Editor’s note: On Nov. 10, we ran a column in the Commentary section by Charles F. Bryan Jr. listing his picks for books that changed history. Here’s what you suggested:
I think the list of books by Charles F. Bryan Jr. also should include Sir Isaac Newton’s “Principia Mathematica,” or “Mathematical Principals of Natural Philosophy” (1687). This book was the basis of much of physics for centuries. Although Albert Einstein came along with relativity and showed some flaws in the theory, Newtonian physics is what is taught in high schools and colleges around the world to this day.
My suggestions include “From the Earth to the Moon,” by Jules Verne (1865). This novel inspired the science fiction narrative style in literature and cinema. The first science fiction film was made in 1902 based on this book. Also, “All Quiet on the Western Front,” by Erich Maria Remarque (1929). This fiction about World War I veterans boosted the pacifist and critical visions of war that lasts until today.
Maria Pilar York,
Picking books that already have changed history is relatively easy, as you have the benefit of hindsight. Recognizing a book that might do so in the future is more difficult. Many years from now, I believe this book might well prove to have been the “Mein Kampf” of our day: “Palestine” by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (2015).
I am nominating “Night” by Elie Wiesel. I teach 10th grade English, and I teach this book every year. He writes his story through the eyes of an adolescent with stark humanity and sadness. “Night” is a rare book because there are not that many firsthand accounts of a victim’s time in the concentration camps other than Primo Levi’s account.
My nomination for a book that changed history is “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu (5th century B.C.). Although a classic military instruction manual, the lessons contained in the book are applicable to contemporary military, business and societal issues. It was required reading for me in both undergraduate (Penn State) and graduate (George Washington University) school.
My nomination is “American Diplomacy, 1900-1950,” by George F. Kennan (1951). In this book, a series of essays on U.S. foreign policy from the Spanish-American War to the beginning of the Cold War, Kennan shows the flaws in American diplomacy in 20th century conflicts.
Louis B. Cei, Ph.D.,
May I suggest Edward Gibbon’s “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” (1776-88) and Alexis de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America” (volume one, 1834 and volume two, 1840).