The Greatest Nonfiction Books


How is this list generated?


This list is generated from 128 "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. 751 . Charles Sumner and the Coming of the Civil War by David Donald

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  2. 752 . Eleanor and Franklin by Joseph P. Lash

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  3. 753 . The Course of Empire by Bernard A. DeVoto

    This sweeping narrative traces North American expansion over a period of 278 years, from Balboa's route to the Pacific through the early days of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. It is the dramatic s...

  4. 754 . No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin

    A compelling chronicle of a nation and its leaders during the period when modern America was created. With an uncanny feel for detail and a novelist's grasp of drama and depth, Doris Kearns Goodwin...

  5. 755 . Memoirs by George Frost Kennan

  6. 756 . Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World by Liaquat Ahamed

    Argues that the stock market crash of 1929 and subsequent Depression occurred as a result of poor decisions on the part of four central bankers who jointly attempted to reconstruct international fi...

    - Google
  7. 757 . Liberty's Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World by Maya Jasanoff

    A global history of the post-Revolutionary War exodus of 60,000 Americans loyal to the British Empire to such regions as Canada, India and Sierra Leone traces the experiences of specific individual...

    - Google
  8. 758 . History of the American Frontier by Frederic L. Paxson

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  9. 759 . Move Your Shadow by Joseph Lelyveld

    Move Your Shadow: South Africa, Black and White, written by Joseph Lelyveld and published by Times Books in 1985, won the 1986 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction as well as the 1986 Los Angeles...

  10. 760 . The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture by David Brion Davis

    The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture written by David Brion Davis and published by Cornell University Press in 1966 won the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction in 1967.

  11. 761 . Puritan Village: The Formation of a New England Town by Sumner Chilton Powell

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  12. 762 . Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS by Joby Warrick

    Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS is a 2015 non-fiction book by the American journalist Joby Warrick. The book traces the rise and spread of militant Islam behind the Islamic State of Iraq and the Lev...

  13. 763 . Washington's Crossing by David Hackett Fischer

    Washington's Crossing is a Pulitzer Prize winning book written by David Hackett Fischer and part of the "Pivotal Moments in American History" series. The book is primarily about George Washington's...

  14. 764 . The War of Independence by Claude H. Van Tyne

    The War of Independence is a Pulitzer Prize-winning book by American historian Claude H. Van Tyne. The book was published in 1929. It explains the history and causes of the American Revolutionary W...

  15. 765 . The Price of Power by Seymour M. Hersh

    The Price of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House

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  16. 766 . The Heavens and the Earth by Walter A. McDougall

  17. 767 . Voyagers to the West: A Passage in the Peopling of America on the Eve of the Revolution by Bernard Bailyn

    The Pulitzer Prize for History has been awarded since 1917 for a distinguished book upon the history of the United States. Many history books have also been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for General N...

  18. 768 . Paul Revere and the World He Lived In by Esther Forbes

  19. 769 . Amity and Prosperity: One Family and the Fracturing of America by Eliza Griswold

    Winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction In Amity and Prosperity, the prizewinning poet and journalist Eliza Griswold tells the story of the energy boom’s impact on a small town at ...

    - Google
  20. 770 . Is There No Place On Earth For Me? by Susan Sheehan

    This book recounts the lonely, harrowing life of Sylvia Frumkin who is diagnosed schizophrenic. Is There No Place On Earth For Me? written by Susan Sheehan and published in 1982 by Houghton Miff...

  21. 771 . Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy by Heather Ann Thompson

    Ever since the USS Walkercame from another world war to defy the terrifying Grik and diabolical Dominion, Matt Reddy and his crew have given their all to protect the oppressed Lemurians. But with t...

    - Google
  22. 772 . Arc of Justice by Kevin Boyle

    In this electrifying story of the sensational murder trial that divided Detroit and ignited the civil rights struggle, Boyle weaves a tapestry of narrative history that documents the volatile Ameri...

  23. 773 . The Content of Our Character by Shelby Stelle

    In this controversial essay collection, award-winning writer Shelby Stelle illuminates the origins of the current conflict in race relations--the increase in anger, mistrust, and even violence betw...

  24. 774 . And Their Children After Them by Dale Maharidge, Michael Williamson

    And Their Children After Them, written by Dale Maharidge and Michael Williamson and published by Pantheon Books in 1989, won the 1990 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction.[1] It is about sharecro...

