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. 1151 . Coleridge: Early Visions by Richard Holmes

  2. 1152 . Enquiry Concerning Political Justice by William Godwin

    William Godwin (3 March 1756 – 7 April 1836) was an English journalist, political philosopher and novelist. He is considered one of the first exponents of utilitarianism, and one of the first moder...

  3. 1153 . The Guide for the Perplexed by Moses Maimonides

    The Guide for the Perplexed is one of the major works of Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, better known as Maimonides or "the Rambam". It was written in the 12th century in the form of a three-volume letter ...

  4. 1154 . Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases by Peter Mark Roget

    Peter Mark Roget FRS (UK: /ˈrɒʒeɪ/, US: /roʊˈʒeɪ/; 18 January 1779 – 12 September 1869) was a British physician, natural theologian and lexicographer. He is best known for publishing, in 1852, the ...

  5. 1155 . The Rhetoric of Fiction by Wayne C Booth

  6. 1156 . A tour thro' the whole island of Great Britain by Daniel Defoe

    A tour thro' the whole island of Great Britain is an account of his travels by English author Daniel Defoe, first published in three volumes between 1724 and 1727.[1] Other than Robinson Crusoe, To...

  7. 1157 . In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: Prose by Alice Walker

    Walker’s collection of early nonfiction serves as the manifesto of a young artist—and an illuminating self-portrait What is a womanist? Alice Walker sets out to define the concept in this anthology...

    - Google
  8. 1158 . The New Fiction by Joe David Bellamy

  9. 1159 . An inquiry into the causes and effects of the variolae vaccinae by Edward Jenner

  10. 1160 . A Drinking Life: A Memoir by Pete Hamill

    As a child during the Depression and World War II, Pete Hamill learned early that drinking was an essential part of being a man, inseparable from the rituals of celebration, mourning, friendship, r...

    - Google
  11. 1161 . Documents of Modern Art by Robert Motherwell

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  12. 1162 . Psychology of the Unconscious by C. G. Jung

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  13. 1163 . Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson by George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff

  14. 1164 . Theory of Games and Economic Behavior by John Von Neumann

    Theory of Games and Economic Behavior, published in 1944 by Princeton University Press, is a book by mathematician John von Neumann and economist Oskar Morgenstern which is widely considered the gr...

  15. 1165 . The Masters and the Slaves by Gilberto Freyre

    Gilberto de Mello Freyre (March 15, 1900 – July 18, 1987) was a Brazilian sociologist, cultural anthropologist, historian, journalist and congressman. His best-known work is a sociological treatise...

  16. 1166 . On Aggression by Konrad Lorenz

    On Aggression (1966) is a book by ethologist Konrad Lorenz. As he writes in the prologue, "the subject of this book is aggression, that is to say the fighting instinct in beast and man which is dir...

  17. 1167 . Brief Lives by John Aubrey

    Brief Lives is a collection of short biographies written by John Aubrey (1626–1697) in the last decades of the 17th century.

  18. 1168 . The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer

    The publication of Germaine Greer's The Female Eunuch in 1970 was a landmark event, raising eyebrows and ire while creating a shock wave of recognition in women around the world with its steadfast ...

    - Google
  19. 1169 . Earth: An Intimate History by Richard Fortey

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  20. 1170 . For a New Novel by Alain Robbe-Grillet

    Alain Robbe-Grillet (French pronunciation: [alɛ̃ ʁɔb ɡʁiˈje]) (18 August 1922 – 18 February 2008), was a French writer and filmmaker. He was, along with Nathalie Sarraute, Michel Butor and Claude S...

  21. 1171 . The World Without Us by Alan Weisman

    The World Without Us is a non-fiction book about what would happen to the natural and built environment if humans suddenly disappeared, written by American journalist Alan Weisman and published by ...

  22. 1172 . Masscult and Midcult: Essays Against the American Grain by Dwight Macdonald

    Political radical, trenchant essayist, and impresario of the New York intellectuals, Dwight Macdonald was one of the towering figures of twentieth-century American letters. In his most famous and c...

    - Google
  23. 1173 . The Immense Journey by Loren Eiseley

    Anthropologist and naturalist Loren Eiseley blends scientific knowledge and imaginative vision in this story of man. From the Paperback edition.

    - Google
  24. 1174 . The Course in Positive Philosophy by Auguste Comte

    The Course in Positivist Philosophy (Cours de Philosophie Positive) was a series of texts written by the French philosopher of science and founding sociologist, Auguste Comte, between 1830 and 1842...

  25. 1175 . The History of the World by Sir Walter Raleigh

    The History of the World: In Five Books. Viz. Treating of the Beginning and First Ages of Same from the Creation Unto Abraham. of the Birth of Abraham to the Destruction of Jerusalem to the Time of...

    - Google
  26. 1176 . On the Fabric of the Human Body by Andreas Vesalius

    De humani corporis fabrica libri septem (Latin for "On the fabric of the human body in seven books") is a set of books on human anatomy written by Andreas Vesalius (1514–1564) and published in 1543.

