The 100 Best Nonfiction Books of All Time by The Guardian

After two years of careful reading, moving backwards through time, Robert McCrum has concluded his selection of the 100 greatest nonfiction books. Take a quick look at five centuries of great writing

  1. The Bible by Christian Church

    The Authorized King James Version is an English translation of the Christian Bible begun in 1604 and completed in 1611 by the Church of England. Printed by the King's Printer, Robert Barker, the fi...


  2. The History of the World by Sir Walter Raleigh

    The History of the World: In Five Books. Viz. Treating of the Beginning and First Ages of Same from the Creation Unto Abraham. of the Birth of Abraham to the Destruction of Jerusalem to the Time of...

    - Google

  3. The Anatomy of Melancholy by Robert Burton

    The Anatomy of Melancholy (full title: The Anatomy of Melancholy, What it is: With all the Kinds, Causes, Symptomes, Prognostickes, and Several Cures of it. In Three Maine Partitions with their sev...


  4. First Folio by William Shakespeare

    Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies is the 1623 published collection of William Shakespeare's plays. Modern scholars commonly refer to it as the First Folio. Printed in folio...


  5. Devotions upon Emergent Occasions by John Donne

    Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, or in full Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, and severall steps in my Sicknes, is a prose work by the English metaphysical poet and cleric in the Church of Engla...


  6. Areopagitica by John Milton

    Areopagitica; A speech of Mr. John Milton for the Liberty of Unlicenc’d Printing, to the Parlament of England is a 1644 prose polemical tract by the English poet, scholar, and polemical author John...


  7. Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes

    Leviathan, The Matter, Forme and Power of a Common Wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civil, commonly called Leviathan, is a book written by Thomas Hobbes which was published in 1651. It is titled after th...


  8. Hydriotaphia, Urn Burial by Sir Thomas Browne

    Hydriotaphia, Urn Burial, or, a Discourse of the Sepulchral Urns lately found in Norfolk is a work by Sir Thomas Browne, published in 1658 as the first part of a two-part work that concludes with T...


  9. The Diary of Samuel Pepys by Samuel Pepys

    On 1 January 1660 ("1 January 1659/1660" in contemporary terms), Pepys began to keep a diary. He recorded his daily life for almost ten years. This record of a decade of Pepys' life is more than a ...


  10. Book of Common Prayer by Thomas Cranmer

    The Book of Common Prayer (BCP) is the short title of a number of related prayer books used in the Anglican Communion, as well as by the Continuing Anglican, Anglican realignment and other Anglican...


  11. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding by John Locke

    An Essay Concerning Human Understanding is one of John Locke's two most famous works, the other being his Second Treatise on Civil Government. First appearing in 1690, the essay concerns the founda...


  12. A tour thro' the whole island of Great Britain by Daniel Defoe

    A tour thro' the whole island of Great Britain is an account of his travels by English author Daniel Defoe, first published in three volumes between 1724 and 1727.[1] Other than Robinson Crusoe, To...


  13. A Modest Proposal and Other Satirical Works by Jonathan Swift

    Treasury of five shorter works by the author of Gulliver's Travels offers ample evidence of the great satirist's inspired lampoonery. Title piece plus The Battle of the Books, A Meditation Upon a B...

    - Google

  14. A Treatise of Human Nature by David Hume

    A Treatise of Human Nature is a book by Scottish philosopher David Hume, first published in 1739–1740.


  15. A Dictionary of the English Language by Samuel Johnson

    Published on 15 April 1755 and written by Samuel Johnson, A Dictionary of the English Language, sometimes published as Johnson's Dictionary, is among the most influential dictionaries in the histor...


  16. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin

    The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin is the traditional name for the unfinished record of his own life written by Benjamin Franklin from 1771 to 1790; however, Franklin himself appears to have ca...


  17. Common Sense by Thomas Paine


  18. The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith

    An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (generally referred to by the short title The Wealth of Nations) is the magnum opus written by Scottish economist and moral philosophe...


