Throughout history, some books have changed the world. They have transformed the way we see ourselves - and each other. They have inspired debate, dissent, war and revolution. They have enlightened, outraged, provoked and comforted. They have enriched lives - and destroyed them. Now Penguin brings you the works of the great thinkers, pioneers, radicals and visionaries whose ideas shook civilization, and helped make us who we are.
Perhaps the most widely read thinker of all time, Confucius transformed Chinese philosophy with his belief that the greatest goal in life was pursuit of 'The Way': a search for virtue not as a means to rewards in this world or the next, but as the pinnacle of human existence.
Offering ancient wisdom on how to use skill, cunning, tactics and discipline to outwit your opponent, this bestselling 2000-year-old military manual is still worshipped by soldiers on the battlefield and managers in the boardroom as the ultimate guide to winning.
Plato's retelling of the discourses between Socrates and his friends on such subjects as love and desire, truth and illusion, spiritual transcendence and the qualities of a good ruler, profoundly affected the ways in which we view human relationships, society and leadership - and shaped the whole tradition of Western philosophy.
Elegant, insightful and startlingly modern, the philosophy of Lucretius deeply influenced the course of European thought; here, he provides one of the first accounts of atomic theory, argues that there can be no life of the soul after death, and explores the sickness that we call love.
Amongst the most famous and influential of all political polemics, Cicero's scathing speeches against the dictatorial ambitions of Mark Antony are the passionate last testament of the greatest statesman of his age; a final attempt to restore his beloved Republic that was to cost him his life.
Aprofound consolation to early believers, these two books from the Bible deeply influenced the rise of the Christian church: the apocalyptic Revelation portraying the religion's ultimate triumph over its foes and The Book of Job depicting one man's faith in the face of incredible adversity.
Aprofound influence on medieval Europe's view of the wider world, this thirteenth-century account of a Venetian merchant's amazing experiences in the court of the great Mongol leader, Kubilai Khan, remains one of the most fascinating tales of exploration ever written.
Pioneering female writer Christine de Pizan's spirited defence of her sex against medieval misogyny and literary stereotypes is now recognized as one of the most important books in the history of feminism, and offers a telling insight into the role of women in a man's world.
In his witty and perceptive discourses on the ideal virtues of a Renaissance courtiers, Castiglione set out values that continue to offer illumination in questions of leadership and government - espousing such qualities as prudence, courage, loyalty, affability and style and even the playing of sport as the best ways to gain influence and power.
Francis Bacon's landmark writings on subjects ranging from anger and ambition, marriage and money to envy and empire established him as the founding father of modern scientific thinking, with his rejection of superstition and his emphasis on proof and experiment, rational enquiry and reasoned argument.
The founding father of modern political philosophy, Thomas Hobbes, living in an era of horrific violence, saw human life as meaningless and cruel; here, he argues the only way to escape this brutality is for all to accept a 'social contract' that acknowledges the greater authority of a Sovereign leader.
Written after the discovery of over forty Bronze Age burial urns in seventeenth-century Norfolk, Sir Thomas Browne's profound consideration of the inevitability of death remains one of the most fascinating and poignant of all reflections upon the vanity of mankind's lust for immortality.
Voltaire's short, radical and iconoclastic essays on philosophical ideas from angels to idolatry, miracles to wickedness, make wry observations about human beliefs, and mock hypocrisy and extravagant piety - his call to his fellow men to act with reason and see through the lies they are fed by their leaders has provided inspiration to freethinkers everywhere.
One of the most important thinkers ever to write in English, the Empiricist David Hume liberated philosophy from the superstitious constraints of religion; here, he argues that all are free to choose between life and death, considers the nature of personal taste and succinctly criticises common philosophies of the time.
This investigation of religion by greatest psychoanalyst of the twentieth - century explores the role faith can take in the life of man, what it can mean to us and why as a species we are inclined towards it.
The Father of Existentialism, Kierkegaard transformed philosophy with his conviction that we must all create our own nature; in this great work of religious anxiety, he argues that a true understanding of God can only be attained by making a personal 'leap of faith'.
Thoreau's account of his solitary and self-sufficient home in the New England woods remains an inspiration to the environmental movement - a call to his fellow men to abandon their striving, materialistic existences of 'quiet desperation' for a simple life within their means, finding spiritual truth through awareness of the sheer beauty of their surroundings.
With its wry portrayal of a shallow, materialistic 'leisure class' obsessed by clothes, cars, consumer goods and climbing the social ladder, this withering satire on modern capitalism is as pertinent today as when it was written over a century ago.
Inspired by the myth of a man condemned to ceaselessly push a rock up a mountain and watch it roll back to the valley below, The Myth of Sisyphus transformed twentieth-century philosophy with its impassioned argument for the value of life in a world without religious meaning.
Inspired by the trial of a bureaucrat who helped cause the Holocaust, this radical work on the banality of evil stunned the world with its exploration of a regime's moral blindness and one man's insistence that he be absolved all guilt because he was 'only following orders'.