The Greatest Nonfiction Books From -10000 to 1599


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. 1 . Essays by Michel de Montaigne

    Essays is the title given to a collection of 107 essays written by Michel de Montaigne that was first published in 1580. Montaigne essentially invented the literary form of essay, a short subjectiv...

  2. 2 . Confessions by Augustine

    Confessions is the name of an autobiographical work, consisting of 13 books, by St. Augustine of Hippo, written between AD 397 and AD 398. Modern English translations of it are sometimes published ...

  3. 3 . The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli

    Il Principe (The Prince) is a political treatise by the Florentine public servant and political theorist Niccolò Machiavelli. Originally called De Principatibus (About Principalities), it was origi...

  4. 4 . The Complete Works of Plato by Plato

    Plato (pronounced /ˈpleɪtoʊ/) (Greek: Πλάτων, Plátōn, "broad") (428/427 BC[a] – 348/347 BC), was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the ...

  5. 5 . The Histories of Herodotus by Herodotus

    The Histories of Herodotus is considered one of the seminal works of history in Western literature. Written from the 450s to the 420s BC in the Ionic dialect of classical Greek, The Histories serve...

  6. 6 . The Art of War by Sun Zi

    Offering ancient wisdom on how to use skill, cunning, tactics and discipline to outwit your opponent, this 2000 year old military manual is still worshipped by soldiers on the battlefield and manag...

  7. 7 . Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

    Meditations (Τὰ εἰς ἑαυτόν, Ta eis heauton, literally "thoughts/writings addressed to himself") is the title of a series of personal writings by Marcus Aurelius setting forth his ideas on Stoic phi...

  8. 8 . Annals by Cornelius Tacitus

    The Annals (Latin: Annales) is a history book by Tacitus covering the reign of the four Roman Emperors succeeding to Caesar Augustus. The parts of the work that survived from antiquity cover most o...

  9. 9 . The History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides

    The History of the Peloponnesian War is an account of the Peloponnesian War in Ancient Greece, fought between the Peloponnesian League (led by Sparta) and the Delian League (led by Athens). It was ...

  10. 10 . Parallel Lives by Plutarch

    Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans, commonly called Parallel Lives or Plutarch's Lives, is a series of biographies of famous men, arranged in tandem to illuminate their common moral vi...

  11. 11 . Phaedo by Plato

    Plato's Phaedo (/ˈfiːdoʊ/; Greek: Φαίδων, Phaidōn, Greek pronunciation: [pʰaídɔːn]), also known to ancient readers as Plato's On The Soul, is one of the great dialogues of his middle period, along ...

    - Google
  12. 12 . Corpus Aristotelicum by Aristotle

    The Corpus Aristotelicum is the collection of Aristotle's works that have survived from antiquity through Medieval manuscript transmission. These texts, as opposed to Aristotle's lost works, are te...

  13. 13 . Analects by Confucius

    Lunyu, also known as the Analects of Confucius, are considered a record of the words and acts of the central Chinese thinker and philosopher Confucius and his disciples, as well as the discussions ...

  14. 14 . Tao Te Ching by Lao Tsu

    The Tao Te Ching or Dao De Jing, originally known as Laozi, a record-keeper at the Zhou Dynasty court, by whose name the text is known in China. The text's true authorship and date of composition o...

  15. 15 . Lives of the Caesars by Suetonius

    e vita Caesarum (Latin, direct translation: On the Life of the Caesars) commonly known as The Twelve Caesars, is a set of twelve biographies of Julius Caesar and the first 11 emperors of the Roman ...

  16. 16 . Summa Theologica by Thomas Aquinas

    The Summa Theologica (Latin: "Summary of Theology" or "Highest Theology") or the Summa Theologiæ or simply the Summa, written 1265–1274) is the most famous work of Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225–1274), al...

  17. 17 . Apology by Plato

    The Apology is Plato's version of the speech given by Socrates as he defended himself in 399 BC against the charges of "corrupting the young, and by not believing in the gods in whom the city belie...

  18. 18 . Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin

    Institutes of the Christian Religion (Institutio Christianae religionis) is John Calvin's seminal work on Protestant systematic theology. Highly influential in the Western world and still widely re...

  19. 19 . The Praise of Folly by Erasmus

    The Praise of Folly (Greek title: Morias Enkomion (Μωρίας Εγκώμιον), Latin: Stultitiae Laus, sometimes translated as In Praise of Folly, Dutch title: Lof der Zotheid) is an essay written in 1509 by...

  20. 20 . Poetics by Aristotle

    Aristotle's Poetics (Greek: Περὶ ποιητικῆς, Latin: De Poetica;[1] c. 335 BCE[2]) is the earliest surviving work of dramatic theory and the first extant philosophical treatise to focus on literary t...

