The 100 Best Non-Fiction Books of the Century

This is one of the 313 lists we use to generate our main The Greatest Books list.

  • The Second World War by Winston Churchill

    This book provides a comprehensive overview of the Second World War from the perspective of one of its most influential leaders. It covers the entire span of the war, from its origins in the political and economic turmoil of the 1930s, to the major battles and strategic decisions that shaped its course, to its aftermath and impact on the world. The author's unique perspective and firsthand experience, combined with his eloquent and insightful writing, make this a definitive account of one of the most important events in modern history.

    The 517th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

    "The Gulag Archipelago" is a comprehensive and stark account of the Soviet Union's forced labor camp system. The narrative, based on the author's own experiences as a prisoner and on extensive research, documents the history, operation, and life inside the Gulag system. It also provides a critical examination of the regime's legal system, police operations, and political leadership. The book is an intense indictment of the Soviet Union's totalitarian regime, revealing its brutality, inhumanity, and vast scale of its prison camp network.

    The 297th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell

    The book is a personal account of the author's experiences during the Spanish Civil War, specifically his time with the POUM (Partit Obrer d'Unificació Marxista) militia in Catalonia. He provides an in-depth look at the social revolution that took place, the daily life of a soldier, the political infighting and betrayals among the Republican factions, and his eventual disillusionment with the cause he initially supported. The book is both a war memoir and a detailed analysis of a complex political situation.

    The 328th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich von Hayek

    "The Road to Serfdom" is a classic work of political philosophy and economics that argues against the concept of socialism and centralized economic planning. The author asserts that such systems inevitably lead to totalitarianism, infringing upon individual liberties and stifling innovation. The book further posits that only through free-market capitalism can societies maintain political and economic freedom. The author also explores the dangers of government control over means of production, illustrating that it leads to a loss of personal freedoms and the rise of dictatorial regimes.

    The 899th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Collected Essays of George Orwell by George Orwell

    This book is a compilation of essays by a renowned author, known for his sharp wit and critical eye. It covers a wide range of topics, from politics and language to literature and culture. The author's insightful and often provocative viewpoints provide a unique perspective on the world, challenging readers to question their own beliefs and assumptions. His straightforward writing style and keen observations make these essays as relevant today as when they were first published.

    The 793rd Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Open Society by Karl Popper

    This book is a critique of totalitarianism and a defense of liberal democracy. The author argues against the concept of a perfect, immutable society, instead advocating for an "open society" that allows for constant change and improvement. He criticizes theories of historical determinism and the notion of "the collective", emphasizing the importance of individual freedom and human rights. The book also examines and challenges the philosophies of Plato, Hegel, and Marx, linking their ideas to the rise of fascism and communism in the 20th century.

    The 755th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Abolition of Man by C. S. Lewis

    This philosophical book explores the concepts of objective value and natural law, arguing that these are essential for moral reasoning. The author criticizes modern education for producing "men without chests," by which he means individuals who deny the importance of moral absolutes. He suggests that this could lead to the "abolition of man" as we traditionally understand him, replacing moral individuals with conditioned responses. The book also discusses the dangers of scientific advancement without moral considerations.

    The 1514th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Revolt of the Masses by José Ortega y Gasset

    "The Revolt of the Masses" is a philosophical work that discusses the rise of the "mass man" and the potential danger this presents to society. The author argues that the mass man, characterized by his lack of individuality and rejection of higher values, is a product of modern society and its emphasis on equality. He believes that this mass man, who is more concerned with his rights than his responsibilities, threatens to undermine the very foundations of society, leading to potential chaos and instability. The book serves as a warning and a call for a return to individual responsibility and respect for higher values.

    The 2219th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Constitution of Liberty by Friedrich von Hayek

    This book is a comprehensive analysis of the concept of liberty, emphasizing the importance of individual freedom in political, societal, and economic contexts. The author argues that a free society, where individuals can act according to their own decisions and plans, is the most effective system for human progress. He also explores the relationship between law and liberty, the role of government in a free society, and the challenges to liberty posed by concepts such as social and economic justice.

    The 1178th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Capitalism and Freedom by Milton Friedman

    This book explores the role of competitive capitalism - the organization of the bulk of economic activity through private enterprise operating in a free market - as both a device for achieving economic freedom and a necessary condition for political freedom. The author further examines how freedom could be preserved in a society where the roles and importance of government are ever expanding, and presents his view on topics such as monetary policy, fiscal policy, education, discrimination, and the alleviation of poverty.

    The 928th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Modern Times by Paul Johnson

    "Modern Times" is an in-depth historical analysis of the 20th century, covering major events, movements, and figures that have shaped the modern world. The author critically examines the impacts of World War I and II, the Cold War, the rise of totalitarian regimes, and the influence of religion and ideology on politics and society. The book also explores significant scientific and technological advancements, and their effects on human perception and behavior. It provides a comprehensive understanding of the complexities and contradictions of the 20th century, and how they continue to influence the 21st century.

    The 2382nd Greatest Book of All Time
  • Rationalism in Politics by Michael Oakeshott

    "Rationalism in Politics" is a collection of essays that critique the role of rationalism in politics, arguing that political decisions should be based on tradition and experience rather than abstract theories. The author asserts that rationalism, with its emphasis on premeditated, systematic approaches, often fails to acknowledge the complexity and unpredictability of human behavior and social dynamics. He emphasizes the importance of practical knowledge, acquired through experience, in political decision-making and criticizes the rationalist's disregard for such wisdom.

