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Monday, November 10, 2008

Book Review: 12 Books That Changed the World


I love books. I think the gift of reading was one of the best things my parents ever did for me. Melvyn Bragg is another bibliophile and this book is above all else a testament to the enduring power of the written word.

It's well written and fascinating stuff start to finish. He stretches the idea of 'book' here and there but he makes a convincing case for the 12 books from this island that have indeed changed the world. They are:
  1. Principia Mathematica by Isaac Newton'
  2. Married Love by Marie Stopes
  3. Magna Carta by Assorted English Barons
  4. The Rule Book of Association Football by some English toffs
  5. On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
  6. On the Abolition of the Slave Trade by William Wilberforce
  7. A Vindication of the Rights of Women by Mary Woolstonecraft
  8. Experimental Researches on Electricity by Michael Faraday
  9. Patent Specification for Arkwright's Spinning Machine by Richard Arkwright
  10. The King James Bible by William Tyndale and 54 scholars
  11. Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith
  12. The First Folio by William Shakespeare
I think the case is weakest for no9 but other than that they all have a bearing on our lives today. The words I use (Shakespeare, Tyndale), the sport I love (FA), the freedoms I enjoy (Magna Carta), the technology I use (Newton, Faraday), the mortgage and products I use (Arkwright, Smith), the freedoms my wife has (Woolstonecraft, Stopes), the freedoms Barack Obama has (Wilderforce) and even my understanding of the world I live (Newton, Darwin, Faraday).

What was interesting to me is the portrayal of Christians in the book, the respect for God that the deist Newton had to the deep powerful faith of Tyndale, Wilberforce and Faraday. What struck me the most though was the contrast of two consecutive chapters from Darwin to Wilberforce. In the first chapter Christians who opposed and continue to oppose the understanding of evolution come out in a very poor light and we see religion at some of its worst, to seeing faith at its world changing best in the following chapter on William Wilberforce.

What sort of faith do I have? One that resists new information, new understanding, rigid in my thinking and unbending in my attitudes or one that sees a better world, has vision and power to persevere for justice. I imagine the difference between perseverance and unbending rigidity is slim indeed.

Anyway, I recommend the book (if you're happy to pay £8.99 for it do call my shop on 01743 233657, I appreciate the support).

Lastly, I've been trying to think of other books that could justifiably claim to have changed the world in which we live and have few others to add - any thoughts?

1 comments:

Blue, with a hint of amber on 10 November 2008 at 12:55 said...

The implication is that Number 9 set the course for the industrial revolution - which has had a greater impact of economics, national comparative wealth, empires, mobility, consumption, war and destruction of the enviornment than many of the others!

I think it deserves its place and should be above the likes of football and shakespeare.

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