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. 801 . Oscar Wilde by Richard Ellmann

  2. 802 . The Broken Cord by Michael Dorris

    Dorris, author of A Yellow raft in blue water, professor at Dartmouth College, and member of the Modoc Indian tribe, tells the moving story of his adopted Sioux son Adam, who suffers from Fetal Alc...

  3. 803 . Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan by Herbert P. Bix

    Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan is a book by Herbert P. Bix on Emperor Hirohito, emperor of Japan from December 25, 1926 until his death on January 7, 1989, won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for ...

  4. 804 . Arab and Jew by David K. Shipler

    Arab and Jew: Wounded Spirits in a Promised Land, written by David K. Shipler and published by Times Books in 1986, won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction.

  5. 805 . Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom by David W. Blight

    Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom is a 2018 biography of African American abolitionist Frederick Douglass, written by historian David W. Blight. It was published in 2018 by Simon & Schuster a...

  6. 806 . Young Men and Fire by Norman Maclean

    Young Men and Fire is a non-fiction book written by Norman Maclean and edited by his son, John Norman Maclean. It is an account of Norman Maclean's research of the Mann Gulch fire of 1949 and the 1...

  7. 807 . Louise Bogan: A Portrait by Elizabeth Frank

  8. 808 . Crusader in Crinoline by Forrest Wilson

  9. 809 . Banks and Politics in America by Bray Hammond

    Banks and Politics in America (ISBN 0691005532) is a 1957-published book written by Bray Hammond. The book describes the differences in banking and politics in the United States between the America...

  10. 810 . Woodrow Wilson, Life and Letters by Ray Stannard Baker

    Thomas Woodrow Wilson (December 28, 1856–February 3, 1924) was the 28th President of the United States. A leading intellectual of the Progressive Era, he served as President of Princeton University...

  11. 811 . Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China by Evan Osnos

    A Beijing correspondent for The New Yorker documents the political, economic and cultural changes occurring in today's China, examining a transition from Communist to personal power while addressin...

    - Google
  12. 812 . The Gulf: The Making of An American Sea by Jack E. Davis

    Winner of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for History Winner of the 2017 Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction A National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction Finalist A New York Times Notable Book of 2017 One o...

    - Google
  13. 813 . Lenin's Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire by David Remnick

    The book is equal parts history and eyewitness account, covering the collapse of the Soviet Union. Opening with the excavation of the corpses of men killed in the Katyn massacre, "Lenin's Tomb" beg...

  14. 814 . Polio: An American Story by David M. Oshinsky

    Polio: An American Story is a book by David M. Oshinsky, professor of history at The University of Texas at Austin, which documents the polio epidemic in the United States during the 1940s and 1950...

  15. 815 . John Hay by Tyler Dennett

    Tyler Dennett (June 13, 1883, Spencer, Wisconsin – 1949) was an American historian and educator. He is best known for his book John Hay (1933), for which he won the 1934 Pulitzer Prize for biography.

  16. 817 . Lincoln at Gettysburg by Garry Wills

    The book uses Lincoln's notably short speech at Gettysburg to examine his rhetoric overall. In particular, Wills compares Lincoln's speech to Edward Everett's delivered on the same day, focusing on...

  17. 818 . Just Kids by Patti Smith

    Just Kids is a memoir by Patti Smith, published on January 19, 2010. In the book, Smith documents her relationship with artist Robert Mapplethorpe.

  18. 819 . Custer's Trials by T.J. Stiles

    Custer's Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America is a book by T. J. Stiles. It won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for History.

  19. 820 . The Sea Around Us by Rachel Carson

    The Sea Around Us is a prize-winning 1951 bestseller by Rachel Carson about oceanography, marine biology and the ecosystem within and around the world's oceans and seas.

  20. 821 . The Reformation by Diarmaid MacCulloch

    The Reformation: A History (2003) is a history book by English historian Diarmaid MacCulloch. It is a survey of the European Reformation between 1490 and 1700. It won the 2004 National Book Critics...

  21. 822 . Man and His Symbols by Carl Gustav Jung

    Illustrated throughout with revealing images, this is the first and only work in which the world-famous Swiss psychologist explains to the layperson his enormously influential theory of symbolism a...

    - Google
  22. 823 . Summer for the Gods by Edward Larson

    Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America’s Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion.

