Some authors write books that will stand the test of time. To be fair, probably they didn’t have that in mind when they wrote the books. But it is a fact some books have not only stood the test of an age, but for all time.
There are thousands of books written from the beginning of time till today. But which of these books have had the biggest effect on human history? Some of these books fall into the fiction genre, others into science and religion. But whatever the genre, they have left their mark on the world and stood the test of time.
1984 By George Orwell
This is Orwell’s classic work that is being referred till today. The author imagines the not-so-distant future as a nightmarish place controlled by the government. This is the book many journalists use when describing a dictatorship regime. In Orwell’s vision, there is no freedom and rampant censorship rules. Authors have tried to replicate his work, or even improve his vision. For example, Fahrenheit 451 is one of the books that builds on the momentum of Orwell’s work. But no other book paints as great picture as 1984. Some of the terms that the book gave birth to, are still used today. Those include “Big Brother”, “2+2=5”, “doublethink”, “thoughtcrime”, and so on.
“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present, controls the past”
Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies by William Shakespeare
Imagine the world of literature and the world of stage theater without Hamlet, Othello, Lady Macbeth, or any other character Shakespeare gave birth to. Half of the plays the greatest writer of all time wrote survived only because of this book.
No other book has ever done more with the resources of human language. The memorable phrases, the coinages and combinations, the wit-combats, meditations, and the soaring poetry found in these plays is just unbelievable.
“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so”, Hamlet.
The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
Without this book, communism might not have thrived as it did. Fun fact: the Manifest is not about the proletariat. The whole first section is a eulogy to capitalism. But the Manifesto has played a revolutionary role in building the hype and dream of communism, and changing the economy. The Manifesto hit the right time, it was published just before the 1948 revolution in France, and shipped via Paris to Germany. From that point on, the proletariat had the political maturity to wield power and revolutions became a dirty business for communists.
“Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Workingmen of all countries unite”
The Analects of Confucius by Confucius
This book is a collection of sayings and ideas from the greatest Chinese philosopher. It is worth noting that the book has been written down by his followers. It is considered the most important book in Confucianism. He believed in family loyalty, respect of one’s elders, ancestor worship, and so on. It is one of the most widely read and studied books in China.
“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”
King James Bible
This was not the first English translation of the Christian Bible. However, it is the most well-known and most widely read version. It is also the most printed book in history. Considered a stunning achievement in literature, this translation was compiled from different books in various languages to create the best English Bible possible. It was done under the order of King James I. As many as 47 scholars participated in the translation. The project started in 1604, and the first version was published in 1611.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me”, Psalm 23:4
The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud
Writers have always been alert to the darker sides of the psyche. But it was Freud who showed how they are encrypted. According to Freud and his philosophy, sexuality and violence are the central place in our mental lives.
The downside of this book is that it set readers on a fruitless quest for hidden symbolism. The danger of the book was quickly apparent to Freud. All of his later work on dreams was an effort to correct this. But the search for hidden meaning was popular among readers, even though it was ultimately unhelpful. And as Freud wrote in 1899, there is a navel to the dream.
“The dream is the liberation of the spirit from the pressure of external nature, a detachment of the soul from the fetters of matter.”
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
It is not that we didn’t know the trauma and horrors of World War II. But it was Anne Fran, a young teenager that showed us. This is the most widely read and important book that came out of the Holocaust. Anne Frank, a teenager during World War II, kept a detailed diary while she was hiding with her family for two years during Nazi’s occupation of the Netherlands.
Anne died in a concentration camp in 1944. She was 15 years old at the time. Her father, who was the only surviving member of the family, was given the diary. He published it in 1947.
“It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”