The Greatest Nonfiction Books


How is this list generated?


This list is generated from 129 "best of" book lists from a variety of great sources. An algorithm is used to create a master list based on how many lists a particular book appears on. Some lists count more than others. I generally trust "best of all time" lists voted by authors and experts over user-generated lists. On the lists that are actually ranked, the book that is 1st counts a lot more than the book that's 100th. If you're interested in the details about how the rankings are generated and which lists are the most important(in my eyes) please check out the list details page.

If you have any comments, suggestions, or corrections please feel free to e-mail me.


  1. 1 . Essays by Michel de Montaigne

    Essays is the title given to a collection of 107 essays written by Michel de Montaigne that was first published in 1580. Montaigne essentially invented the literary form of essay, a short subjectiv...

  2. 2 . 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.

  3. 3 . Confessions by Augustine

    Confessions is the name of an autobiographical work, consisting of 13 books, by St. Augustine of Hippo, written between AD 397 and AD 398. Modern English translations of it are sometimes published ...

  4. 4 . The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud

    This book introduces Freud's theory of the unconscious with respect to dream interpretation. Dreams, in Freud's view, were all forms of "wish-fulfillment" — attempts by the unconscious to resolve a...

  5. 5 . The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli

    Il Principe (The Prince) is a political treatise by the Florentine public servant and political theorist Niccolò Machiavelli. Originally called De Principatibus (About Principalities), it was origi...

  6. 6 . The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

    The Diary of a Young Girl is a book based on the writings from a diary written by Anne Frank while she was in hiding for two years with her family during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. The...

  7. 7 . The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley

    This book describes Malcolm X's upbringing in Michigan, his maturation to adulthood in Boston and New York, his time in prison, his conversion to Islam, his ministry, his travels to Africa and to M...

  8. 8 . The Confessions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau by Jean-Jacques Rousseau

    Confessions is an autobiographical book by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. In modern times, it is often published with the title The Confessions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau in order to distinguish it from St. ...

  9. 9 . 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...

  10. 10 . The Complete Works of Plato by Plato

    Plato (pronounced /ˈpleɪtoʊ/) (Greek: Πλάτων, Plátōn, "broad") (428/427 BC[a] – 348/347 BC), was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the ...

  11. 11 . Pensées by Blaise Pascal

  12. 12 . 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...

  13. 13 . In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

    On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no appar...

  14. 14 . The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr, 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...

  15. 15 . 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...

  16. 16 . 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 ...

  17. 17 . Relativity by Albert Einstein

    In clear, concise language that is accessible to all, Albert Einstein's brilliant theory is explained and its implications discussed.

  18. 18 . Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe

    It is Wolfe's first novel, and is considered a highly autobiographical American Bildungsroman. The character of Eugene Gant is generally believed to be a depiction of Wolfe himself. The novel cover...

    - 1929
  19. 19 . Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell

    Homage to Catalonia is political journalist and novelist George Orwell's personal account of his experiences and observations in the Spanish Civil War, written in the first person.

  20. 20 . Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov

    Speak, Memory is an autobiographical memoir by writer Vladimir Nabokov. The first twelve chapters describe Nabokov's remembrance of his youth in a quasi-aristocratic family living in pre-revolut...

  21. 21 . The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money by John Maynard Keynes

    The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money was written by the English economist John Maynard Keynes. The book, generally considered to be his magnum opus, is largely credited with creatin...

  22. 22 . Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville

    De la démocratie en Amérique (published in two volumes, the first in 1835 and the second in 1840) is a classic French text by Alexis de Tocqueville on the United States in the 1830s and its strengt...

  23. 23 . The Second World War by Winston Churchill

    The Second World War is a six-volume history of the period from the end of the First World War to July 1945, written by Sir Winston Churchill. It was largely responsible for him winning (in 1953) t...

  24. 24 . Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels

    Manifesto of the Communist Party (German: Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei), often referred to as The Communist Manifesto, was published on February 21, 1848, and is one of the world's most infl...

  25. 25 . Facundo by Domingo Faustino Sarmiento

    "Sarmiento's Facundo remains a foundational work for the traditions of Latin American fiction and historiography, and so an essential book for English language North Americans also, at least for th...

