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. 301 . Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground, 1981-1991 by Michael Azerrad

    This is the never-before-told story of the musical revolution that happened right under the nose of the Reagan Eighties--when a small but sprawling network of bands, labels, fanzines, radio station...

    - Google
  2. 302 . Hollywood Babylon by Kenneth Anger

    Hollywood Babylon is a book by avant-garde filmmaker Kenneth Anger which details the sordid scandals of many famous and infamous Hollywood denizens from the 1900s to the 1950s. First published in t...

    - Google
  3. 303 . The Americans by Robert Frank

    The Americans, by Robert Frank, was a highly influential book in post-war American photography. It was first published in France in 1958, and the following year in the United States. The photograph...

    - Google
  4. 304 . Larousse Gastronomique: The World's Greatest Culinary Encyclopedia by Joël Robuchon

    Larousse Gastronomique is the world's classic culinary reference book, with over 35,000 copies sold in the UK alone. Larousse is known and loved for its authoritative and comprehensive collection o...

    - Google
  5. 305 . Philosophical Writings by Novalis

    Novalis: Philosophical Writings is the first extensive scholarly translation in English from the philosophical work of the late eighteenth-century German Romantic writer Novalis (Friedrich von Hard...

    - Google
  6. 306 . The Social Contract by Jean-Jacques Rousseau

    The Social Contract, Or Principles of Political Right by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, is the book in which Rousseau theorized about the best way in which to set up a political community in the face of th...

  7. 307 . Gödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter

    Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid (commonly GEB) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Douglas Hofstadter, described as "a metaphorical fugue on minds and machines in the spirit of Lewis C...

  8. 308 . God and Man at Yale by William F. Buckley, Jr

    God and Man at Yale: The Superstitions of "Academic Freedom," is a book published in 1951 by William F. Buckley, Jr., who eventually became a leading voice in the American conservative movement in ...

  9. 309 . Ideas Have Consequences by Richard M. Weaver

    Ideas Have Consequences is a philosophical work by Richard M. Weaver, published in 1948. The book is largely a treatise on the deleterious effects that the doctrine of nominalism has had on Western...

  10. 310 . The Economy of Cities by Jane Jacobs

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  11. 311 . The Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom

    One of our country's most distinguished political philosophers argues that the social/political crisis of 20th-century America is really an intellectual crisis. Allan Bloom's sweeping analysis is e...

  12. 312 . Ethnic America by Thomas Sowell

    A distinguished economist traces the history of nine American ethnic groups--the Irish, the Germans, the Jews, the Italians, the Chinese, the Japanese, the Blacks, the Puerto Ricans, and the Mexica...

  13. 313 . A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft

    A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: with Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects (1792), written by the eighteenth-century British feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, is one of the earliest works of...

  14. 314 . Reveries of a Solitary Walker by Jean-Jacques Rousseau

    Reveries of a Solitary Walker (French: Les Rêveries du promeneur solitaire) is an unfinished book by Genevan philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, written between 1776 and 1778. It was the last of a n...

  15. 315 . The True History of the Conquest of New Spain by Bernal Díaz del Castillo

    Historia verdadera de la conquista de la Nueva España (The True History of the Conquest of New Spain) is the first-person narrative written in 1576 by Bernal Díaz del Castillo (1492–1581), the mili...

  16. 316 . Borstal Boy by Brendan Behan

    Borstal Boy is a 1958 autobiographical book by Brendan Behan. The story depicts a young, fervently idealistic Behan, who loses his naïveté over the three years of his sentence to a juvenile borstal...

  17. 317 . Pavel's Letters by Monika Maron

    Teasing her family's past out of the fog of oblivion and lies, one of Germany's greatest writers asks about the secrets families keep, about the fortitude of ordinary people in extraordinary circum...

    - Google
  18. 318 . The Drowned and the Saved by Primo Levi

    The Drowned and the Saved (Italian: I sommersi e i salvati) is a book of essays on life in the Nazi extermination camps by Italian-Jewish author and Holocaust survivor Primo Levi, drawing on his pe...

  19. 319 . Wittgenstein's Nephew by Thomas Bernhard

    Wittgenstein’s Nephew is an autobiographical work by Thomas Bernhard, originally published in 1982. It is a recollection of the author's friendship with Paul Wittgenstein, the nephew of Ludwig Witt...

  20. 320 . Emile, or On Education by Jean-Jacques Rousseau

    Emile, or On Education (French: Émile, ou De l’éducation) is a treatise on the nature of education and on the nature of man written by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who considered it to be the "best and m...

  21. 322 . Down Second Avenue by Es'kia Mphahlele

    Es’kia Mphahlele’s seminal memoir of life in apartheid South Africa—available for the first time in Penguin Classics Nominated for the Nobel Prize in 1969, Es’kia Mphahlele is considered the Dean o...

    - Google
  22. 323 . Before Night Falls by Reinaldo Arenas

    Before Night Falls (Spanish: Antes que anochezca: autobiografía) is the 1992 autobiography of Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas, describing his early life in Cuba, his time in prison, and his escape to ...

  23. 324 . The Memory of Fire Trilogy by Eduardo Galeano

    Now in one collection, the century-spanning trilogy filled with “the wonders of the lands and people of Latin America” (The Washington Post). Eduardo Galeano’s Memory of Fire Trilogy defies categor...

