The King James Bible has often been called the Book of Books both in itself and in what it stands for. Since its publication in 1611 it has been the best selling book in the world, and many believe, had the greatest impact.
The King James Bible has spread the Protestant faith. It has also been the greatest influence on the enrichment of the English language and its literature. It has been the Bible of wars from the British Civil War in the seventeenth century to the American Civil War two centuries later and it has been carried into battle in innumerable conflicts since then. Its influence on social movements - particularly involving women in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries - and politics was profound. It was crucial to the growth of democracy. It was integral to the abolition of slavery and it defined attitudes to modern science, education and sex.
As THE ADVENTURE OF ENGLISH explored the history of our language, so THE BOOK OF BOOKS reveals the extraordinary and still-felt impact of a work created 400 years ago.
'Bragg's strengths as a novelist yield an account that is personal and imaginative, full of excitement and energy...I have never read an account of the Bible quite so compelling'. ( David Crystal, The New Statesman)
What gives this book its particular power, beyond Bragg's own reputation as a broadcaster, novelist and one of our foremost public intellectuals, is that he separates the importance of the King James Bible from the role of Christianity itself. Bragg tells the history of the King James with the vigour and pace of a storyteller rather than the dry precision of an academic. ( Independent)
I am inclined to accept his final word: that the KJB's impact "has been immeasurable and it is not over yet". ( John Cornwell, Financial Times)
'Bragg takes a well known tale and tells it with easy eloquence'. ( Scotland on Sunday)
'vivid and accessible'. ( Scotsman)
'As popular history, this is great stuff'. ( Scotsman)
Bragg is 'our most trusted intellectual interpreter'. ( David Sexton, Evening Standard)
Bragg's tribute is of value because he has an aptitude for storytelling. He is breezily readable where other studies can feel dense and recondite. His turn of phrase is dramatic. Bragg's prose reverberates with scriptural certainty. Mostly this is an affectionate book. ( Henry Hitchings, Observer)
'Naturally Bragg pays eloquent homage to the literary grandeur of the scriptures that shaped his own outlook. But this heartfelt and far-reaching tribute makes its special mark in tracing the links between the KJB and the revolutions in science, politics and society'. ( Independent)
The two main strands of Bragg's career - intellectual mediator and bestselling popular novelist - are perfectly fused in THE BOOK OF BOOKS. It's an energetic work with enormous intellectual range that manages to turn the history of the King James Bible into a pacey adventure story. ( Guardian)
2011 was the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible.
About the Author
Melvyn Bragg is a writer and broadcaster whose first novel, For Want of a Nail, was published in 1965. His novels since include The Maid of Buttermere, The Soldier's Return, Credo and Now is the Time, which won the Parliamentary Book Award for fiction in 2016. His books have also been awarded the Time/Life Silver Pen Award, the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and the WHSmith Literary Award, and have been longlisted three times for the Booker Prize (including the Lost Man Booker Prize).
He has also written several works of non-fiction, including The Adventure of English and The Book of Books about the King James Bible. He lives in London and Cumbria.