    The 1854th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy by Joseph A. Schumpeter

    The book provides an in-depth analysis of the interplay between capitalism, socialism, and democracy, arguing that capitalism is a catalyst for creative destruction and innovation, but also paves the way for socialism due to its inherent instability and tendency to create wealth inequality. It further suggests that democracy, while imperfect, is the best system to manage these economic systems. The author presents a unique perspective on the inevitable rise of socialism, not through revolution as Marx predicted, but through the legal and systematic erosion of capitalism by democratic means.

    The 1035th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Economy and Society by Max Weber

    "Economy and Society" is a comprehensive analysis of the relationship between economy and society, focusing on the role of social actions and their impact on economic systems. The book presents a theoretical framework for understanding how economic and social structures influence each other, including the role of bureaucracy, power, and authority. The author also introduces his famous concept of the "Protestant Ethic", linking the rise of capitalism to certain aspects of Christian beliefs. The book is considered a fundamental text in sociology and economics, providing a deep understanding of social and economic phenomena.

    The 851st Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt

    The book explores the roots of totalitarian systems, particularly focusing on Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia. It delves into the historical, social, and political circumstances that led to the rise of these oppressive regimes, including anti-Semitism, imperialism, and the decline of the nation-state. The author further discusses the nature of power, the role of propaganda, and the manipulation of the masses in these systems, providing a comprehensive analysis of totalitarianism.

    The 567th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Black Lamb and Grey Falcon by Rebecca West

    "Black Lamb and Grey Falcon" is a comprehensive and detailed travelogue of Yugoslavia, penned by a British author during the brink of World War II. The book beautifully interweaves history, politics, culture, and personal experiences to paint a vivid picture of the Balkan region. It also serves as a profound reflection on the impending war and the author's concerns about the rise of fascism in Europe, making it not just a travel book but also an essential historical document.

    The 349th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Sociobiology by E. O. Wilson

    "Sociobiology" is a comprehensive and scholarly work that explores the biological basis of social behavior in all species, including humans. The author weaves together findings from various fields such as ethology, anthropology, evolution, and genetics to propose a new discipline - sociobiology. He suggests that social behavior, including altruism, aggression, and nurturance, is not just a product of learning and environment, but also has a genetic basis. This work sparked considerable debate and controversy, particularly regarding its implications for human behavior and society.

    The 3465th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Centesimus Annus by Pope John Paul II

    "Centesimus Annus" is a papal encyclical where the Pope explores and reaffirms the Catholic Church's teachings on social and economic issues. It was written on the hundredth anniversary of "Rerum Novarum," an earlier encyclical addressing issues of labor and the economy. The document discusses the dangers of both socialism and capitalism, and emphasizes the importance of a moral and ethical approach to economics, one that respects human dignity and prioritizes the common good above personal gain.

    The 5252nd Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Pursuit of the Millennium by Norman Cohn

    This book provides a comprehensive historical analysis of millenarian movements in Europe from the 11th to 16th centuries. It delves into the social and psychological factors that led to the rise of these movements, which were characterized by the belief in an impending apocalypse followed by a new, heavenly order on earth. The author examines a number of these movements in detail, including the Crusades, the flagellant movements, and the Anabaptist kingdom of Münster, and argues that these millenarian ideologies were often used to justify violence and social revolution.

    The 1441st Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

    This book is a real-life account of a young Jewish girl hiding from the Nazis during World War II, written in diary format. The girl and her family are forced to live in a secret annex in Amsterdam for two years, during which she writes about her experiences, fears, dreams, and the onset of adolescence. The diary provides a poignant and deeply personal insight into the horrors of the Holocaust, making it a powerful testament to the human spirit.

    The 57th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Great Terror by Robert Conquest

    "The Great Terror" is a comprehensive analysis of Joseph Stalin's purges in the Soviet Union during the 1930s. The book delves into the brutal and systematic elimination of potential political rivals, intellectuals, and ordinary citizens, who were falsely accused of espionage, sabotage, or being counter-revolutionary. It provides a detailed account of the show trials, executions, and forced labor camps, shedding light on one of the darkest periods in Soviet history.

    The 2889th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Chronicles of Wasted Time by Malcolm Muggeridge

    "Chronicles of Wasted Time" is an autobiography that explores the life and thoughts of a British journalist and satirist during the 20th century. The book provides a critical perspective on the political and social changes of the time, including the author's experiences in India, Russia, and during World War II. The author also delves into his personal journey from agnosticism to Christianity, offering a profound reflection on faith and spirituality.

    The 3150th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Relativity by Albert Einstein

    This book is a comprehensive introduction to the theory of relativity written by the physicist who developed the theory. It covers both the special and general theories of relativity and provides an accessible explanation of the physics involved, including the nature of light, time, and gravity. The book also discusses the philosophical implications of relativity and its impact on our understanding of reality. Written for a general audience, it aims to make complex scientific concepts understandable to non-experts.

    The 315th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Witness by Whittaker Chambers

    "Witness" is a gripping autobiography that chronicles the author's life as a Communist party member, his espionage activities for the Soviet Union, and his eventual renunciation of communism. The book also details his role as the key witness in the 1948 Alger Hiss trial, a high-profile case that had a major impact on American politics during the Cold War. The narrative explores themes of ideology, betrayal, and redemption, and provides a unique perspective on the ideological battles of the 20th century.

    The 1528th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn

    This influential book examines the history of science, focusing on the process of scientific revolutions. The author argues that scientific progress is not a linear, continuous accumulation of knowledge, but rather a series of peaceful interludes punctuated by intellectually violent revolutions. During these revolutions, known as paradigm shifts, the old scientific worldview is replaced by a new one. The book also popularized the term 'paradigm shift' and challenged the previously accepted view of science as a steadily progressive discipline.

