The 100 Most Influential Books Ever Written by Martin Seymour-Smith

The 100 Most Influential Books Ever Written: The History of Thought from Ancient Times to Today (1998) is a book of intellectual history written by Martin Seymour-Smith (1928–1998), a British poet, critic, and biographer.

  1. I Ching by China

    Image of I Ching

    The I Ching, Classic of Changes or Book of Changes; also called Zhouyi, is one of the oldest of the Chinese classic texts. The book contains a divination system comparable to Western geomancy or th...


  2. The Iliad by Homer

    Image of The Iliad

    The Iliad is an epic poem in dactylic hexameters, traditionally attributed to Homer. Set in the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of Ilium by a coalition of Greek states, it tells of the battles and e...


  3. The Odyssey by Homer

    Image of The Odyssey

    The Odyssey is one of two major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer. It is, in part, a sequel to the Iliad, the other work traditionally ascribed to Homer. The poem is fundamental to the m...


  4. Upanishads by Hindu scripture

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    The Upanishads are Hindu scriptures that constitute the core teachings of Vedanta.[1] They do not belong to any particular period of Sanskrit literature: the oldest, such as the Brhadaranyaka and C...


  5. The History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides

    Image of The History of the Peloponnesian War

    The History of the Peloponnesian War is an account of the Peloponnesian War in Ancient Greece, fought between the Peloponnesian League (led by Sparta) and the Delian League (led by Athens). It was ...


  6. The Histories of Herodotus by Herodotus

    Image of The Histories of Herodotus

    The Histories of Herodotus is considered one of the seminal works of history in Western literature. Written from the 450s to the 420s BC in the Ionic dialect of classical Greek, The Histories serve...


  7. Corpus Aristotelicum by Aristotle

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    The Corpus Aristotelicum is the collection of Aristotle's works that have survived from antiquity through Medieval manuscript transmission. These texts, as opposed to Aristotle's lost works, are te...


  8. The Republic by Plato

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    The Republic is a Socratic dialogue by Plato, written c. 380 B.C.E.. It is one of the most influential works of philosophy and political theory, and Plato's best known work. In Plato's fictional di...


  9. Analects by Confucius

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    Lunyu, also known as the Analects of Confucius, are considered a record of the words and acts of the central Chinese thinker and philosopher Confucius and his disciples, as well as the discussions ...


  10. Tao Te Ching by Lao Tsu

    Image of Tao Te Ching

    The Tao Te Ching or Dao De Jing, originally known as Laozi, a record-keeper at the Zhou Dynasty court, by whose name the text is known in China. The text's true authorship and date of composition o...


  11. Hippocratic Corpus by Hippocrates

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    The Hippocratic Corpus, Hippocratic Collection, or Hippocratic Canon, is a collection of around seventy early medical works from ancient Greece strongly associated with the ancient Greek physician ...


  12. Euclid's Elements by Euclid

    Image of Euclid's Elements

    Euclid's Elements (Greek: Στοιχεῖα) is a mathematical and geometric treatise consisting of 13 books written by the Greek mathematician Euclid in Alexandria circa 300 BC. It is a collection of defin...


  13. Dhammapada by Theravada Buddhist scripture

    Image of Dhammapada

    The Dhammapada is a versified Buddhist scripture traditionally ascribed to the Buddha himself. It is one of the best-known texts from the Theravada canon.


  14. Avesta by Zoroastrian scripture

    Image of Avesta

    The Avesta is the primary collection of sacred texts of Zoroastrianism, composed in the Avestan language.


  15. De Rerum Natura by Lucretius

    Image of De Rerum Natura

    De rerum natura is a first century BC epic poem by the Roman poet and philosopher Lucretius with the goal of explaining Epicurean philosophy to a Roman audience. The poem, written in dactylic hexam...


  16. The Aeneid by Virgil

    Image of The Aeneid

    The Aeneid is a Latin epic poem written by Virgil in the late 1st century BC (29–19 BC) that tells the legendary story of Aeneas, a Trojan who traveled to Italy, where he became the ancestor of the...


