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. 851 . O'Neill, Son and Artist by Louis Sheaffer

    Eugene Gladstone O'Neill (16 October 1888 – 27 November 1953) was an American playwright, and Nobel laureate in Literature. His plays are among the first to introduce into American drama the techni...

  2. 852 . Admiral of the Ocean Sea by Samuel Eliot Morison

  3. 853 . George Bancroft: Brahmin Rebel by Russel Blaine Nye

  4. 854 . A History of the Civil War by James Ford Rhodes

    -
  5. 855 . Whitman by Emory Holloway

  6. 856 . John Paul Jones by Samuel Eliot Morison

  7. 857 . Huey Long by Thomas Harry Williams

    -
  8. 858 . Herman Melville by Newton Arvin

    Biography of Herman Melville

    -
  9. 859 . Brother, I'm Dying by Edwidge Danticat

    Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography A National Book Award Finalist A New York Times Notable Book From the age of four, award-winning writer Edwidge Danticat came to t...

    - Google
  10. 860 . Origins of the Fifth Amendment by Leonard W. Levy

  11. 861 . A Nation under Our Feet by Steven Hahn

    A Nation under Our Feet: Black Political Struggles in the Rural South from Slavery to the Great Migration is a Pulitzer Prize-winning book written in 2003 by Steven Hahn. The book is a history of t...

  12. 862 . Booker T. Washington: The Wizard of Tuskegee, 1901–1915 by Louis R. Harlan

    Booker Taliaferro Washington (April 5, 1856, – November 14, 1915) was an American political leader, educator, orator and author. He was the dominant figure in the African American community in the ...

  13. 863 . Robert Frost: The Years of Triumph, 1915–1938 by Lawrence Thompson

  14. 864 . Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America by James Forman

    In recent years, America’s criminal justice system has become the subject of an increasingly urgent debate. Critics have assailed the rise of mass incarceration, emphasizing its disproportionate im...

    - Google
  15. 865 . A Midwife's Tale by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

    A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard based on her diary, 1785–1812.

    -
  16. 866 . The Shock of the New by Robert Hughes

    A beautifully illustrated hundred-year history of modern art, from cubism to pop and avant-guard. More than 250 color photos. From the Trade Paperback edition.

    - Google
  17. 867 . The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan

    The dust storms that terrorized the High Plains in the darkest years of the Depression were like nothing ever seen before or since. Timothy Egan's critically acclaimed account rescues this iconic c...

  18. 868 . The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time by Jonathan Weiner

    The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time winner of the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction. this book on evolutionary biology written for the layperson by Jonathan Weiner in ...

  19. 869 . The Autobiography of William Allen White by William Allen White

  20. 870 . The Radicalism of the American Revolution by Gordon S. Wood

    Historians have always had problems explaining the revolutionary character of the American Revolution: its lack of class conflict, a reign of terror, and indiscriminate violence make it seem positi...

  21. 871 . Abraham Lincoln: The War Years by Carl Sandburg

  22. 872 . Theodore Roosevelt by Henry F. Pringle

    -
  23. 873 . Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America by Gilbert King

    Arguably the most important American lawyer of the twentieth century, Thurgood Marshall was on the verge of bringing the landmark suit Brown v. Board of Education before the U.S. Supreme Court when...

    - Google
  24. 874 . The Colonial Period of American History by Charles McLean Andrews

  25. 875 . The Flowering of New England by Van Wyck Brooks

  26. 876 . Facts of Life by Maureen Howard

    Maureen Keans-Howard (born 1930 in Bridgeport, Connecticut) is an American writer, editor, and lecturer known for her award winning autobiography Facts of Life.

  27. 877 . The Launching of Modern American Science, 1846-1876 by Robert V. Bruce

    Astronomy in the U.S., until approximately the 1880s, was largely a tool for determining latitude and longitude, time and tide. This surprising fact points to the enormous distance American science...

  28. 878 . Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy by Karl Marx

    Written during the winter of 1857-8, the Grundrisse was considered by Marx to be the first scientific elaboration of communist theory. A collection of seven notebooks on capital and money, it both ...

    - Google
  29. 879 . Jackson Pollock: An American Saga by Steven Naifeh, Gregory White Smith

  30. 880 . The Republican Era: 1869-1901 by Leonard D. White, Jean Schneider

  31. 881 . Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America's Vietnam by Fredrik Logevall

    A history of the four decades leading up to the Vietnam War offers insights into how the U.S. became involved, identifying commonalities between the campaigns of French and American forces while di...

    - Google
  32. 882 . How We Die: Reflections on Life's Final Chapter by Sherwin B. Nuland

    The 1994 NBA nonfiction winner, Yale physician Nuland's study of the clinical, biological and emotional details of dying.

  33. 883 . Rough Crossings by Simon Schama

    Rough Crossings: Britain, the Slaves and the American Revolution is a history book and television series by Simon Schama. This gives an account of the history of thousands of enslaved African Amer...

  34. 884 . The American Leonardo: The Life of Samuel F B. Morse by Carleton Mabee

    Samuel Finley Breese Morse (April 27, 1791 – April 2, 1872) was the American inventor of a single-wire telegraph system and Morse code and a painter of historic scenes.

  35. 885 . de Kooning by Mark Stevens, Annalyn Swan

    -
  36. 886 . Charles Evans Hughes by Merlo J. Pusey

  37. 887 . George F. Kennan: An American Life by John Lewis Gaddis

    George F. Kennan: An American Life is a nonfiction book about U.S. diplomat George F. Kennan by John Lewis Gaddis that won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography.Pulitzer.org descri...

  38. 888 . Julia Ward Howe by Laura E. Richards, Maud Howe Elliott

    Maud Howe Elliott (November 9, 1854, Boston, Massachusetts – March 19, 1948, Newport, Rhode Island) was an American writer, most notable for her Pulitzer prize-winning collaboration with her sister...

  39. 889 . Roosevelt and Hopkins by Robert E. Sherwood

  40. 890 . Weapons and Hope by Freeman Dyson

    Weapons and Hope by Freeman Dyson

    -
  41. 891 . Charles W. Eliot by Henry James

    -
  42. 892 . A Daughter of the Middle Border by Hamlin Garland

  43. 893 . Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan

    Surfing only looks like a sport. To initiates, it is something else entirely: a beautiful addiction, a demanding course of study, a morally dangerous pastime, a way of life. Raised in California an...

    - Google
  44. 894 . Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation by Dan Fagin

    Recounts the decades-long saga of the New Jersey seaside town plagued by childhood cancers caused by air and water pollution due to the indiscriminate dumping of toxic chemicals.

    - Google
  45. 895 . With Americans of Past and Present Days by Jean Jules Jusserand

  46. 896 . The Transformation of Virginia, 1740-1790 by Rhys L. Isaac

  47. 897 . The Road to Reunion by Paul Herman Buck

  48. 898 . Khrushchev: The Man and His Era by William Taubman

  49. 899 . Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser

    The first comprehensive historical biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the beloved author of the Little House on the Prairie books Millions of readers of Little House on the Prairie believe they kno...

    - Google
  50. 900 . Luce and His Empire by W. A. Swanberg

    -