    The 190th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis

    "Mere Christianity" is a theological book that explores the common ground upon which all of those of Christian faith stand. It provides an intellectual defense of Christianity that centers on the Law of Nature, arguing that God is behind this law. The book also explores Christian values, the cardinal virtues, and the theological virtues, ultimately arguing for the reasonableness of Christianity. The final section of the book discusses the doctrine of the Trinity and the process of becoming a Christian.

    The 761st Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Quest for Community by Robert Nisbet

    "The Quest for Community" is a sociological analysis that examines the rise of individualism and the decline of community in Western societies. The author argues that the erosion of traditional communities and associations has led to increased state power and control, creating a society where individuals are increasingly isolated and disconnected. He emphasizes the need for a return to stronger community bonds as a means to resist this trend and to foster a healthier, more balanced society.

    The 1582nd Greatest Book of All Time
  • Encyclopedia Britannica by Encyclopedia Britannica

    This comprehensive reference work is a general knowledge English-language encyclopedia. It is written by about 100 full-time editors and more than 4,000 contributors, who have included 110 Nobel Prize winners and five American presidents. The encyclopedia is regarded as one of the most scholarly of encyclopedias, covering a wide range of topics in depth and providing extensive bibliographies.

    The 683rd Greatest Book of All Time
  • Up in the Old Hotel by Joseph Mitchell

    "Up in the Old Hotel" is a collection of essays that paints a vivid picture of New York City from the 1930s to the 1960s. The stories introduce a rich tapestry of characters, from street preachers and gypsies to oystermen and bar regulars, each with their own unique history and perspective. The book captures the essence of the city and its inhabitants in a way that is both deeply personal and universally relatable, providing an intimate look at a bygone era.

    The 2584th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Everlasting Man by G. K. Chesterton

    "The Everlasting Man" is a Christian apologetics book that explores the spiritual journey of mankind, arguing against both evolution and atheism. The author divides human history into two parts: before and after the arrival of Jesus Christ. He presents humanity as a unique creature in the universe, distinct from both animals and angels, and argues that Christianity, rather than being a product of its time, is the central force that shaped Western civilization. The book is a rebuttal to H.G. Wells' "Outline of History," which presented human life and the universe from a secular perspective.

    The 2335th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton

    "Orthodoxy" is a classic work of Christian apologetics that explores and defends the beliefs that are central to Christian faith. The author presents his personal journey towards faith, arguing for the reasonableness of Christianity. He challenges popular assumptions of his time about religion, faith, and the world while presenting a compelling case for orthodox Christian belief, using both logic and wit. The book combines personal anecdotes, historical critique, and philosophical discourse to present a deeply intellectual and sincere exploration of Christianity.

    The 1008th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Liberal Imagination by Lionel Trilling

    "The Liberal Imagination" is a collection of essays that scrutinize and challenge the ideas, politics, and cultural norms of liberal society. The author argues that liberalism often simplifies complex issues and overlooks the inherent contradictions and conflicts in human life. Using literature as a tool, he delves into the nuances of these issues and encourages readers to engage in critical thinking and self-examination. The book is a profound exploration of the strengths and weaknesses of liberal thought and its impact on society.

    The 864th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Double Helix by James D. Watson

    This book is a personal account of the race to discover the structure of DNA, told from the perspective of one of the co-discoverers. It provides an insider's view of scientific research, the collaboration and competition, the dedication, the doubt, the exhilaration of discovery, and the often fraught relationship between science and the rest of life. The book also explores the personalities, quirks, and conflicts of the scientists involved in the groundbreaking discovery.

    The 194th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Feynman Lectures on Physics by Richard P. Feynman

    This book is a comprehensive collection of lectures on physics by a renowned physicist, covering everything from classical mechanics to quantum mechanics, electromagnetism, and statistical mechanics. These lectures, designed to be accessible to those without a deep background in the subject, offer a unique and insightful perspective on the fundamental principles of physics, combining rigorous scientific explanation with engaging anecdotes and analogies. The book is widely regarded as an essential resource for anyone interested in or studying the field of physics.

    The 826th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Radical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers by Tom Wolfe

    This book is a satirical exploration of the interactions and contradictions between high society and radical politics in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The first part of the book focuses on a fundraising party for the Black Panthers hosted by a wealthy New York couple, examining the complex mix of guilt, fascination, and patronizing attitudes among the elite guests. The second part of the book delves into the dynamics of racial tension and bureaucracy in San Francisco, revealing how marginalized groups learned to manipulate the system for their own benefit.

    The 3059th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus

    This book is a philosophical essay that explores the concept of absurdity, and how individuals should respond to life's inherent meaninglessness. It posits that life is essentially absurd due to the conflict between our desire for understanding and the chaotic, indifferent universe. The author argues that the only proper response to this absurdity is to live life to its fullest, embracing and rebelling against the absurdity, rather than resorting to suicide or turning to religion or philosophy for false comfort. The story of Sisyphus, condemned to eternally roll a boulder up a hill only for it to roll back down, is used as a metaphor for the human condition.

    The 537th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Unheavenly City by Edward C. Banfield

    "The Unheavenly City" is a sociological analysis of urban life in the United States during the mid-20th century. The book examines the problems faced by cities and their residents, including poverty, crime, and racial tensions. The author argues that these issues are largely due to cultural and behavioral differences among social classes rather than economic inequality. He suggests that long-term planning and delayed gratification, traits more common in higher social classes, lead to better outcomes than the short-term focus often seen in lower social classes. The book's controversial views sparked debates about urban policy and social inequality.