  25. 775 . Lamy of Santa Fe by Paul Horgan

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  26. 776 . What Hath God Wrought by Daniel Walker Howe

    The book tracks the period in American history from the end of the War of 1812 to the end of the Mexican American War. It is focused on the revolutionary changes in transportation and communication...

  27. 777 . The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker

    The basic premise of The Denial of Death is that human civilization is ultimately an elaborate, symbolic defense mechanism against the knowledge of our mortality, which in turn acts as the emotiona...

  28. 778 . Son of the Wilderness by Linnie Marsh Wolfe

  29. 779 . Fire in the Lake by Frances FitzGerald

    Fire in the Lake: The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam, written by Frances FitzGerald and published by both Back Bay Publishing and Little, Brown and Company in 1972, in 1973 won the Pulitze...

  30. 780 . The Americans: The Democratic Experience by Daniel J. Boorstin

  31. 781 . Fortunate Son: The Autobiography of Lewis B. Puller Jr. by Lewis B. Puller

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  32. 782 . God: A Biography by Jack Miles

    God: A Biography is a nonfiction book by Jack Miles. The book recounts the tale of existence of the Judeo-Christian deity as the protagonist of the Hebrew Tanak or Christian Bible Old Testament. Th...

  33. 783 . From Beirut to Jerusalem by Thomas L. Friedman

    From Beirut to Jerusalem is a book written by Thomas L. Friedman chronicling his days as a reporter in Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War and his journey in 1984 from Beirut to Jerusalem to cover...

  34. 784 . Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow

    Washington: A Life is a 2010 biography of George Washington, the first President of the United States, written by American historian and biographer Ron Chernow. The book is a "one-volume, cradle-to...

  35. 785 . The Land Where the Blues Began by Alan Lomax

    Working for the Library of Congress and other cultural institutions, legendary roots-music connoisseur Lomax ( Mister Jelly Roll ) visited the Mississippi Delta with his father, folklorist John Lom...

  36. 786 . Encounters at the Heart of the World by Elizabeth A. Fenn

    Encounters at the Heart of the World: A History of the Mandan People is a Pulitzer Prize-winning non-fiction history book about the Mandan people, a Native American tribe in North Dakota. It was wr...

  37. 787 . The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America by George Packer

    Paints a picture of the last thirty years of life in America by following several citizens, including the son of tobacco farmers in the rural south, a Washington insider who denies his idealism for...

    - Google
  38. 788 . A Prince of Our Disorder: The Life of T E. Lawrence by John E. Mack

    Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence CB, DSO (16 August 1888 – 19 May 1935), known professionally as T. E. Lawrence, was a British military officer renowned especially for his liaison role dur...

  39. 789 . Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA by Tim Weiner

    Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA is a 2007 book by Tim Weiner. Legacy of Ashes is a detailed history of the Central Intelligence Agency from its creation after World War II, through the Cold...

  40. 790 . The Old Northwest, Pioneer Period 1815-1840 by R. Carlyle Buley

  41. 791 . Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain by Justin Kaplan

  42. 792 . Munich: The Price of Peace by Telford Taylor

    Munich: The Price of Peace

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  43. 793 . Unfinished Business by Stephen Bonsal

  44. 794 . The Organization and Administration of the Union Army by Fred Albert Shannon

    The Organization and Administration of the Union Army, 1861-1865 is a two-volume book by American historian Fred Albert Shannon. The book is about Union Army history, including recruitment and enli...

  45. 795 . O Strange New World by Howard Mumford Jones

    O Strange New World: American Culture-The Formative Years was written by Howard Mumford Jones and published by Viking Press in 1964; it won the 1965 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction.

  46. 796 . Gandhi's Truth by Erik H. Erikson

    Gandhi's Truth: On the Origins of Militant Nonviolence, written by Erik H. Erikson and published by W. W. Norton & Company in 1969, it won the 1970 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction and the 19...

  47. 797 . Between War and Peace: The Potsdam Conference by Herbert Feis

    Herbert Feis (born in 1893 in New York, died in 1972) was an American Author and former Economic Advisor for International Affairs to the Department of State in the Hoover and Roosevelt administrat...

  48. 798 . The Greenback Era by Irwin Unger

  49. 799 . Why Survive? Being Old in America by Robert Neil Butler

    Dr. Butler's eloquent, exhaustive and formidably informed book is a work of genuine consequence. He's a physician-psychiatrist-gerontologist who also teaches and is Consultant to the U.S. Senate Co...

  50. 800 . From Immigrant to Inventor by Michael I. Pupin