The Greatest Nonfiction Books Since 1900


How is this list generated?


This list is generated from 128 "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 . The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

    The Diary of a Young Girl is a book based on the writings from a diary written by Anne Frank while she was in hiding for two years with her family during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. The...

  2. 2 . The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley

    This book describes Malcolm X's upbringing in Michigan, his maturation to adulthood in Boston and New York, his time in prison, his conversion to Islam, his ministry, his travels to Africa and to M...

  3. 3 . Silent Spring by Rachel Carson

    Silent Spring is a book written by Rachel Carson and published by Houghton Mifflin in September 1962. The book is widely credited with helping launch the environmental movement. When Silent Spri...

  4. 4 . In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

    On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no appar...

  5. 5 . The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr, E. B. White

    The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr., and E. B. White, is an American English writing style guide. It is the best-known and most influential prescriptive treatment of English grammar and us...

  6. 6 . The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA by James D. Watson

    The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA is an autobiographical account of the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA written by James D. Watson and pub...

  7. 7 . Relativity by Albert Einstein

    In clear, concise language that is accessible to all, Albert Einstein's brilliant theory is explained and its implications discussed.

  8. 8 . Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe

    It is Wolfe's first novel, and is considered a highly autobiographical American Bildungsroman. The character of Eugene Gant is generally believed to be a depiction of Wolfe himself. The novel cover...

    - 1929
  9. 9 . Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell

    Homage to Catalonia is political journalist and novelist George Orwell's personal account of his experiences and observations in the Spanish Civil War, written in the first person.

  10. 10 . Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov

    Speak, Memory is an autobiographical memoir by writer Vladimir Nabokov. The first twelve chapters describe Nabokov's remembrance of his youth in a quasi-aristocratic family living in pre-revolut...

  11. 11 . The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money by John Maynard Keynes

    The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money was written by the English economist John Maynard Keynes. The book, generally considered to be his magnum opus, is largely credited with creatin...

  12. 12 . The Second World War by Winston Churchill

    The Second World War is a six-volume history of the period from the end of the First World War to July 1945, written by Sir Winston Churchill. It was largely responsible for him winning (in 1953) t...

  13. 13 . The Education of Henry Adams by Henry Adams

    The Education of Henry Adams records the struggle of Bostonian Henry Adams (1838-1918), in early old age, to come to terms with the dawning 20th century, so different from the world of his youth. I...

  14. 14 . Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen

    Out of Africa is a memoir by Isak Dinesen, a nom de plume used by the Danish author Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke. The book, first published in 1937, recounts events of the seventeen years when...

  15. 15 . The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn

    The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is an analysis of the history of science. Its publication was a landmark event in the sociology of knowledge, and popularized the terms paradigm and paradigm...

  16. 16 . Dispatches by Michael Herr

    Dispatches is a non-fiction book by Michael Herr that describes the author's experiences in Vietnam as a war correspondent for Esquire magazine. First published in 1977, Dispatches was one of the f...

  17. 17 . The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

    The Gulag Archipelago is a book by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn based on the Soviet forced labor and concentration camp system. The three-volume book is a massive narrative relying on eyewitness testimon...

  18. 18 . I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

    Sent by their mother to live with their devout, self-sufficient grandmother in a small Southern town, Maya and her brother, Bailey, endure the ache of abandonment and the prejudice of the local “po...

    - Google
  19. 19 . The Civil War by Shelby Foote

    The Civil War: A Narrative (1958-1974) is a three volume, 2,968-page, 1.2 million-word history of the American Civil War by Shelby Foote. Although previously known as a novelist, Foote is most famo...

  20. 20 . If This Is a Man by Primo Levi

    If This Is a Man is a work of witness by the Italian author Primo Levi. It was influenced by his experiences in the concentration camp at Auschwitz during the Second World War. It can be described ...

  21. 21 . Collected Essays of George Orwell by George Orwell

    In this bestselling compilation of essays, written in the clear-eyed, uncompromising language for which he is famous, Orwell discusses with vigor such diverse subjects as his boyhood schooling, the...

  22. 22 . The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe

    The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test is a work of literary journalism by Tom Wolfe, published in 1968. Using techniques from the genre of hysterical realism and pioneering new journalism, the novel tell...

  23. 23 . Civilization and Its Discontents by Sigmund Freud

    Psychosocial developmentConsciousPreconsciousUnconsciousPsychic apparatusId, ego, and super-egoLibidoDriveTransferenceCountertransferenceEgo defensesResistanceProjection

  24. 24 . The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs

    The Death and Life of Great American Cities, by Jane Jacobs, is a greatly influential book on the subject of urban planning in the 20th century. First published in 1961, the book is a critique of m...

  25. 25 . Selected Essays of T. S. Eliot by T. S. Eliot

    This is the first large and representative book of T. S. Eliot's prose and it is being published just at the time when Mr. Eliot is returning to America for the Harvard lectures. A year ago Edmund ...

