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. 151 . And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts

    And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic is a nonfiction book written by San Francisco Chronicle journalist Randy Shilts, published in 1987. It chronicles the discovery and s...

  2. 152 . Ten Days That Shook the World by John Reed

    Ten Days that Shook the World (1919) is a book by American journalist and socialist John Reed about the October Revolution in Russia in 1917 which Reed experienced firsthand. Reed followed many of ...

  3. 153 . On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres by Nicolaus Copernicus

    De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres), first printed in 1543 in Nuremberg, is the seminal work on the heliocentric theory of astronomer Nicolaus Copernicu...

  4. 154 . Hippocratic Corpus by Hippocrates

    The Hippocratic Corpus, Hippocratic Collection, or Hippocratic Canon, is a collection of around seventy early medical works from ancient Greece strongly associated with the ancient Greek physician ...

  5. 155 . The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care by Benjamin Spock

    The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care (often referred to simply as Baby and Child Care), written by Benjamin Spock, was first published on 14 July 1946, and is one of the biggest best-seller...

  6. 156 . How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

    Dale Breckenridge Carnegie (originally Carnagey until 1922 and possibly somewhat later) (November 24, 1888 – November 1, 1955) was an American writer and lecturer and the developer of famous course...

  7. 157 . Eminent Victorians by Lytton Strachey

    Eminent Victorians is a book by Lytton Strachey (the oldest member of the Bloomsbury Group), first published in 1918 and consisting of biographies of four leading figures from the Victorian era. It...

  8. 158 . Tristes Tropiques by Claude Lévi-Strauss

    A milestone in the study of culture from the father of structural anthropology. This watershed work records Claude Lévi-Strauss's search for "a human society reduced to its most basic expression." ...

    - Google
  9. 159 . Journals: 1889-1913 by André Gide

    Beginning with a single entry for the year 1889, when he was twenty, and continuing throughout his life, the Journals of Andre Gide constitute an enlightening, moving, and endlessly fascinating chr...

    - Google
  10. 160 . History of My Life by Giacomo Casanova

    The colorful memoirs of the legendary eighteenth-century lover recall not only his amorous exploits, but also his diverse careers as a gambler, businessman, diplomat, entertainer, politician, con a...

    - Google
  11. 161 . The Theory of the Leisure Class by Thorstein Veblen

  12. 162 . The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

    A national bestseller when it first appeared in 1963, The Fire Next Time galvanized the nation and gave passionate voice to the emerging civil rights movement. At once a powerful evocation of James...

    - Google
  13. 163 . Roll, Jordan, Roll by Eugene Genovese

    This weighty book intends to "tell the story of slave life as carefully and accurately as possible."

  14. 164 . Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig

    Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values is the first of Robert M. Pirsig's texts in which he explores his Metaphysics of Quality. The 1974 book describes, in first person,...

  15. 165 . An American Dilemma by Gunnar Myrdal

    An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy is a 1944 study of race relations authored by Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal and funded by The Carnegie Foundation. The foundation chose...

  16. 166 . Christ Stopped at Eboli: The Story of a Year by Carlo Levi

    It was to Lucania, a desolate land in southern Italy, that Carlo Levi—a doctor, painter, philosopher, and man of letters—was confined as a political prisoner because of his opposition to Italy’s Fa...

    - Google
  17. 167 . The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright

    The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 is a historical look at the way in which Al-Qaeda came into being, the background for various terrorist attacks and how they were investigated, and ...

  18. 168 . The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin

    The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin is the traditional name for the unfinished record of his own life written by Benjamin Franklin from 1771 to 1790; however, Franklin himself appears to have ca...

  19. 169 . Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond

    Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies is a 1997 book by Jared Diamond, professor of geography and physiology at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). In 1998 it won a Pulitze...

  20. 170 . The Mismeasure of Man by Stephen Jay Gould

    The Mismeasure of Man is a 1981 book written by the Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould (1941–2002). The book is a history and critique of the methods and motivations underlying biological det...

  21. 171 . The Conservative Mind by Russell Kirk

    The Conservative Mind by Russell Kirk is arguably one of the greatest contributions to twentieth-century American Conservatism. Brilliant in every respect, from its conception to its choice of sign...

  22. 172 . A Bright Shining Lie by Neil Sheehan

    A Bright Shining Lie is a book by Neil Sheehan, a former New York Times reporter who covered the Vietnam War. It is about U.S. Army retired Lieutenant Colonel John Paul Vann and the United States i...

  23. 173 . Histories by Cornelius Tacitus

    This edition, first published in 2002, provides a commentary suitable for students on the Latin text of Histories Book II.

    - Google
  24. 174 . Aspects of the Novel by E. M. Forster

    The wit and lively, informed originality Forster employs in his study of the novel has made this book a classic. Deliberately avoiding the chronological development approach of what he classifies '...