    The 3060th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud

    This groundbreaking work explores the theory that dreams are a reflection of the unconscious mind and a means of understanding our deepest desires, anxieties, and fantasies. The book delves into the symbolism of dreams and their connection to repressed thoughts and experiences, proposing that they are a form of wish fulfillment. The author also introduces the concept of "dream work," which transforms these unconscious thoughts into the content of dreams, and discusses various methods of dream interpretation.

    The 136th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs

    This book is a critique of 1950s urban planning policy, which it holds responsible for the decline of many city neighborhoods in the United States. The author argues that modernist urban planning rejects the city, because it rejects human beings living in a community characterized by layered complexity and seeming chaos. The book introduces groundbreaking ideas about how cities function, evolve and fail, providing a new perspective on the essentials of vibrant city life. The author also provides concrete examples of the unexpected consequences of urban renewal.

    The 693rd Greatest Book of All Time
  • The End of History and the Last Man by Francis Fukuyama

    This book presents a provocative exploration of the evolution of political systems and the role of liberal democracy in the global landscape. The author argues that the progression of history, as defined by the development of political and economic systems, has culminated in liberal democracy and free-market capitalism. This, he suggests, may represent the endpoint of mankind's ideological evolution and the 'end of history'. The book also discusses the concept of 'the last man' as a potential consequence of this endpoint, exploring the existential threat of a society of 'last men' devoid of ideological struggle and dominated by materialistic gratification.

    The 4519th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, Ethan Becker

    This book is a comprehensive guide to home cooking, providing readers with a wide range of recipes, techniques, and advice for all kinds of dishes. It covers everything from appetizers to desserts, with clear instructions and illustrations to make the process easy and enjoyable. The book also includes helpful tips on meal planning, food safety, and nutrition, making it a valuable resource for both beginners and experienced cooks.

    The 420th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Age of Reform by Richard Hofstadter

    This historical analysis explores the political and social changes in the United States from the 1890s to the 1940s, focusing on the Populist and Progressive movements. The author scrutinizes the motivations and accomplishments of reformers during this time, arguing that their efforts were driven more by fears of modernity and changes in society than by altruistic desires for social justice. The book also delves into the impact of these movements on American politics and the ways they shaped the nation's future.

    The 2340th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money by John Maynard Keynes

    This influential economic treatise presents a groundbreaking theory that challenges classical economics, asserting that aggregate demand, driven by public and private sector spending, is the primary factor influencing economic activity and employment levels. The book also introduces the concept of fiscal and monetary policies as tools to manage economic downturns, thus shaping the foundation of modern macroeconomics. It further critiques the idea that market economies would automatically provide full employment and argues for active government intervention to prevent economic recessions and depressions.

    The 320th Greatest Book of All Time
  • God and Man at Yale by William F. Buckley, Jr

    This book is a critique of the author's alma mater, Yale University, arguing that the institution had strayed from its original mission. The author claims that the university was promoting atheism and socialism, instead of fostering intellectual freedom and individualism. He criticizes the faculty for allegedly pushing their own political beliefs onto students, and calls for alumni to take a more active role in the oversight of their universities.

    The 2379th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Selected Essays of T. S. Eliot by T. S. Eliot

    This book is a collection of critical and reflective essays by a renowned poet and literary critic. The author explores a variety of topics including literature, culture, society, and religion. The essays offer an insightful and thought-provoking commentary on the works of other writers, as well as the author's own views on literary theory and criticism. The collection serves as an important resource for understanding the author's intellectual development and his influence on 20th century literature and criticism.

    The 880th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Ideas Have Consequences by Richard M. Weaver

    "Ideas Have Consequences" is a philosophical work that explores the societal and cultural impacts of ideas, arguing that the decline of Western society can be traced back to the rejection of absolute truth. The author posits that this rejection has led to moral relativism, materialism, and a culture of self-centeredness. He advocates for a return to traditional values and a recognition of universal truths as a means to restore balance and purpose to society.

    The 2381st Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Economy of Cities by Jane Jacobs

    "The Economy of Cities" explores the concept of urbanization and its impact on economic development. The author argues that cities are the primary drivers of economic growth and innovation, challenging the traditional belief that rural agriculture is the foundation of economic development. The book delves into the history of city development, the role of cities in fostering innovation, and how urban economies evolve and adapt over time. It further discusses the importance of diversity and small-scale entrepreneurship in creating vibrant, sustainable cities.

    The 2957th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom

    The book is a critique of the contemporary American educational system, particularly in universities. The author argues that the rise of relativism and the decline of the humanities have led to a crisis in American education, with students becoming less able to think critically and more prone to moral and intellectual confusion. The book also discusses the impact of popular culture and political movements on education, and argues for a return to a more traditional, classical education.

    The 4759th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Ethnic America by Thomas Sowell

    "Ethnic America" is a comprehensive study of nine ethnic groups in America, including Irish, Jewish, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, and African Americans. The book provides a detailed historical analysis of each group's immigration, struggles, successes, and influence on American culture and society. By examining the economic, social, and cultural patterns of these groups, the book challenges conventional views about race and ethnicity, and explores the complex factors that contribute to the unique experiences of each group in America.

    The 4088th Greatest Book of All Time
  • An American Dilemma by Gunnar Myrdal

    This book is a comprehensive sociological study on the issues faced by African Americans in the United States during the mid-twentieth century. The author examines the deep-rooted racial discrimination and inequality prevalent in American society, exploring its origins, implications, and potential solutions. The work is notable for its detailed analysis and its impact on subsequent civil rights movements.

