Revolutionary Books That Changed The World Forever
Can a book impact an entire generation?
Can stories created centuries ago still find a home in the fast-paced life of the modern world?
Well, sometimes all you need are a few well-written books to inspire change.
And while any good book can feel life-altering, there are some truly remarkable books out there that have changed the course of human history.
From scientific discoveries and creative minefields to stories that capture the horrors of war, some books have left the world with a deep impression that doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon.
Here are some of the books that have changed the world.
Aesop’s fables by Aesop
Have you ever wondered who came up with the classic stories of ‘The Ant and The Grasshopper’ or ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf?’ Or do you consider them as a part of the public oral tradition, with nobody to claim their origin?
Well, turns out that both these stories, along with many other classic children stories, can be traced back to Aesop, who lived as a slave in ancient Greece between 620 to 564 BCE. It is not clear whether Aesop compiled these stories or wrote them. Whatever the case may be, it is undeniable that these morality tales, often involving animals, have shaped countless childhoods all around the globe. Despite cultural or language barriers, Aesop’s fables like ‘The Tortoise and The Hare,’ and ‘The Fox and The Crow,’ among many others, are known all over the world to this day.
Their continued popularity throughout the centuries has undoubtedly proven that slow and steady wins the race.
The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
Simone de Beauvoir sat down to explore ‘What is a woman?’ through her books and inadvertently became a birthing point for the second wave of feminism. Admired by many and reviled by many more, The Second Sex boldly claims that man is always considered the default, and woman is understood only in relation to man. This book was so controversial at the time that The Vatican even put it under its List of Prohibited Books.
Kind of makes you want to read it even more, doesn’t it?
The Second Sex was a significant breakthrough in feminist philosophy. It went beyond the property and voting rights advocacy put forth by the first wave of feminism and instead explored women and their historical oppression through a much more personal lens.
Hiroshima by John Hersey
The dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki brought the entire world to a stand-still, by showcasing the immense destruction they could cause within moments. But at the time, the destruction inflicted was only limited to numbers and statistics in newspapers.
In 1946, John Hersey decided to change that.
He wrote a 30 thousand word article for the New Yorker about six of the atomic bomb survivors and the fateful day through their eyes. And it wasn’t until people in the West read this New Yorker article that they understood for the first time not what happened to the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but to the people living in them. His article, later published as a book, brought the human aspects of this event to light. And many readers wrote to the New Yorker, expressing their horror and shock at what ordinary people like doctors, priests, and mothers had to endure due to the bombings.
Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
In 1962, when Rachel Carson published a book about the effects of synthetic pesticides like DDT on bird population, she didn’t know it would eventually end up saving the Bald Eagle from extinction in the continental U.S. She simply reintroduced the scientific findings on the matter, which weren't new to the scientific community at the time. But to the general public, the bleak future and conclusions pointed out by the book were a stark revelation.
Less than a year after the publication, she was testifying against pesticides in front of the Senate subcommittee.
She said, “Our heedless and destructive acts enter into the vast cycles of the earth and in time return to bring hazard to ourselves.” Rachel Carson’s book set a lot of actions in motion, from the formation of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) to making stricter environmental laws. Silent Spring reached people’s hearts in a way few other scientific books had, pioneering a modern environmental movement for the 20th century.
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
Anne Frank was forced to go into hiding along with her family members to escape the Nazi terror that loomed over them in the Netherlands during the Second World War. Having to spend all of her time in close quarters with so many people, Anne turned to writing in her diary to escape the boredom that each day brought.
She began to jot down not only her experiences as a Jew in a Nazi regime but also the typical teenage hopes and aspirations she felt. Years later, when her diaries were discovered, their significance was only heightened by the fact that Anne Frank had passed away in a concentration camp after they were discovered, with her father as the only surviving member of the family.
Anne Frank’s diary is considered to be one of the most important documents from the Second World War.
Her adolescent perspective and writing make her experience of the war terrifyingly concrete, and you are left haunted by her last entry on August 1, 1944, knowing now that she would never be able to write again.
On the Origin of Species: By Means of Natural Selection of the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, by Charles Darwin
While most changes and discoveries in science take a while to filter down to the public, the book that Charles Darwin wrote on evolution shook the beliefs of the people to the very core. It was a time when much of scientific knowledge and public perception of it was saturated and limited by religious beliefs. Darwin’s book about the survival of the fittest and how plants and animals evolve as a response to their environment was a sensationally dangerous and innovative idea.
The impact of this is clearly seen, as his works have created a strong foundation for the understanding of evolutionary biology and other sciences, bringing into the debate the credibility of creationism. Charles Darwin gave the people, and the sciences, a revolutionary discourse through his observation of plant and animal life, and also a rational alternative to the biblical stories of Adam and Eve with their apple.
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