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. 201 . The Worst Journey in the World by Robert Falcon Scott

    The Worst Journey in the World is a memoir of the 1910-1913 British Antarctic Expedition led by Robert Falcon Scott. It was written and published in 1922 by a survivor of the expedition, Apsley Che...

  2. 202 . Encyclopédie by Denis Diderot

    Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers (English: Encyclopedia, or a systematic dictionary of the sciences, arts, and crafts) was a general encyclopedia publish...

  3. 203 . The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer

    The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, by journalist William L. Shirer, is the first and most successful, large scale history of Nazi Germany in English for a general audience, first published in 19...

  4. 204 . Patriotic Gore by Edmund Wilson

    Critical/biographical portraits of such notable figures as Harriet Beecher Stowe, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Ambrose Bierce, Mary Chesnut, William Tecumseh Sherman, and Oliver Wendell Holme...

  5. 205 . Words by Jean Paul Sartre

    Jean-Paul Sartre was brought up at his grandfather's home. This book recalls his illusion-ridden childhood, lived within the confines of French provincialism in the years before World War I, and co...

    - Google
  6. 206 . The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks

    ‘The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat is populated by a cast as strange as that of the most fantastic fiction. The subject of this strange and wonderful book is what happens when things go wrong ...

    - Google
  7. 207 . Essays and Aphorisms by Arthur Schopenhauer

    One of the greatest philosophers of the nineteenth century, Schopenhauer (1788-1860) believed that human action is determined not by reason but by 'will' - the blind and irrational desire for physi...

    - Google
  8. 208 . The Making of the English Working Class by E. P. Thompson

    The Making of the English Working Class is an influential and pivotal work of English social history.

  9. 209 . The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad

    Two weeks after September 11th, award-winning journalist Åsne Seierstad went to Afghanistan to report on the conflict there. In the following spring she returned to live with an Afghan family for s...

    - Google
  10. 210 . Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama

  11. 211 . The Face of Battle by John Keegan

    The Face of Battle, is a 1976 non-fiction book on military history by the English military historian John Keegan. It deals with the structure of warfare in three time periods—medieval Europe, th...

  12. 212 . The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano by Olaudah Equiano

    The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Or Gustavus Vassa, The African, first published in 1789 in London,[1] is the autobiography of Olaudah Equiano. The narrative is argued to b...

  13. 213 . Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Alexander Brown

    Documents, personal narratives, and illustrations record the experiences of Native Americans during the nineteenth century.

    - Google
  14. 214 . The Unconscious by Sigmund Freud

    The Instance of the Letter in the Unconscious, or Reason Since Freud is an essay by the psychoanalytic theorist Jacques Lacan, originally delivered as a talk on May 9, 1957 and later published in L...

  15. 215 . Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes

    Birthday Letters, published in 1998 (ISBN 0-374-52581-1), is a collection of poetry by English poet and children's writer Ted Hughes. Released only months before Hughes's death, the collection won ...

  16. 216 . Being and Time by Martin Heidegger

    Being and Time is a book by German philosopher Martin Heidegger. Although written quickly, and despite the fact that Heidegger never completed the project outlined in the introduction, it remains h...

  17. 217 . Two Treatises of Government by John Locke

    Two Treatises of Government (or "Two Treatises of Government: In the Former, The False Principles, and Foundation of Sir Robert Filmer, and His Followers, Are Detected and Overthrown. The Latter Is...

  18. 218 . Future Shock: The Third Wave by Alvin Toffler

    Explores the nature and implications of a third wave of change that is now creating a new civilization with its own life-styles, jobs, sexual attitudes, concepts of family and love, economic struct...

    - Google
  19. 219 . Memoirs of Cardinal De Retz by Cardinal de Retz

    Jean François Paul de Gondi, cardinal de Retz (September 29, 1613 – August 24, 1679) was a French churchman, writer of memoirs, and agitator in the Fronde. - Wikipedia

    - Google
  20. 220 . The Hedgehog and the Fox by Isaiah Berlin

    Berlin expands upon this idea to divide writers and thinkers into two categories: hedgehogs, who view the world through the lens of a single defining idea (examples given include Plato, Lucretius, ...

  21. 221 . The Memoirs of the Duke of Saint-Simon on the Reign of Louis XIV. and the Regency by Louis de Rouvroy Saint-Simon (duc de)

    Louis de Rouvroy (16 January 1675 – 2 March 1755) commonly known as Saint-Simon was a French soldier, diplomat and writer of memoirs, was born in Paris (Hôtel Selvois, 6 rue Taranne, today at 175 B...

    - Google
  22. 222 . Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke

    Rilke's powerfully touching letters to an aspiring young poet At the start of the twentieth century, Rainer Maria Rilke wrote a series of letters to a young officer cadet, advising him on writing, ...

    - Google
  23. 223 . Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss

    Eats, Shoots & Leaves is a non-fiction book written by Lynne Truss, the former host of the BBC Radio 4's Cutting a Dash programme. In the book, published in 2003, Truss bemoans the state of punctua...

  24. 224 . Parting the Waters by Taylor Branch

    Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-63

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  25. 225 . Essays of E. B. White by E. B. White

    The classic collection by one of the greatest essayists of our time. White is the apotheosis of the American liberal now spurned and detested by the Left (and the cultural mainstream). His mesme...

