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. 901 . The Life of Sir William Osler by Harvey Cushing

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  2. 902 . Postwar by Tony Judt

    Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 is a 2005 book by historian Tony Judt, the Director of New York University's Erich Maria Remarque Institute. The book examines the history of Europe from the...

  3. 903 . Bad Blood by Lorna Sage

    Bad Blood is a 2000 work blending collective biography and memoir by the Welsh literary critic and novelist Lorna Sage.

  4. 904 . No Logo by Naomi Klein

  5. 905 . Chronicles: Volume One by Bob Dylan

    Chronicles, Volume One is the first part of Bob Dylan's planned 3-volume memoir. Published on October 5, 2004 by Simon & Schuster, the 304-page volume covers selected points from Dylan's long caree...

  6. 906 . The World as Will and Idea by Arthur Schopenhauer

    The World as Will and Representation (Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung) is the central work of German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. It was published in December 1818.

  7. 907 . Canon of Medicine by Avicenna

    The Canon of Medicine (Arabic: القانون في الطب‎ al-Qānūn fī al-Ṭibb) is an encyclopedia of medicine in five books compiled by Persian philosopher Ibn Sīnā (Avicenna) and completed in 1025. It prese...

  8. 908 . Scepticism and Animal Faith by George Santayana

    Scepticism and Animal Faith (1923) is a later work by Spanish-born American philosopher George Santayana. He intended it to be "merely the introduction to a new system of philosophy," a work that w...

  9. 909 . Meditations on First Philosophy by Rene Descartes

    Meditations on First Philosophy (subtitled In which the existence of God and the immortality of the soul are demonstrated) is a philosophical treatise by René Descartes first published in 1641 (in ...

    - Google
  10. 910 . The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius

    The Consolation of Philosophy is considered widely to be the single most important work from the West during Medieval and early Renaissance Christianity. Often called the last great Classical work,...

    - Google
  11. 911 . Essays of Henry David Thoreau by Henry David Thoreau

    Philosopher, naturalist, poet and rugged individualist, Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) has inspired generations of readers to think for themselves, to follow the dictates of their own conscience a...

    - Google
  12. 912 . Biographia Literaria by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

    Biographia Literaria, or in full Biographia Literaria; or Biographical Sketches of MY LITERARY LIFE and OPINIONS, is an autobiography in discourse by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, which he published in ...

  13. 913 . The Sickness Unto Death by Soren Kierkegaard

    The Sickness Unto Death (Danish: Sygdommen til Døden) is a book written by Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard in 1849 under the pseudonym Anti-Climacus. A work of Christian existentialism, the bo...

  14. 914 . The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine

    The Age of Reason; Being an Investigation of True and Fabulous Theology is a pamphlet, written by British and American revolutionary Thomas Paine, that challenges institutionalized religion and the...

  15. 915 . Atlas by Gerardus Mercator

    Gerardus Mercator (born 5 March 1512 in Rupelmonde, County of Flanders (in modern Belgium), died 2 December 1594 in Duisburg, United Duchies of Jülich-Cleves-Berg, (modern-day Germany)) was a carto...

  16. 916 . A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Martin Luther King

    "We've got some difficult days ahead," civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr., told a crowd gathered at Memphis's Clayborn Temple on April 3, 1968. "But it really doesn't matter to me now be...

    - Google
  17. 917 . Kama Sutra by Vātsyāyana

    The Kama Sutra (Sanskrit: कामसूत्र About this sound pronunciation (help·info), Kāmasūtra) is an ancient Indian Hindu text widely considered to be the standard work on human sexual behavior in Sansk...

  18. 918 . Catiline Orations by Marcus Tullius Cicero

    The Catiline Orations or Catilinarian Orations were speeches given in 63 BC by Marcus Tullius Cicero, the consul of Rome, exposing to the Roman Senate the plot of Lucius Sergius Catilina and his al...

  19. 919 . Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets by Svetlana Alexievich

    NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The magnum opus and latest work from Svetlana Alexievich, the 2015 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature—a symphonic oral history about the disintegration of the Sovie...

    - Google
  20. 920 . Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

    Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (Hebrew: קיצור תולדות האנושות‎, [Ḳitsur toldot ha-enoshut]) is a book by Yuval Noah Harari, first published in Hebrew in Israel in 2011 and in English in 2014....

  21. 921 . Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty

    Capital in the Twenty-First Century is a 2013 book by French economist Thomas Piketty. It focuses on wealth and income inequality in Europe and the United States since the 18th century. It was init...

  22. 922 . A Death in the Family by Karl Ove Knausgaard

    The first instalment of Knausgaard’s relentlessly self-examining six-volume series My Struggle revolves around the life and death of his alcoholic father. Whether or not you regard him as the Prous...

    - Google
  23. 923 . Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

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  24. 924 . Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit

    Throwing out the crippling assumptions with which many activists proceed, award-winning author Solnit proposes a new vision of how change happens.

    - Google
  25. 925 . Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson

    A New York Times bestseller: The “magnificent” memoir by one of the bravest and most original writers of our time—“A tour de force of literature and love” (Vogue). Jeanette Winterson’s bold and rev...

