Have you read the twenty books that changed the world?

My confession, with which I must be upfront, is that no I haven’t.

In fact I have read only six of them. But in my defence, I am part way through a seventh (and arguably an eighth though I have rather stalled on that…for about fifteen years…on page 144, because that’s where the bookmark remains).  And I have four more of them on my bookshelf waiting to be read (along with more than 150 other titles – yes, I counted them).

The complete list, compiled by academics and librarians (so they should know) is:

A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft
Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
On the Origins of Species by Charles Darwin
Orientalism by Edward Said
Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
The Communist Manifesto by Marx & Engels
Complete Works, William Shakespeare
The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer
The Making of the English Working Class by EP Thompson
The Meaning of Relativity by Albert Einstein
The Naked Ape by Desmond Morris
The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli
The Republic by Plato
The Rights of Man by Thomas Paine
The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
The Uses of Literacy by Richard Hoggart
The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith
Ways of Seeing by John Berger

I have read the Hawking, Orwell, Darwin, Marx, Greer and Plato.

I have read more than half the Shakespeare.

It’s the Kant which I am struggling with.

I have that and the following on my (very tall) “to be read” pile by my bedside:Thompson, Pain, Hoggart and Smith.

The order, by the way, is that of importance in the view of the experts.

What do you think of the selection, and the order of importance? How many have you read?

Vote here for your choice:


And to read more about the list go to:



1 Comment

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One response to “Have you read the twenty books that changed the world?

  1. Glenn Shipway

    I have three of the books but have only read part of one, the Adam Smith. Too busy reading Trollope!

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