The pen is mightier than the sword… And that old adage is more true than we might even realise. Some books have actually shaped the world we live in today. They have changed views, the way we treat each other, the way we govern ourselves and indeed our critical thinking of all those things. You may have heard of most of the books on the list – although some of them might be new to you. Their importance in our world is still ringing true today. And some of it might need a quick re-read in case we forget the lessons of the past!
1984, George Orwell
Given the current political climate, this book has never had so much importance. The dystopian nightmare, with an overly-controlling government, censorship, lack of freedom and movement… Although it was published in 1949, it carried so many predictions that have since come true. CCTV surveillance, fear mongering, doublethink… Readers of this book have learnt to look for clues of a controlling society, and to take action against it. Big Brother is watching you! Learn more about George Orwell here>>
Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx
Whether you think that Marx had some good ideas and theories or is the father of some pretty bad revolutions… You’ve got to admit that his book had some far reaching effects. It literally changed the world for many societies. One of the most influential works of political theory ever.
Aesop’s Fables, Aesop
Let’s not forget that Aesop was a Greek slave when he wrote these tales. And they are still taught to children and reminders of simple life lessons that we shouldn’t forget – “Slow and steady wins the race?” from The Tortoise and The Hare is one we’re all sure to know. Buy the beautiful hardback copy here>>
Anne Frank’s Diary, Anne Frank
Detailed diary of life during the Nazi occupation through the eyes of a young girl… It’s an important part of humanity’s literary history and all from a teenage girl who died at the tender age of 15 in a concentration camp. Anne provided the children of the future with a way of imagining and processing the horror of the second world war. Learn more about Anne Frank here>>
The Dictionary, Samuel Johnson
If you’re a Blackadder fan, you’ll no doubt remember the episode where he and Baldrick destroy the first (and only) draft of the dictionary and have to rewrite it before he returns…
None of us can imagine a time when a dictionary didn’t exist and we couldn’t look up the meaning of words we didn’t understand on the internet!
How the Other Half Lives, Jacob Riis
In 1890, Jacob Riis broke new ground by showing in picture form how the inhabitants of tenements in New York were living in squalid conditions. He used photographs rather than words to describe things. This was essentially an early example of photojournalism and it worked – there was a public outcry and conditions were improved.
The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin
It goes without saying that this book changed the way people thought about how we evolved and caused and absolute uproar – it still does among creationists. From 1859 to this day, people are still arguing about it’s truth. Bill Nye (the science guy) had a TV debate with creationist Ken Hamm on this very topic. Buy the book here.
Plato, probably the most famous Greek philosopher goes into great detail to work out whether or not the just man is happier than the unjust man? If you want to read almost every aspect of society in relation to justice, this is the book for you.
The Rights of Man: For The Benefit of All Mankind, Thomas Paine
To our (marginally) more civilised and modern stance, this book doesn’t seem all that groundbreaking… but when it was written (during the French Revolution) it was putting across a sentiment that wasn’t widely agreed with or considered. That men should be free. It became one of the founding books of democracy itself.