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. 501 . The Transformation of Virginia, 1740-1790 by Rhys L. Isaac

  2. 503 . Sontag: Her Life and Work by Benjamin Moser

    Sontag: Her Life and Work is a 2019 biography of American writer Susan Sontag written by Benjamin Moser. The book won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography. Judges of the prize ca...

  3. 504 . Eleanor and Franklin by Joseph P. Lash

  4. 505 . The Man From New York: John Quinn and His Friends by Benjamin Lawrence Reid

  5. 506 . Prophets of Regulation by Thomas K. McCraw

  6. 507 . The Undying: Pain, vulnerability, mortality, medicine, art, time, dreams, data, exhaustion, cancer, and care by Anne Boyer

    WINNER OF THE 2020 PULITZER PRIZE IN GENERAL NONFICTION "The Undying is a startling, urgent intervention in our discourses about sickness and health, art and science, language and literature, and m...

    - Google
  7. 508 . In the Days of McKinley by Margaret Leech

    Margaret Kernochan Leech (November 7, 1893 – February 24, 1974) also known as Margaret Pulitzer, was an American author and historian, who won two Pulitzer Prizes in history, for her books Reveille...

  8. 509 . The Flowering of New England by Van Wyck Brooks

  9. 510 . The Dead Are Arising by Les Payne

    The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X is a biography of Malcolm X by Les Payne and Tamara Payne. The book was published in late 2020 by Liveright in hardcover format while an audiobook, narra...

  10. 511 . The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Emancipation by David Brion Davis

    A conclusion to the historian's three-volume history of slavery in Western culture covers the influential Haitian revolution, the complex significance of colonization, and the less-recognized impor...

    - Google
  11. 512 . Island on Fire: The Revolt That Ended Slavery in the British Empire by Tom Zoellner

    In 1831 enslaved Jamaicans revolted. What began as a peaceful movement soon became a bloodbath as British troops retaliated. Tom Zoellner tells the inspiring story of the uprising that galvanized a...

    - Google
  12. 513 . The Sea Around Us by Rachel Carson

    The Sea Around Us is a prize-winning 1951 bestseller by Rachel Carson about oceanography, marine biology and the ecosystem within and around the world's oceans and seas.

  13. 514 . Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones

    Winner of the NBCC Award for General Nonfiction Named on Amazon's Best Books of the Year 2015--Michael Botticelli, U.S. Drug Czar (Politico) Favorite Book of the Year--Angus Deaton, Nobel Prize Eco...

    - Google
  14. 515 . Directorate S: The C.I.A. and America's Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan by Steve Coll

    Winner of the 2018 National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction Longlisted for the 2018 National Book Award for Nonfiction From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Ghost Wars, the epic and en...

    - Google
  15. 516 . Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe

    Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland is a 2019 book by Patrick Radden Keefe. Keefe began researching and writing the book after reading the obituary for Dolours Price ...

  16. 517 . The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America by Frances FitzGerald

    A history of the Evangelical movement in America traces the revivals of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that rendered evangelism a dominant religious force, describing the rise and fall of ...

    - Google
  17. 518 . W.E.B. Du Bois: The Fight for Equality and The American Century by David Levering Lewis

    William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (pronounced /duːˈbɔɪs/ doo-BOYSS) (February 23, 1868 – August 27, 1963) was an American civil rights activist, Pan-Africanist, sociologist, historian, author, and e...

  18. 519 . John C. Calhoun: American Portrait by Margaret Louise Coit

  19. 520 . Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story by Paul Monette

    Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story

  20. 521 . A Daughter of the Middle Border by Hamlin Garland

  21. 522 . Benjamin Franklin by Carl Van Doren

  22. 523 . John Keats by Walter Jackson Bate

  23. 524 . Sweet Taste of Liberty: A True Story of Slavery and Restitution in America by W. Caleb McDaniel

    The unforgettable saga of one enslaved woman's fight for justice--and reparations Born into slavery, Henrietta Wood was taken to Cincinnati and legally freed in 1848. In 1853, a Kentucky deputy she...

  24. 525 . W.E.B. Dubois : Biography of a Race, 1868–1919 by David Levering Lewis

    William Edward Burghardt Du Bois - the premier architect of the civil rights movement in America - was a towering and controversial personality, a fiercely proud individual blessed with the languag...

