Whilst reading this book you are constantly reminded of how clever and knowledgeable Bragg is, just listening to him on the In Our Time podcasts on Radio 4 are intimidating. This book has some brilliant aspects; I really learned a lot from it or remembered things I had forgotten. The premise is obviously that Bragg choses twelve books that he believed changed the world, but they are not necessarily the ones you would imagine such as The Communist Manifesto or Mein Kampf, all the books chosen are British in origin and some may not even strictly be defined as actual books, making the overall list a little bit of an unchronologcial mish-mash. Despite this it is a really interesting and thought-provoking read, and what is more Bragg even manages to make scientific books accessible to me. I learnt a lot about Newton and Darwin, although the Faraday section was more confusing.
I really enjoyed reading this up to about the King James Bible onwards and then I had enough, so it might be best to read a chapter of this a week rather than in one go like me. One section that I surprisingly enjoyed was the Book of Rules on Association Football particularly about some of the injuries and the confusion when public schools played a match using two different sets of rules prior to the publication of the book.
Bragg studies the background and the impact of each book to explain his choices for including them. Here are the books chosen;
Principia Mathematica (1687) — Isaac Newton
Married Love (1918) — Marie Stopes
Magna Carta (1215)
Book of Rules of Association Football (1863)
On the Origin of Species (1859) — Charles Darwin
On the Abolition of the Slave Trade (1789) — William Wilberforce in Parliament, immediately printed in several versions
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) — Mary Wollstonecraft
Experimental Researches in Electricity (three volumes, 1839, 1844, 1855) by Michael Faraday
Patent Specification for Arkwright’s Spinning Machine (1769) — Richard Arkwright
The King James Bible (1611) — William Tyndale and 54 scholars appointed by the king
An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776) — Adam Smith
The First Folio (1623) — William Shakespeare
Interesting but possibly debatable choices, worth reading about though.