September 18, 2020

30 Books that changed the course of history


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a-dictionary-of-the-english-language-by-samuel-johnson aesops-fables-by-aesop anne-frank-the-diary-of-a-young-girl-by-anne-frank bury-my-heart-at-wounded-knee-by-dee-alexander-brown essays-by-michel-de-montaigne first-folio-by-william-shakespeare the-analects-of-confucius-by-confucius the-art-of-war-by-sun-tzu the-communist-manifesto-karl-marx.png the-feminine-mystique-by-betty-friedanBy Megan Willett From Business Insider

Every reader knows that a book can change your .

But what about the lives of an entire generation? Can a book change the future?

Miriam Tuliao, assistant director of central collection development at the New York Public Library, helped us come up with a list of the books that changed the course of history.

We also added a few ideas of our choosing.

From William Shakespeare’s plays to George Orwell’s “1984,” these 30 titles (listed here in alphabetical order) have had a major impact.


“Aesop’s Fables” by Aesop

Believed to have originated between 620 and 560 B.C.

“Aesop’s Fables” is a collection of stories that are meant to teach the listener a life lesson. The fables are often credited to an ancient Greek slave and storyteller named Aesop (though the origin of the fables remains disputed).

The stories are still important moral lessons and have had a far-reaching impact on literature and common sayings, including “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” “boy who cried wolf,” “goose that laid the golden eggs,” and many others.


“The Analects of Confucius” by Confucius

Believed to have been written sometime between 475 and 221 B.C.

Also known as simply “Analects” or “Lunyu,” this book is the collection of sayings and ideas attributed to the Chinese philosopher Confucius on how to live a virtuous life and be kind — what he referred to as ren.

“The Analects” continues to have a profound influence on Eastern philosophy and ethics, especially in China.


“Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank

Published in 1947

The book is a compilation of the diary writings of Anne Frank, a girl who hid with her family for two years during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. The family was discovered in 1944, and Frank died of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

Since its publication, “Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl” has been translated into more than 60 languages and remains one of the most famous and influential primary documents from Europe in World War II.


The Art of War” by Sun Tzu

Written sometime between 600 and 500 B.C.

“The Art of War” is an ancient Chinese military treatise attributed to Sun Tzu, a military general, strategist, and tactician. It is written in 13 chapters, each devoted to an aspect of warfare like spies, quick thinking, and avoiding massacres and atrocities.

The book still has an influence on Eastern and Western military thinking, business tactics, legal strategy, and sports for its lessons on how to outsmart one’s opponent.


Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” by Dee Alexander Brown

“Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” uncovers the history of in the late 19th century, particularly the injustices and betrayals committed by the US government and the ’ forced relocation.

The best-selling book has never gone out of print and has been translated into 17 languages. Through government records and first-person accounts, Brown revealed the massacre of an entire people in an effort to “win” the American West.


“The Communist Manifesto” by Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels

This short publication was written by two of the most famous communists in history. It discusses the class struggle, problems with capitalism, and communism’s future potential.

Although its impact wasn’t immediate, the manifesto resonated with industrial workers across Europe, the US, and Russia with its rallying cry: “Working men of all countries, unite!” It continues to affect political parties and is studied around the world.


“A Dictionary of the English Language” by Samuel Johnson

This anthology includes 4,000 of the most representative, entertaining, and historically fascinating entries in the English language. It spans fashion, food, science, sex, and more, all with the original spellings and examples from Shakespeare and Milton.

“A Dictionary of the English Language” was used by , Charles Dickens, the Brontë sisters, and more, and it continues to offer writers, academics, and publishers a revolutionary take on the English language.


“Essays” by Michel de Montaigne

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and numerous other great thinkers of the world were all influenced by Motaigne’s massive collection of influential essays.

The French statesman and writer’s ability to blend serious moral questions with casual anecdotes was at the time derided for being “self indulgent” but is nowadays regarded as some of the most important literature to come out of the French Renaissance.


“The Feminine Mystique” by Betty Friedan

Published in 1963

At a time when it was widely accepted women would become complacent housewives, Friedan challenged modern advertising, culture, and misogyny in her book “The Feminine Mystique,” focusing on the inner turmoil of American women.

The book helped spark second-wave feminism by encouraging women to look beyond marriage and motherhood for their fulfillment, challenging traditional patriarchal expectations.


” by William Shakespeare

“First Folio” by William Shakespeare

Wikimedia Commons

Published in 1623

In 1623, a collection of Shakespeare’s plays were published by his friends John Heminges and Henry Condell, known as the First Folio. This included “Romeo and Juliet,” “King Lear,” “Hamlet,” “As You Like It,” and more.

Shakespeare’s contribution to literature and theater has remained unparalleled, and his influence on genre, plot, and language continues to be felt by future generations of artists.

The others listed are;

“Hiroshima” by John Hersey

“How the Other Half Lives” by Jacob Riis

I Ching: The Book of Changes

“Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl” by Harriet A. Jacobs

“The Jungle” by Upton Sinclair

The King James Bible

“Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass” by Frederick Douglass

“On Liberty” by John Stuart Mill

“On the Origin of Species” by Charles Darwin

“Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica” by Isaac Newton

The Qur’an

“The Republic” by Plato

“The Rights of Man” by Thomas Paine

“The Second Sex” by Simone De Beauvoir

“Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson

“Tao Te Ching” by Lao Tzu

“Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe

The Torah: The Five Books of Moses

“The Wealth of Nations” by Adam Smith

“1984” by George Orwell

All books can be obtained from

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