What is the Most Influential Book in the World?

atkins-bookshelf-literatureThe Folio Society, the venerable British bookseller that publishes beautiful, hand-crafted editions of the world’s greatest literature, recently teamed up with to ask Britons “what is the most influential book in the world?” More than 2,000 adults were asked to review and rank a list of 30 notable books (selected by the Folio Society) based on which had the greatest influence on humanity. Not surprisingly, books about religion and science ranked the highest. It is worth noting that the two books that battled it out for first place, have been at the heart of one of the most divisive cultural battles for more than 150 years: Creation vs. Evolution, or more generally, Religion vs. Science. The Bible (the combined New and Old Testament) received 37% of the vote to take the first spot, while Darwin’s On Origin of the Species, came in a close second, with 35% of the vote. The selection of the top most influential books not only reveals a cultural divide, but also a division among the sexes: women favored the Bible because it provides “principles/guidelines to be a good person”; while men favored On the Origin of the Species because “it answers the fundamental questions of human existence.” A companion to Darwin’s magnum opus is the significant and supporting work by James Watson that identified DNA as the blueprint for the world’s living organisms. The top ten list brings together some of the world’s most famous geniuses — the magnificent trio of Newton, Einstein, and Hawking. In terms of fiction, one might be surprised that Shakespeare, a true literary genius, does not make the top ten, upstaged by novels about totalitarianism and racism. Tom Walker, editorial director of The Folio Society, shares his perspective: “There is an overtly political message to both of the fiction titles, but fiction generally doesn’t seem to be seen as so highly influential in how people judge ideas in society; Shakespeare and Tolstoy also have low percentages.” Below is the list of the top ten most influential book in the world (not making the cut were Hamlet, War and Peace, Lord of the Rings, Catch-22 and the Oxford English Dictionary):

1. The Bible (Old and New Testament, circa 400 AD)
2. On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin (1859)
3. A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking (1988)
4. Relativity: The Special and General Theory by Albert Einstein
5. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell (1949)
6. Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica by Sir Isaac Newton (1687)
7. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960)
8. The Qur’ân (circa 671 AD)
9. The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith (1776)
10. The Double Helix : A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA by James Watson (1968)

Read related posts: Why Read Dickens?
The Power of Literature
The Benefits of Reading
50 Books That Will Change Your Life
The Books that Shaped America
Why Study Literature?

For further reading:


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