  19. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon

    The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire was written by English historian Edward Gibbon and published in six volumes. Volume I was published in 1776, and went through six printings. ...


  20. The Diary of Fanny Burney by Fanny Burney

    Burney’s acutely observed memoirs open a window on the literary and courtly circles of late 18th-century England.


  21. The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John Jay

    The Federalist Papers are a series of 85 articles and essays written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay promoting the ratification of the United States Constitution. Seventy-seven w...


  22. Reflections on the Revolution in France by Edmund Burke

    Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), by Edmund Burke, is one of the best-known intellectual attacks against the (then-infant) French Revolution. In the twentieth century, it much influen...


  23. Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa by Mungo Park


  24. The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano by Olaudah Equiano

    The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Or Gustavus Vassa, The African, first published in 1789 in London,[1] is the autobiography of Olaudah Equiano. The narrative is argued to b...


  25. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft

    A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: with Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects (1792), written by the eighteenth-century British feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, is one of the earliest works of...


  26. Tales from Shakespeare by Charles Lamb, Mary Lamb

    Tales from Shakespeare is an English children's book written by brother and sister Charles and Mary Lamb in 1807.[1] The book is designed to make the stories of Shakespeare's plays familiar to t...


  27. The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne by Gilbert White

    The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne, or just The Natural History of Selborne is a book by English naturalist and ornithologist Gilbert White. It was first published in 1789 by his broth...


  28. Confessions of an English Opium-Eater by Thomas de Quincey

    Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1821) is an autobiographical account written by Thomas De Quincey, about his laudanum addiction and its effect on his life. The Confessions was "the first maj...


  29. The Life of Samuel Johnson by James Boswell

    He's one of English literature's all-time heavyweights, but most of what we know about Samuel Johnson, the man, comes from his friend Boswell’s hearty anecdotal biog.


  30. Webster's Dictionary by Noah Webster

    Webster's Dictionary is any of the dictionaries edited by Noah Webster in the early nineteenth century, and numerous related or unrelated dictionaries that have adopted the Webster's name. "Webster...


  31. Domestic Manners of the Americans by Fanny Trollope

    Published in 1832, the book presents a lively portrait of early 19th-century America as observed by a woman of rare intelligence and keen perception. Trollope left no stone unturned, commenting on ...

    - Google

  32. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass

    Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass is a memoir and treatise on abolition written by famous orator and ex-slave, Frederick Douglass. It is generally held to be the most famous of a number o...


  33. Edward Lear's Book of Nonsense by Edward Lear

    A collection of over 100 limericks with the author's original illustrations

    - Google

  34. Household Education by Harriet Martineau

    This protest at the lack of women’s education was as pioneering as its author was in Victorian literary circles.


  35. London Labour and the London Poor by Henry Mayhew

    London Labour and the London Poor is a work of Victorian journalism by Henry Mayhew. In the 1840s he observed, documented, and described the state of working people in London for a series of articl...


  36. Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases by Peter Mark Roget

    Peter Mark Roget FRS (UK: /ˈrɒʒeɪ/, US: /roʊˈʒeɪ/; 18 January 1779 – 12 September 1869) was a British physician, natural theologian and lexicographer. He is best known for publishing, in 1852, the ...


  37. Walden by Henry David Thoreau

    Walden (first published as Walden; or, Life in the Woods) is an American book written by noted transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau, a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings.


  38. The Life of Charlotte Brontë by Elizabeth Gaskell

    The Life of Charlotte Brontë is the posthumous biography of Charlotte Brontë by fellow novelist Elizabeth Gaskell. Although quite frank in many places, Gaskell suppressed details of Charlotte's lov...


  39. Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands: Top Crime Story by Mary Seacole

    I was born in the town of Kingston, in the island of Jamaica, some time in the present century. As a female, and a widow, I may be well excused giving the precise date of this important event. But ...