  26. 226 . The Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin

    The Voyage of the Beagle is a title commonly given to the book written by Charles Darwin published in 1839 as his Journal and Remarks, which brought him considerable fame and respect. The title ref...

  27. 227 . Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression by Studs Terkel

    In this unique recreation of one of the most dramatic periods in modern American history, Studs Terkel recaptures the Great Depression of the 1930s in all its complexity. featuring a mosaic of memo...

    - Google
  28. 228 . Genetics and the Origin of Species by Theodosius Dobzhansky

    Genetics and the Origin of Species (ISBN 0-231-05475-0) is a 1937 book by the Ukrainian-American evolutionary biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky and one of the important books of the modern evolutiona...

  29. 229 . Coming of Age in Samoa by Margaret Mead

    Coming of Age in Samoa is a book by Margaret Mead based upon youth in Samoa and lightly relating to youth in America, first published in 1928. In the foreword to Coming of Age in Samoa, Mead's advi...

  30. 230 . Euclid's Elements by Euclid

    Euclid's Elements (Greek: Στοιχεῖα) is a mathematical and geometric treatise consisting of 13 books written by the Greek mathematician Euclid in Alexandria circa 300 BC. It is a collection of defin...

  31. 231 . The Harmony of the Worlds by Johannes Kepler

    Harmonices Mundi (Latin: The Harmony of the Worlds, 1619) is a book by Johannes Kepler. In the work Kepler discusses harmony and congruence in geometrical forms and physical phenomena. The final se...

  32. 232 . Enneads by Plotinus

    The Six Enneads, sometimes abbreviated to The Enneads or Enneads (Greek: Ἐννεάδες), is the collection of writings of Plotinus, edited and compiled by his student Porphyry (c. 270 AD). Plotinus was ...

  33. 233 . Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler

    Mein Kampf, in English: My Struggle, is a book by Adolf Hitler. It combines elements of autobiography with an exposition of Hitler's political ideology. Volume 1 of Mein Kampf was published in 1925...

  34. 234 . Smoking and Health by Surgeon General

  35. 235 . Dust Tracks on a Road: An Autobiography by Zora Neale Hurston

    First published in 1942 at the height of her popularity, Dust Tracks on a Road is Zora Neale Hurston's candid, funny, bold, and poignant autobiography, an imaginative and exuberant account of her r...

    - Google
  36. 236 . Satyagraha in South Africa by Gandhi

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  37. 237 . The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

    An intrepid voyage out to the frontiers of the latest thinking about love, language, and family Maggie Nelson's The Argonauts is a genre-bending memoir, a work of "autotheory" offering fresh, fierc...

    - Google
  38. 238 . Reveille in Washington by Margaret Leech

    Margaret Kernochan Leech (November 7, 1893 – February 24, 1974) also known as Margaret Pulitzer, was an American author and historian, who won two Pulitzer Prizes in history, for her books Reveille...

  39. 239 . Common Sense by Thomas Paine

  40. 240 . The Revolt of the Masses by José Ortega y Gasset

    In this work, Ortega traces the genesis of the "mass-man" and analyzes his constitution en route to describing the rise to power and action of the masses in society. Ortega is throughout quite crit...

  41. 241 . This Boy's Life by Tobias Wolff

    This Boy's Life is a memoir by Tobias Wolff first published in 1989. It describes the author's adolescence as he wanders the continental United States with his itinerant mother. The first leg of th...

  42. 242 . Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin

    Winner of the Lincoln Prize Acclaimed historian Doris Kearns Goodwin illuminates Lincoln's political genius in this highly original work, as the one-term congressman and prairie lawyer rises from o...

    - Google
  43. 243 . Rationalism in Politics by Michael Oakeshott

    Rationalism in Politics established the late Michael Oakeshott as the leading conservative political theorist in modern Britain. This expanded collection of essays astutely points out the limits of...

  44. 244 . The Ants by E. O. Wilson, Bert Hölldobler

    This book is primarily aimed at academics as a reference work, detailing the anatomy, physiology, social organization, ecology, and natural history of ants. The Ants is a Pulitzer Prize-winning...

  45. 245 . Economy and Society by Max Weber

    Alongside The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Economy and Society is considered to be one of Weber's most important works. Extremely broad in scope, the book covers numerous themes i...

  46. 246 . Sociobiology by Edward O. Wilson

    Sociobiology: The New Synthesis is a book written by E. O. Wilson, which started the sociobiology debate, one of the great scientific controversies in biology of the 20th century. Wilson popularize...

  47. 247 . The Habit of Being by Flannery O'Connor

    Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Special Award "I have come to think that the true likeness of Flannery O'Connor will be painted by herself, a self-portrait in words, to be found in her l...

  48. 248 . Voices from Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich

    Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster is a 2005 book by Svetlana Alexievich. Alexievich was a journalist living in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, at the time of the Chernoby...

  49. 249 . Centesimus Annus by Pope John Paul II

    Centesimus Annus (which is Latin for "hundredth year") was an encyclical written by Pope John Paul II in 1991, on the hundredth anniversary of Rerum Novarum. It is part of a larger body of writings...

  50. 250 . The Age of Jackson by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr

    Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. won the Pulitzer Prize for The Age of Jackson. It is a triumph of historical scholarship, analysis, and interpretation and throws much new light on a host of Americans, well...