Top Ten Most Influential Books Ever

Ever since the written word came to the fore, after the oral tradition took the backseat to mass stories, sometime between the Lyceum and hedonism, between gravitas and the advent of gravity, books captured and shaped the path of the world.  These are the Top 10 Most Influential Books EVER!

Close, but not quite: The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud, Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler, Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, Das Kapital by Karl Marx

10. Relativity by Albert Einstein
Set up the splitting of the atom, the creation of the atomic bomb, the phrase E=mc(squared) and myriad scientific discoveries that were previous unthinkable.

9. Principia by Sir Isaac Newton
One word: gravity.

8. Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau
“That government rules best which governs least.”  Also influenced a little known guy named “Ghandi.”

7. Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
Evolution, a word that still rubs folks the wrong way as Intelligent Design arguments rage in the US.  These spats are nothing however in comparison to the flak received when the book was originally published.

6. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
The original proponent of “The end justifies the means,” this text teaches you how to rule (not in the 1980′s “San Dimas High School Football Rules!” kind of way)

5. Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith
The treatise on capitalism and the source of the “Invisible Hand” theory.  A must read.

4. Common Sense by Thomas Paine
Set the stage for separation from the British and laid the groundwork for the wording of the Declaration of Independence.

3. The Republic by Plato
Formed the concepts of civilized society and set in motion a philosophical world that still spins at breakneck speed, this text is both reasonable and completely “out there.”

Tied:

1. The Quran by Muhammed
1. The Bible by Various

These two books are said to be the words of God, passed down to people on earth so his people could know how to act.  From these have come some of the greatest virtues and kindness the world has ever seen, as well as some of the most horrid and despicable actions in history.

18 Comments

  1. How’d you all determine these as most influential?

    I’ll save this as a post-grad school reading list! :)

  2. Admittedly it was hardly a scientific selection process. I collected what I thought to be the books that either captured the wild shift that was soon to occur (Common Sense, Civil Disobedience) or became the official book for something that has drastically shifted the world (Adam Smith, the religious texts) or changed our understanding of the world (Origin of Species, Relativity).

    Happy to hear they’ve made your reading list. I promise none will disappoint, each at least deserving of a look.

  3. I would have to defend my good old HG Wells and Charles Dickens books there… But I guess that eventually science makes a headway. But I am glad that you added Republic by Plato-That is truly influential…

  4. As far as ranked literature that changed the world and heavily influenced culture and society, I would have to say this is the best list I have ever seen.

  5. I’m guessing the bible was just assumed to be a given.. very good list, I don’t think I could have done better myself.

  6. No Tao Te Ching? No Upanishads? No Buddhavacana? This list skews heavily Westward.

  7. “Tied:
    1. The Quran by Muhammed
    1. The Bible by Various

    These two books are said to be the words of God, passed down to people on earth so his people could know how to act. ”

    The Christian and Islamic holy books, it can be argued, were borne from the Judaic Tanakh. I think that that makes the Tanakh more influential than either.

  8. Ross Pooley says:

    with 14 million members of The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-Day Saints & copies now reaching 150 million copies, The Book of Mormon cannot be overlooked as one of the most influential books ever written

  9. Only problem is that there has been a number of survey’s conducted (by the US Library of Congress..among US readers) and except for the Bible…you got the rest wrong.

    Top three most influential books were listed as:

    1. The Bible (far and away number 1)
    2. Atlas Shrugged
    3. The Road Less Traveled

  10. Atlas Shrugged? Who regarded this rubbish as their most influential? Paul Ryan? Rush Limbaugh? Other right wing wackos?

  11. I would love to see a list compiled by the Chinese; no doubt it would be different. And Atlas Shrugged is a good book to test the capabilities of high school and college kids, but a mature reader should outgrow it by age 25. I think the LOC was infiltrated by some tea-partiers.

  12. The most influential book in my life was the very first: See Spot Run! Run, Spot, Run!
    If not for that I would be watching TV. Of course, once the teachers discovered I was dyslectic, they declared I could not read, but I was in my 50′s then and did not care. In 1946 reading was taught by sight – and it does not matter what a word looks like, as long as it always looks the same.
    Now, pemnmanship – I still haven’t mastered that.

  13. I’ve been reading the Critique Of Pure Reason by Kant for a few years. I would advise anyone to get the Routledge Guide by Gardner if they are to read this book. On my second “slow read” I think I’m getting the idea. I will spend a few more years studying Kant – Kantian philosophy is the most amazing thing I have ever learned besides calculus of variations.

  14. The list is an excellent illustration of the fact that if you don’t want a revolution, the first thing to do is to destroy all access to the written word. However, if you believe that scientific advancement is still important, go ask the folks at NASA what they read while growing up!

  15. Philip Buckley says:

    very interesting….have to put it on the”bucket list”….

  16. Dave Berwald says:

    I would put the Principia and Relativity first, then Origin Of The Species. I would add Maxwell and Desscarte. The others are important commentary.

  17. Well, Indeed Torah was the word of God. So was Bible. Even more so was the Quran. All these books are way above any human written books. For example, read and understand Quran. Even before finishing the book, you are guaranteed to be a changed person for the better. One more thing about these books, they have brought only peace, liberation, justice and happiness to humanity. Acts of individuals however need not to be attributed to these holy books.

  18. 1.Bible
    2.Quran
    3.Vedas
    4.Analects
    5.Shakespeare
    6.Aristotle
    7.Plato
    8.Marx
    9.Principia
    10.Homer

    In what world Machiavelli, Darwin, Paine and Smith are so influential? they changed the lives of billions of people? they led wars, deaths and foundations of empires? Darwin 170 years is little read today, what to speak of the Bible that in 3000 years remains the most influential work in the world? More books have been written about Shakespeare’s Hamlet than trials of Newton and Einstein together, so if I count all the works in one volume is a serious candidate for the Bible and Koran.

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