Fri Mar 24th, 2006 at 04:43:27 PM EST
The smooth British broadcaster and intellectual pundit, Melvyn Bragg is publishing a new book in April, Twelve Books that Changed the World.
As the blurb at Amazon says:
In his fascinating new book accompanying the "ITV" series, Melvyn Bragg presents a vivid reminder of the book as agent of social, political and personal revolution. "Twelve Books that Changed the World" presents a rich variety of human endeavour and a great diversity of characters. Here are famous books by Darwin, Newton and Shakespeare - but we also discover the stories behind some less well-known works, such as Marie Stopes' "Married Love", the original radical feminist Mary Wollstonecraft's "A Vindication of the Rights of Woman" - and even the rules to an obscure ball game that became the most popular sport in the world..
It is deliberately aimed at not just books in English, but British books.
Yes this is another diary about books.
I heard about Bragg's book this evening on a BBC Radio 4 broadcast, A Point of View, where another pundit and former MP Brian Walden, went through books that changed him. He didn't have twelve, but they included:
- Vicente Blasco Ibáñez, Los Cuatros Jinetes del Apocalipsis or The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
- Thea von Harbou, Metropolis
- P.G. Wodehouse, The Code of the Woosters
- George Orwell, 1984
- Golo Mann, Deutsche Geschichte des 19. und 20. Jahrhunderts or The History of Germany since 1789
The last one got me thinking, because when I came to Germany in 1984 I knew very little about German history from a German point of view. So I read this very book and it certainly made me more aware of the complexities of the subject.
So what other books have changed me? I will list only three.
One has got to be my first ever science-fiction book, that I bought at the tender age of 11, Fred Hoyle's A for Andromeda. This started a life-long interest in the genre and I suppose about 400 books and 25 years of the magazine Analog confirm me as a sci-fi fan.
The second was a text book at university, Donald E Knuth's The Art of Computer Programming. Volume 1: Fundamental Algorithms, because, of all the books I read for my degree in Computer Science, it was the only one I ever referred to again and is probably the reason I am a software nerd rather than a hardware geek.
The third is actually two books, or volumes, Jonathan Sumption's Trial by Battle and Trial by Fire, the story of The Hundred Years War between England and France. It brought home to me that the world has not changed much, wars were started then as now out of arrogance, xenophobia, selfishness and sheer bloody mindedness, but above all for profit.
My choices are odd. No great philosophers; no great novels; and no poetry, but these books have changed my life.
So what books have changed you?
(Cross posted at DailyKos)