    - Google

  40. On Liberty by John Stuart Mill

    On Liberty is a philosophical work by 19th century English philosopher John Stuart Mill, first published in 1859. To the Victorian readers of the time it was a radical work, advocating moral and ec...


  41. On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin

    Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species, published on Thursday 24 November 1859, is a seminal work of scientific literature considered to be the foundation of evolutionary biology. Its full title...


  42. Culture and Anarchy by Matthew Arnold

    Culture and Anarchy is a series of essays by Matthew Arnold. According to his view advanced in the book, "Culture is a study of perfection". His often quoted phrase "[culture is] the best which has...

    - Google

  43. Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes by Robert Louis Stevenson

    Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes (1879) is one of Robert Louis Stevenson's earliest published works and is considered a pioneering classic of outdoor literature.


  44. The Essential Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson by Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Ralph Waldo Emerson (May 25, 1803 – April 27, 1882) was an American essayist, lecturer, and poet, who led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century. He was seen as a champion of indivi...


  45. Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain

    Life on the Mississippi is a memoir by Mark Twain detailing his days as a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi River before and after the American Civil War.


  46. Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant by U. S. Grant

    "Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant" is considered among the greatest of military memoirs. Marshalling the forces of the North in the American Civil War, he was the only general who was able to bring ...


  47. Brief Lives by John Aubrey

    Brief Lives is a collection of short biographies written by John Aubrey (1626–1697) in the last decades of the 17th century.


  48. The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James

    The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature is a book by the Harvard psychologist and philosopher William James that comprises his edited Gifford Lectures on "Natural Theology" d...


  49. The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois

    The Souls of Black Folk is a classic work of American literature by W. E. B. Du Bois. It is a seminal work in the history of sociology, and a cornerstone of African-American literary history. Th...


  50. De Profundis by Oscar Wilde

    De Profundis (Latin: "from the depths") is a letter written by Oscar Wilde during his imprisonment in Reading Gaol, to "Bosie" (Lord Alfred Douglas). In its first half Wilde recounts their previ...


  51. Eminent Victorians by Lytton Strachey

    Eminent Victorians is a book by Lytton Strachey (the oldest member of the Bloomsbury Group), first published in 1918 and consisting of biographies of four leading figures from the Victorian era. It...


  52. The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr and E. B. White

    The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr., and E. B. White, is an American English writing style guide. It is the best-known and most influential prescriptive treatment of English grammar and us...


  53. The American Language by H. L. Mencken

    The American Language, first published in 1919, is H. L. Mencken's book about the English language as spoken in the United States. Mencken was inspired by "the argot of the colored waiters" in W...


  54. The Economic Consequences of the Peace by John Maynard Keynes

    The Economic Consequences of the Peace (1919) is a book written and published by the British economist John Maynard Keynes.[1] After the First World War, Keynes attended the Paris Peace Conference ...


  55. Ten Days That Shook the World by John Reed

    Ten Days that Shook the World (1919) is a book by American journalist and socialist John Reed about the October Revolution in Russia in 1917 which Reed experienced firsthand. Reed followed many of ...


  56. Good-Bye to All That by Robert Graves

    Good-bye to All That is the autobiography of Robert Graves. First published in 1929, the work is a landmark anti-war memoir of life in the trenches during World War I. The title expresses Graves' d...


  57. A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf

    A Room of One's Own is an extended essay by . First published during 24 October 1929, it was based on a series of lectures she delivered at Newnham College and Girton College, two women's colleges ...


  58. My Early Life by Winston Churchill

    This memoir was first published in 1930 and describes the author's school days, his time in the Army, his experiences as a war correspondent and his first years as a member of Parliament.

    - Google

  59. Testament Of Youth by Vera Brittain

    Testament of Youth is the first instalment, covering 1900–1925, in the memoir of Vera Brittain (1893–1970). It was published in 1933. Brittain's memoir continues with Testament of Experience, publi...