  17. Allegorical Expositions of the Holy Laws by Philo of Alexandria

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  18. Parallel Lives by Plutarch

    Image of Parallel Lives

    Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans, commonly called Parallel Lives or Plutarch's Lives, is a series of biographies of famous men, arranged in tandem to illuminate their common moral vi...


  19. Annals by Cornelius Tacitus

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    The Annals (Latin: Annales) is a history book by Tacitus covering the reign of the four Roman Emperors succeeding to Caesar Augustus. The parts of the work that survived from antiquity cover most o...


  20. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

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    Meditations (Τὰ εἰς ἑαυτόν, Ta eis heauton, literally "thoughts/writings addressed to himself") is the title of a series of personal writings by Marcus Aurelius setting forth his ideas on Stoic phi...


  21. Outlines of Pyrrhonism by Sextus Empiricus

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    Philosophical skepticism (from Greek σκέψις - skepsis meaning "enquiry" - UK and traditional spelling, scepticism) is both a philosophical school of thought and a method that crosses disciplines an...


  22. Gospel of Truth by Valentinus

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    The Gospel of Truth is one of the Gnostic texts from the New Testament apocrypha found in the Nag Hammadi codices ("NHC"). It exists in two Coptic translations, a Subachmimic rendition surviving al...


  23. Enneads by Plotinus

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    The Six Enneads, sometimes abbreviated to The Enneads or Enneads (Greek: Ἐννεάδες), is the collection of writings of Plotinus, edited and compiled by his student Porphyry (c. 270 AD). Plotinus was ...


  24. Confessions by Augustine

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    Confessions is the name of an autobiographical work, consisting of 13 books, by St. Augustine of Hippo, written between AD 397 and AD 398. Modern English translations of it are sometimes published ...


  25. The Quran by Various Authors

    Image of The Quran

    The Qur’an is the central religious text of Islam, also sometimes transliterated as Quran, Qur’ān, Koran, Alcoran or Al-Qur’ān. Muslims believe the Qur’an to be the book of divine guidance and dire...


  26. The Guide for the Perplexed by Moses Maimonides

    Image of The Guide for the Perplexed

    The Guide for the Perplexed is one of the major works of Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, better known as Maimonides or "the Rambam". It was written in the 12th century in the form of a three-volume letter ...


  27. Kabbalah by Unknown

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    Kabbalah is a discipline and school of thought concerned with the mystical aspect of Judaism. It is a set of esoteric teachings that is meant to explain the relationship between an infinite, eterna...


  28. The Hebrew Bible by Jewish scripture

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    The Hebrew Bible is a term referring to the books of the Jewish Bible as originally written mostly in Biblical Hebrew with some Biblical Aramaic. The term closely corresponds to contents of the Jew...


  29. Summa Theologica by Thomas Aquinas

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    The Summa Theologica (Latin: "Summary of Theology" or "Highest Theology") or the Summa Theologiæ or simply the Summa, written 1265–1274) is the most famous work of Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225–1274), al...


  30. The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri

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    Belonging in the immortal company of the great works of literature, Dante Alighieri's poetic masterpiece, The Divine Comedy, is a moving human drama, an unforgettable visionary journey through the ...


  31. The Praise of Folly by Erasmus

    Image of The Praise of Folly

    The Praise of Folly (Greek title: Morias Enkomion (Μωρίας Εγκώμιον), Latin: Stultitiae Laus, sometimes translated as In Praise of Folly, Dutch title: Lof der Zotheid) is an essay written in 1509 by...


  32. On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church by Martin Luther

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    Although the term Babylonian captivity, or Babylonian exile, typically refers to the deportation and exile of the Jews of the ancient Kingdom of Judah to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar II in 586 BC, in ...


  33. Gargantua and Pantagruel by Francois Rabelais

    Image of Gargantua and Pantagruel

    The Life of Gargantua and of Pantagruel (in French, La vie de Gargantua et de Pantagruel) is a connected series of five novels written in the 16th century by François Rabelais. It is the story of t...


