The beauty of the books listed below lies not in the fact that they were successful when they were first published. Rather it is in the fact that they as they have stood the test of the time and are as relevant as ever. Their permanence and relevance lends them the distinction of being books that changed the wold.
Humans come in all forms, so it is only natural that different books should appeal to or affect different readers differently. Yet, now and then along comes a book that captivates a wider audience, and leaves an indelible impact on the collective perception of an audience, great in number. Once they have been enchanted, they can never be the same, they are eternally converted. Such books inspire, teach and lead readers on quests to discover startling vistas. The books listed below are members of this illustrious tribe of books that have changed the world. They have produced most pertinent observations like: All animals are equal, but some are more equal (Animal Farm), or the most famous slogans like ‘Workers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains (The Communist Manifesto). Listed below are some of such books that have set new standards, contested prevailing norms and catapulted human thought to higher vistas of thought.
- The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
In the early 20th century, the work conditions in America’s meat industry were horrendous, to put it mildly. ‘The Jungle’ is credited with jumpstarting the movement that led to the reform of the meatpacking industry in America. For the first time, the public became aware of the flagrant violation of every hygiene guideline in the book in the industry. The realization dawned that the meat that makes it to an average American’s dinner table may be a sure shot recipe for disease and death. Naturally, it caused much outrage and furor which ultimately led to reform.
- Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx
Workers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains. No matter where you live, you are bound to have come across one or the other variant of this slogan. It comes from one of the first books written by Karl Marx – Communist Manifesto which remains one of the best introduction to marxism and one of the most influential political documents of all time. It sparked many revolutions across the world, notably the Russian and Cuban revolution. As communist ideas of common ownership of property and means of production became popular, communism spread like wildfire and became the dominant ideology for more than half of the 20th century. Cuba, China, and Russia still follow their versions of marxism.
- Silent Spring by Rachel CarsonOne of the pioneering books on environmental degradation, Silent Spring met with fierce opposition by chemical companies when it was first published in 1962. The book exposed the adverse environmental effects caused by the indiscriminate use of pesticides and formed a public opinion on the ill effects of pesticides on the environment leading to a nationwide ban on DDT and the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. DDT is banned by most countries of the world. Only small quantities, if at all needed, are permitted. Silent Spring has since become one of the most notable books on environmental issues.
- The Wretched of the Earth
One of the most popular post colonialism books The Wrethched of the Earth was published in 1961. When the psychiatrist Frantz Fanon wrote the book he had had enough of the damaging and lasting effects of colonialism, and intellectuals who skirted around the issue. The book is as powerful from the rage that made it possible, as well as the theory of violence that it advocates. Basing his book on his lifetime experience of living under colonialism, the book spared no punches when it came to recommending ways to overthrow colonialism. It was and continues to be the guiding inspiration for struggles against authoritarianism.
- Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
Uncle Tom’s Cabin, published in 1852 is an anti-slavery novel by American author Harriet Beecher Stowe. The novel is said to have laid the groundwork for the American Civil War in 1876 that pit the South against the North, the congregates against the unionists. The pathos that the book generated by its accurate and painstaking description of the misery of slaves caused great discomfort and rage and went on to become one of the popular activism books. Eventually, this discontent proved to be the force that ensured that history was redeemed, and the ideal of liberty held aloft.
- 1984 by George Orwell
George Orwell depicted the rise of totalitarian regimes across the world in his iconic novel in 1984. The eerie echoes of the Orwellian prophecy can be heard out loud in the contemporary world. Many terms used in the novel like Big Brother, memory hole, thoughtcrime have entered the common usage. Everywhere in the world where dictatorial regimes ascend to power and the right to free speech come under attack, Orwell’s 1984 is invoked.
- Orientalism by Edward Said
Edward Said’s Orientalism was the first scholarly work to draw attention to the West’s patronizing representations of The East—the societies and peoples who inhabit the continents of Asia, North Africa, and the Middle East. Published in 1978, the book ushered in a fresh line of thought in highlighting the presumed Western superiority and the cliched models of analysis of the Oriental world by the West. The book went on to become a powerful thought tool for post-colonial societies to consciously asset their own native identity and reclaim their forgotten histories and cultures. Orientalism indisputably remains one of the most popular post-colonialism books.