Blogger: Rachel Zurakowski
Location: Books & Such Main Office, Santa Rosa, Calif.
Since we’ve been talking this week about influential books, I searched online and found a list from the Boston Public Library of the 100 most influential books of the century. You can view it here. It wasn’t put together through a study as far as I can tell, but someone clearly put a lot of thought into it and I’m impressed. I would have included the Bible, but that good book wasn’t written in the 20th-century.
I’m not familiar with all of the books listed, but here are some I agree belong:
Albert Einstein’s Relativity: The Special and General Theory — It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why this one is on the list. 😉
Joseph Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness — I’ve read this book many times because it’s always assigned in English classes. Marlow, the main character, narrates his story as the men travel into the heart of the Congo to find Kurtz, a white man who has elevated himself in a society of natives. I think the exploration of the different cultures along with the unique ending (what Marlow tells Kurtz’s wife about his dying words) have put it up there as one of the most talked about books.
Anne Frank’s The Diary of Anne Frank — Anne’s story has touched many lives, including some of yours. I know because of the comments left on Monday’s post. 🙂 Anne Frank’s story and Corrie Ten Boom’s The Hiding Place deserve the same amount of praise as top-notch, influential books.
Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle — Often assigned to be read in high school, this book helped change the American labor movement in the early years of the 20th century. I also have a friend who became a vegetarian after she read this book. The spread of vegetarianism might not have been Upton Sinclair’s goal, but obviously people still respond to his words.
John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath — A history lesson for those in school now, Steinbeck’s novel has touched many lives with its depiction of life during the Great Depression.
Others that I’m familiar with that I feel belong:
Richard Wright’s Native Son–First revealed the appalling problem of systematic racism in our country. This novel gave me a glimpse into another life and made me more sympathetic to another culture within my own culture.
Rainer Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front–Graphically describing the horrors of trench warfare, this novel gave us glimpses into what it means–rightly or wrongly– to be a patriot.
Arthur Clark’s 2001: A Space Odyssey–Of course most people have seen the movie, but it gave us a window into space exploration and a glimpse of the computer as not-our-friend.
Sigmund Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams This book, along with all the writings of Freud, have strongly influenced psychology and our understanding of the human mind.
What did I miss? Which books on this list do you think belong? Any missing ones that should be?
No, I think you covered it. Though not fond of Sigmund Freud.
I, too, was thinking about the Bible as a read the list… I read one time that the Bible would be at the top of the NYT bestselling list week after week, but they don’t count the Bible on that list. I wonder if that is true… Probably…
Also, the list includes Hitler’s Mein Kampf. That is probably over stated. I’ve never met anyone who actually read the book. And, he would have done all of those grotesque things he did even if he had never written the book… Take it off the list…
Again, Interesting post.
Not overly Victorian is it?! 😉
Wholeheartedly agree with Atlas Shrugged. Believe it or not, I read that book in 3 days (admittedly while sick on a vacation so I couldn’t go anywhere). It was a life-changer, and apparently still is for I’ve seen signs referring to Ayn and/or John Galt recently in the political arena.
One that definitely should be on the list (and I didn’t know about it until the spring of 2008 myself) is Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals.
I’ve got to put a word in for To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee. Its on a my 13 yr old daughter’s school reading list and the fact that it is accessible and therefore influential to young readers is IMO one of the draws.
I thought of The Color Purple – maybe not so influential, but an eye-opening look at part of American culture. Then I saw it on the “almost made it” list. Roots opened up the world of genealogy for everybody, not just royalty.
I think Dr. Spock’s book may have had too much influence.
The list reminds me I have so much to learn and read – “so many books, so little time.”