    - Google
  26. 26 . Black Lamb and Grey Falcon by Rebecca West

    Black Lamb and Grey Falcon is an 1,181-page travel book written by Dame Rebecca West, published in 1941. The book gives an account of Balkan history and ethnography, and the significance of Nazi...

  27. 27 . The Education of Henry Adams by Henry Adams

    The Education of Henry Adams records the struggle of Bostonian Henry Adams (1838-1918), in early old age, to come to terms with the dawning 20th century, so different from the world of his youth. I...

  28. 28 . Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen

    Out of Africa is a memoir by Isak Dinesen, a nom de plume used by the Danish author Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke. The book, first published in 1937, recounts events of the seventeen years when...

  29. 29 . Das Kapital by Karl Marx

    Das Kapital: Kritik der politischen Ökonomie (German pronunciation: [das kapiˈtaːl]) (Capital, in the English translation) is an extensive treatise on political economy written in German by Karl Ma...

  30. 30 . 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...

  31. 31 . 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...

  32. 32 . The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

    The Gulag Archipelago is a book by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn based on the Soviet forced labor and concentration camp system. The three-volume book is a massive narrative relying on eyewitness testimon...

  33. 33 . I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

    Sent by their mother to live with their devout, self-sufficient grandmother in a small Southern town, Maya and her brother, Bailey, endure the ache of abandonment and the prejudice of the local “po...

    - Google
  34. 34 . The Civil War by Shelby Foote

    The Civil War: A Narrative (1958-1974) is a three volume, 2,968-page, 1.2 million-word history of the American Civil War by Shelby Foote. Although previously known as a novelist, Foote is most famo...

  35. 35 . 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...

  36. 36 . If This Is a Man by Primo Levi

    If This Is a Man is a work of witness by the Italian author Primo Levi. It was influenced by his experiences in the concentration camp at Auschwitz during the Second World War. It can be described ...

  37. 37 . The Histories of Herodotus by Herodotus

    The Histories of Herodotus is considered one of the seminal works of history in Western literature. Written from the 450s to the 420s BC in the Ionic dialect of classical Greek, The Histories serve...

  38. 38 . The Principles of Psychology by Will James

  39. 39 . Collected Essays of George Orwell by George Orwell

    In this bestselling compilation of essays, written in the clear-eyed, uncompromising language for which he is famous, Orwell discusses with vigor such diverse subjects as his boyhood schooling, the...

  40. 40 . The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe

    The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test is a work of literary journalism by Tom Wolfe, published in 1968. Using techniques from the genre of hysterical realism and pioneering new journalism, the novel tell...

  41. 41 . The Art of War by Sun Zi

    Offering ancient wisdom on how to use skill, cunning, tactics and discipline to outwit your opponent, this 2000 year old military manual is still worshipped by soldiers on the battlefield and manag...

  42. 42 . Civilization and Its Discontents by Sigmund Freud

    Psychosocial developmentConsciousPreconsciousUnconsciousPsychic apparatusId, ego, and super-egoLibidoDriveTransferenceCountertransferenceEgo defensesResistanceProjection

  43. 43 . The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs

    The Death and Life of Great American Cities, by Jane Jacobs, is a greatly influential book on the subject of urban planning in the 20th century. First published in 1961, the book is a critique of m...

  44. 44 . Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

    Meditations (Τὰ εἰς ἑαυτόν, Ta eis heauton, literally "thoughts/writings addressed to himself") is the title of a series of personal writings by Marcus Aurelius setting forth his ideas on Stoic phi...

  45. 45 . 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.

  46. 46 . The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen

    The Snow Leopard is a 1978 book by Peter Matthiessen, which is an account of his two month journey along with naturalist George Schaller in 1973 to Crystal Mountain, in the Dolpo region on the Tibe...

  47. 47 . Selected Essays of T. S. Eliot by T. S. Eliot

    This is the first large and representative book of T. S. Eliot's prose and it is being published just at the time when Mr. Eliot is returning to America for the Harvard lectures. A year ago Edmund ...

  48. 48 . 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...

  49. 49 . The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich von Hayek

    The Road to Serfdom is a book written by Friedrich von Hayek (recipient of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1974) which transformed the landscape of political thought in the 20th ce...

  50. 50 . 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...