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. 1251 . 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...

  2. 1252 . Ever Since Darwin: Reflections in Natural History by Stephen Jay Gould

    Stephen Jay Gould reexamines Darwin's theory in light of the findings of modern evolutionary biology and shows the ways in which biological theories have been concocted to justify social ills

    - Google
  3. 1253 . For the Union Dead by Robert Lowell

    For the Union Dead is a 1964 poem by Robert Lowell, published in a book of the same name. It was written in response to Allen Tate's 1928 poem Ode to the Confederate Dead. Robert Gould Shaw and th...

  4. 1254 . The School and the Child by John Dewey

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  5. 1255 . Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching by Mychal Denzel Smith

    New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice How do you learn to be a black man in America? For young black men today, it means coming of age during the presidency of Barack Obama. It means witnessin...

    - Google
  6. 1256 . 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...

  7. 1257 . 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
  8. 1258 . 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 ...

  9. 1259 . First Principles by Herbert Spencer

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  10. 1260 . 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...

  11. 1261 . Hydriotaphia, Urn Burial by Sir Thomas Browne

    Hydriotaphia, Urn Burial, or, a Discourse of the Sepulchral Urns lately found in Norfolk is a work by Sir Thomas Browne, published in 1658 as the first part of a two-part work that concludes with T...

  12. 1262 . The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell

    The Road to Wigan Pier is a book by the British writer George Orwell, first published in 1937. The first half of this work documents his sociological investigations of the bleak living conditions a...

  13. 1263 . 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
  14. 1264 . 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
  15. 1265 . The New Fiction by Joe David Bellamy

  16. 1266 . 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...

  17. 1267 . 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...

  18. 1268 . 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...

  19. 1269 . 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
  20. 1270 . 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.

  21. 1271 . Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus by John Gray

    Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus (published in May 1992) is a book by John Gray offering many suggestions for improving men-women relationships in couples by understanding the communication ...

  22. 1272 . 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...

  23. 1273 . What It Takes by Richard Ben Cramer

  24. 1274 . Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World by Mark Kurlansky

    A book about Cod.

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  25. 1275 . 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. 1276 . Surrealist Manifesto by André Breton

  27. 1277 . Intelligent Life in the Universe by Carl Sagan

  28. 1278 . 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
  29. 1279 . 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
  30. 1280 . 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...

  31. 1281 . 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...

  32. 1282 . Philosophy of Modern Music by Theodor Adorno

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  33. 1283 . 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
  34. 1284 . 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...

  35. 1285 . 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...

  36. 1286 . 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...

  37. 1287 . 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
  38. 1288 . An inquiry into the causes and effects of the variolae vaccinae by Edward Jenner

  39. 1289 . The Nude: A Study in Ideal Form by Kenneth Clark

    From the art of the Greeks to that of Renoir and Moore, this work surveys the ever-changing fashions in what has constituted the ideal nude as a basis of humanist form.

    - Google
  40. 1290 . The Montessori Method by Maria Montessori

    The Montessori method is a child-centered, alternative educational method based on the child development theories originated by Italian educator Maria Montessori (1870–1952) in the late nineteenth ...

  41. 1291 . The Engineering of Consent by Edward Bernays

    "The Engineering of Consent" is an essay by Edward Bernays first published in 1947. He defines "engineering consent" as the art of manipulating people; specifically, the American citizen, who are d...

  42. 1292 . 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 ...

  43. 1293 . Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

    The author of The Caged Virgin recounts the story of her life, from her traditional Muslim childhood in Somalia and escape from a forced marriage to her efforts to promote women's rights while surv...

    - Google
  44. 1294 . The Confessions of Nat Turner by Nat Turner, Thomas R. Gray

    Nat Turner (October 2, 1800 – November 11, 1831) was an African-American slave who led a slave rebellion of slaves and free blacks in Southampton County, Virginia on August 21, 1831 that resulted i...

    - Google
  45. 1295 . On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church by Martin Luther

    Although the term Babylonian captivity, or Babylonian exile, typically refers to the deportation and exile of the Jews of the ancient Kingdom of Judah to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar II in 586 BC, in ...

  46. 1296 . My Life and Hard Times by James Thurber

    Widely hailed as one of the finest humorist of the twentieth century, James Thurber looks back at his own life growing up in Columbus, Ohio, with the same humor and sharp wit that defined his famou...

    - Google
  47. 1297 . The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660-1783 by Alfred Thayer Mahan

    The Influence of Sea Power Upon History: 1660–1783 is a history of naval warfare published in 1890 by Alfred Thayer Mahan. It details the role of sea power during the seventeenth and eighteenth cen...

    - Google
  48. 1298 . Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays by Zadie Smith

    "[These essays] reflect a lively, unselfconscious, rigorous, erudite, and earnestly open mind that's busy refining its view of life, literature, and a great deal in between." -Los Angeles Times Spl...

    - Google
  49. 1299 . 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
  50. 1300 . The Logic of Scientific Discovery by Karl Popper

    Logik der Forschung is a 1934 book by Karl Popper. It was originally written in German, but reformulated in English by Popper himself some years later, to be published as The Logic of Scientific Di...