Monday, April 19, 2010


When I sat to write this post on books, the thoughts just kept coming. I decided to break it down into smaller posts so it wouldn't be too long.

First: The 15 Books That Changed The World. Then I will list the Books That Changed My World. Next will be Other Books You May Enjoy. And finally, the Art of Giving And Receiving.

The best gift I ever received was from a very good friend who came across a list of the "15 Books That Changed The World."

My friend then tracked down 13 of the 15 books on the list and presented the books and list as a collection. These books still live on the top shelf of my bookcase.

The content of the books ranges from science and philosophy to economics and politics. They are written in the form of novels, memoirs and/or nonfiction.

In order to make the list, each book had to do as the title of the list suggests. They had to "change the world."

The books on this list didn't just bring on reforms and cause revolutions. They changed the way people thought about social issues and "current events."

They didn't just start wars, they also changed how those wars were fought.

Some of the books were written within the last century, but some of them were written hundreds of years ago.

Most of the books are still considered controversial and relevant today.

Here are 13 of the 15 books on the list, including the author's name, and year of publication. Two publication dates indicates a re-publication with updates or a date of translation into English. The other two books were so far out of print as to be unfindable.

These are in no particular order:

Uncle Tom's Cabin-- Harriet Beecher Stowe-- 1851-2
Interpretation of Dreams-- Sigmund Freud-- 1900
The Prince-- Niccolo Machievelli-- 1513
The Origin of Species-- Charles Darwin-- 1859
Common Sense-- Thomas Paine-- 1776
The Influence of Sea Power Upon History 1660-1783-- A.T. Mahan-- 1890
Mein Kampf-- Adolf Hitler-- 1927
Principia Volume 1: The Motion of Bodies-- Sir Isaac Newton-- 1686
Principia Volume 2: The System of the World-- Sir Isaac Newton-- 1686
Relativity: The Special and General Theory: A Clear Explanation That Anyone Can Understand-- Albert Einstein-- 1916 (1952)
An Essay On the Principles of Population-- Thomas Malthus-- 1798 (1830)
Capital: A Critique of Political Economy-- Karl Marx
Civil Disobedience-- Henry David Thoreau-- 1849 (1957)

I admit that not all of these books were easy to read. But they are all, without exception, thought provoking.

With Uncle Tom's Cabin, Stowe practically single-handedly swayed our nation's policy on slavery. She emotionally moved so many hearts and minds that we fought our bloodiest war with ourselves.

Some of the scientific books on this list are a little drier and more difficult to get through. Malthus' book on Principles of Population and Newton's Principia 1 & 2 were written by intellectuals for intellectuals with little or no regard for the general public.

Einstein on the other hand, made every effort to explain his theory in (mostly) plain English, just as the subtitle promises. Yes, that is really the title of his book. I didn't make that up.

Even Darwin's Origin of Species is surprisingly easy to read (as if he wanted people to 'get it'). As is Freud's book on Dreams.

The Influence of Sea Power took some time to get through. But I'm sure it would have been very interesting to a military strategist.

Each of the books by Thoreau, Paine and Marx are a must read for anyone who is interested in politics, economics and sociology. Whether or not you agree with the opinion of the authors, it will give you better perspective on how to be a good citizen. I firmly believe that part of the problem with our current political system is that too few people participate in the process.

And anyone who fancies themselves a leader of any kind (manager, politician, parent) should definitely read Machiavelli's The Prince. At times the theories may seem harsh, but you can tone it down as you see fit in our modern society. And as the oldest book on this list, it has clearly withstood the test of time.

The author that people are most surprised to see on my bookshelf is Adolf Hitler. Mein Kampf was written mostly while Hitler was in prison (starting April 1st 1924).

He wrote his diatribe not as a manifesto to the masses of people, but more as a harsh reprimand to those in his own political party who he considered too weak to tow the party line. (I can imagine Dick Cheney or Rush Limbaugh writing a book with the same tone.)

The book is laced with a hodgepodge of propaganda that would make radicals on both the right and left of our current day political system blush for its boldness and light-hearted threats.

Strangely he writes about such noble topics as morality and educating children. To select a paragraph out of context, you may think that you are reading a quote from Jack Kennedy. But then when put back in context, the warped sense of purpose is clear to the objective reader with even a small amount of common sense. This is one of the things that really bothers me about the news coverage of today. It is filled with sound bites that can be made to fit anyones argument (pro or con) regardless of the whole truth.

At one point Hitler states, "The psyche of the great masses is not receptive to anything that is half-hearted and weak." This sounds eerily familiar to the 'squeaky wheel' bullying tactics of talk radio hosts and sharp tongued talking-heads on TV trying to pass themselves off as newscasters rather than shock jocks that are essentially political versions of Howard Stern.

It is interesting to read these books and find the parallels in today's modern world.

In the next post, I will share my own personal list of books that changed my world.

Turn off your TV. Pick up a good book. Feel free to read it outside now that the weather is getting nicer.

Peace and Love,

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