British readers choose Bible and Darwin as most influential books

Poll by Folio Society sees Bible win on 37% – but Origin Of Species comes close with 35%


A poll conducted by publisher the Folio Society has ranked the Bible as the most important book for the modern world – closely followed by Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species. Works by Stephen Hawking, Albert Einstein and George Orwell also ranked highly.

The Folio Society asked 2,044 adults to name the books they felt were of most significance to humanity today. The respondents were British, which may explain the Christian dominance – though nine per cent chose the Koran instead.

The Bible took 37 per cent of the vote, says The Guardian - but Darwin's scientific masterpiece was not far behind with 35 per cent. Hawking's A Brief History of Time had 17 per cent, while Einstein's Relativity was chosen by 15 per cent of people.

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The rest of the top ten was, in order: Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, Newton's Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations and The Double Helix, by James Watson, the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA.

The survey asked people to choose three titles from a list of 30. Folio Society editorial director Tom Walker said it was interesting that two books in some ways opposed to one another had come out on top.

He said: "The first question I had was whether the similar figure for Darwin and the Bible does show a continuing polarisation between the realms of science and religion, or whether in fact it reveals a more balanced approach to ideas for the modern reader."

"They are the two ideas which have clashed in the 20th century – this shows, I think, that we can take understanding from both of them." He added that the Koran is "probably relatively recent to many UK people's top 10 because of the impact of global debates around Islam".

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