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. 1251 . A Life's Work: On Becoming a Mother by Rachel Cusk

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

  2. 1252 . 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...

  3. 1253 . 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...

  4. 1254 . 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
  5. 1255 . Symposium by Plato

    Translated with an Introduction and Notes by Christopher Gill.

    - Google
  6. 1256 . 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...

  7. 1257 . Awakenings by Oliver Sacks

    Awakenings--which inspired the major motion picture--is the remarkable story of a group of patients who contracted sleeping-sickness during the great epidemic just after World War I. Frozen for dec...

    - Google
  8. 1258 . Mencken Chrestomathy by H. L. Mencken

    Edited and annotated by H.L.M., this is a selection from his out-of-print writings. They come mostly from books—the six of the PREJUDICES series, A BOOK OF BURLESQUES, IN DEFENSE OF WOMEN, NOTES ON...

    - Google
  9. 1259 . 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.

  10. 1260 . Reflections from Captivity by Ho Chi Minn

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  11. 1261 . 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
  12. 1262 . A Homemade World by Hugh Kenner

    William Hugh Kenner (January 7, 1923 – November 24, 2003), was a Canadian literary scholar, critic and professor.

  13. 1263 . Psychological Types by Carl Jung

  14. 1264 . 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
  15. 1265 . 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...

  16. 1266 . 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
  17. 1267 . 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...

  18. 1268 . The Lost City of Z by David Grann

    The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon is the debut non-fiction book by American author David Grann. The book was published in 2009 and recounts the activities of the British ...

  19. 1269 . 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
  20. 1270 . 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...

  21. 1271 . Collected essays by Aldous Huxley

  22. 1272 . 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
  23. 1273 . The Writer on Her Work by Janet Sternburg

    Published to high praise "groundbreaking ...a landmark" (Poets & Writers) this was the first anthology to celebrate the diversity of women who write. Seventeen novelists, poets, and writers of nonf...

  24. 1274 . How the Other Half Lives by Jacob Riis

  25. 1275 . Lit: A Memoir by Mary Karr

    The author reveals how, shortly after giving birth to a child she adored, she drank herself into the same numbness that nearly devoured her charismatic but troubled mother, reaching the brink of su...

    - Google
  26. 1276 . Surrealist Manifesto by André Breton

  27. 1277 . A Sense of Where You Are by John McPhee

  28. 1278 . 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
  29. 1279 . 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
  30. 1281 . Catiline's War, The Jugurthine War, Histories by Sallust

    The only surviving works from one of the world's earliest historians, in important new translations Sallust's first published work, Catiline's War, contains the memorable history of the year 63, in...

    - Google
  31. 1282 . Crazy Salad: Some Things about Women by Nora Ephron

    A glimpse into the absurdities and realities of female existence in the early 1970s discusses the media, politics, the first female umpire, and beauty products.

    - Google
  32. 1283 . Intelligent Life in the Universe by Carl Sagan

  33. 1284 . 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
  34. 1285 . 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
  35. 1286 . The Anatomy of Melancholy by Robert Burton

    The Anatomy of Melancholy (full title: The Anatomy of Melancholy, What it is: With all the Kinds, Causes, Symptomes, Prognostickes, and Several Cures of it. In Three Maine Partitions with their sev...

  36. 1287 . Whoredom in Kimmage by Rosemary Mahoney

    An Irish-American writer returns to her homeland to pen several stories about contemporary Irish women, from Mad Minnie of Corofin to Mary Robinson, the first female president of Ireland. By the au...

    - Google
  37. 1288 . 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.

  38. 1289 . This Hallowed Ground by Bruce Catton

    This Hallowed Ground: The Story of the Union Side of the Civil War

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  39. 1290 . 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
  40. 1291 . The Great Tradition by F. R. Leavis

    'The great English novelists are Jane Austen, George Eliot, Henry James and Joseph Conrad.' So begins F. R. Leavis's most controversial book, The Great Tradition, an uncompromising critical-polemic...

    - Google
  41. 1292 . 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...

  42. 1293 . The life and letters of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin

    Benjamin Franklin FRS (January 17, 1706 [O.S. January 6, 1705] – April 17, 1790) was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States and in many ways was "the First American". A renowned polymath,...

    - Google
  43. 1294 . The Power Elite by C. Wright Mills

    The Power Elite is a book written by the sociologist, C. Wright Mills, in 1956. In it Mills called attention to the interwoven interests of the leaders of the military, corporate, and political ele...

  44. 1295 . 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.

  45. 1296 . The Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit

    The Faraway Nearby is a 2013 book by Rebecca Solnit. Containing writing reminiscent of memoir, literary criticism, travelogue, prose poetry, as well as analyses of myth, fairytale and narratives mo...

  46. 1297 . The Works of Archimedes by Archimedes

    Archimedes of Syracuse (/ˌɑːkɪˈmiːdiːz/; Greek: Ἀρχιμήδης; c. 287 BC – c. 212 BC) was an Ancient Greek mathematician, physicist, engineer, inventor, and astronomer. Although few details of his life...

    - Google
  47. 1298 . 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
  48. 1299 . Devotions upon Emergent Occasions by John Donne

    Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, or in full Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, and severall steps in my Sicknes, is a prose work by the English metaphysical poet and cleric in the Church of Engla...