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.
From an intimate and moving letter to his grieving wife on the death of their daughter, to elegant writings on morality, happiness and the avoidance of anger, Plutarch's powerful words of consolation and inspiration still offer timeless wisdom and guidance today.
Not simply an investigation into melancholy, these unique essays form part of a panoramic celebration of human behaviour from the time of the ancients to the Renaissance. God, devils, old age, diet, drunkenness, love and beauty are each given equal consideration in this all-encompassing examination of the human condition.
Created by the seventeenth-century philosopher and mathematician Pascal, the essays contained in Human Happiness are a curiously optimistic look at whether humans can ever find satisfaction and real joy in life - or whether a belief in God is a wise gamble at best.
Adam Smith's landmark treatise on the free market paved the way for modern capitalism, arguing that competition is the engine of a productive society, and that self-interest will eventually come to enrich the whole community, as if by an 'invisible hand'.
Written at a time when most of Europe supported the French Revolution, Edmund Burke's prescient and, at the time, controversial denunciation of its mob rule predicted the Terror, began the modern conservative tradition and still serves as a warning to those who seek to reshape societies through violence.
Originally published anonymously, Nature was the first modern essay to recommend the appreciation of the outdoors as an all-encompassing positive force. Emerson's writings were recognized as uniquely American in style and content, and launched the idea of going for a walk as a new way of looking at the world.
Influencing philosophers such as Sartre and Camus, and still strikingly modern in its psychological insights, Kierkegaard's The Sickness Unto Death explores the concept of 'despair' as a symptom of the human condition and describes man's struggle to fill the spiritual void.
John Ruskin overturned Victorian society's ideas about art and architecture, arguing that ancient buildings must be conserved for their deep, mystical links with the past and that creative design is essential - not for financial gain, but to communicate eternal human truths.
Friedrich Nietzsche was one of the most revolutionary thinkers in Western philosophy. Here he sets out his subversive views in a series of aphorisms on subjects ranging from art to arrogance, boredom to passion, science to vanity, rejecting conventional notions of morality to celebrate the individual's 'will to power'.
Describing Tolstoy's crisis of depression and estrangement from the world, A Confession is an autobiographical work of exceptional emotional honesty. It describes his search for 'a practical religion not promising future bliss but giving bliss on earth'. Although the Confession led to his excommunication, it also resulted in a large following of Tolstoyan Christians springing up throughout Russia and Europe.
Visionary English Socialist and pioneer of the Arts and Crafts movement, William Morris argued that all work should be a source of pride and satisfaction, and that everyone should be entitled to beautiful surroundings - no matter what their class.
This hugely influential work marked a turning point in US history and culture, arguing that the nation's expansion into the Great West was directly linked to its unique spirit: a rugged individualism forged at the juncture between civilization and wilderness, which - for better or worse - lies at the heart of American identity today.
In these inspiring essays about why we read, Proust explores all the pleasures and trials that we take from books, as well as explaining the beauty of Ruskin and his work, and the joys of losing yourself in literature as a child.
Whether calling for an end to the capitalist system, addressing the crowds after the Russian Revolution, or attacking Stalin during his years of exile, Trotsky's speeches give an extraordinary insight into a man whose words and actions determined the fates of millions.
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.
One of the most important works of cultural theory ever written, Walter Benjamin's groundbreaking essay explores how the age of mass media means audiences can listen to or see a work of art repeatedly - and what the troubling social and political implications of this are.
Beginning with a dilemma about whether he spends more money on reading or smoking, George Orwell's entertaining and uncompromising essays go on to explore everything from the perils of second-hand bookshops to the dubious profession of being a critic, from freedom of the press to what patriotism really means.
Adaring critique of communism and how it had gone wrong behind the Iron Curtain, Camus' essay examines the revolutions in France and Russia, and argues that since they were both guilty of producing tyranny and corruption, hope for the future lies only in revolt without revolution.
Angered by the racism he witnessed on Martinique during the Second World War, Fanon here examines the roles of class, culture and violence, and expresses his profound alienation from the idea of colonialism and its bloodshed. More than four decades on, Fanon's work still inspires liberation movements today.
Foucault's writings on power and control in social institutions have made him one of the modern era's most influential thinkers. Here he argues that punishment has gone from being mere spectacle to becoming an instrument of systematic domination over individuals in society - not just of our bodies, but our souls.