The Greatest Nonfiction Books


How is this list generated?


This list is generated from 130 "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. 51 . R. E. Lee by Douglas Southall Freeman

    Autobiography of Robert E. Lee.

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  2. 52 . Discourse on Method by Rene Descartes

  3. 53 . The Varieties of Religious Experience by Will James

    The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature is a book by the Harvard psychologist and philosopher William James that comprises his edited Gifford Lectures on "Natural Theology" d...

  4. 54 . The Liberal Imagination by Lionel Trilling

    The Liberal Imagination is one of the most admired and influential works of criticism of the last century, a work that is not only a masterpiece of literary criticism but an important statement abo...

  5. 55 . Annals by Cornelius Tacitus

    The Annals (Latin: Annales) is a history book by Tacitus covering the reign of the four Roman Emperors succeeding to Caesar Augustus. The parts of the work that survived from antiquity cover most o...

  6. 56 . Angela's Ashes: A Memoir by Frank McCourt

    Angela’s Ashes is a memoir by Irish-American author Frank McCourt and tells the story of his childhood in Brooklyn and Ireland. It was published in 1996 and won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography or ...

  7. 57 . Oxford English Dictionary by Oxford University Press

    The Oxford English Dictionary (OED), published by the Oxford University Press, is a descriptive dictionary of the English language. As well as describing English usage in its many variations throug...

  8. 58 . The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir

    The Second Sex (French: Le Deuxième Sexe, June 1949) is one of the best-known works of the French existentialist Simone de Beauvoir. It is a work on the treatment of women throughout history and of...

  9. 59 . Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis

    Mere Christianity is a theological book by C. S. Lewis, adapted from a series of BBC radio talks made between 1941 and 1944, while Lewis was at Oxford during World War II. Considered a classic of C...

  10. 60 . The History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides

    The History of the Peloponnesian War is an account of the Peloponnesian War in Ancient Greece, fought between the Peloponnesian League (led by Sparta) and the Delian League (led by Athens). It was ...

  11. 61 . Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

    Published posthumously in 1964, A Moveable Feast remains one of Ernest Hemingway's most beloved works. Since Hemingway's personal papers were released in 1979, scholars have examined and debated th...

    - Google
  12. 62 . The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein

    Largely to amuse herself, Gertrude Stein wrote this book in 1932..using as a sounding board her companion Miss Toklas, who had been with her for twenty-five years. The book is full of the most luci...

  13. 63 . The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt

    The Origins of Totalitarianism is a book by Hannah Arendt which classed Nazism and Stalinism as totalitarian movements. Its original title was to be 'The Burden of Our Times', and the move away fro...

  14. 64 . Parallel Lives by Plutarch

    Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans, commonly called Parallel Lives or Plutarch's Lives, is a series of biographies of famous men, arranged in tandem to illuminate their common moral vi...

  15. 65 . A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

    A landmark volume in science writing by one of the great minds of our time, Stephen Hawking’s book explores such profound questions as: How did the universe begin—and what made its start possible? ...

    - Google
  16. 66 . Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton

    Orthodoxy is a book by G. K. Chesterton that has become a classic of Christian apologetics. Chesterton considered this book a companion to his other work, Heretics. In the book's preface Chesterton...

  17. 67 . Philosophical Investigations by Ludwig Wittgenstein

    Philosophical Investigations is, along with the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, one of the two most influential works by the 20th-century philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. In it, Wittgenstein discus...

  18. 68 . Night by Elie Wiesel

    A New Translation From The French By Marion Wiesel Night is Elie Wiesel’s masterpiece, a candid, horrific, and deeply poignant autobiographical account of his survival as a teenager in the Nazi dea...

    - Google
  19. 69 . The Affluent Society by John Kenneth Galbraith

    The Affluent Society is a 1958 book by Harvard economist John Kenneth Galbraith. The book sought to clearly outline the manner in which the post-World War II America was becoming wealthy in the pri...

  20. 70 . Mythology by Edith Hamilton

    Since its original publication by Little, Brown and Company in 1942, Edith Hamilton's Mythology has sold millions of copies throughout the world and established itself as a perennial bestseller in ...

    - Google
  21. 71 . The Open Society by Karl Popper

    The Open Society and Its Enemies is an influential two-volume work by Karl Popper written during World War II. Failing to find a publisher in the United States, it was first printed in London by Ro...

  22. 72 . The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother by James McBride

    As a boy in Brooklyn's Red Hook projects, James McBride knew his mother was different. But when he asked about it, she'd simply say 'I'm light-skinned.' Later he wondered if he was different too, a...

    - Google
  23. 73 . Phaedo by Plato

    Plato's Phaedo (/ˈfiːdoʊ/; Greek: Φαίδων, Phaidōn, Greek pronunciation: [pʰaídɔːn]), also known to ancient readers as Plato's On The Soul, is one of the great dialogues of his middle period, along ...