  34. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli

    Image of The Prince

    Il Principe (The Prince) is a political treatise by the Florentine public servant and political theorist Niccolò Machiavelli. Originally called De Principatibus (About Principalities), it was origi...


  35. Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin

    Image of Institutes of the Christian Religion

    Institutes of the Christian Religion (Institutio Christianae religionis) is John Calvin's seminal work on Protestant systematic theology. Highly influential in the Western world and still widely re...


  36. On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres by Nicolaus Copernicus

    Image of On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres

    De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres), first printed in 1543 in Nuremberg, is the seminal work on the heliocentric theory of astronomer Nicolaus Copernicu...


  37. Essays by Michel de Montaigne

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    Essays is the title given to a collection of 107 essays written by Michel de Montaigne that was first published in 1580. Montaigne essentially invented the literary form of essay, a short subjectiv...


  38. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

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    Alonso Quixano, a retired country gentleman in his fifties, lives in an unnamed section of La Mancha with his niece and a housekeeper. He has become obsessed with books of chivalry, and believes th...


  39. The Bible by Christian Church

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    The Authorized King James Version is an English translation of the Christian Bible begun in 1604 and completed in 1611 by the Church of England. Printed by the King's Printer, Robert Barker, the fi...


  40. The Harmony of the Worlds by Johannes Kepler

    Image of The Harmony of the Worlds

    Harmonices Mundi (Latin: The Harmony of the Worlds, 1619) is a book by Johannes Kepler. In the work Kepler discusses harmony and congruence in geometrical forms and physical phenomena. The final se...


  41. Novum Organum by Francis Bacon

    Image of Novum Organum

    The Novum Organum is a philosophical work by Francis Bacon published in 1620. The title translates as "new instrument". This is a reference to Aristotle's work Organon, which was his treatise on lo...


  42. First Folio by William Shakespeare

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    Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies is the 1623 published collection of William Shakespeare's plays. Modern scholars commonly refer to it as the First Folio. Printed in folio...


  43. Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems by Galileo

    Image of Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems

    The Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems was a 1632 Italian language book by Galileo Galilei comparing the Copernican system with the traditional Ptolemaic system. It was translated to L...


  44. Discourse on Method by Rene Descartes


  45. Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes

    Image of Leviathan

    Leviathan, The Matter, Forme and Power of a Common Wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civil, commonly called Leviathan, is a book written by Thomas Hobbes which was published in 1651. It is titled after th...


  46. Pensées by Blaise Pascal


  47. Ethics by Baruch de Spinoza


  48. Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan

    Image of Pilgrim's Progress

    One of the most powerful dramas of Christian faith ever written, this captivating allegory of man's religious journey in search of salvation follows the pilgrim as he travels an obstacle-filled roa...


  49. Principia Mathematica by Issac Newton


  50. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding by John Locke

    Image of An Essay Concerning Human Understanding

    An Essay Concerning Human Understanding is one of John Locke's two most famous works, the other being his Second Treatise on Civil Government. First appearing in 1690, the essay concerns the founda...


  51. A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge by George Berkeley

    Image of A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge

    A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (Commonly called "Treatise" when referring to Berkeley's works) is a 1710 work by Anglo-Irish Empiricist philosopher George Berkeley. This bo...


  52. Works of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz by Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz

    Image of Works of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz

    Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz (German pronunciation: [ˈgɔtfrit ˈvɪlhɛlm fən ˈlaɪpnɪts]; 1 July 1646 [OS: 21 June] – 14 November 1716) was a German philosopher, polymath and mathematician who wrote ...


  53. The New Science by Giambattista Vico


  54. A Treatise of Human Nature by David Hume

    Image of A Treatise of Human Nature

    A Treatise of Human Nature is a book by Scottish philosopher David Hume, first published in 1739–1740.


  55. Encyclopédie by Denis Diderot

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    Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers (English: Encyclopedia, or a systematic dictionary of the sciences, arts, and crafts) was a general encyclopedia publish...


  56. A Dictionary of the English Language by Samuel Johnson

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    Published on 15 April 1755 and written by Samuel Johnson, A Dictionary of the English Language, sometimes published as Johnson's Dictionary, is among the most influential dictionaries in the histor...


