Books That Changed the World

First Edition On the Origin of Species
First Edition "On the Origin of Species"
Courtesy of John Cummings
Not surprisingly, the written word has the power to change the world. It is able to span generations, continents, oceans and social classes. It can convey messages, meanings, ideas, truths, fictions, lies and technology. Some books simply contain information that changed the world. For example, an encyclopedia can tell you all about the atom bomb, but the book itself did not do the changing, the bomb did. Other books have the power to change things with the thoughts and ideas they contain.

The Bible

Whether we are talking about the New Testament, the Old Testament, the book of Tom, the gospel of Dick or the scripture of Harry, this stuff has changed the world. The Bible has shaped the way millions, possibly even billions, of people view the world. It has been the basis for social movements, wars, art, empires and much more. Its influence cannot be said to be a wholly positive one. Nonetheless, it cannot be denied that many people live their lives according to this book, whether they do it rightly or wrongly.

The Koran

Another holy book that has shaped the lives of millions, possibly billions, of people is the Koran. Just about the same can be said for the Koran as for the Bible. There have been wars fought, laws changed or made, people killed, empires built and destroyed all with this book and the beliefs it outlines as the foundation for it. The effects of both the Koran and the Bible have lasted more than a thousand years.

"On the Origin of Species" by Charles Darwin

"On the Origin of Species" is the first thorough piece of literature to take a look at the theory of evolution. While Darwin was not the first person to theorize that species adapt and evolve over time, he was the first to make such a thorough body of work supporting it. In this way, "On the Origin of Species" changed the world. It brought evolutionary theory to the forefront of both religious and scientific minds. Some people look at it as the anti-bible. Others look at it as a book that was ahead of its time. Either way, there is no logically denying that Charles Darwin helped shaped science as we know it today.

Magna Carta

Magna Carta is not technically a book. It is a charter that was introduced in 1215 in England. This charter outlined several liberties that had been unheard of in England until that time. With the introduction of Magna Carta, the power of the monarchy was limited (very slightly) by a group of subjects for the very first time. It became the inspiration for constitutional law in in other countries as the years passed. In a way, Magna Carta opened up the door for governments for the people and by the people in the English-speaking world.

That a single book can change the world is an amazing and terrifying fact, as evidenced by the works listed above. These four books represent three important types of books that are capable of having a widespread effect on the world. Religious books have the capacity to change the hearts and minds of thousands, millions and billions of people. Scientific books (depending on what they contain) can teach us things that take us forward as a species. Finally, social and political books or works can give us a new grasp on what our rights should be and how we expect our societies to be run.

Shelly Barclay

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