Books Everyone Knows but No One Reads
Kudos to those who have read all of the books I listed here.
There is an almost endless list of books out there to read and it would be impossible to read them all in one lifetime, yet there are books that everyone knows about but no one actually reads them. This article serves you as a guide through three titles still relevant until today and how they shape the society that we know now.
485 years and a pejorative word later, The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli still holds its ground as one of the bases of modern political philosophy. Instead of pondering about an ideal world, Machiavelli’s work utilized historical evidence i.e. real situations to base The Prince on. From this flowered the adjective “Machiavellian”; cunning, scheming and unscrupulous, especially in politics. Although the book was dedicated to Lorenzo de’ Medici, the then-ruler of the city-state of Florence, Machiavelli focused on autocratic regime instead of republican one. His work was as controversial as it was influential. Amongst the first generation to read The Prince was Catholic and Protestant kings, who credited their tactics to the book. Along the years, most of the founding fathers of the American Revolution, Benito Mussolini and Joseph Stalin were known to be influenced by The Prince. With a list of influential, if not controversial leaders as its readers, the book is essentially a guide for “the prince” to achieve the end with any mean that would justify it.
Few years after the end of the Second World War, George Orwell published this dystopian fictional book. 1984 follows Winston Smith, a low-ranking member of the ruling Party in London. The Party controls everything; from preventing political rebellion through the implementation of Newspeak, an invented language which eliminates all words political, to establishing the Ministry of Truth, whereby history is rewritten towards the interest of the Party. The Party’s leader, the seemingly omniscient Big Brother, always watches Smith even in the comfort of his own home. The plot of the book aside, Orwell wrote 1984 as a warning against the downsides of a totalitarian society. He hypothesized that from the dawn of the nuclear age in 1949, it would only take 35 years for the post-atomic society to turn into what 1984 described vividly. Despite the bleak ending of the book, Orwell’s vision did not come true; the world did not plunge into totalitarianism. 1984 still stands as a deep analysis of the psychology of power; how language and history shape the society and their manipulations may change the course of humanity. Oh, and it inspired and influenced many works including a game I love, Orwell: Ignorance is Strength.
A short four years after 1984 was printed out, Ray Bradbury published his Fahrenheit 451. Another dystopian-centred book, Fahrenheit 451 explores the means of oppression through the eyes of a working-class. Just like 1984, Bradbury’s work imagines the technocratic order through the absence of individualism and most importantly, through censorship. Set in the 24th century, Fahrenheit 451 follows Guy Montag, a fireman who instead of putting out fires, he starts them. In the society that he lives in, books are outlawed and hence suppressed dissenting ideas; and his job is to burn any books that he encountered and often, the homes of those who own them. Consequently, society revolves around driving fast, watching television on-screen as big as the entire wall, with any intellectual thought outlawed. The title itself (or in 233°C for us, the rest of the world) is a nod to the autoignition temperature of paper. Unlike 1984, Bradbury’s book ends optimistically; yet ironically it has been banned from schools for its ‘vulgarity’.
The three books above shook society to its cores; mostly because the books challenge what society stands for. If you have read them all, then heck yeah! If you have not — you are missing out! Add these titles to your reading list ASAP.