  21. 21 . 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...

  22. 22 . 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 ...

  23. 23 . 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. 24 . 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...

  25. 25 . 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...

  26. 26 . 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 ...

  27. 27 . 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...

  28. 28 . 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...

  29. 29 . 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
  30. 30 . Mencius by Mencius

    The Mencius (Chinese: 孟子; pinyin: Mèngzǐ), commonly called the Mengzi, is a collection of anecdotes and conversations of the Confucian thinker and philosopher Mencius. The work dates from the secon...

  31. 31 . The Pillow Book by Sei Shōnagon

    The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon is an immensely detailed account of court life in eleventh-century Japan. Written at the height of Heian culture, it is a classic text of great literary beauty, full...

    - Google
  32. 32 . Records of the Grand Historian by Sima Qian

    The Records of the Grand Historian (Taishi gong shu 太史公書, now usually known as the Shiji 史記 – "Historical Notes"), is a monumental history of ancient China and the world as it was known to the Chin...

  33. 33 . Almagest by Ptolemy

    Almagest is the Latin form of the Arabic name (الكتاب المجسطي, al-kitabu-l-mijisti, in English The Great Book) of a mathematical and astronomical treatise proposing the complex motions of the stars...

  34. 34 . The Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle

    The Nicomachean Ethics (/nɪˌkɒmæˈkiːən/) is the name normally given to Aristotle's best-known work on ethics. The work, which plays a pre-eminent role in defining Aristotelian ethics, consists of t...

    - Google
  35. 35 . Germania by Cornelius Tacitus

    The Germania of Tacitus is the most extensive account of the ancient Germans written during the Roman period, but has been relatively neglected in the scholarship of the English-speaking world: the...

    - Google
  36. 36 . The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle by Unknown

    The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is a collection of annals in Old English chronicling the history of the Anglo-Saxons. The annals were initially created late in the 9th century, probably in Wessex, during...

  37. 37 . Geography by Ptolemy

    The Geography (Latin: Geographia, Cosmographia; Greek: Γεωγραφικὴ Ὑφήγησις Geographike Hyphegesis) is Ptolemy's main work besides the Almagest. It is a treatise on cartography and a compilation of ...

  38. 38 . Crito by Plato

    Crito (/ˈkraɪtoʊ/ KRY-toh or /ˈkriːtoʊ/ KREE-toh; Ancient Greek: Κρίτων [krítɔːn]) is a dialogue by the ancient Greek philosopher Plato. It is a conversation between Socrates and his wealthy friend...

    - Google
  39. 39 . Euthyphro by Plato

    Euthyphro (/ˈjuːθɪfroʊ/; Ancient Greek: Εὐθύφρων, Euthuphrōn) is one of Plato's early dialogues, dated to after 399 BC. Taking place during the weeks leading up to Socrates' trial, the dialogue fea...

    - Google
  40. 40 . Atlas by Gerardus Mercator

    Gerardus Mercator (born 5 March 1512 in Rupelmonde, County of Flanders (in modern Belgium), died 2 December 1594 in Duisburg, United Duchies of Jülich-Cleves-Berg, (modern-day Germany)) was a carto...

  41. 41 . Canon of Medicine by Avicenna

    The Canon of Medicine (Arabic: القانون في الطب‎ al-Qānūn fī al-Ṭibb) is an encyclopedia of medicine in five books compiled by Persian philosopher Ibn Sīnā (Avicenna) and completed in 1025. It prese...

  42. 42 . Kama Sutra by Vātsyāyana

    The Kama Sutra (Sanskrit: कामसूत्र About this sound pronunciation (help·info), Kāmasūtra) is an ancient Indian Hindu text widely considered to be the standard work on human sexual behavior in Sansk...

  43. 43 . Catiline Orations by Marcus Tullius Cicero

    The Catiline Orations or Catilinarian Orations were speeches given in 63 BC by Marcus Tullius Cicero, the consul of Rome, exposing to the Roman Senate the plot of Lucius Sergius Catilina and his al...

  44. 44 . The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius

    The Consolation of Philosophy is considered widely to be the single most important work from the West during Medieval and early Renaissance Christianity. Often called the last great Classical work,...

    - Google
  45. 45 . Travels by Marco Polo

  46. 46 . The Principal Navigations by Richard Hakluyt

  47. 47 . Castaways by Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca

    The Narváez expedition was a Spanish attempt to install Pánfilo de Narváez as adelantado (governor) of Spanish Florida during the years 1527 – 1528.

  48. 48 . Travels (Ibn Battúta) by Ibn Battúta

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  49. 49 . 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
  50. 50 . Symposium by Plato

    Translated with an Introduction and Notes by Christopher Gill.

    - Google