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  23. 824 . Benjamin Franklin, Self-Revealed by William Cabell Bruce

    Benjamin Franklin, Self-Revealed is a biography of Benjamin Franklin written by William Cabell Bruce in 1917. A "biographical and critical study based mostly on [Benjamin Franklin's] own writings",...

  24. 825 . The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss

    The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo is a 2012 biography of General Thomas-Alexandre Dumas written by Tom Reiss. The book presents the life and career of...

  25. 826 . So Human an Animal by René Dubos

    Until cloning becomes the order of the day, the author contends that each human is unique. Every person faces the danger of losing this humanness to mechanized surroundings. Is the human species be...

  26. 827 . A History of the United States by Edward Channing

  27. 828 . American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House by Jon Matteson

  28. 829 . The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia by Masha Gessen

    WINNER OF THE 2017 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD IN NONFICTION NAMED A BEST BOOK OF 2017 BY THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW, LOS ANGELES TIMES, WASHINGTON POST, BOSTON GLOBE, SEATTLE TIMES, CHRISTIAN SCIENCE ...

    - Google
  29. 830 . Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink

    One of the New York Times’s Best Ten Books of the Year Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction Winner of the 2014 J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize, the Los Angeles Times Book Pri...

    - Google
  30. 831 . Freedom From Fear: The American People by David M. Kennedy

    Freedom From Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945 is a Pulitzer Prize-winning book written in 1999 by historian David M. Kennedy. It is part of the Oxford History of the Unite...

  31. 832 . Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Life by Joan D. Hedrick

  32. 833 . Rousseau and Revolution by Will, Ariel Durant

    Rousseau and Revolution: A History of Civilization in France, England, and Germany from 1756, and in the Remainder of Europe from 1715, to 1789. This volume centers on Jean-Jacques Rousseau and ...

  33. 834 . Gotham: A History of New York City by Edwin G. Burrows

    Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898 is a nonfiction book written by Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace. It was published in 1998 by Oxford University Press. It won the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for...

  34. 835 . Across the Wide Missouri by Bernard DeVoto

  35. 836 . Margaret Fuller: A New American Life by Megan Marshall

    Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Biography From an early age, Margaret Fuller provoked and dazzled New England’s intellectual elite. Her famous Conversations changed women’s sense of how they could...

    - Google
  36. 837 . Neither Black Nor White by Carl N. Degler

  37. 838 . Stilwell and the American Experience in China by Barbara Wertheim Tuchman

    Using the life of Joseph Stilwell, the military attache to China in 1935-39 and commander of United States forces and allied chief of staff to Chiang Kai-shek in 1942-44, this book explores the his...

  38. 839 . Grant: A Biography by William S. McFeely

  39. 840 . The Return by Hisham Matar

    The Return is a memoir by Hisham Matar that was first published in June 2016. The memoir centers on Matar's return to his native Libya in 2012 to search for the truth behind the 1990 disappearance ...

  40. 841 . Annals of the Former World by John McPhee

    The book presents a geological history of North America, and was researched and written over the course of two decades beginning in 1978. It consists of a compilation of five books, the first four ...

  41. 842 . The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery by Eric Foner

    In a landmark work of deep scholarship and insight, Foner gives us a life of Lincoln as it intertwined with slavery, the defining issue of the time and the tragic hallmark of American history. The ...

    - Google
  42. 843 . The Pope and Mussolini by David I. Kertzer

    The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe is a 2014 Pulitzer Prize winner biography of Pope Pius XI about his relations with Benito Mussolini and rise ...

  43. 844 . Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable

    Winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for History Hailed as "a masterpiece" (San Francisco Chronicle), the late Manning Marable's acclaimed biography of Malcolm X finally does justice to one of the mos...

    - Google
  44. 845 . Art and Life in America by Oliver W. Larkin

  45. 846 . American Prometheus by Kai Bird, Martin J. Sherwin

    American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer is a biography of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin published by Alfred A. Knopf in 2005. Twenty-five yea...

  46. 847 . A History of American Magazines by Frank Luther Mott

  47. 848 . Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation by Joseph Ellis

    Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation is a Pulitzer Prize–winning book written by Joseph Ellis, a professor of history at Mount Holyoke College. This text explores how a group of individ...

  48. 849 . Henry Adams by Ernest Samuels

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  49. 850 . The Social Transformation of American Medicine by Paul Starr

    The Social Transformation of American Medicine is a book written by Paul Starr and published by Basic Books in 1982. It won the 1984 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction as well as the Bancroft P...