  25. 526 . The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America by Greg Grandin

    WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE A new and eye-opening interpretation of the meaning of the frontier, from early westward expansion to Trump’s border wall. Ever since this nation’s inception, the idea ...

    - Google
  26. 527 . The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom

    The Yellow House is a memoir by Sarah M. Broom. It is Broom's first book and it was published on August 13, 2019 by Grove Press. The Yellow House chronicles Broom's family (mapping back approximate...

  27. 528 . A History of American Magazines by Frank Luther Mott

  28. 529 . The Raven by Marquis James

  29. 530 . Edmund Pendleton 1721–1803 by David J. Mays

    Edmund Pendleton (September 9, 1721 – October 23, 1803) was a Virginia politician, lawyer and judge, active in the American Revolutionary War.

  30. 531 . Arab and Jew by David K. Shipler

    Arab and Jew: Wounded Spirits in a Promised Land, written by David K. Shipler and published by Times Books in 1986, won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction.

  31. 532 . Puritan Village: The Formation of a New England Town by Sumner Chilton Powell

  32. 533 . Henry Adams by Ernest Samuels

  33. 534 . The Return by Hisham Matar

    The Return is a memoir by Hisham Matar that was first published in June 2016. The memoir centers on Matar's return to his native Libya in 2012 to search for the truth behind the 1990 disappearance ...

  34. 535 . Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS by Joby Warrick

    Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS is a 2015 non-fiction book by the American journalist Joby Warrick. The book traces the rise and spread of militant Islam behind the Islamic State of Iraq and the Lev...

  35. 536 . Paul Revere and the World He Lived In by Esther Forbes

  36. 537 . The War of Independence by Claude H. Van Tyne

    The War of Independence is a Pulitzer Prize-winning book by American historian Claude H. Van Tyne. The book was published in 1929. It explains the history and causes of the American Revolutionary W...

  37. 538 . Washington's Crossing by David Hackett Fischer

    Washington's Crossing is a Pulitzer Prize winning book written by David Hackett Fischer and part of the "Pivotal Moments in American History" series. The book is primarily about George Washington's...

  38. 539 . The Price of Power by Seymour M. Hersh

    The Price of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House

  39. 540 . Voyagers to the West: A Passage in the Peopling of America on the Eve of the Revolution by Bernard Bailyn

    The Pulitzer Prize for History has been awarded since 1917 for a distinguished book upon the history of the United States. Many history books have also been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for General N...

  40. 541 . Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy by Heather Ann Thompson

    Ever since the USS Walkercame from another world war to defy the terrifying Grik and diabolical Dominion, Matt Reddy and his crew have given their all to protect the oppressed Lemurians. But with t...

    - Google
  41. 542 . Lamy of Santa Fe by Paul Horgan

  42. 543 . Son of the Wilderness by Linnie Marsh Wolfe

  43. 544 . Fortunate Son: The Autobiography of Lewis B. Puller Jr. by Lewis B. Puller

  44. 545 . Encounters at the Heart of the World by Elizabeth A. Fenn

    Encounters at the Heart of the World: A History of the Mandan People is a Pulitzer Prize-winning non-fiction history book about the Mandan people, a Native American tribe in North Dakota. It was wr...

  45. 546 . Peter the Great: His Life and World by Robert K. Massie

  46. 547 . Woodrow Wilson, Life and Letters by Ray Stannard Baker

    Thomas Woodrow Wilson (December 28, 1856–February 3, 1924) was the 28th President of the United States. A leading intellectual of the Progressive Era, he served as President of Princeton University...

  47. 548 . Custer's Trials by T.J. Stiles

    Custer's Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America is a book by T. J. Stiles. It won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for History.

  48. 549 . Woodrow Wilson, American Prophet by Arthur Walworth

  49. 550 . The Fate of Liberty: Abraham Lincoln and Civil Liberties by Mark E. Neely, Jr

    If Abraham Lincoln was known as the Great Emancipator, he was also the only president to suspend the writ of habeas corpus. Indeed, Lincoln's record on the Constitution and individual rights has fu...