    The 1317th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Three Case Histories by Sigmund Freud

    "Three Case Histories" is a compilation of three of the most famous case studies by a renowned psychoanalyst, exploring the complexities of the human mind. The book includes the cases of 'Little Hans', a boy with a phobia of horses, 'The Rat Man', an obsessive-compulsive patient, and 'The Wolf Man', a wealthy Russian aristocrat suffering from a variety of psychoneurotic symptoms. The author uses these cases to demonstrate his theories on psychoanalysis, childhood sexuality, the interpretation of dreams, and the subconscious.

    The 2702nd Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Struggle for Europe by Chester Wilmot

    "The Struggle for Europe" is a comprehensive historical account of World War II from the perspective of the Western Allies. It meticulously details the military strategies, political maneuverings, and individual battles that led to the defeat of Nazi Germany. The book also explores the aftermath of the war and the power dynamics that shaped the modern map of Europe. It provides an in-depth analysis of the decisions made by key figures during the war, and how these decisions impacted the outcome of the war and the post-war reconstruction of Europe.

    The 1310th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Main Currents in American Thought by Vernon L Parrington

    "Main Currents in American Thought" is a comprehensive three-volume analysis of American literature and thought from the pre-colonial period to the early 20th century. The volumes explore the evolution of American philosophy, political ideology, and literature, highlighting the influence of various intellectual movements and their impact on the shaping of American society. The work emphasizes the role of liberal, democratic, and progressive ideas in the formation of American culture and identity.

    The 2355th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Waning of the Middle Ages by Johan Huizinga

    "The Waning of the Middle Ages" is a historical analysis of the cultural life of the late Middle Ages, particularly in France and the Low Countries, during the 14th and 15th centuries. It delves into the period's modes of thought, forms of expression, religious beliefs, and social norms. The book argues that the era was characterized by a highly stylized and overwrought civilization, marked by an excessive emphasis on chivalry and courtly love, a religious mindset dominated by the fear of death and the afterlife, and a cultural milieu that was both highly imaginative and deeply pessimistic.

    The 811th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Systematic Theology by Wolfhart Pannenberg

    "Systematic Theology" is a comprehensive exploration of Christian doctrine from the perspective of a renowned German theologian. It delves into the nature of God, the creation of the universe, and the essence of humanity, among other topics. The author's approach is unique in that he uses historical and scientific knowledge to interpret and explain Christian beliefs, making this a significant contribution to modern theological thought.

    The 4888th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Campaign of the Marne by Sewell Tyng

    "The Campaign of the Marne" is a detailed account of the crucial battle that took place during the early stages of World War I. The book provides an in-depth analysis of the strategies, tactics, and decisions made by both the Allies and the German forces. It sheds light on the significant impact of the battle, which halted the German advance into France and marked a turning point in the war. The author also explores the larger political and social context of the war, offering a comprehensive understanding of this critical historical event.

    The 2388th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus by Ludwig Wittgenstein

    "Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus" is a seminal work in analytic philosophy that presents a comprehensive picture of reality and our knowledge of it. The book outlines a logical structure for all scientific discourse, arguing that language and its logical structure are the primary tools for understanding and representing the world. It proposes that all philosophical problems arise from misunderstandings of the logic of language, and that all meaningful propositions are pictures of states of affairs in the world. The book concludes with the famous line "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent," suggesting that things that cannot be spoken about logically should not be spoken about at all.

    The 526th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Insight: A Study of Human Understanding by Bernard Lonergan

    The book is a comprehensive exploration of human understanding and cognition from a philosophical perspective. It delves into the nature of knowledge, the process of knowing, and the dynamics of inquiry and learning. The author presents a detailed analysis of the human intellect and its operations, investigating the role of insight in decision-making, problem-solving, and discovery. The book also discusses the relationship between understanding and other cognitive faculties such as perception, memory, and imagination, while examining the impact of cultural, social, and historical factors on human understanding.

    The 2450th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Being and Time by Martin Heidegger

    Being and Time is a seminal work that explores the concept of "being" through a detailed analysis of human existence. The book delves into existential and phenomenological thought, examining how humans relate to the world and their own existence. The author argues that people are always "being-in-the-world" and that understanding this fundamental state is crucial to comprehending the broader concept of being. The work also introduces the concept of "Dasein," a term used to describe the specific type of being that humans possess.

    The 790th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Disraeli by Robert Blake

    This biography provides a comprehensive look at the life and political career of Benjamin Disraeli, one of the most influential figures in 19th-century British politics. The book explores his rise from a debt-ridden novelist to the prime minister of the United Kingdom, highlighting his charismatic personality, sharp intellect, and political acumen. It also delves into his unique approach to politics, his relationships with Queen Victoria and other influential figures, and his enduring impact on British conservatism.

    The 1718th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Democracy and Leadership by Irving Babbitt

    "Democracy and Leadership" is a critical examination of modern democracy, its strengths, and its potential weaknesses. The author delves into the nature of leadership within democratic systems, questioning the effects of populism and mass movements on the quality of leaders. He argues for a balance between individual freedom and societal responsibility, advocating for a more ethical and principled approach to leadership. The book also explores the impact of humanism and romanticism on democratic thought, suggesting that these philosophies can either enhance or undermine the democratic process.

    The 2390th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Elements of Style by E. B. White, William Strunk Jr.

    This book is a definitive guide and classic manual on the principles of English language read by millions of readers. The 18 main topics are organized under headings such as Elementary Rules of Usage, Elementary Principles of Composition, A Few Matters of Form, Words and Expressions Commonly Misused, and An Approach to Style. The book's unique tone, wit and charm have conveyed the principles of English style to millions of readers, making it a beloved resource for those who want to write clear, correct and effective prose.

