Word Wednesday: ‘Books That Changed History’

Reading Time: 2 minutes

This week’s word is “Books.”

DK’s Books that Changed History is a bibliophile’s dream, chronicling the history of the written word, through the evolution of books. It charts works that were culturally significant and assess their impact on society and the wider world. Being a DK book, it does this with lovely illustrations and clear informative text.

What’s inside the covers?

In Short: Books!

Lots and lots of lovely, lovely books. Starting with Egyptian Books of the Dead, via The Gutenberg Bible to Harry PotterBooks that Changed History opens with a short introduction, discussing the evolution of books and the changing ways in which they and the written word were accessed. After that, the book is divided by time into 6 Chapters:

  1. 3000 BCE – 999 CE.
  2. 1000 – 1449.
  3. 1450 – 1649.
  4. 1650 – 1899.
  5. 1900 Onwards.

Chapters 4 and 5 have the most entries.

Books that changed history
Penguin paperbacks. A novel revolution.

Many books you might expect to be present are, of course, present. The Doomsday Book, Gutenberg Bible, Don Quixote, King James Bible, The Dictionary, and the Principia Mathematica are all here. Louis Braille’s Procedures for Writing Words, Music and Plainsong also gets a mention, as do Pickwick Papers, Das Kapital, and The Origin of Species. Da Vinci’s Codex Leicester is in there too.

Modern books include The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, General Theory of Relativity, and The Diary of Anne Frank, one of the few books considered to have changed history since 1900, along with Quotations from Chairman Mao. More esoteric books are present, like The Aubin Codex, Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressionsand Pro Dva Kvadratajust three of several books included that I’d never heard of. The majority of books are Western titles, though Sun Tzu, I Ching, The Blue Koran, The Mahabharata, and The Diamond Sutra are all referenced.

Why will I like Books That Changed History?

In short: Because it’s a sumptuous bibliographical feast.

Books That Changed History is a 250-page love letter to the power and beauty of books. If you have even a passing interest in books or history you’ll love this book. There’s so much to see and read. The book is filled with random bits of trivia, such as the titles of the first 10 Penguin paperbacks or the provenance of the first written autobiography. Books That Changed History lends an understanding to the majesty and work that went into early manuscripts. Not just classic religious texts like The Books of Kells or The Gospels of Henry the Lion but also vital scientific works such as Hooke’s Micrographia and Epitome by Andreas Vesalius.  Whether you want to learn more about Adam Smith, the Rights of Man, or the inception of the travel guide, its all in this wonderful book.

Once again, DK has blown me away with Books That Changed History. It’s a great premise for a book and the execution is nigh on perfect. I love books and I love this book about books.

Books that Changed History can be found here, in the US (MSRP $) and here, in the UK (at the time of writing at a huge discount), (MSRP £20).

Did you enjoy this post? You can find more Word Wednesday posts here. 

The Books of Kells
Excerpt from Book of Kells entry.

Disclaimer: GeekDad was sent a copy for this book to write this review. 




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