The Greatest Nonfiction Books Since 1900


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. 451 . Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Simone Beck, Louisette Bertholle

    Mastering the Art of French Cooking is a two-volume French cookbook written by American Julia Child, and Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle both of France. The book was written for the American ma...

  2. 452 . The Good War by Studs Terkel

    "The Good War": An Oral History of World War Two is a telling of the oral history of World War II written by Studs Terkel. The work won the 1985 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction. It is a firs...

  3. 453 . United States: Essays 1952-1992 by Gore Vidal

    United States: Essays 1952-1992

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  4. 454 . A Distant Mirror by Barbara Tuchman

    A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century, published in 1978, is a work by American historian Barbara Tuchman, focusing on life in 14th century Europe. To provide a central figure in her swe...

  5. 455 . The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson

    One of The New York Times Book Review’s 10 Best Books of the Year In this epic, beautifully written masterwork, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Isabel Wilkerson chronicles one of the great untold sto...

    - Google
  6. 456 . The Making of the President, 1960 by Theodore White

    The Making of the President, 1960, written by Theodore White analyzes the 1960 election in which John F. Kennedy was elected President of the United States. The book, written in a novelistic st...

  7. 457 . We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live: Collected Nonfiction by Joan Didion

    A definitive compilation of essays and nonfiction writings spanning more than forty years includes the author's reflections on politics, lifestyle, place, and cultural figures, including her studie...

    - Google
  8. 458 . Anti-intellectualism in American Life by Richard Hofstadter

    Written in response to the political and intellectual conditions of the 1950s, Anti-intellectualism in American Life emerged as a grand attack on the institutions to which society historically entr...

  9. 459 . The Forever War by Dexter Filkins

    The Forever War is a non-fiction book by American journalist Dexter Filkins about his observations on assignment in Afghanistan and Iraq during the Iraq War. The book made the New York Times Book R...

  10. 460 . The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

    The God Delusion is a 2006 bestselling non-fiction book by British biologist Richard Dawkins, professorial fellow of New College, Oxford, and inaugural holder of the Charles Simonyi Chair for the P...

  11. 461 . Working by Studs Terkel

    Working (full title: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do) is a book by the noted oral historian and radio broadcaster Studs Terkel. It is an exploration o...

  12. 462 . Darkness Visible by William Styron

    Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness is U.S. writer William Styron's memoir about his descent into depression, and the triumph of recovery. First published in December 1989 in Vanity Fair, the ...

  13. 463 . The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf

    The Beauty Myth examines beauty as a demand and as a judgment upon women. Subtitled How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women, Wolf examines how modern conceptions of women's beauty impact the sp...

  14. 464 . Lives of the Artists by Giorgio Vasari

    The Lives of the Most Excellent Italian Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, from Cimabue to Our Times, or Le Vite de' più eccellenti pittori, scultori, e architettori, as it was originally known i...

  15. 465 . Schott's Original Miscellany by Ben Schott

    Schott's Miscellanies are a trio of best-selling books by Ben Schott. They consist of a collection of trivia generally centred on the culture of the United Kingdom (and to a lesser extent the rest ...

  16. 466 . A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle

    A Year in Provence is autobiographical novel by Peter Mayle about his first year in Provence, and the local events and customs. It was adapted into a television miniseries starring John Thaw and Li...

  17. 467 . A People's Tragedy by Orlando Figes

    This multi-award book is history on an epic yet human scale. Vast in scope, exhaustive in original research, written with passion, narrative skill, and human sympathy, "A People's Tragedy" offers a...

  18. 468 . Diaries by Alan Clark

    Alan Clark started keeping a regular diary in 1955 which lasted until August 1999, during his second spell as a Member of Parliament, when he was incapacitated due to the onset of the brain tumour ...

  19. 469 . A History of the Crusades by Stephen Runciman

    A History of the Crusades is the work that historian Stephen Runciman is arguably most noted for. A cursory glance at the body of Runciman’s work would lead many to believe that his passion for hi...

  20. 470 . The Origins of the Second World War by A. J. P. Taylor

    Was Hitler all that bad? Wasn't he just an opportunist who took advantage of Anglo-French dithering and appeasement? The label 'iconoclastic' applies to few historians so well as it does to Taylor.

  21. 471 . A History of the English-Speaking Peoples by Winston Churchill

    A History of the English-Speaking Peoples is a four-volume history of Britain and her former colonies and possessions throughout the world, written by Winston Churchill, covering the period from Ca...

  22. 472 . A Child Called 'It' by Dave Pelzer

    A Child Called "It": One Child's Courage to Survive is Dave Pelzer's 1995 autobiographical account of his alleged abuse as a child by an alcoholic mother, Catherine Roerva.

  23. 473 . Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man by Siegfried Sassoon

    Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man is a novel by Siegfried Sassoon, first published in 1928. It won both the Hawthornden Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, being immediately recognised as a c...

  24. 474 . In the American Grain by William Carlos Williams

    Essays ranging in theme from Christopher Columbis to Abraham Lincoln about what it means to be an American. Although admired by D. H. Lawrence, this modern classic went generally unnoticed duri...