    - Google
  26. 926 . Women & Power: A Manifesto by Mary Beard

    An updated edition of the Sunday Times Bestseller Britain's best-known classicist Mary Beard, is also a committed and vocal feminist. With wry wit, she revisits the gender agenda and shows how hist...

    - Google
  27. 927 . Underland by Robert Macfarlane

    From the best-selling, award-winning author of Landmarks and The Old Ways, a haunting voyage into the planet’s past and future. Hailed as "the great nature writer of this generation" (Wall Street J...

    - Google
  28. 928 . This House of Grief by Helen Garner

    This House of Grief is a 2014 non-fiction work by Helen Garner. Subtitled "The story of a murder trial", its subject matter is the murder conviction of a man accused of driving his car into a dam r...

  29. 929 . Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli

    Seven Brief Lessons on Physics (Italian: Sette brevi lezioni di fisica) is a short book by the Italian physicist Carlo Rovelli. Originally published in Italian in 2014, the book has been translated...

  30. 930 . The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff

    The challenges to humanity posed by the digital future, the first detailed examination of the unprecedented form of power called "surveillance capitalism," and the quest by powerful corporations to...

    - Google
  31. 931 . Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick

    Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea is a 2009 part-novelization of interviews with refugees from Chongjin, North Korea, written by Los Angeles Times journalist Barbara Demick. In 2010, t...

  32. 932 . Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

    Thinking, Fast and Slow is a best-selling book published in 2011 by Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences laureate Daniel Kahneman. It was the 2012 winner of the National Academies Communicatio...

  33. 933 . One Writer's Beginnings by Eudora Welty

    Eudora Alice Welty (April 13, 1909 – July 23, 2001) was an award-winning American author who wrote short stories and novels about the American South. Her book, The Optimist's Daughter, won the Puli...

  34. 934 . The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson

    The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better is a book by Richard G. Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, published in 2009 by Allen Lane. The book is published in the US by Bloomsbury...

  35. 935 . The 9/11 Commission Report by 9/11 Commission

  36. 936 . Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa by Mungo Park

  37. 937 . The Cost of Living by Deborah Levy

    From the twice-Man Booker Prize-shortlisted author of Hot Milk and Swimming Home : Dazzling, essential, entirely unlike anything else -- a memoir on modern womanhood, rejecting oppressive social ex...

    - Google
  38. 938 . Adults in the Room by Yanis Varoufakis

    'One of the greatest political memoirs of all time' (Guardian) -- The Sunday Times Number 1 Bestseller What happens when you take on the establishment? In this blistering, personal account, world-f...

    - Google
  39. 939 . The Rest is Noise by Alex Ross

  40. 940 . I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron

    I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman is a 2006 book written by Nora Ephron. On September 10, 2006 it was listed at #1 on The New York Times Non-Fiction Best Seller list. In...

  41. 941 . An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It by Al Gore

    The former vice-president details the factors contributing to the growing climate crisis, describes changes to the environment caused by global warming, and discusses the shift in environmental pol...

    - Google
  42. 942 . The Clash of Civilizations by Samuel P. Huntington

    The classic study of post-Cold War international relations, more relevant than ever in the post-9/11 world, with a new foreword by Zbigniew Brzezinski. Since its initial publication, The Clash of C...

    - Google
  43. 943 . The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin

    The songlines are the invisible pathways that criss-cross Australia, ancient tracks connecting communities and following ancient boundaries. Along these lines Aboriginals passed the songs which rev...

    - Google
  44. 944 . The Theory of Economic Development: An Inquiry into Profits, Capital, Credit, Interest, and the Business Cycle by Joseph A. Schumpeter

    Schumpeter proclaims in this classical analysis of capitalist society first published in 1911 that economics is a natural self-regulating mechanism when undisturbed by "social and other meddlers." ...

    - Google
  45. 945 . The Meaning of Hitler by Sebastian Haffner

    The Meaning of Hitler is the title of the English translation of the originally German 1978 book Anmerkungen zu Hitler by the journalist and writer Raimund Pretzel, who published all his books unde...

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  46. 946 . The Other Education: What you should know about the natural sciences by Ernst Peter Fischer

    It was published as a reaction to Dieter Schwanitz' bestseller "Education. Everything there is to know", in which the natural sciences were deliberately excluded.

  47. 947 . Crusade and Jihad: Islam and the Christian World by Bassam Tibi

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  48. 948 . The Story of Art by E. H. Gombrich

    An illustrated introduction to art appreciation with a survey of the major art periods and styles and descriptions of the work and world of the masters

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  49. 949 . Desert Flower by Waris Dirie, Cathleen Miller

    Waris Dirie leads a double life -- by day, she is an international supermodel and human rights ambassador for the United Nations; by night, she dreams of the simplicity of life in her native Somali...

    - Google
  50. 950 . German History 1800–1918 by Thomas Nipperdey

    Thomas Nipperdey offers readers insights into the history and the culture of German nationalism, bringing to light much-needed information on the immediate prenational period of transition. A subje...

    - Google