  26. 26 . A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf

    A Room of One's Own is an extended essay by . First published during 24 October 1929, it was based on a series of lectures she delivered at Newnham College and Girton College, two women's colleges ...

  27. 27 . The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe

    The Right Stuff is a 1979 book by Tom Wolfe about the pilots engaged in U.S. postwar experiments with experimental rocket-powered, high-speed aircraft as well as documenting the stories of the firs...

  28. 28 . The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich von Hayek

    The Road to Serfdom is a book written by Friedrich von Hayek (recipient of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1974) which transformed the landscape of political thought in the 20th ce...

  29. 29 . R. E. Lee by Douglas Southall Freeman

    Autobiography of Robert E. Lee.

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  30. 30 . The Varieties of Religious Experience by Will James

    The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature is a book by the Harvard psychologist and philosopher William James that comprises his edited Gifford Lectures on "Natural Theology" d...

  31. 31 . The Liberal Imagination by Lionel Trilling

    The Liberal Imagination is one of the most admired and influential works of criticism of the last century, a work that is not only a masterpiece of literary criticism but an important statement abo...

  32. 32 . Angela's Ashes: A Memoir by Frank McCourt

    Angela’s Ashes is a memoir by Irish-American author Frank McCourt and tells the story of his childhood in Brooklyn and Ireland. It was published in 1996 and won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography or ...

  33. 33 . The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir

    The Second Sex (French: Le Deuxième Sexe, June 1949) is one of the best-known works of the French existentialist Simone de Beauvoir. It is a work on the treatment of women throughout history and of...

  34. 34 . Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis

    Mere Christianity is a theological book by C. S. Lewis, adapted from a series of BBC radio talks made between 1941 and 1944, while Lewis was at Oxford during World War II. Considered a classic of C...

  35. 35 . Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

    Published posthumously in 1964, A Moveable Feast remains one of Ernest Hemingway's most beloved works. Since Hemingway's personal papers were released in 1979, scholars have examined and debated th...

    - Google
  36. 36 . The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein

    Largely to amuse herself, Gertrude Stein wrote this book in 1932..using as a sounding board her companion Miss Toklas, who had been with her for twenty-five years. The book is full of the most luci...

  37. 37 . The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt

    The Origins of Totalitarianism is a book by Hannah Arendt which classed Nazism and Stalinism as totalitarian movements. Its original title was to be 'The Burden of Our Times', and the move away fro...

  38. 38 . Black Lamb and Grey Falcon by Rebecca West

    Black Lamb and Grey Falcon is an 1,181-page travel book written by Dame Rebecca West, published in 1941. The book gives an account of Balkan history and ethnography, and the significance of Nazi...

  39. 39 . Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton

    Orthodoxy is a book by G. K. Chesterton that has become a classic of Christian apologetics. Chesterton considered this book a companion to his other work, Heretics. In the book's preface Chesterton...

  40. 40 . Philosophical Investigations by Ludwig Wittgenstein

    Philosophical Investigations is, along with the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, one of the two most influential works by the 20th-century philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. In it, Wittgenstein discus...

  41. 41 . Night by Elie Wiesel

    A New Translation From The French By Marion Wiesel Night is Elie Wiesel’s masterpiece, a candid, horrific, and deeply poignant autobiographical account of his survival as a teenager in the Nazi dea...

    - Google
  42. 42 . The Affluent Society by John Kenneth Galbraith

    The Affluent Society is a 1958 book by Harvard economist John Kenneth Galbraith. The book sought to clearly outline the manner in which the post-World War II America was becoming wealthy in the pri...

  43. 43 . Mythology by Edith Hamilton

    Since its original publication by Little, Brown and Company in 1942, Edith Hamilton's Mythology has sold millions of copies throughout the world and established itself as a perennial bestseller in ...

    - Google
  44. 44 . The Open Society by Karl Popper

    The Open Society and Its Enemies is an influential two-volume work by Karl Popper written during World War II. Failing to find a publisher in the United States, it was first printed in London by Ro...

  45. 45 . The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother by James McBride

    As a boy in Brooklyn's Red Hook projects, James McBride knew his mother was different. But when he asked about it, she'd simply say 'I'm light-skinned.' Later he wondered if he was different too, a...

    - Google
  46. 46 . The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton

    The Seven Storey Mountain is the autobiography of Thomas Merton, a Trappist Monk and a noted author of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. Merton finished the book in 1946 at the age of 31, five years afte...

  47. 47 . Hiroshima by John Hersey

    The classic tale of the day the first atom bomb was dropped offers a haunting evocation of the memories of survivors and an appeal to the conscience of humanity

    - Google
  48. 48 . Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by James Agee

    Let Us Now Praise Famous Men is a book with text by American writer James Agee and photographs by American photographer Walker Evans first published in 1941 in the United States. The title is from ...

  49. 49 . Pragmatism by Will James

  50. 50 . The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes

    The Making of the Atomic Bomb, a book written by Richard Rhodes, won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction, a National Book Award and a National Book Critics Circle Award. The 900-page bo...