Book review: 100 Books That Changed the World

It feels kinda meta, reviewing a book about books, but, as a bookworm, I can’t resist this kind of non-fiction. 100 Books that Changed the World taught me a lot and inspired me to try some previously unheard of titles.

100 Books That Changed the World by Scott Christianson and Colin Salter

100 Books that Changed the World is an exceptional collection of groundbreaking works that have shaped the course of history. From scriptures that founded religions, to scientific treatises that challenged beliefs, to novels that kick-started literary movements, this beautifully illustrated book informs and entertains as it demonstrates how the power of the written word has shaped, changed and even revolutionised the world.

I’m not just a massive bookworm. I’m fascinated by books beyond the pleasure of simply reading them. I can remember the point of my life where I first read certain titles and the powerful impact some of them had on me. Some changed my mind about certain genres, some changed my mood on a given day and some changed the way I saw the world.

This book of books is a fascinating archive of the written word, starting with a 4,800 year old text, and detailing the history of books themselves. I learned that ‘the oldest printed texts were stamped into clay while it was still wet, then baked into permanence’. There’s also an image from the original copy of the 1450s Gutenberg Bible – the first book to be printed using movable type. Even as an atheist, I can still appreciate the historical and literary significance of such a document.

It’s weird to think that the current and future generations of students have so much knowledge at their fingertips. They can find the answer to virtually any question in seconds. I can remember asking my dad questions growing up and being told to look it up in the dictionary or encyclopaedia. Hundreds and thousands of years ago, people relied on handwritten copies. ‘Books carry new knowledge into the future’.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know of my fascination with feminist literature and non-fiction. I made a conscious effort to read books by and about inspiring women last year and will continue to do so – empowered women empower women, after all. And I love the acknowledgment of such titles in this book: ‘Books have been particularly instrumental in changing the attitude of men towards women, and of women towards themselves’.

I learned about Mary Wollstonecraft’s manifesto for feminism, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), and plan to track it down in the library when I return to work. Fun fact: her daughter, also called Mary, went on to write Frankenstein, at a time when female novelists were still rare. Talk about girl power!

It took me a long time to appreciate any books which were not modern. I resented having to read the classics at school and it wasn’t until my early 20s that I fell for the work of Jane Austen. I was pleased to see Pride and Prejudice featured in this book: ‘Jane Austen’s romantic comedy of manners pokes fun at some absurdities of English social life at the end of the eighteenth century, but the human foibles that she represents recur in every age’.

This book has encouraged me to think about the books that have changed my life, so look out for a future post. It’s also helped me prioritize my bucket list of books – unfortunately life is too short to read all of the books. On top of that 4,800 year archive, there’s one book published for every 350 people in the UK every year! I’d best get started…

100 Books that Changed the World is out on Thursday. Pre-order it here.

I was sent a copy of this book for review purposes and all thoughts are my own.

This post contains an affiliate link.

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