Feature Books That Shook The World

Learn more about influential books.

Books That Shook The World

Scratch the surface of history, and you're likely to find the presence of a very powerful book.

Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, but it was another Tom, Thomas Paine, who provided Jefferson with inspiration. Published in January of 1776, Paine's Common Sense was a cry for American independence and an instant best-seller among colonists.

And when The Declaration of Independence was unveiled, although written in Jefferson's words, many of the arguments were Paine's.

On the other side of the world, it was a little book called the Communist Manifesto that had a similar impact on the international scene. Written in 1848 by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, it was this book that Vladimir Lenin used as a touchstone in forming the philosophy upon which the Soviet Union was based.

More recently, President George W. Bush has given credit to the book, The Case For Democracy, by former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky, for his desire to promote elections in the Middle East.

But sometimes, a book's influence is distinctly non-benevolent. In the first half of the 20th century, Edward Bernaise became the most sought-after spinmeister of his generation. But when his book, Crystallizing Public Opinion, fell into Nazi hands, Bernaise's groundbreaking ideas became the inspiration for one of the world's most sinister campaigns: Joseph Goebbels' push to sell the Holocaust.