Books Can Change the World

How much of how you think was shaped by the books you’ve read? By the written word? Stories, articles, and pamphlets – how much of your history and your culture was directed by words set down years before you existed?

When I started this article, I was thinking about texts like Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan or the works of Locke, Rousseau, and Montesquieu. Writings that changed how people thought about government. Writings that may be the basis of your government now.

Then, I thought about how literature has been used to challenge social ideas. Like strict morality. Or slavery. Or the safety of scientific exploration. Or whether government monitoring preserves freedom. The list goes on. Books that as a whole are intended to be read for pleasure and that at the same time make people confront potential problems – or at least consider them.

And when I searched for books that changed the world, options popped up that I had forgotten to consider.

The Open Education Database’s article, “50 Books That Changed the World,” has the types of books I thought of but also religious works and scientific writings that I hadn’t thought of. I wish that the summary for each book explained a little better how that book changed the world, but some of them speak for themselves. And few would dispute their power.

That’s why when narrowed down to “10 Books That Changed the World” by The Guardian, some of the books are the same – but some are not. The same is true for Cheatsheets “The Top 25 Books That Changed the World” by Jacqueline Sahagian. If you do a Google search of books that changed the world, you’ll see post after post with some overlap and some difference. And if you read the comments, you’ll see plenty of arguments about books that were left off that list that were more important.

The one idea that they all agree on is that books have the power to change the world. It’s not a theory or a hypothesis – it’s a fact because it has already happened. Throughout our history, books have changed the world, and that means that they still can.

As a writer, that power is both thrilling and terrifying. The potential for change is in your mind, in your fingers, and in your keyboard. What if your book is the next to go on these lists?

What change will you write?


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