    - Google
  24. 325 . Hideous Kinky by Esther Freud

    Hideous Kinky is an autobiographical novel by Esther Freud, daughter of British painter Lucian Freud and Bernardine Coverley and great-granddaughter of Sigmund Freud. It depicts the author's unconv...

  25. 326 . Love's Work by Gillian Rose

    Love’s Work is at once a memoir and a book of philosophy. Written by the English philosopher Gillian Rose as she was dying of cancer, it is a book about both the fallibility and endurance of love, ...

    - Google
  26. 327 . Cataract by Mykhaylo Osadchy

    A Ukrainian poet's memoir of repression and resistance.

    - Google
  27. 328 . Promise at Dawn by Romain Gary

    Promise at Dawn (French: La promesse de l'aube) is a 1960 autobiographical novel by the French writer Romain Gary. Two films based on the novel, and sharing the same title, have been released: one ...

  28. 329 . Memoirs of My Nervous Illness by Daniel Paul Schreber

    In 1884, the distinguished German jurist Daniel Paul Schreber suffered the first of a series of mental collapses that would afflict him for the rest of his life. In his madness, the world was revea...

    - Google
  29. 330 . Three Case Histories by Sigmund Freud

    Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) was an Austrian neurologist and psychologist who founded the psychoanalytic school of psychology. Although his theories remain controversial until this day, Freud made a l...

  30. 331 . Storm of Steel by Ernst Jünger

    Storm of Steel (in German: In Stahlgewittern) is the memoir of German officer Ernst Jünger's experiences on the Western Front during the First World War. It was originally printed privately in 1920...

  31. 332 . The Rebel by Albert Camus

    The Rebel (French: L'Homme révolté) is a 1951 book-length essay by Albert Camus, which treats both the metaphysical and the historical development of rebellion and revolution in societies, especial...

  32. 333 . The Struggle for Europe by Chester Wilmot

    From the ashes of World War II to the conflict over Iraq, William Hitchcock examines the miraculous transformation of Europe from a deeply fractured land to a continent striving for stability, tole...

  33. 334 . The Road from Coorain by Jill Ker Conway

    Jill Ker Conway is a noted historian, specializing in the experience of women in America, and was the first woman president of Smith College.

    - Google
  34. 335 . Zeitoun by Dave Eggers

    Zeitoun is a nonfiction book written by Dave Eggers and published by McSweeney's in 2009. It tells the story of Abdulrahman Zeitoun, the Syrian-American owner of a painting and contracting company ...

  35. 336 . Systematic Theology by Wolfhart Pannenberg

    An important mark of a systematic theology is that it be distinct from the rest; owning one does not preclude the need for others. What distinguishes Pannenberg's (systematic theology, Univ. of Mun...

  36. 337 . The Campaign of the Marne by Sewell Tyng

    A forgotten American's masterly account of the First World War in the West.

  37. 338 . North by Seamus Heaney

    With this collection, first published in 1975, Heaney located a myth which allowed him to articulate a vision of Ireland--its people, history, and landscape--and which gave his poems direction, coh...

    - Google
  38. 339 . Titi Livi Ab urbe condita libri by Livy

    Ab Urbe Condita Libri—often shortened to Ab Urbe Condita—is a monumental history of ancient Rome in Latin begun sometime between 27 and 25 BC by the historian Titus Livius, known in English as Livy...

    - Google
  39. 340 . Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus by Ludwig Wittgenstein

    Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus is the only book-length philosophical work published by the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein during his lifetime. It is an ambitious project to identify the r...

  40. 341 . Insight: A Study of Human Understanding by Bernard Lonergan

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  41. 342 . Disraeli by Robert Blake

    Biography of Benjamin Disraeli

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  42. 343 . Democracy and Leadership by Irving Babbitt

    Irving Babbitt was a leader of the intellectual movement called American Humanism, or the New Humanism, and a distinguished professor of French literature at Harvard. Democracy and Leadership, firs...

  43. 344 . The Machiavellians by James Burnham

    Burnham is the greatest political analyst of our century and this is his best book.

  44. 345 . Reflections of a Russian Statesman by Konstantin P. Pobedonostsev

    In his "Reflections of a Russian Statesman" (1896), he promoted autocracy and condemned elections, representation and democracy, the jury system, the press, free education, charities, and social re...

  45. 346 . The Armies of the Night by Norman Mailer

    The Armies of the Night (1968) is a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning nonfiction novel written by Norman Mailer and sub-titled History as a Novel/The Novel as History. Mailer essential...

  46. 347 . A Dictionary of the English Language by Samuel Johnson

    Published on 15 April 1755 and written by Samuel Johnson, A Dictionary of the English Language, sometimes published as Johnson's Dictionary, is among the most influential dictionaries in the histor...

  47. 348 . The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell

    The Hero with a Thousand Faces (first published in 1949) is a non-fiction book, and seminal work of comparative mythology by Joseph Campbell. In this publication, Campbell discusses his theory of t...

  48. 349 . The ABC of Reading by Ezra Pound

    ABC of Reading is a book by Ezra Pound published in 1934. In it, Pound sets out an approach to the appreciation and understanding of literature (focusing primarily on poetry).

  49. 350 . Second World War by John Keegan

    Praised as "the best military historian of our generation" by Tom Clancy, John Keegan here reconsiders his masterful study of World War II, The Second World War, with a new foreword. Keegan examine...