    The 304th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Machiavellians by James Burnham

    "The Machiavellians" is a political theory book that delves into the nature of power and the realities of politics. The author explores the philosophies of Machiavelli, Pareto, Mosca, and other political theorists, arguing that the essence of politics is the struggle for power and that all societies are ruled by an elite minority. The book also offers a critique of traditional democratic theory, emphasizing the importance of realpolitik and the understanding of power dynamics in achieving political success.

    The 2392nd Greatest Book of All Time
  • Reflections of a Russian Statesman by Konstantin P. Pobedonostsev

    "Reflections of a Russian Statesman" is an insightful exploration of the author's conservative and monarchist views on the political and social issues of his time in Russia. As a prominent figure in the Russian government, he provides a candid critique of western democracy, liberalism, and the separation of church and state. He advocates for autocracy, theocracy, and orthodoxy, arguing that these are the pillars of a stable and prosperous society. The book offers a unique perspective on Russian politics and society during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

    The 2393rd Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Hedgehog and the Fox by Isaiah Berlin

    "The Hedgehog and the Fox" is an essay that presents a philosophical and intellectual dichotomy based on a line from an ancient Greek poet, "The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing." The author uses this concept to categorize thinkers and writers into two groups: hedgehogs, who view the world through the lens of a single defining idea, and foxes, who draw on a wide variety of experiences and for whom the world cannot be boiled down to a single idea. The author uses this framework to analyze the works of various historical figures and philosophers.

    The 1611th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Roll, Jordan, Roll by Eugene Genovese

    "Roll, Jordan, Roll" is a comprehensive exploration of slavery in the United States, specifically focusing on the complex relationships between slaves and their masters. The book examines how slaves managed to preserve their culture, humanity and dignity, while also highlighting the paradoxical nature of a system where slave owners were dependent on their slaves for their livelihoods. It delves into the ways in which slaves resisted their oppression, and the strategies they employed to survive and create their own communities within the confines of the brutal institution of slavery.

    The 1852nd Greatest Book of All Time
  • The ABC of Reading by Ezra Pound

    "The ABC of Reading" is a guide that explores the art of reading literature. The author dissects the process of reading and understanding literature, highlighting the importance of understanding the historical context, the author's background, and the cultural influences that shape a piece of work. The book also encourages readers to appreciate the aesthetic and rhythmic qualities of language, and emphasizes the significance of active and critical reading. It is an essential read for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of literature and the process of reading.

    The 1638th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Second World War by John Keegan

    "Second World War" is a comprehensive account of the global conflict that took place from 1939 to 1945. The book offers a detailed examination of the political, military, and social aspects of the war, from the rise of Hitler and the attack on Pearl Harbor, to the Holocaust and the dropping of the atomic bomb. The author provides an in-depth analysis of the strategies and tactics used by the major powers, and presents a vivid picture of the human cost of the war. The book also includes a variety of maps and photographs to help illustrate the events and locations discussed.

    The 5073rd Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Making of Homeric Verse by Milman Parry

    This book is a comprehensive study of the structure and formation of the earliest form of Greek poetry, the Homeric verse. It explores the oral tradition of the Homeric epics, suggesting that they were originally composed and performed by illiterate bards who used a complex system of formulaic language to create and remember the epic poems. The book also investigates the influence of the oral tradition on the written versions of the epics, offering a new understanding of the development of ancient Greek literature.

    The 3160th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Strange Ride of Rudyard Kipling by Angus Wilson

    "The Strange Ride of Rudyard Kipling" is a comprehensive biography that explores the life and works of the famous British author and poet, Rudyard Kipling. The book delves into Kipling's complex personality, his controversial political views, his relationships, and his creative process. It also provides a detailed analysis of Kipling's works, placing them in the context of the social and political events of his time.

    The 3814th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Scrutiny by F. R. Leavis

    "Scrutiny" is a collection of critical essays that analyze various aspects of literature, culture, and society. The author employs a rigorous and scholarly approach, providing in-depth analyses of numerous works of literature, while also examining the role of literary criticism and its impact on culture. The book is a reflection of the author's belief in the importance of literature and its ability to shape and influence society. The author's sharp insights and thought-provoking commentary make this book a significant contribution to the field of literary criticism.

    The 2400th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Edge of the Sword by Charles De Gaulle

    "The Edge of the Sword" is a compelling exploration of the art of leadership and the nature of power. The author, a prominent military and political figure, delves into the essence of politics and the requirements of leadership, emphasizing the need for strength, courage, and an unwavering commitment to one's principles. The book also provides a unique insight into the author's own leadership style and his views on France's role in the world.

    The 2541st Greatest Book of All Time
  • R. E. Lee by Douglas Southall Freeman

    "R. E. Lee" is a comprehensive biography that provides a detailed account of the life of the famed Confederate General Robert E. Lee. The book dives deep into his personal life, his military strategies, and his role in the American Civil War, offering a balanced and nuanced portrayal of Lee. It also explores his relationships, his character, and his post-war life, giving readers a well-rounded understanding of this significant figure in American history.

    The 1206th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Bureaucracy by Ludwig von Mises

    "Bureaucracy" is a critical examination of the structure and function of bureaucracies in both the public and private sectors. The author argues that bureaucratic management, with its focus on rules and regulations, is not only inefficient but also stifles innovation and individual initiative. He further contends that these problems are inherent in the nature of bureaucracy itself and are not simply due to poor management or corruption. The book also explores the impact of bureaucracy on economics, politics, and society as a whole.

    The 2404th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton

    This book is an autobiography of a man who, after a youth filled with worldly experiences and ambitions, converts to Catholicism and chooses to live his life in a Trappist monastery. His journey from a secular life to a deeply spiritual one is filled with introspection and profound insights about the nature of faith and the quest for a meaningful life. His story is a powerful testament to the pull of spiritual enlightenment and the peace that comes from dedicating one's life to a higher purpose.

