Books become famously influential in different ways. Before mass printing and best seller lists, it depended on who got to read a certain book. If a book influenced a powerful person, it could change the world. If it were read by scholars, it could change an entire discipline, such as astronomy. In the modern world, best selling books can influence public opinion by revealing what was previously unknown to most readers, or by speculating on what might have been, or what could someday be. Public opinion goes a long way in changing society, and it was indeed books that fueled America's Revolutionary War, feminism, civil rights, environmental regulations, the Communist Revolution, and other world-changing movements.
Many of these book changed literature itself. Mary Shelley didn't set out to invent science fiction, but that's what she did with Frankenstein. You could say the same about JRR Tolkien and the fantasy genre. If you were to make a list of influential books throughout history, you'd probably guess a lot of the volumes on this list of 46 books that changed the world at MentalFloss. But probably not all of them, and therefore you'll find something new to catch up on what all the fuss is about.
(Image credit: Sally Wilson)