Thursday, October 13, 2005


Here they are folks, the 12 books that had the greatest influence on our lives, as decided by Melvyn Bragg for a TV series for ITV :

Darwin - The Origin of Species (1859)
The First Rule Book of the Football Association (1863)
William Shakespeare's First Folio (1623)
Newton - Principia Mathematica (1687)
Adam Smith - The Wealth of Nations (1776)
William Wilberforce - Speech to the House of Commons (May 12 1789)
The King James Bible (1611)
Patent Specification for Arkwright's Spinning Machine (1769)
Mary Wollstonecraft - A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792)
Michael Faraday - Experimental Research in Electricity (1855)
Marie Stopes - Married Love (1918)
Magna Carta (1215)

Shakespeare’s First Folio are the early versions of his poems and plays, apart from some of that, I haven’t read any of the world’s most important books all the way through. I flipped through the King James Bible, skipped the boring parts with all the begats, loved the sexy love poems, and skipped most of Revelations, which was way violent.

Most of the books on the list would be heavy going for anybody, Origin of Species is readable enough, but the patent for the Spinning Jenny, which ushered in the industrial age, is not something you’re going to take to the beach. William Wilberforce’s speech, which heralded the emancipation of the slaves, is probably quite short (how long can a person talk) so in the interests of a well-rounded education one should probably try and find a two page summary on Wikipedia, and same goes for Mary Wollstonecraft and Marie Stopes. I’ll take Michael Faraday’s word for it on electricity, because all I want to know is that I flip a switch and the light goes on. As for the Principia Mathematica, hello calculator.

Mr. Bragg’s selection is heavily weighted towards old books that only scholars would have read, there’s only one from the last century, which suggests that nothing of any earth-shattering importance has been written since 1918. Shouldn’t the Windows Office Manual be in there, or Internet for Dummies?

What’s the football rule manual doing in amongst the books that changed the world? I’m sure fitba’ is crucially important to some parts of the world, but the only thing it’s changed is what human beings do on Saturday afternoons.


principalities and powers said...

They'll all British. I'll warrant Marx and Engels's Communist Manifesto (1848), also British, has scored more own goals than the footba' rules has.

principalities and powers said...

Forgive the typos please Possum. My first day at new job today, feeling distinctly pooped out.

PossumQueen SA said...

Some would argue that the Koran is missing or the Upanishads, others will say "Where's Wilbur Smith?"