    The 712th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Balzac by Stefan Zweig

    This book offers a comprehensive biography of the famed French novelist and playwright, Honore de Balzac. The author delves deep into Balzac's life, exploring both his personal and professional experiences. The narrative sheds light on Balzac's tumultuous relationships, his relentless work ethic, and his extraordinary ability to depict the society and people of his time through his literature. Balzac's passion, determination, and genius are vividly presented, giving readers an intimate understanding of the man behind some of the most influential works in French literature.

    The 2406th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Good Society by Walter Lippmann

    "The Good Society" is a critical examination of the economic and political systems of the 20th century, with a focus on capitalism and socialism. The author argues that both systems have inherent flaws and suggests a third way, a form of democratic socialism, which would combine the best elements of both systems. The book offers a comprehensive analysis of the economic, social, and political structures of society, and presents a vision for a more equitable and just society.

    The 2407th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Silent Spring by Rachel Carson

    This influential environmental science book presents a detailed and passionate argument against the overuse of pesticides in the mid-20th century. The author meticulously describes the harmful effects of these chemicals on the environment, particularly on birds, hence the metaphor of a 'silent spring' without bird song. The book played a significant role in advancing the global environmental movement and led to a nationwide ban on DDT and other pesticides in the United States.

    The 65th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Christian Tradition by Jaroslav Pelikan

    "The Christian Tradition" is a comprehensive exploration of the historical development of Christian doctrine from the first century to the present day. It provides an in-depth analysis of the key figures, events, and ideas that have shaped Christian thought, emphasizing the diversity and richness of the tradition. The author meticulously examines the evolution of Christian beliefs, the controversies and conflicts that have arisen over the centuries, and the ways in which these beliefs have been interpreted and reinterpreted in different historical and cultural contexts.

    The 3173rd Greatest Book of All Time
  • Strange Defeat by Marc Bloch

    "Strange Defeat" is a wartime memoir written by a French historian who served as a soldier during World War II. In the book, the author critically analyzes the reasons behind the swift and shocking fall of France to Germany in 1940. The author attributes the defeat to the outdated strategies and poor leadership of the French military and government, and also highlights the social and political issues that plagued France at the time. The book is not only a personal account but also a profound critique of French society and its institutions.

    The 2411th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Looking Back by Norman Douglas

    "Looking Back" is a memoir that provides a detailed account of the author's life, experiences, and travels. The author reflects on his encounters with various personalities, his explorations of different cultures, and his observations about the world. The book offers a unique perspective on life, relationships, and human nature, all delivered with a sharp wit and a keen eye for detail.

    The 2413th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres by Henry Adams

    The book is a detailed historical and social analysis of the architecture, sculpture, and stained glass of two iconic French landmarks: Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres Cathedral. It explores the medieval imagination through these structures, offering a fascinating study of the cultural, intellectual, and religious trends of the 12th and 13th centuries. It also provides an intimate look into the author's deep appreciation for the Middle Ages, and his belief that the period represented an integrated, cohesive worldview that was lost in the Renaissance.

    The 1826th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Poetry and the Age by Randall Jarrell

    This book is a collection of essays that delve into the nature and purpose of poetry, with a specific focus on the contemporary state of poetry in the mid-20th century. The author provides a critical analysis of the works of various poets, including their techniques, themes, and influences. He also discusses the role of the poet in society, the relationship between poetry and the reader, and the impact of cultural and historical contexts on poetic expression. The book is renowned for its insightful and eloquent commentary on the art of poetry.

    The 2414th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Love in the Western World by Denis de Rougemont

    The book is an in-depth exploration of the concept of love as it has evolved in Western society, tracing its development from the myth of Tristan and Iseult to modern times. The author argues that the idea of passionate, romantic love that is prevalent in the West is fundamentally a form of destructive passion, often leading to pain and tragedy. The book also delves into the socio-cultural aspects of love, examining how societal norms and expectations shape our understanding and experience of love.

    The 2415th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Conservative Mind by Russell Kirk

    "The Conservative Mind" is an exploration and analysis of conservative thought in Western political history. The author delves into the ideologies and philosophies of prominent conservative thinkers, tracing the evolution of conservative ideas from the 18th century to the mid-20th century. The book also discusses the principles that underpin conservatism, including belief in a transcendent moral order, the importance of social hierarchy, and the value of property rights. It is both a historical overview and a defense of conservative ideology.

    The 1623rd Greatest Book of All Time
  • Wealth and Poverty by George Gilder

    "Wealth and Poverty" is an influential exploration of the economic and social theories that drive the wealth distribution in the United States. The book argues that supply-side economics and capitalism are the most effective systems for creating wealth and reducing poverty. It criticizes welfare programs and other forms of government intervention, asserting that they discourage individual initiative and are counterproductive in the long run. The book also discusses the moral and religious implications of wealth and poverty, emphasizing the importance of values such as discipline and the work ethic.

    The 4126th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Battle Cry of Freedom by James M. McPherson

    "Battle Cry of Freedom" is a comprehensive exploration of the events leading up to, during, and following the American Civil War. The book delves into the political, social, and economic factors that led to the war, and examines the strategies, battles, and key figures of this pivotal period in American history. It also provides an in-depth analysis of the consequences of the war and its impact on the United States.

    The 1706th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Henry James by Leon Edel

    This book is an in-depth biography of one of the most influential writers of the 19th century. The author meticulously details the life and work of the subject, from his early years in New York and his extensive travels in Europe, to his eventual settling in England and his career as a writer. The book delves into his relationships with family, friends, and fellow writers, as well as his own struggles with identity and sexuality. It also provides a comprehensive analysis of his novels, novellas, and short stories, highlighting his unique narrative style and his exploration of complex themes such as consciousness, morality, and social class.

