This week’s assigned reading for my D.Min. was 12 Books That Changed the World written by Melvyn Bragg. In the book Bragg highlights 12 books he thinks changed the world. They are:
- Principia Mathematica (1687) — Isaac Newton
- Married Love (1918) — Marie Stopes
- Magna Carta (1215)
- Book of Rules of Association Football (1863)
- On the Origin of Species (1859) — Charles Darwin
- On the Abolition of the Slave Trade (1789) — William Wilberforce
- A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792)
- Experimental Researches in Electricity (three volumes, 1839, 1844, 1855)
- Patent Specification for Arkwright’s Spinning Machine (1769) — Richard Arkwright
- The King James Bible (1611)
- An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776) – Adam Smith
- The First Folio (1623) — William Shakespeare
I have a few thoughts on this list. First, this list has a self-identified bias towards white male Brits. I wonder what non-British books Bragg might add? Second, not all of these are actually books, for instance, the Magna Carta and Rules of Football. To call them books in the strictest sense is a misnomer. Third and most interesting, I’ve only read three of these “books” (Origin, the KJV Bible and some of the stories in Folio). Why is that? How many have you read? Am I less educated than the average bloke (to borrow a British term)? I hope not. Could it be that these books represented important ideas that became so vital that they were grafted into societies’ norms and cultures? As the ideas became so vital were they unknowingly separated from their books and then the book was forgotten? If so that begs the question, what is it about these few texts that are actually still read today? What makes them different?
If I had to look back on my life and choose 12 books that were vital to me, that changed me in some way and whose ideas I hope will shape our culture, then here is my list
– Surprised by Hope – N.T. Wright.
– Missional Church – edited by Darrell Guder
– Source of Life by Jurgen Moltmann
– The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry by Wendell Berry
– Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
– A New Kind of Christian by Brian McClaren
– The Omnivores Dilemma by Michael Pollan
– When Helping Hurts – Fikkert and Corbett
– Celebration of Discipline – Richard Foster
– Resident Aliens – Hauerwas and Willimon
– The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsoliver
– The End of Poverty by Jeffery Sacs
So what does this list say about me?
- Males wrote all the books with the exception of one. I must say that surprised my egalitarian self. Is that more of a reflection of me or of society? Or both?
- All of my books are relatively ‘new books.’ The oldest one can’t be more than 20 years old.
- What else does this list say about me?
If you had to create your own list of ‘12 books’ what would be on there? What would that list say about you?