  60. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

    Dale Breckenridge Carnegie (originally Carnagey until 1922 and possibly somewhat later) (November 24, 1888 – November 1, 1955) was an American writer and lecturer and the developer of famous course...


  61. The Road to Oxiana by Robert Byron


  62. The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell

    The Road to Wigan Pier is a book by the British writer George Orwell, first published in 1937. The first half of this work documents his sociological investigations of the bleak living conditions a...


  63. Enemies of Promise by Cyril Connolly

    “Whom the gods wish to destroy,” writes Cyril Connolly, “they first call promising.” First published in 1938 and long out of print, Enemies of Promise, an “inquiry into the problem of how to write ...

    - Google

  64. How to Cook a Wolf by M. F. K. Fisher

    First published in 1942 when wartime shortages were at their worst, the ever-popular How to Cook a Wolf, continues to surmount the unavoidable problem of cooking within a budget. Here is a wealth o...

    - Google

  65. Black Boy by Richard Wright

    Black Boy is an autobiography by Richard Wright. Depicting Wright's life in great detail, the book tells the story of his troubled youth and race relations in the South. It is about the struggles t...


  66. The Open Society by Karl Popper

    The Open Society and Its Enemies is an influential two-volume work by Karl Popper written during World War II. Failing to find a publisher in the United States, it was first printed in London by Ro...


  67. The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care by Benjamin Spock

    The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care (often referred to simply as Baby and Child Care), written by Benjamin Spock, was first published on 14 July 1946, and is one of the biggest best-seller...


  68. Hiroshima by John Hersey

    The classic tale of the day the first atom bomb was dropped offers a haunting evocation of the memories of survivors and an appeal to the conscience of humanity

    - Google

  69. The Last Days of Hitler by Hugh Trevor-Roper

    Late in 1945, Trevor-Roper was appointed by British Intelligence in Germany to investigate conflicting evidence surrounding Hitler's final days and to produce a definitive report on his death. The ...

    - Google

  70. The Great Tradition by F. R. Leavis

    'The great English novelists are Jane Austen, George Eliot, Henry James and Joseph Conrad.' So begins F. R. Leavis's most controversial book, The Great Tradition, an uncompromising critical-polemic...

    - Google

  71. A Book of Mediterranean Food by Elizabeth David

    A Book of Mediterranean Food - published in 1950 - was Elizabeth David's first book and it is based on a collection of recipes she made while living in France, Italy, the Greek islands and Egypt. '...

    - Google

  72. The Hedgehog and the Fox by Isaiah Berlin

    Berlin expands upon this idea to divide writers and thinkers into two categories: hedgehogs, who view the world through the lens of a single defining idea (examples given include Plato, Lucretius, ...


  73. Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

    Waiting for Godot (pronounced /ˈɡɒdoʊ/) is a play by Samuel Beckett, in which two characters, Vladimir and Estragon, wait for someone named Godot. Godot's absence, as well as numerous other aspects...


  74. Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin

    Notes of a Native Son collects ten of Baldwin's essays, which had previously appeared in such magazines as Harper's Magazine, Partisan Review, and The New Leader. The essays mostly tackle issues of...


  75. The Nude: A Study in Ideal Form by Kenneth Clark

    From the art of the Greeks to that of Renoir and Moore, this work surveys the ever-changing fashions in what has constituted the ideal nude as a basis of humanist form.

    - Google

  76. The Uses of Literacy by Richard Hoggart

    This pioneering work examines changes in the life and values of the English working class in response to mass media. First published in 1957, it mapped out a new methodology in cultural studies bas...

    - Google

  77. The Affluent Society by John Kenneth Galbraith

    The Affluent Society is a 1958 book by Harvard economist John Kenneth Galbraith. The book sought to clearly outline the manner in which the post-World War II America was becoming wealthy in the pri...


  78. Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis

    Written after his wife's tragic death as a way of surviving the "mad midnight moment," A Grief Observed is C.S. Lewis's honest reflection on the fundamental issues of life, death, and faith in the ...