    - Google
  24. 74 . The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton

    The Seven Storey Mountain is the autobiography of Thomas Merton, a Trappist Monk and a noted author of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. Merton finished the book in 1946 at the age of 31, five years afte...

  25. 75 . Hiroshima by John Hersey

    The classic tale of the day the first atom bomb was dropped offers a haunting evocation of the memories of survivors and an appeal to the conscience of humanity

    - Google
  26. 76 . Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems by Galileo

    The Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems was a 1632 Italian language book by Galileo Galilei comparing the Copernican system with the traditional Ptolemaic system. It was translated to L...

  27. 77 . Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by James Agee

    Let Us Now Praise Famous Men is a book with text by American writer James Agee and photographs by American photographer Walker Evans first published in 1941 in the United States. The title is from ...

  28. 78 . Pragmatism by Will James

  29. 79 . Ethics by Baruch de Spinoza

  30. 80 . The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes

    The Making of the Atomic Bomb, a book written by Richard Rhodes, won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction, a National Book Award and a National Book Critics Circle Award. The 900-page bo...

  31. 81 . The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John Jay

    The Federalist Papers are a series of 85 articles and essays written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay promoting the ratification of the United States Constitution. Seventy-seven w...

  32. 82 . Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche

    Beyond Good and Evil (German: Jenseits von Gut und Böse), subtitled "Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future" (Vorspiel einer Philosophie der Zukunft), is a book by the German philosopher Friedrich N...

  33. 83 . A Study of History by Arnold J. Toynbee

    A Study of History is the 12-volume magnum opus of British historian Arnold J. Toynbee, finished in 1961. In this immensely detailed and complex work, Toynbee traces the birth, growth and decay of ...

  34. 84 . Corpus Aristotelicum by Aristotle

    The Corpus Aristotelicum is the collection of Aristotle's works that have survived from antiquity through Medieval manuscript transmission. These texts, as opposed to Aristotle's lost works, are te...

  35. 85 . Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality by Sigmund Freud

    Presents the renowned psychologist's ideas on sexual aberrations and the development and features of human sexuality during infancy and puberty

    - Google
  36. 86 . Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang

    The story of three generations in twentieth-century China that blends the intimacy of memoir and the panoramic sweep of eyewitness history—a bestselling classic in thirty languages with more than t...

    - Google
  37. 87 . The Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T. E. Lawrence

    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...

  38. 88 . The Feynman Lectures on Physics by Richard P. Feynman

    Richard P. Feynman (1918–1988) was widely recognized as the most creative physicist of the post–World War II period. His career was extraordinarily expansive. From his contributions to the developm...

  39. 89 . The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon

    The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire was written by English historian Edward Gibbon and published in six volumes. Volume I was published in 1776, and went through six printings. ...

  40. 90 . The Golden Bough by James George Frazer

    The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion is a wide-ranging, comparative study of mythology and religion, written by Scottish anthropologist Sir James George Frazer (1854–1941). It first was ...

  41. 91 . Analects by Confucius

    Lunyu, also known as the Analects of Confucius, are considered a record of the words and acts of the central Chinese thinker and philosopher Confucius and his disciples, as well as the discussions ...

  42. 92 . Quotations from Chairman Mao by Mao

    Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong (simplified Chinese: 毛主席语录; pinyin: Máo zhǔxí yǔlù), better known in the West as The Little Red Book, was published by the Government of the People's Republic of...

  43. 93 . Samuel Johnson by Walter Jackson Bate

    This 1979 chronicle is seen by critics not only as the definitive life of Dr. Johnson, but as a model of well-researched, lucid, fair--but always affectionate--biography.

  44. 94 . Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion

    This collection of essays takes the reader on a psychological tour of the intense, wayward, violent, not a little crazy America of the 1960s. Surfers, students, deadheads and druggies; Joan Baez, D...

    - Google
  45. 95 . Tao Te Ching by Lao Tsu

    The Tao Te Ching or Dao De Jing, originally known as Laozi, a record-keeper at the Zhou Dynasty court, by whose name the text is known in China. The text's true authorship and date of composition o...

  46. 96 . The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

    The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion, is an account of the year following the death of the author's husband John Gregory Dunne (1932–2003). Published by Knopf in October 2005, the book was ...

  47. 97 . The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. Du Bois

    The Souls of Black Folk is a classic work of American literature by W. E. B. Du Bois. It is a seminal work in the history of sociology, and a cornerstone of African-American literary history. Th...

  48. 98 . Black Boy by Richard Wright

    Black Boy is an autobiography by Richard Wright. Depicting Wright's life in great detail, the book tells the story of his troubled youth and race relations in the South. It is about the struggles t...

  49. 99 . The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts by Maxine Hong Kingston

    A Chinese American woman tells of the Chinese myths, family stories and events of her California childhood that have shaped her identity.

    - Google
  50. 100 . Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau