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. 251 . The Pursuit of the Millennium by Norman Cohn

    The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Millenarians and Mystical Anarchists of the Middle Ages (1957, revised and expanded in 1970), is Norman Cohn's study of millenarian cult movements. Cov...

  2. 252 . The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert

    A major book about the future of the world, blending intellectual and natural history and field reporting into a powerful account of the mass extinction unfolding before our eyes Over the last half...

    - Google
  3. 253 . The Great Terror by Robert Conquest

    The Great Terror is a book by British writer Robert Conquest, published in 1968. It gave rise to an alternate title of the period in Soviet history known as the Great Purge. The complete title of t...

  4. 254 . The Noonday Demon by Andrew Solomon

    The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression is a 2001 memoir written by Andrew Solomon. It examines the personal, cultural, and scientific aspects of depression through Solomon's published interviews...

  5. 255 . Chronicles of Wasted Time by Malcolm Muggeridge

    autobiography of Malcolm Muggeridge.

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  6. 256 . América Hispánica: (1492-1898) by Guillermo Céspedes del Castillo

    No son tantos los libros escritos por historiadores españoles que merezcan el título de «clásicos». Sin la menor duda, América Hispánica (1492-1898) (Barcelona, Labor, 1983) es uno de ellos. Ponemo...

    - Google
  7. 257 . Metaphysics by Aristotle

    Metaphysics (Greek: τὰ μετὰ τὰ φυσικά; Latin: Metaphysica; lit: "the beyond the physical") is one of the principal works of Aristotle and one of the first major works of the branch of philosophy wi...

  8. 258 . The Art of Memory by Frances A. Yates

    The Art of Memory is a 1966 non-fiction book by British historian Frances A. Yates. The book follows the history of mnemonic systems from the classical period of Simonides of Ceos in Ancient Greece...

  9. 259 . Present at the Creation by Dean Acheson

    Acheson (1893-1971) was not only present at the creation of the postwar world, he was one of its chief architects. He joined the Department of State in 1941 as Assistant Secretary of State for Econ...

  10. 260 . The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Family's Century of Art and Loss by Edmund de Waal

    The Ephrussis were a grand banking family, as rich and respected as the Rothschilds, who “burned like a comet” in nineteenth-century Paris and Vienna society. Yet by the end of World War II, almost...

    - Google
  11. 261 . The American Language by H. L. Mencken

    The American Language, first published in 1919, is H. L. Mencken's book about the English language as spoken in the United States. Mencken was inspired by "the argot of the colored waiters" in W...

  12. 262 . Roughing It by Mark Twain

    Roughing It is a book of semi-autobiographical travel literature written by American humorist Mark Twain. It was written during 1870–71 and published in 1872 as a prequel to his first book Innocent...

  13. 263 . Moneyball by Michael M. Lewis

    Explains how Billy Beene, the general manager of the Oakland Athletics, is using a new kind of thinking to build a successful and winning baseball team without spending enormous sums of money.

    - Google
  14. 264 . The Lives of a Cell by Lewis Thomas

    The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher is a 1974 collection of 29 essays written by Lewis Thomas for the New England Journal of Medicine during the preceding three years. The pieces are lo...

  15. 265 . The Everlasting Man by G. K. Chesterton

    The Everlasting Man is a two-part history of mankind, Christ, and Christianity, by G. K. Chesterton. Published in 1925, it is to some extent a conscious rebuttal of H. G. Wells’ Outline of History,...

  16. 266 . Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi

    Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books is a book by Iranian author and professor Azar Nafisi.

  17. 267 . An Essay Concerning Human Understanding by John Locke

    An Essay Concerning Human Understanding is one of John Locke's two most famous works, the other being his Second Treatise on Civil Government. First appearing in 1690, the essay concerns the founda...

  18. 268 . Maximes by François duc de La Rochefoucauld

    François VI, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, Prince de Marcillac (French pronunciation: ​[fʁɑ̃swa də la ʁɔʃfucol]; 15 September 1613 – 17 March 1680) was a noted French author of maxims and memoirs. His i...

    - Google
  19. 269 . The House of Morgan by Ron Chernow

    The winner of the National Book Award and now considered a classic, The House of Morgan is the most ambitious history ever written about an American banking dynasty. Acclaimed by The Wall Street Jo...

  20. 270 . Les Caractères by Jean de La Bruyère

  21. 271 . The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein

    The bestselling author of No Logo shows how the global "free market" has exploited crises and shock for three decades, from Chile to Iraq In her groundbreaking reporting over the past few years, Na...

    - Google
  22. 272 . Lettres de madame de Sévigné by Marie de Rabutin-Chantal marquise de Sévigné

    Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, marquise de Sévigné (5 February 1626 – 17 April 1696) was a French aristocrat, remembered for her letter-writing. Most of her letters, celebrated for their wit and vividne...

    - Google
  23. 273 . Radical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers by Tom Wolfe

    Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers was a 1970 book by Tom Wolfe. The book, Wolfe's fourth, is composed of two articles by Wolfe, "These Radical Chic Evenings," first published in June of 1...

  24. 274 . On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee

    Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking is a kitchen classic. Hailed by Time magazine as "a minor masterpiece" when it first appeared in 1984, On Food and Cooking is the bible to which food lovers and p...

    - Google
  25. 275 . The Provincial Letters by Blaise Pascal

    The Provincial Letters is Blaise Pascal's defense of the Jansenist cause against the Jesuit skills of conscience known as casuistry.

    - Google
  26. 276 . The Unheavenly City by Edward C. Banfield

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  27. 277 . Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant

    The Critique of Pure Reason (German: Kritik der reinen Vernunft ) by Immanuel Kant, first published in 1781, second edition 1787, is one of the most influential works in the history of philosophy. ...

  28. 278 . James Joyce by Richard Ellmann

    This acclaimed biography has won both the James Tait Black and the Duff Cooper Memorial Prizes, and is considered by many to be the definitive account of Joyce's life and work. The fresh materia...

  29. 279 . The Liars' Club by Mary Karr

    The Liars' Club is the childhood memoir of American author Mary Karr. Published in 1995 and a New York Times bestseller for over a year it tells the story of Mary Karr's childhood in the 1960s in a...

  30. 280 . Bad Science by Ben Goldacre

  31. 281 . Seven Years in Tibet by Heinrich Harrer

    Seven Years in Tibet is an autobiographical travel book written by Austrian mountaineer Heinrich Harrer based on his real life experiences in Tibet between 1944 and 1951 during the Second World War...

  32. 282 . London: The Biography by Peter Ackroyd

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  33. 283 . The Invention of Solitude by Paul Auster

    The Invention of Solitude is Paul Auster's first memoir, published in the year 1982. The book is divided into two separate parts, Portrait of an Invisible Man, which concerns the sudden death of Au...

  34. 284 . Letters from a Stoic by Seneca

    The Epistulae Morales ad Lucilium (Latin for "Moral Letters to Lucilius"), also known as the Moral Epistles and Letters from a Stoic, is a collection of 124 letters that Seneca the Younger wrote at...

  35. 285 . The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology by Edmund Husserl

    The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology: An Introduction to Phenomenological Philosophy (German: Die Krisis der europäischen Wissenschaften und die transzendentale Phänomen...

  36. 286 . The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris

    The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt (1979) is a Pulitzer Prize winning biography of President Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris. It is the first in a planned trilogy with the second volume Theodore Re...

  37. 287 . The End of History and the Last Man by Francis Fukuyama

    The End of History and the Last Man is a 1992 book by Francis Fukuyama, expanding on his 1989 essay "The End of History?", published in the international affairs journal The National Interest. In t...

  38. 288 . Correspondence by Voltaire

    François-Marie Arouet (French: [fʁɑ̃.swa ma.ʁi aʁ.wɛ]; 21 November 1694 – 30 May 1778), known by his nom de plume Voltaire (/voʊlˈtɛər/; French: [vɔl.tɛːʁ]), was a French Enlightenment writer, hist...

    - Google
  39. 289 . Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

    #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • SOON TO BE A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE • Hailed as the top nonfiction book of the year by Time magazine • Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for biography and the ...

    - Google
  40. 290 . Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson

    "Suddenly, in the space of a moment, I realized what it was that I loved about Britain-which is to say, all of it." After nearly two decades spent on British soil, Bill Bryson-bestsellingauthor of ...

    - Google
  41. 291 . The Devil In The White City by Erik Larson

    The Chicago World's Fair of 1893 and its amazing 'White City' was one of the wonders of the world. This is the incredible story of its realization, and of the two men whose fates it linked: one was...

    - Google
  42. 292 . The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

    The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a novel by Mohsin Hamid that was published in 2007. The novel takes place during the course of a single evening in an outdoor Lahore cafe, where a bearded Pakistani ...

  43. 293 . Either Or by Soren Kierkegaard

    Published in two volumes in 1843, Either/Or (original Danish title: Enten ‒ Eller) is an influential book written by the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, exploring the aesthetic and ethical "p...

  44. 294 . All the President's Men by Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein

    The full account of the Watergate scandal from the two Washington Post reporters who broke the story. This is “the work that brought down a presidency…perhaps the most influential piece of journali...

    - Google
  45. 295 . Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in 40 Questions by Valeria Luiselli

    Part treatise, part memoir, part call to action, Tell Me How It Ends inspires not through a stiff stance of authority, but with the curiosity and humility Luiselli has long since established.

    - Google
  46. 296 . The Works of Max Beerbohm by Max Beerbohm

    The Works of Max Beerbohm was the first book published by English caricaturist, essayist and parodist Max Beerbohm. It was published in 1896 when Beerbohm was aged 24. A collection of Beerbohm's...

  47. 297 . Duke of Deception by Geoffrey Wolff

    Duke Wolff was a flawless specimen of the American clubman -- a product of Yale and the OSS, a one-time fighter pilot turned aviation engineer. Duke Wolff was a failure who flunked out of a series ...

    - Google
  48. 298 . Priestdaddy: A Memoir by Patricia Lockwood

    Affectionate and very funny . . . wonderfully grounded and authentic. This book proves Lockwood to be a formidably gifted writer who can do pretty much anything she pleases.” – The New York Times B...

    - Google
  49. 299 . Essential Cuisine by Michel Bras

    Each of his dishes is a discovery and simplicity itself, and is a happy and inventive cuisine filled with wonder.

    - Google
  50. 300 . El Bulli: 1998-2002 by Ferran Adria, Juli Soler, Albert Adria

    Ferran Adria is widely considered to be the most innovative, most influential, and indeed the greatest chef in the world today. Culinary giants like Thomas Keller venerate him. El Bulli, the restau...

    - Google