    - Google

  79. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn

    The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is an analysis of the history of science. Its publication was a landmark event in the sociology of knowledge, and popularized the terms paradigm and paradigm...


  80. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson

    Silent Spring is a book written by Rachel Carson and published by Houghton Mifflin in September 1962. The book is widely credited with helping launch the environmental movement. When Silent Spri...


  81. The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan

    The Feminine Mystique, published 25 February 1963, is a book written by Betty Friedan which brought to light the lack of fulfillment in many women's lives, which was generally kept hidden[citation ...


  82. The Making of the English Working Class by E. P. Thompson

    The Making of the English Working Class is an influential and pivotal work of English social history.


  83. Ariel by Sylvia Plath

    The poems in Sylvia Plath's Ariel, including many of her best-known such as 'Lady Lazarus', 'Daddy', 'Edge' and 'Paralytic', were all written between the publication in 1960 of Plath's first book, ...

    - Google

  84. The Waste Land by T. S. Eliot

    “For many successive generations now, ‘The Waste Land,’ ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,’ and ‘Four Quartets’ have continued to excited readers and to inspire young poets. Teenagers still disc...

    - Google

  85. Against Interpretation by Susan Sontag

    Against Interpretation and Other Essays is a collection of essays by Susan Sontag which was published in 1966. It includes some of Sontag's best-known works, including "On Style", "Notes on 'Camp'"...


  86. The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA by James D. Watson

    The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA is an autobiographical account of the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA written by James D. Watson and pub...


  87. Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom: The Golden Age of Rock by Nik Cohn

    Written in 1968 and revised in 1972, Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom was the first book to celebrate the language and the primal essence of rock 'n' roll. But it was much more than that. It was a cogent...

    - Google

  88. The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer

    The publication of Germaine Greer's The Female Eunuch in 1970 was a landmark event, raising eyebrows and ire while creating a shock wave of recognition in women around the world with its steadfast ...

    - Google

  89. Awakenings by Oliver Sacks

    Awakenings--which inspired the major motion picture--is the remarkable story of a group of patients who contracted sleeping-sickness during the great epidemic just after World War I. Frozen for dec...

    - Google

  90. North by Seamus Heaney

    With this collection, first published in 1975, Heaney located a myth which allowed him to articulate a vision of Ireland--its people, history, and landscape--and which gave his poems direction, coh...

    - Google

  91. Dispatches by Michael Herr

    Dispatches is a non-fiction book by Michael Herr that describes the author's experiences in Vietnam as a war correspondent for Esquire magazine. First published in 1977, Dispatches was one of the f...


  92. Orientalism by Edward W. Said

    The noted critic and a Palestinian now teaching at Columbia University,examines the way in which the West observes the Arabs.

    - Google

  93. The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe

    The Right Stuff is a 1979 book by Tom Wolfe about the pilots engaged in U.S. postwar experiments with experimental rocket-powered, high-speed aircraft as well as documenting the stories of the firs...


  94. Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes

    Birthday Letters, published in 1998 (ISBN 0-374-52581-1), is a collection of poetry by English poet and children's writer Ted Hughes. Released only months before Hughes's death, the collection won ...


  95. No Logo by Naomi Klein


  96. Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama


  97. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

    The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion, is an account of the year following the death of the author's husband John Gregory Dunne (1932–2003). Published by Knopf in October 2005, the book was ...


  98. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert

    A major book about the future of the world, blending intellectual and natural history and field reporting into a powerful account of the mass extinction unfolding before our eyes Over the last half...

    - Google

  99. A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

    A landmark volume in science writing by one of the great minds of our time, Stephen Hawking’s book explores such profound questions as: How did the universe begin—and what made its start possible? ...

    - Google

  100. The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins

    The million copy international bestseller, critically acclaimed and translated into over 25 languages. This 30th anniversary edition includes a new introduction from the author as well as the origi...

    - Google