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3.4 out of 5 stars
3.4 out of 5 stars
12 Books That Changed The World: How words and wisdom have shaped our lives
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on 28 July 2006
Bought this a few weeks ago, the title being sufficiently persuasive to cause me to ignore my misgivings about reading something authored by Mr Bragg (sorry, I can't take the Lord thing seriously) and ploughed through it on the train to work over a fortnight.

While interesting generally, I found it a bit annoying in places. Some chapters I raced through: Wilberforce, Smith, Stopes, Newton, Darwin and Faraday in particular were quite fascinating.

Others however were hard going. The Rules of Association Football left me surprisingly cold, I wanted more from Arkwright and the King James Bible was a real struggle, though this may be due to the fact that Mr Bragg kept getting in the way with his views on word usage.

All in all money well spent and I'll probably dip into it again from time to time. In other words it will go into the bookcase, not under the corner of the sofa that has a leg missing.
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on 5 May 2012
not something that has made me feel very different about our history apart from women's emancipation and magna carta both of which are so relevant to now
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on 8 May 2010
A better title would be 12 books that changed England. This book is a typically Anglo-centric view of the world, and the choice of books contained, whilst on the whole interesting, are very limited. The world does not end at the coast of these little islands nor is English the only language which has produced literature of note.
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VINE VOICEon 5 September 2007
I'm not a fan of Melvin Bragg. I've always found his TV presenting on the South Bank show to be offputtingly smug and more suited to Pseuds Corner than my living room. So it was that I came to this book with a certain amount of trepidation. I'd seen one episode of the TV series (about the football rules) and was sufficiently surprised that I enjoyed it to be prepared to give the book a go - and I'm glad I did.
It's a personal list of a dozen books that Bragg feels changed the world. He says in the introduction that he's tried to avoid just covering the obvious choices like religion (so we only get the King James Bible, and not the Ko'ran as well, for instance) and instead tried to find a dozen books which cover many different aspects of contemporary society - from football to economics to sexual equality and so on - and then to illustrate how they helped create that society. It's a good list, and is sufficiently broad a topic that it can lead to ' I wouldn't put that book in, I'd've had this book instead' debates, which is always fun.
Bragg shows himself an incisive reviewer of books, offering both an illuminating precis of the content of each, how they came to be written and his judgement on the effects they had. I still don't like his TV persona, but Twelve Books that Changed the World, for it's length, is highly informative and accessible, and may well have inspired me to read more of the list it offers.
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VINE VOICEon 17 April 2010
A dozen essays on an eclectic selection of influential British written works.

If you are a fan of Melvyn Bragg's "In Our Time" Radio 4 show, you will probably enjoy this book, which is similarly wide ranging and authoratative. The various chapters are self contained essays which give a potted history of the author/authors rather than the books themselves.A short timeline for the actual works ends each chapter, but these are somtimes of dubious relevance (e.g. the timeline for "Experimental Researches In Electricity" ends "2003...Power blackout in ..Canada." (!))

There are two main problems with this book, in my opinion, both of which, to be fair, Bragg acknowledges himself. Firstly, some of these works are not really "books" in any meaningful sense...a patent application and a codification of sporting rules cannot be compared to "The Origin of Species" or "Principa Mathematica"; Even Wilberforce's anti-slavery campaign was started by a famous speech in Parliament, even if this was later published in written form surely it should be described as one of "12 Speeches That Changed The World"? More damagingly, it seems to me, with the exception of Shakespeare and The Bible, it is hard to see any of these works being read today for genuine pleasure. Has anyone sat down to enjoy the Magna Carta or Marie Stopes' "Married Love" lately ?

Bragg does address this last (obvious) criticism in the last chapter, listing various novels he could have chosen but puts the point that he was describing books that have had a concrete and lasting effect on the world. Still, I feel, a pity that we could not have had a work of poetry (Blake ? Milton?) or a novel (Dickens? Austen? Lawrence?) if only to remind us that books, above all, are a joy.

The list includes some really exceptionally influential books, Darwin, Newton, Adam Smith, and is all the more impressive as it is chosen only from the body of British literature.
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on 10 January 2008
This is a really nice book and easy to read. The writer in no way in attempting to exhaust the the topics he is writing about. He does, however, stimulate the reader into wanting to investigate further into the subject matter contained in the book. Any book that makes me want to read more is a great book.
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on 17 March 2010
The book provides light reading, digging very shallowly indeed into the history of science, sociology, culture, and football. I understand it started as a radio series, and that is probably a better format for it. Another good format would have been Sunday science pages in the newspapers, because that is what they read like. Nothing wrong with that, so if that is what you like, buy it. But I wanted much more. If you write about the importance of Faraday, SOME science would have been nice. Not just what his lab looked like, how he was as a lecturer, and his private life. And then listing many machines that use magnetism. Could the readers not be trusted to be at least a little interested in electromagnetism itself? This goes for all entries, but is (of course?) most noticeable for the "difficult" scientific stuff. The "books" included starts with Magna Charta and ends with Married Love, via Newton, Darwin, and Shakespeare. And includes the rules of association football.
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on 13 April 2007
Previous reviewers having been so negative thought it worth pointing out the Bragg doesn't pretend this selection is anything other that a personal choice. I think he justifies the "books" fairly well and I enjoyed the snapshot way they were presented. I am unlikely to ever read all of them in full, in the original, so enjoyed the chance to skim through some Newton, Faraday and Stopes inter alia.
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on 8 May 2007
I have to say I found this book quiet interesting and readable. I am not familiar with any of Mr Braggs TV or Radio work (unlike some other reviewers) so I am viewing this book in its own right and not with any preconceived bias of the author. I will probably never get around to reading the Magna Carta, Principa Mathematica or the King James Bible for that matter, so the whistlestop tour given in this book along with some of the reasons why these books are so influential in society was quiet enlightening. I'm sure some of it will be useful in a table quiz some day!
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on 15 July 2009
I found the book very interesting and easy to read, although I possibly would not have chosen the same 12 books looking from a female perspective. I was surprised that 'global warming' was mentioned, and how frank and yet coy the Marie Stopes 'Married Love' was. Football is not something I have any interest in and yet I was impressed that the rules continue (with little change) to this day. All of the books in their own way were setting out the guidelines for a path to lead mankind in roughly the right direction, the reaslisation of rights and wrongs. Perhaps some of our teenagers would do well to take some of the examples onboard!
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