10 non-fiction books that changed the world

Books can expand minds. Books can change how we behave. Books can help bring people into power – and bring them down. Books can alter our perceptions of the world and each other.

Here’s our list of 10 powerful works of non-fiction that changed the world we live in.

Origin of Species

On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin

Well, we couldn’t leave this one out. Perhaps one of the defining books of the modern era, Darwin introduced us to evolution and inadvertently formed the basis for every biology lesson until the end of time. On its publication the word ‘controversial’ may be a bit of an understatement - and its impact is still being felt today.

Origin of Species

The Art of War by Sun Tzu

Hands up who has read a copy? Anyone? Well, ok, it might not be at the top of everyone’s bedtime reading list. But this ancient Chinese work on military strategy has had a profound effect on everything from warfare to business and even football.

The Female Eunuch

The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer

Dividing opinion for nearly 50 years, Greer’s manifesto is undoubtedly one of the defining texts of the feminist movement. A groundbreaking book on the oppression of women and of sexual liberation, The Female Eunuch remains to this day a landmark in the women’s movement.

The Diary of a Young girl

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Anne Frank’s diary is one of the most heartbreaking and poignant records of the horror of war. 70 years after it was first published, the book remains a worldwide bestseller and for millions of schoolchildren it acts as an important window into our recent history.

The Interpretation of Dreams

The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud

So, it was written over 100 years ago and is largely impenetrable. But don’t let that put you off. Freud’s work of genius introduced the concepts of the unconscious, how dreams can be interpreted and his infamous Oedipus complex – forming the basis of modern psychology.

Origin of Species

Dispatches by Michael Herr

One of the most influential works of journalism of all time, Herr’s writings as a war correspondent during the Vietnam War sit somewhere between fiction and non-fiction. Shocking and brutal, the book painted a picture of the conflict not seen before and influenced a generation of writers and filmmakers trying to make sense of the war.

Origin of Species

The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir

It may have single-handedly helped start the modern feminist movement and created shock-waves across the world, some of which are still being felt today.

Origin of Species

On Liberty by John Stuart Mill

It might be another one to resign to the ‘I’ll read that some other time’ pile, but Mill’s philosophical work on personal freedom is one of the founding texts of liberalism and remains hugely important to modern-day politics.

Origin of Species

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Love it or loathe it, there’s no denying that Elizabeth Gilbert’s phenomenal bestseller about dropping everything and embarking on a journey of rediscovery was inspirational. Although admittedly it may have inspired more online holiday searches than people starting a new life in Bali.

Origin of Species

The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

OK, so it’s technically a pamphlet and not a book. And it may have been adopted by some rather nefarious characters in world history. But it’s impossible to ignore how influential this work proved to be.

Which books do you think should've made the cut?


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Pride and Prejudice* by Jane Austen

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