point for entire cultures, telling their audience where they came from and who they were. The Iliad tells the story of a period of time toward the end of the Trojan War, which broke out when the King of Mycenae, Agamemnon, waged war against the Trojans because the son of King Priam of Troy, Paris, he kidnapped his brother’s wife. This historical account has been very important in the life of ancient Greece and, in particular, about the Trojan war and its impact.
One of the best-known anti-war novel, All Quiet on the Western Front, describes the horrors of the trenches of World War I from the perspective of a young German soldier. Translated into more than 20 languages and adapted to a famous Hollywood film in 1930, the book spoke for a generation that, in the author’s words, "was destroyed by the war, even though it might have escaped". It speaks of the futility of the conflict and there were some who perceived that it denigrated the German war effort, so the book was banned and publicly burned by the Nazis.
This anthology published in 1755 includes 4,000 of the most representative, entertaining and historically fascinating English entries. We can find fields like food, fashion, science, sex and much more, all with the spelling and the original examples of Shakespeare and Milton. Charles Dickens or Jane Austen themselves used this "Dictionary of the English Language," and in fact continues to offer writers, academics, and publishers a revolutionary version of the language. It deserves a prominent place in the history of the books that changed the world.
Thomas Paine was a very influential English writer. This intellectual and liberal revolutionary deeply influenced democracy through his writings. His contribution was such that when he went to France during the French Revolution, he was immediately elected a member of the National Convention, even though he could not even speak French. The book "The Rights of Man", published in March 1791, clearly indicates that the sole purpose of government is to safeguard the undeniable rights of every human being. If the institutions do not benefit the country they have no place. Paine thus writes a plea in defense of the inalienable rights of man.