  25. 475 . Cadillac Desert by Marc Reisner

    Cadillac Desert is about land development and water policy in the western United States. Subtitled The American West and its Disappearing Water, it gives the history of the Bureau of Reclamation an...

  26. 476 . The Sweet Science by A. J. Liebling

    A.J. Liebling's classic New Yorker pieces on the "sweet science of bruising" bring vividly to life the boxing world as it once was. It depicts the great events of boxing's American heyday: Sugar Ra...

  27. 477 . Religion And The Rise Of Capitalism by R. H. Tawney

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  28. 478 . A Preface to Morals by Walter Lippmann

    Lippman, a Pulitzer Prize winning political columnist, helped found the liberal New Republic magazine. His writings there influenced Woodrow Wilson, who selected Lippman to help formulate his famou...

  29. 479 . The Gate of Heavenly Peace by Jonathan Spence

    Chronicles the history of the Chinese Revolution, focusing on the people and events of modern Chinese history, the writings of modern Chinese authors, the issues facing the People's Republic, and m...

  30. 480 . The Strange Career of Jim Crow by C. Vann Woodward

    The Strange Career of Jim Crow is one of the great works of Southern history. Indeed, the book actually helped shape that history. Published in 1955, a year after the Supreme Court in Brown v. Boar...

  31. 481 . The Rise of the West by William H. McNeill

    The Rise of the West explores human history in terms of the effect of different world civilizations on one another. McNeill assumes "decent familiarity with Western history," which allows describin...

  32. 482 . The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels

    The first major and eminently readable book on gnosticism benefiting from the discovery in 1945 of a collection of Gnostic Christian texts at Nag Hammadi in Egypt.

  33. 483 . Florence Nightingale by Cecil Woodham-Smith

    Draws on research by army historians to describe the cover-up of disastrous events in the Crimea, and to seperate Nightingale's real achievments from her mythical ones.

  34. 484 . Studies in Iconology by Erwin Panofsky

    Here, the themes and concepts of Renaissance art are analysed and related to both classical and medieval tendencies.

  35. 485 . The Strange Death of Liberal England by George Dangerfield

    The Strange Death of Liberal England is a book written by George Dangerfield, first published in 1935, attempting to explain the decline of the British Liberal Party in the years 1910 to 1914.

  36. 486 . Vermeer by Lawrence Gowing

    Lawrence Gowing's classic study has long been treasured for the painterly sensibilities he brought to this greatly loved body of work.

  37. 487 . The American Political Tradition by Richard Hofstadter

    The American Political Tradition is a 1948 book by Richard Hofstadter, an account on the ideology of previous U.S. presidents and other political figures. The full title is The American Political T...

  38. 488 . Contours of American History by William Appleman Williams

    The obvious result of years of scholarly research, this vast tome by a professor of history at the University of Wisconsin, author of The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, etc., presents a lengthy int...

  39. 489 . The Promise of American Life by Herbert Croly

    The Promise of American Life is a book published by Herbert Croly, founder of The New Republic, in 1909. This book opposed aggressive unionization and supported economic planning to raise general q...

  40. 490 . The Taming of Chance by Ian Hacking

    In this important new study Ian Hacking continues the enquiry into the origins and development of certain characteristic modes of contemporary thought undertaking in such previous works as the best...

  41. 491 . Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott

    "I woke up with a start at 4:00 one morning and realized that I was very, very pregnant." So begins novelist Anne Lamott's journal of the birth of her son, Sam, and their first year together. She m...

  42. 492 . Melbourne by David Cecil

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  43. 493 . The Road Less Travelled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth by M. Scott Peck

    Confronting and solving problems is a painful process which most of us attempt to avoid. Avoiding resolution results in greater pain and an inability to grow both mentally and spiritually. Drawing ...

    - Google
  44. 494 . How Democracies Perish by Jean François Revel

  45. 495 . Free to Choose: A Personal Statement by Milton Friedman, Rose Friedman

    The international bestseller on the extent to which personal freedom has been eroded by government regulations and agencies while personal prosperity has been undermined by government spending and ...

    - Google
  46. 496 . The Dancing Wu Li Masters by Gary Zukav

    With its unique combination of depth, clarity, and humor that has enchanted millions, this beloved classic by bestselling author Gary Zukav opens the fascinating world of quantum physics to readers...

    - Google
  47. 497 . Mountains Beyond Mountains: One doctor's quest to heal the world by Tracy Kidder

    Profound and powerful, Mountains Beyond Mountains takes us from Harvard to Haiti, Peru, Cuba and Russia, as the charismatic but flawed genius Dr Paul Farmer challenges widely-held preconceptions ab...

    - Google
  48. 498 . Sybil by Flora Rheta Schreiber

    Here is the unbelievable yet true story of Sybil Dorsett, a survivor of terrible childhood abuse who as an adult was a victim of sudden and mysterious blackouts. What happened during those blackout...

  49. 499 . Against Interpretation by Susan Sontag

    Against Interpretation and Other Essays is a collection of essays by Susan Sontag which was published in 1966. It includes some of Sontag's best-known works, including "On Style", "Notes on 'Camp'"...

  50. 500 . Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi

    Americans like to insist that we are living in a postracial, color-blind society. In fact, racist thought is alive and well; it has simply become more sophisticated and more insidious. And as award...

    - Google