  57. Candide by Voltaire

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    Candide, ou l'Optimisme is a French satire written in 1759 by Voltaire, a philosopher of the Age of Enlightenment. Candide is characterized by its sarcastic tone and its erratic, fantastical, an...


  58. Common Sense by Thomas Paine


  59. The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith

    Image of The Wealth of Nations

    An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (generally referred to by the short title The Wealth of Nations) is the magnum opus written by Scottish economist and moral philosophe...


  60. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon

    Image of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

    The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire was written by English historian Edward Gibbon and published in six volumes. Volume I was published in 1776, and went through six printings. ...


  61. Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant

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    The Critique of Pure Reason (German: Kritik der reinen Vernunft ) by Immanuel Kant, first published in 1781, second edition 1787, is one of the most influential works in the history of philosophy. ...


  62. The Confessions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau by Jean-Jacques Rousseau

    Image of The Confessions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau

    Confessions is an autobiographical book by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. In modern times, it is often published with the title The Confessions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau in order to distinguish it from St. ...


  63. Reflections on the Revolution in France by Edmund Burke

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    Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), by Edmund Burke, is one of the best-known intellectual attacks against the (then-infant) French Revolution. In the twentieth century, it much influen...


  64. Enquiry Concerning Political Justice by William Godwin

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    William Godwin (3 March 1756 – 7 April 1836) was an English journalist, political philosopher and novelist. He is considered one of the first exponents of utilitarianism, and one of the first moder...


  65. An Essay on the Principle of Population by Thomas Robert Malthus

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    The book An Essay on the Principle of Population was first published anonymously in 1798 through J. Johnson (London). The author was soon identified as The Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus. While it ...


  66. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft

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    A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: with Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects (1792), written by the eighteenth-century British feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, is one of the earliest works of...


  67. Phenomenology of Mind by G. W. F. Hegel

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    Phänomenologie des Geistes (1807) is one of G.W.F. Hegel's most important philosophical works. It is translated as The Phenomenology of Spirit or The Phenomenology of Mind due to the dual meaning i...


  68. The World as Will and Idea by Arthur Schopenhauer

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    The World as Will and Representation (Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung) is the central work of German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. It was published in December 1818.


  69. On War by Carl Von Clausewitz

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    Vom Kriege is a book on war and military strategy by Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz, written mostly after the Napoleonic wars, between 1816 and 1830, and published posthumously by his wife in...


  70. The Course in Positive Philosophy by Auguste Comte

    Image of The Course in Positive Philosophy

    The Course in Positivist Philosophy (Cours de Philosophie Positive) was a series of texts written by the French philosopher of science and founding sociologist, Auguste Comte, between 1830 and 1842...


  71. Either Or by Soren Kierkegaard

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    Published in two volumes in 1843, Either/Or (original Danish title: Enten ‒ Eller) is an influential book written by the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, exploring the aesthetic and ethical "p...


  72. Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

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    Manifesto of the Communist Party (German: Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei), often referred to as The Communist Manifesto, was published on February 21, 1848, and is one of the world's most infl...


  73. Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau


  74. On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin

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    Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species, published on Thursday 24 November 1859, is a seminal work of scientific literature considered to be the foundation of evolutionary biology. Its full title...


  75. On Liberty by John Stuart Mill

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    On Liberty is a philosophical work by 19th century English philosopher John Stuart Mill, first published in 1859. To the Victorian readers of the time it was a radical work, advocating moral and ec...


  76. First Principles by Herbert Spencer

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  77. Experiments on Plant Hybridization by Gregor Mendel

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    Written in 1865 by Gregor Mendel, Experiments on Plant Hybridization (German: Versuche über Pflanzen-Hybriden) was the result after years spent studying genetic traits in pea plants. Mendel read hi...


  78. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

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    Epic in scale, War and Peace delineates in graphic detail events leading up to Napoleon's invasion of Russia, and the impact of the Napoleonic era on Tsarist society, as seen through the eyes of fi...