    The 897th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Essays of E. B. White by E. B. White

    This book is a collection of essays written by a renowned American writer, offering a wide range of topics including nature, politics, literature, and personal experiences. The author's distinct style of writing, characterized by wit, humor, and profound insight, is evident throughout the book. The essays serve as a reflection of the author's thoughts and observations about life, society, and the world, providing readers with an intimate look into his mind and perspective.

    The 1240th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov

    "Speak, Memory" is an autobiographical memoir that explores the author's life from his birth in 1899 to his emigration to the United States in 1940. The narrative details his privileged childhood in Russia, his experiences during the Russian Revolution, his time in Europe as an émigré, and his career as a writer and scholar. The book is noted for its intricate descriptions, its exploration of the nature of memory, and its intricate linguistic play.

    The 314th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe

    The book follows the psychedelic adventures of Ken Kesey and his band of Merry Pranksters as they traverse the United States in a painted bus, hosting "Acid Test" parties where attendees are given LSD. The narrative is a vivid exploration of the burgeoning counterculture of the 1960s, capturing the spirit of the era through the lens of this eccentric group and their hallucinogenic experiences. It's a seminal work of New Journalism, blending reportage with literary techniques to create a highly subjective, immersive account of the Pranksters' journey.

    The 378th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Darwin's Black Box by Michael J. Behe

    This book presents a critique of the theory of evolution from a biochemical perspective. The author argues that complex biochemical systems within the cell, such as blood clotting and vision, could not have evolved gradually through natural selection because they are "irreducibly complex" - all parts must be present and functioning for the system to work. He proposes that such systems must have been deliberately designed, introducing the concept of "intelligent design" as an alternative to Darwinian evolution.

    The 6057th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Civil War by Shelby Foote

    This comprehensive three-volume series provides an in-depth and detailed narrative of the American Civil War. It encompasses the political, social, and military aspects of the war, offering a balanced view of both the Union and Confederate sides. The series also delves into the personal experiences of key figures, including generals and soldiers, as well as civilians affected by the war. This work is known for its meticulous research, vivid descriptions, and engaging storytelling style.

    The 369th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Way the World Works by Jude Wanniski

    "The Way the World Works" is an in-depth exploration of political economy, presenting an argument for supply-side economics. The author suggests that economic growth is primarily influenced by the reduction of barriers in production, including lower tax rates. The book presents historical examples to support this theory, arguing that government intervention often leads to economic instability. This text is considered a fundamental work in supply-side economics and has had a significant influence on economic policy discussions.

    The 3927th Greatest Book of All Time
  • To the Finland Station by Edmund Wilson

    This book is a historical narrative that explores the evolution of revolutionary thought, from the French Revolution through Karl Marx's theories to the Russian Revolution. It focuses on the lives and ideas of key figures in radical political thought, including Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Trotsky. The book culminates in the pivotal moment when Lenin arrives at the Finland Station in Petrograd in 1917, marking the start of the Bolshevik Revolution.

    The 1647th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Civilisation by Kenneth Clark

    "Civilisation" is an in-depth exploration of Western art and culture from the Dark Ages to the twentieth century. The book provides a comprehensive examination of the major creative and intellectual movements in Western history, including the Reformation, the Renaissance, the Industrial Revolution, and the Romantic era. The author uses art, literature, music, and architecture as a lens to explore the broader social, political, and economic context of each period, offering a rich and nuanced portrait of Western civilisation.

    The 3063rd Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Russian Revolution by Richard Pipes

    "The Russian Revolution" offers a comprehensive and detailed account of the events leading up to, during, and following the Russian Revolution of 1917. The author presents a thorough exploration of the socio-political climate of the time, the key figures involved, and the profound impact the revolution had on Russia and the wider world. The book also delves into the ideologies that fueled the revolution, the subsequent rise of the Soviet Union, and the enduring influence of these events on global history.

    The 5244th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Idea of History by R. G. Collingwood

    "The Idea of History" is a philosophical examination of the concept of history, exploring its nature, the different methods of historical study, and its importance and role in society. The author asserts that history is not just a chronicling of past events, but a complex interaction between the historian and the facts, where the historian is not merely a passive recorder of facts, but an active participant in shaping the interpretation of those facts. The book also delves into the philosophy of history, discussing the idea of historical truth, the problem of historical causation, and the nature of historical evidence.

    The 1328th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Last Lion by William Manchester

    "The Last Lion" is a comprehensive biography of Winston Churchill, providing an in-depth look at his life, from his birth in 1874 to his death in 1965. The book covers Churchill's early years, his military service, his time as a journalist, and his political career, including his role as British Prime Minister during World War II. It also delves into his personal life, relationships, and struggles with depression. The book presents a nuanced portrayal of Churchill, highlighting his strengths, flaws, victories, and defeats.

    The 2532nd Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Starr Report by Kenneth W. Starr

    This book is a detailed report on the investigation of a sitting U.S. President, focusing on his extramarital affairs and the subsequent perjury and obstruction of justice charges. The report, which was conducted by an independent counsel, became a significant political and cultural event, leading to impeachment proceedings. It includes explicit details about the President's personal life, and its release sparked widespread debate about the boundaries of public and private life for political figures.

    The 6739th Greatest Book of All Time
About this list

National Review, 100 Books

The 100 best non-fiction books of all time judged by a panel of historians, authors, publishers, and experts for the National Review Magazine.

This list was originally published in 2005 and was added to this site over 10 years ago.

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