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. 1201 . 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 ...

  2. 1202 . In the Shadow of Man by Jane Goodall

  3. 1203 . Black Elk Speaks by John G. Neihardt

    "Black Elk Speaks is the story of the Lakota visionary and healer Nicholas Black Elk (1863-1950) and his people during the momentous twilight years of the nineteenth century. Black Elk met the dist...

    - Google
  4. 1204 . 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
  5. 1205 . Uncertainty Principle by Werner Heisenberg

  6. 1206 . Natural History by Pliny (the Elder)

    The Natural History (Latin: Naturalis Historia) is an early encyclopedia published circa AD 77–79 by Pliny the Elder. It is one of the largest single works to have survived from the Roman Empire to...

    - Google
  7. 1207 . 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.

  8. 1208 . How We Live by Rust Hills

  9. 1209 . Taking the World in for Repairs by Richard Selzer

    A collection of a dozen short stories, essays, and memoirs originally published in 1986, and now available in trade paperback. Richard Selzer retired as a surgeon in 1984 to write about his profess...

    - Google
  10. 1210 . Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes by Robert Louis Stevenson

    Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes (1879) is one of Robert Louis Stevenson's earliest published works and is considered a pioneering classic of outdoor literature.

  11. 1211 . 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
  12. 1212 . The Histories by Polybius

    Polybius’ Histories (Greek: Ἱστορίαι Historíai) were originally written in 40 volumes, only the first five of which are extant in their entirety. The bulk of the work is passed down to us through c...

    - Google
  13. 1213 . Documents of Modern Art by Robert Motherwell

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  14. 1214 . A Life's Work: On Becoming a Mother by Rachel Cusk

    Rachel Cusk (born in Canada in 1967) is an author.

  15. 1215 . 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
  16. 1216 . Recollected Essays by Wendell Berry

    These eleven essays, selected by the author from five previous collections, provides us with a single volume tracing Mr. Berry's desire to 'make myself responsibly at home in this world and in my n...

    - Google
  17. 1217 . Reflections from Captivity by Ho Chi Minn

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  18. 1218 . The Uses of Literacy by Richard Hoggart

    This pioneering work examines changes in the life and values of the English working class in response to mass media. First published in 1957, it mapped out a new methodology in cultural studies bas...

    - Google
  19. 1219 . The Last Days of Hitler by Hugh Trevor-Roper

    Late in 1945, Trevor-Roper was appointed by British Intelligence in Germany to investigate conflicting evidence surrounding Hitler's final days and to produce a definitive report on his death. The ...

    - Google
  20. 1220 . Culture and Anarchy by Matthew Arnold

    Culture and Anarchy is a series of essays by Matthew Arnold. According to his view advanced in the book, "Culture is a study of perfection". His often quoted phrase "[culture is] the best which has...

    - Google
  21. 1221 . Psychological Types by Carl Jung

  22. 1222 . A Sense of Where You Are by John McPhee

  23. 1223 . 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...

  24. 1224 . Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

    The founder of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama recounts his experiences as a lawyer working to assist those desperately in need, reflecting on his pursuit of the ideal of compas...

    - Google
  25. 1225 . The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama

    The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream is the second book written by then-Senator Barack Obama. In the fall of 2006 it became number one on both the New York Times and Amaz...

  26. 1226 . The Paris Review Interviews by Paris Review

    The Paris Review is an English-language literary magazine based in New York City. As its name suggests it was founded in Paris in 1953, for "the good writers and good poets, the non-drumbeaters and...

  27. 1227 . Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom: The Golden Age of Rock by Nik Cohn

    Written in 1968 and revised in 1972, Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom was the first book to celebrate the language and the primal essence of rock 'n' roll. But it was much more than that. It was a cogent...

    - Google
  28. 1228 . The City of God by Saint Augustine

    De Civitate Dei (full title: De Civitate Dei contra Paganos, translated in English as The City of God Against the Pagans) or The City of God is a book of Christian philosophy written in Latin by Au...

    - Google
  29. 1229 . Self-Consciousness by John Updike

    John Updike’s memoirs consist of six Emersonian essays that together trace the inner shape of the life, up to the age of fifty-five, of a relatively fortunate American male. The author has attempte...

    - Google
  30. 1230 . Household Education by Harriet Martineau

    This protest at the lack of women’s education was as pioneering as its author was in Victorian literary circles.

  31. 1231 . 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
  32. 1232 . The Diary of Fanny Burney by Fanny Burney

    Burney’s acutely observed memoirs open a window on the literary and courtly circles of late 18th-century England.

  33. 1233 . A Life of Picasso by John Richardson

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  34. 1234 . Fiction and the Figures of Life by William H. Gass

  35. 1235 . 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
  36. 1236 . Being Jordan by Katie Price

  37. 1237 . The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne by Gilbert White

    The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne, or just The Natural History of Selborne is a book by English naturalist and ornithologist Gilbert White. It was first published in 1789 by his broth...

  38. 1238 . 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...

  39. 1239 . The World Within the Word by William H. Gass

  40. 1240 . Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands: Top Crime Story by Mary Seacole

    I was born in the town of Kingston, in the island of Jamaica, some time in the present century. As a female, and a widow, I may be well excused giving the precise date of this important event. But ...

    - Google
  41. 1241 . Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson by George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff

  42. 1242 . Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck

    A collectible 50th anniversary deluxe edition featuring an updated introduction by Jay Parini and first edition cover art and illustrated maps of Steinbeck’s route by Don Freeman In September 1960,...

    - Google
  43. 1243 . 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 ...

  44. 1244 . Patterns of Culture by Ruth Benedict

  45. 1246 . 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 ...

  46. 1247 . The Mind and Society by Vilfredo Pareto

    The Mind and Society (1916) is the English title of the seminal sociological work Trattato di Sociologia Generale by the Italian sociologist and economist Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923).

  47. 1248 . 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...

  48. 1249 . 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
  49. 1250 . 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