Thursday, April 06, 2006

Twelve Books that Changed the World

Martin Goodman notes the selection chosen for the twelve greatest books of all time by Melvyn Bragg. As Martin describes the selection of books chosen is heavy on works which can hardly be considered literature at the expense of the novel. Martin’s choice for a novel to add is Lady Chatterley’s Lover as a book which, through the controversy it created, led to serious social change. He is obviously right that many of the books selected by Bragg have recorded changes which have already happened in the world of technology or the law and therefore form a poor advertisement for the power of the written word.

However, Martin is a writer of dystopian fiction, among other things, and I think that he has neglected to mention the poor showing that genre has made in a write up of the most important books. A Brave New World is unparalleled as a challenge to utilitarianism and is therefore clearly of huge importance in the development of human thought. It also acts as a warning which has been noted far and wide; it recently showed up in the film Garden State as the intellectual underpinning to an otherwise simple movie. 1984 is probably one of the most widely referenced books going which is currently both honoured by frequent name checking whenever someone wishes to defend freedom against autocracy and dishonoured by its new association with popular culture through Big Brother. Both of these books are clearly highly important and important in their own right as artistic and political statements rather than as the record of important activities going on elsewhere. They are a showcase for the written word which would better befit a series about great books than Bragg's series, which is likely to become a record of great 'things'.

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