  79. Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism by James Clerk Maxwell


  80. Thus Spake Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche

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    Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for All and None (German: Also sprach Zarathustra: Ein Buch für Alle und Keinen) is a philosophical novel by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, composed in four ...


  81. The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud

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    This book introduces Freud's theory of the unconscious with respect to dream interpretation. Dreams, in Freud's view, were all forms of "wish-fulfillment" — attempts by the unconscious to resolve a...


  82. Pragmatism by William James


  83. The Mind and Society by Vilfredo Pareto

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    The Mind and Society (1916) is the English title of the seminal sociological work Trattato di Sociologia Generale by the Italian sociologist and economist Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923).


  84. Relativity by Albert Einstein

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    In clear, concise language that is accessible to all, Albert Einstein's brilliant theory is explained and its implications discussed.


  85. Psychological Types by Carl Jung


  86. I and Thou by Martin Buber

    Image of I and Thou

    Ich und Du, usually translated as I and Thou, is a book by Martin Buber, published in 1923, and first translated to English in 1937. Buber's main proposition is that we may address existence in two...


  87. The Trial by Franz Kafka

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    Written in 1914, The Trial is one of the most important novels of the twentieth century: the terrifying tale of Josef K., a respectable bank officer who is suddenly and inexplicably arrested and mu...


  88. The Logic of Scientific Discovery by Karl Popper

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    Logik der Forschung is a 1934 book by Karl Popper. It was originally written in German, but reformulated in English by Popper himself some years later, to be published as The Logic of Scientific Di...


  89. The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money by John Maynard Keynes

    Image of The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money

    The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money was written by the English economist John Maynard Keynes. The book, generally considered to be his magnum opus, is largely credited with creatin...


  90. Being and Nothingness by Jean-Paul Sartre

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    Being and Nothingness: An Essay on Phenomenological Ontology, sometimes subtitled A Phenomenological Essay on Ontology, is a 1943 philosophical treatise by Jean-Paul Sartre. Its main purpose was to...


  91. The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich von Hayek

    Image of The Road to Serfdom

    The Road to Serfdom is a book written by Friedrich von Hayek (recipient of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1974) which transformed the landscape of political thought in the 20th ce...


  92. Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell

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    The story follows the life of one seemingly insignificant man, Winston Smith, a civil servant assigned the task of perpetuating the regime's propaganda by falsifying records and political literatur...


  93. The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir

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    The Second Sex (French: Le Deuxième Sexe, June 1949) is one of the best-known works of the French existentialist Simone de Beauvoir. It is a work on the treatment of women throughout history and of...


  94. Cybernetics by Norbert Wiener

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    Cybernetics is the interdisciplinary study of the structure of regulatory systems. Cybernetics is closely related to control theory and systems theory. Both in its origins and in its evolution in t...


  95. Philosophical Investigations by Ludwig Wittgenstein

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    Philosophical Investigations is, along with the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, one of the two most influential works by the 20th-century philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. In it, Wittgenstein discus...


  96. Syntactic Structures by Noam Chomsky

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    Syntactic Structures is an influential book by American linguist Noam Chomsky, first published in 1957. Widely regarded as one of the most important texts in the field of linguistics, this work lai...


  97. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn

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    The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is an analysis of the history of science. Its publication was a landmark event in the sociology of knowledge, and popularized the terms paradigm and paradigm...


  98. The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan

    Image of The Feminine Mystique

    The Feminine Mystique, published 25 February 1963, is a book written by Betty Friedan which brought to light the lack of fulfillment in many women's lives, which was generally kept hidden[citation ...


  99. Quotations from Chairman Mao by Mao

    Image of Quotations from Chairman Mao

    Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong (simplified Chinese: 毛主席语录; pinyin: Máo zhǔxí yǔlù), better known in the West as The Little Red Book, was published by the Government of the People's Republic of...


  100. Beyond Freedom and Dignity by B.F. Skinner

    Image of Beyond Freedom and Dignity

    In Beyond Freedom and Dignity, Skinner suggests that a technology of behavior could help to make a better society. We would, however, have to accept that an autonomous agent is not the driving forc...