    - Google
  27. 1177 . Experiments on Plant Hybridization by Gregor Mendel

    Written in 1865 by Gregor Mendel, Experiments on Plant Hybridization (German: Versuche über Pflanzen-Hybriden) was the result after years spent studying genetic traits in pea plants. Mendel read hi...

  28. 1178 . The Joy of Sex by Alex Comfort

    The Joy of Sex is an illustrated sex manual by Alex Comfort, M.B., Ph.D., first published in 1972. An updated edition was released in September, 2008.

  29. 1179 . The Weather Makers by Tim Flannery

    The Weather Makers: The History and Future Impact of Climate Change (2005) is a book by Tim Flannery.

  30. 1180 . Parliament of Whores by P. J. O'Rourke

    Called "an everyman's guide to Washington" (The New York Times), P. J. O'Rourke's savagely funny and national best-seller Parliament of Whores has become a classic in understanding the workings of ...

    - Google
  31. 1181 . A Book of Mediterranean Food by Elizabeth David

    A Book of Mediterranean Food - published in 1950 - was Elizabeth David's first book and it is based on a collection of recipes she made while living in France, Italy, the Greek islands and Egypt. '...

    - Google
  32. 1182 . March: Book One by John Lewis

    Congressman John Lewis (GA-5) is an American icon, one of the key figures of the civil rights movement. His commitment to justice and nonviolence has taken him from an Alabama sharecropper's farm t...

    - Google
  33. 1183 . Encyclicals of Pope John XXIII by Pope John XXIII

    Pope John XXIII issued eight Papal Encyclicals during his five-year reign as Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, from his election on October 28, 1958 until his death on June 3, 1963. Two of his enc...

  34. 1184 . Our Bodies, Ourselves by Our Bodies, Ourselves

    Our Bodies, Ourselves is a book about women's health and sexuality produced by the nonprofit organization Our Bodies Ourselves (originally called the Boston Women's Health Book Collective). First p...

  35. 1185 . The Names by N. Scott Momaday

    The Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist recalls the significant events and ventures of his own life, his own land, and his own people, recreating his experiences as an American Indian and those of his ...

    - Google
  36. 1186 . Coming into the Country by John McPhee

    Coming into the Country is an unforgettable account of Alaska and Alaskans. It is a rich tapestry of vivid characters, observed landscapes, and descriptive narrative, in three principal segments th...

    - Google
  37. 1187 . Happiness in Marriage by Margaret Sanger

  38. 1188 . The Edward Hoagland Reader by Edward Hoagland

  39. 1189 . Enemies of Promise by Cyril Connolly

    “Whom the gods wish to destroy,” writes Cyril Connolly, “they first call promising.” First published in 1938 and long out of print, Enemies of Promise, an “inquiry into the problem of how to write ...

    - Google
  40. 1190 . Creatures that Once Were Men by Maksim Gorky

  41. 1191 . The Water Is Wide by Pat Conroy

    The bestselling Pat Conroy memoir—now available as an ebook The moving story of a young teacher’s experience on an island forgotten by the world Though the children of Yamacraw Island live less tha...

    - Google
  42. 1192 . The Empathy Exams: Essays by Leslie Jamison

    From personal loss to phantom diseases, The Empathy Exams is a bold and brilliant collection, winner of the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize A Publishers Weekly Top Ten Essay Collection of Spring 20...

    - Google
  43. 1193 . The New Science by Giambattista Vico

  44. 1194 . Memories, Dreams, Reflections by Carl Jung

    Memories, Dreams, Reflections (original German title Erinnerungen Träume Gedanken) is a partially autobiographical book by Swiss psychologist Carl Jung and associate Aniela Jaffé. The book details ...

  45. 1195 . Nothing to be Frightened Of by Julian Barnes

    "I don’t believe in God, but I miss him." So begins Julian Barnes’s brilliant new book that is, among many things, a family memoir, an exchange with his brother (a philosopher), a meditation on mor...

    - Google
  46. 1196 . The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux

    First published more than thirty years ago, Paul Theroux's strange, unique, and hugely entertaining railway odyssey has become a modern classic of travel literature. Here Theroux recounts his early...

    - Google
  47. 1197 . In the Shadow of Man by Jane Goodall

  48. 1198 . The Diary of Samuel Pepys by Samuel Pepys

    On 1 January 1660 ("1 January 1659/1660" in contemporary terms), Pepys began to keep a diary. He recorded his daily life for almost ten years. This record of a decade of Pepys' life is more than a ...

  49. 1199 . Domestic Manners of the Americans by Fanny Trollope

    Published in 1832, the book presents a lively portrait of early 19th-century America as observed by a woman of rare intelligence and keen perception. Trollope left no stone unturned, commenting on ...

    - Google
  50. 1200 . Metaphors of Memory by D. Draaisma

    What is memory? It is at the same time ephemeral, unreliable and essential to everything we do. Without memory we lose our sense of identity, reasoning, even our ability to perform simple physical ...

    - Google