When we think of famous written texts we always turn to the classic works of the great Shakespeare. But in modern days, we turn to the most popular pieces, authored by J.K. Rowling, Dan Brown, and George R. R. Martin to name a few. They easily come to mind because of their film adaptations which were huge box office hits.
The works of these authors have dealt mostly with fictional events and characters. But to name the most influential book of all time is quite a task, as there are hundreds or if not thousands of manuscripts which have influenced us in many different ways. We’ve tried to narrow them down to ten.
These books are the oldest ever published and have influenced many even to this day. Charles Darwin’s “The Origin of Species” is the most popular scientific manuscript ever written to date, while the Bible is the most influential sacred manuscript. This list also has included works that influenced global politics and governance. See the full list below.
10- The Art of War
The Art of War is an ancient Chinese military text written by Sun Tzu, a high-ranking military general, strategist and tactician. The 13-chapter text has been the most famous and influential of China’s Seven Military Classics, and “for the last two thousand years it remained the most important military treatise in Asia.
The book had an influence on Eastern and Western military thinking, business tactics, and legal strategy. It offers strategic principles of winning conflicts and warfare, designed for a military audience. Sun Tzu’s work influenced famous individuals like Yamamoto who was responsible for planning the attack on Pearl Harbor, Mao Tse-tung who gained control of China through guerrilla warfare, and General Vo Nguyen Giap who was the man behind the Viet Minh resistance against the Japanese occupation of Vietnam, and other foreign invasions after that.
The principle of The Art of War is utilized in many aspects. It is adapted in business, in coaching and sports, even to the battlefield of “dating”.
9- The Republic
The Republic was written by Plato around 380 BC, concerning the definition of justice, the order and character of the just city-state and the just man. Plato through “The Republic” answers the question of what motivates man to behave in a just manner. He breaks down the idea of justice as either political or societal.
He breaks down society into classes and explains the need for people to fulfill the roles they were meant for. Plato also defines the world in terms of visible and intelligible, explaining that the intelligible world is made up of Forms. The Republic is one of the most intellectually and historically influential works of philosophy and political theory. It also details the discussion about the meaning of justice, defined by Socrates and other philosophers.
8- The Bible
The Bible is the most sacred book in Judaism and Christianity and was written with varying contents over a period of approximately 1,500 years and by over 40 different authors. Different religious groups include different books within their Biblical canons, in different orders, and sometimes divide or combine books, or incorporate additional material into canonical books.
It is a canonical collection of texts considered sacred in Judaism and Christianity that was first written about 1600 B.C. and continued to approximately 100 A.D. The Bible contains two books, the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament is a compilation of stories that explain creation, genealogy, and the history of the Israelites.
The Chapters of Genesis famously tells the story of God’s early relationship with humanity. It tells largely of the covenant with Israel and accounts for the story of the commandments of God. While the New Testament contains twenty-seven books: the four Canonical gospels, Acts of the Apostles, twenty-one Epistles or letters, and the Book of Revelation.
The New Testament largely tells the story of the coming of Jesus Christ, his teachings as recounted from stories told by his Apostles, his crucifixion and resurrection. To this day The Bible remains the most purchased book in the world. The best selling book of all time has estimated annual sales of 100 million copies and has been a major influence on literature and history, especially in the West where it was the first mass-printed book.
7- The Prince
The book was first published five years after the death of Niccolò Machiavelli in 1532, although a version of it in Latin title “De Principatibus” was already distributed in 1513. Niccolò Machiavelli is an a16th-century Italian diplomat and political theorist. The Prince is one of the most popular and influential books ever written about politics.
The Prince is sometimes claimed to be one of the first works of modern political philosophy, in which the effective truth is taken to be more important than any abstract ideal. It was also in direct conflict with the dominant Catholic and scholastic doctrines of the time concerning how to consider politics and ethics.
6- The Wealth of Nations
The book is the greatest work of Adam Smith, a Scottish philosopher and economist. The book was compiled for about ten years before it was published in the year 1776. The Wealth of Nations shaped government policy; it became an inspiration of global independence against feudalism.
The Wealth of Nations served as the foundation for modern economics that discussed the division of labor, productivity, and free markets. Smith was cited as the “father of modern economics” and is still among the most influential thinkers in the field of economics today. His work, The Wealth of Nations was named among the 100 Best Scottish Books of all time.
5- The Rights of Man
The Rights of Man was Thomas Paine’s written assessment of the French Revolution in 1791. Paine was already known for his works, Common Sense and The American Crisis. It took him two years to write and look at the rights that should be granted to every human being. He believed that Human rights originate in Nature, thus, rights cannot be granted via political charter, because that implies that rights are legally revocable, hence, would be privileged.
Paine participated in the French Revolution as a member of the French National Assembly. His works caused all sorts of discord and Paine was put on trial in his native country of England and convicted of libel against the crown. The rights that Paine discusses in his book opened the doors to the building of civil rights.
4- A Vindication of the Rights of Women
The book was written in 1792 by feminist Mary Wollstonecraft during a time when women had little to no rights. A Vindication of the Rights of Women argued that women are essential to the nation and should be given the same respect that men were given.
Mary Wollstonecraft wrote that women should be allowed the pursuit of education, as they are the first educators of their children. Wollstonecraft calls for equality between the sexes in particular areas of life, such as morality. Wollstonecraft served as an inspiration to others and was considered one of the founders of the feminist movement.
3- The Communist Manifesto
The publication was written by the political theorists Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in 1847 and published in 1848. It was published during a time when many working-class men were suffering from severe poverty and terrible working conditions. It briefly features the authors’ ideas for how the capitalist society of the time would eventually be replaced by socialism, and then eventually communism.
The literature explained the principles of Communists and the revolutionary process necessary to overthrow social order and advocates a classless society, suggesting working men in all countries unite. The book remains one of the most influential pieces of literature ever written.
2- Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Uncle Tom’s Cabin was written in 1851 and published in 1852. The book was an anti-slavery novel by American author Harriet Beecher Stowe. The novel “helped lay the groundwork for the Civil War”, according to Will Kaufman. Uncle Tom’s Cabin depicts the reality of slavery in the South. Stowe, features the character of Uncle Tom, a long-suffering black slave around whom the stories of other characters revolve.
The book helped changed the way Americans viewed slavery and promote equality for all. Uncle Tom’s Cabin was the best-selling novel of the 19th century, and the second best-selling book of that century, following the Bible. It sold over 10,000 copies in the first week of publication and over 300,000 in its first year in the United States alone.
1- The Origin of Species
The book, Origin of Species, was published in 1859, scientific and theoretical literature written by scientist Charles Darwin. The book is considered to be the foundation of evolutionary biology by many as it attempts to answer the question of why there is so much diversity of life on the planet. Darwin theorizes the idea of evolution by natural selection and that common factors lead to change. He explains that natural selection is a process that promotes improvement in all living things.
Darwin has written, “the extinction of some forms will be inevitable in a world governed by natural selection. Species will often be exterminated by competitors, thus in effect leaving room for the more successful species to multiply.” The book was written for non-specialist readers and attracted widespread interest upon its publication.