The Greatest Nonfiction Books


How is this list generated?


This list is generated from 129 "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. 1201 . The Hasheesh Eater by Fitz Hugh Ludlow

    The Hasheesh Eater is an autobiographical book by Fitz Hugh Ludlow describing the author's altered states of consciousness and philosophical flights of fancy while he was using a cannabis extract. ...

    - Google
  2. 1202 . 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...

  3. 1203 . 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...

  4. 1204 . Outlines of Pyrrhonism by Sextus Empiricus

    Philosophical skepticism (from Greek σκέψις - skepsis meaning "enquiry" - UK and traditional spelling, scepticism) is both a philosophical school of thought and a method that crosses disciplines an...

  5. 1205 . London Labour and the London Poor by Henry Mayhew

    London Labour and the London Poor is a work of Victorian journalism by Henry Mayhew. In the 1840s he observed, documented, and described the state of working people in London for a series of articl...

  6. 1206 . 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
  7. 1207 . My Kind of Place by Susan Orlean

    The best-selling author of The Orchid Thief presents a selection of her intriguing travel essays, recounting her adventures in a variety of exotic locales and global subcultures, from the African m...

    - Google
  8. 1208 . Superfiction by Joe David Bellamy

    Short stories by such writers as Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Joyce Carol Oates, John Gardner, and John Updike reveal experiments with myth and parable and other trends in American fiction during the past d...

  9. 1209 . House by Tracy Kidder

    Tracy Kidder takes readers to the heart of the American Dream: the building of a family's first house with all its day-to-day frustrations, crises, tensions, challenges, and triumphs.

    - Google
  10. 1210 . Hunger of Memory by Richard Rodriguez

    Hunger of Memory is the story of Mexican-American Richard Rodriguez, who begins his schooling in Sacramento, California, knowing just 50 words of English, and concludes his university studies in th...

    - Google
  11. 1211 . 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
  12. 1212 . Novum Organum by Francis Bacon

    The Novum Organum is a philosophical work by Francis Bacon published in 1620. The title translates as "new instrument". This is a reference to Aristotle's work Organon, which was his treatise on lo...

  13. 1213 . 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
  14. 1214 . 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
  15. 1215 . The Weather Makers by Tim Flannery

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

  16. 1216 . 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
  17. 1217 . Patterns of Culture by Ruth Benedict

  18. 1218 . 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
  19. 1219 . 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
  20. 1220 . Works of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz by Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz

    Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz (German pronunciation: [ˈgɔtfrit ˈvɪlhɛlm fən ˈlaɪpnɪts]; 1 July 1646 [OS: 21 June] – 14 November 1716) was a German philosopher, polymath and mathematician who wrote ...

  21. 1221 . 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
  22. 1222 . Fargo Rock City by Chuck Klosterman

    Fargo Rock City: A Heavy Metal Odyssey in Rural Nörth Daköta is a book written by Chuck Klosterman, first published by Scribner in 2001. It is a history of heavy metal music, with a particular emph...

  23. 1223 . 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.

  24. 1224 . 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 ...

  25. 1225 . Reliable Essays: The Best of Clive James by Clive James

    Including his most memorable pieces – his ‘Postcard from Rome’, his observations on Margaret Thatcher, his insights into Heaney, Larkin and Orwell – this book also contains brilliantly funny examin...

    - Google
  26. 1226 . 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
  27. 1227 . 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
  28. 1228 . The Economic Consequences of the Peace by John Maynard Keynes

    The Economic Consequences of the Peace (1919) is a book written and published by the British economist John Maynard Keynes.[1] After the First World War, Keynes attended the Paris Peace Conference ...

  29. 1229 . The True Believer by Eric Hoffer

    A stevedore on the San Francisco docks in the 1940s, Eric Hoffer wrote philosophical treatises in his spare time while living in the railroad yards. The True Believer -- the first and most famous o...

    - Google
  30. 1230 . The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell

    In this New York Times bestseller, the author of Assassination Vacation "brings the [Puritan] era wickedly to life" (Washington Post). To this day, America views itself as a Puritan nation, but Sar...

    - Google
  31. 1231 . Webster's Dictionary by Noah Webster

    Webster's Dictionary is any of the dictionaries edited by Noah Webster in the early nineteenth century, and numerous related or unrelated dictionaries that have adopted the Webster's name. "Webster...

  32. 1232 . 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...

  33. 1233 . Little Wilson and Big God by Anthony Burgess

    These are Anthony Burgess's candid confessions: he was seduced at the age of nine by an older woman; whilst serving in Gibraltar in World War II he was thrown into jail on VE Day for calling Franco...

    - Google
  34. 1234 . Uncertainty Principle by Werner Heisenberg

  35. 1235 . Ariel by Sylvia Plath

    The poems in Sylvia Plath's Ariel, including many of her best-known such as 'Lady Lazarus', 'Daddy', 'Edge' and 'Paralytic', were all written between the publication in 1960 of Plath's first book, ...

    - Google
  36. 1236 . Picture by Lillian Ross

    In the spring of 1950, when New Yorker staff writer Lillian Ross heard that John Huston was planning to make a film of Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage, she decided she would follow the mov...

    - Google
  37. 1237 . Psychology of the Unconscious by Carl Jung

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  38. 1238 . Documents of Modern Art by Robert Motherwell

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  39. 1239 . 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
  40. 1240 . A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge by George Berkeley

    A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (Commonly called "Treatise" when referring to Berkeley's works) is a 1710 work by Anglo-Irish Empiricist philosopher George Berkeley. This bo...

  41. 1241 . The Pleasure of the Text by Roland Barthes

    The Pleasure of the Text is a short book published in 1975 by Roland Barthes. It was written in French and later translated into English. Barthes sets out some of his ideas about literary theory.

  42. 1242 . The Rhetoric of Fiction by Wayne C Booth

  43. 1243 . Anabasis by Xenophon

    Xenophon was born in the fifth century b.c. near Athens. His Anabasis, or “Up-Country March,” an account of his life as a Greek soldier, has endured through the ages.

    - Google
  44. 1244 . Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis

    Written after his wife's tragic death as a way of surviving the "mad midnight moment," A Grief Observed is C.S. Lewis's honest reflection on the fundamental issues of life, death, and faith in the ...

    - Google
  45. 1245 . 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...

  46. 1246 . 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
  47. 1247 . The Blair Years by Alastair Campbell

    The Blair Years is a book by Alastair Campbell, featuring extracts from his diaries detailing the period during which he worked for Tony Blair. Published by Random House, the book was released on 9...

  48. 1248 . Confessions of an English Opium-Eater by Thomas de Quincey

    Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1821) is an autobiographical account written by Thomas De Quincey, about his laudanum addiction and its effect on his life. The Confessions was "the first maj...

  49. 1249 . Surrealist Manifesto by André Breton

  50. 1250 . Intelligent Life in the Universe by Carl Sagan