  25. 175 . Hell's Angels by Hunter S. Thompson

  26. 176 . Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela by Nelson Mandela

    The book that inspired the major new motion picture Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. Nelson Mandela is one of the great moral and political leaders of our time: an international hero whose lifelong d...

    - Google
  27. 177 . The Journal of Jules Renard by Jules Renard

    Spanning from 1887 to a month before his death in 1910, The Journal of Jules Renard is a unique autobiographical masterpiece that, though celebrated abroad and cited as a principle influence by wri...

    - Google
  28. 178 . Up from Slavery by Booker T. Washington

    Up from Slavery is the 1901 autobiography of Booker T. Washington detailing his slow and steady rise from a slave child during the Civil War, to the difficulties and obstacles he overcame to get an...

  29. 179 . Children of Crisis by Robert Coles

    Children of Crisis is an award winning series of 5 volumes by child psychiatrist and author Robert Coles published by Little, Brown and Company between 1967 and 1977; a social study of children in ...

  30. 180 . The Age of Reform by Richard Hofstadter

    The Age of Reform is a 1955 Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Richard Hofstadter. The book is an American history that traces events from the Populist Movement of the 1890s through the Progressive Era...

  31. 181 . The Frontier in American History by Frederick Jackson Turner

    One of the most influential and important books written about the impact of frontier life on a transplanted civilization. Reprinted from original 1920 edition, this edition lucidly reflects Jackson...

  32. 182 . The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan

    One of the New York Times Book Review's Ten Best Books of the Year Winner of the James Beard Award Author of #1 New York Times Bestsellers In Defense of Food and Food Rules Today, buffeted by one f...

    - Google
  33. 183 . A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers

    A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (ISBN 0-330-48455-9) is a memoir by Dave Eggers released in 2000. It chronicles his stewardship of younger brother Christopher "Toph" Eggers following the ...

  34. 184 . Nature and Destiny of Man by Reinhold Niebuhr

    Arguably Niebuhl's most important work, this book offers a sustained articulation of his theological ethics and is considered a landmark in 20th-century thought. This book issues a challenge to Wes...

  35. 185 . Up in the Old Hotel by Joseph Mitchell

    Mitchell explored a New York City that has now vanished in his four books and his classic reportage for The New Yorker. Mitchell's eccentrics live again in this omnibus volume that contains all of ...

  36. 186 . I Ching by China

    The I Ching, Classic of Changes or Book of Changes; also called Zhouyi, is one of the oldest of the Chinese classic texts. The book contains a divination system comparable to Western geomancy or th...

  37. 187 . A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah

    In a heart-wrenching, candid autobiography, a human rights activist offers a firsthand account of war from the perspective of a former child soldier, detailing the violent civil war that wracked hi...

    - Google
  38. 188 . In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick

    In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex is a National Book Award winning work of maritime history by Nathaniel Philbrick. It tells the story of the Whaleship Essex from the poin...

  39. 189 . Common Ground by J. Anthony Lukas

    The book traces the history of three families: the African-American Twymons, the Irish McGoffs and the Yankee Divers. It gives brief genealogical histories of each families, focusing on how the eve...

  40. 190 . Main Currents in American Thought by Vernon L Parrington

    Main Currents in American Thought

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  41. 191 . Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin

    Notes of a Native Son collects ten of Baldwin's essays, which had previously appeared in such magazines as Harper's Magazine, Partisan Review, and The New Leader. The essays mostly tackle issues of...

  42. 192 . Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner

    Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything is a 2005 non-fiction book by University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt and New York Times journalist Stephen J. Dubner. T...

  43. 193 . The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith

    An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (generally referred to by the short title The Wealth of Nations) is the magnum opus written by Scottish economist and moral philosophe...

  44. 194 . A Mathematician's Apology by G. H. Hardy

    A 1940 essay by British mathematician G. H. Hardy. It concerns the aesthetics of mathematics with some personal content, and gives the layman an insight into the mind of a working mathematician.

  45. 195 . Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered by E. F. Schumacher

    Small Is Beautiful is Oxford-trained economist E. F. Schumacher’s classic call for the end of excessive consumption. Schumacher inspired such movements as “Buy Locally” and “Fair Trade,” while voic...

    - Google
  46. 196 . A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold

    Aldo Leopold's A Sand County Almanac has enthralled generations of nature lovers and conservationists and is indeed revered by everyone seriously interested in protecting the natural world. Hailed ...

    - Google
  47. 197 . Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard

    Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is a 1974 nonfiction narrative book by Annie Dillard. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1975. The book is about Dillard's experiences at Tinker Creek, which is located in Virg...

  48. 198 . Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

    Me Talk Pretty One Day, published in 2000, is a bestselling collection of essays by American humorist David Sedaris. The book is separated into two parts. The first consists of essays about Sedaris...

  49. 199 . The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins

    The million copy international bestseller, critically acclaimed and translated into over 25 languages. This 30th anniversary edition includes a new introduction from the author as well as the origi...

    - Google
  50. 200 . Principia Mathematica by Issac Newton