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. 1051 . Intelligent Life in the Universe by Carl Sagan

  2. 1052 . Masscult and Midcult: Essays Against the American Grain by Dwight Macdonald

    Political radical, trenchant essayist, and impresario of the New York intellectuals, Dwight Macdonald was one of the towering figures of twentieth-century American letters. In his most famous and c...

    - Google
  3. 1053 . For a New Novel by Alain Robbe-Grillet

    Alain Robbe-Grillet (French pronunciation: [alɛ̃ ʁɔb ɡʁiˈje]) (18 August 1922 – 18 February 2008), was a French writer and filmmaker. He was, along with Nathalie Sarraute, Michel Butor and Claude S...

  4. 1054 . Our Bodies, Ourselves by Our Bodies, Ourselves

    Our Bodies, Ourselves is a book about women's health and sexuality produced by the nonprofit organization Our Bodies Ourselves (originally called the Boston Women's Health Book Collective). First p...

  5. 1055 . Philosophy of Modern Music by Theodor Adorno

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  6. 1056 . My Kind of Place by Susan Orlean

    The best-selling author of The Orchid Thief presents a selection of her intriguing travel essays, recounting her adventures in a variety of exotic locales and global subcultures, from the African m...

    - Google
  7. 1057 . Superfiction by Joe David Bellamy

    Short stories by such writers as Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Joyce Carol Oates, John Gardner, and John Updike reveal experiments with myth and parable and other trends in American fiction during the past d...

  8. 1058 . Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis

    Written after his wife's tragic death as a way of surviving the "mad midnight moment," A Grief Observed is C.S. Lewis's honest reflection on the fundamental issues of life, death, and faith in the ...

    - Google
  9. 1059 . The Nude: A Study in Ideal Form by Kenneth Clark

    From the art of the Greeks to that of Renoir and Moore, this work surveys the ever-changing fashions in what has constituted the ideal nude as a basis of humanist form.

    - Google
  10. 1060 . The Montessori Method by Maria Montessori

    The Montessori method is a child-centered, alternative educational method based on the child development theories originated by Italian educator Maria Montessori (1870–1952) in the late nineteenth ...

  11. 1061 . The Engineering of Consent by Edward Bernays

    "The Engineering of Consent" is an essay by Edward Bernays first published in 1947. He defines "engineering consent" as the art of manipulating people; specifically, the American citizen, who are d...

  12. 1062 . The World Without Us by Alan Weisman

    The World Without Us is a non-fiction book about what would happen to the natural and built environment if humans suddenly disappeared, written by American journalist Alan Weisman and published by ...

  13. 1063 . Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

    The author of The Caged Virgin recounts the story of her life, from her traditional Muslim childhood in Somalia and escape from a forced marriage to her efforts to promote women's rights while surv...

    - Google
  14. 1064 . My Life and Hard Times by James Thurber

    Widely hailed as one of the finest humorist of the twentieth century, James Thurber looks back at his own life growing up in Columbus, Ohio, with the same humor and sharp wit that defined his famou...

    - Google
  15. 1065 . Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays by Zadie Smith

    "[These essays] reflect a lively, unselfconscious, rigorous, erudite, and earnestly open mind that's busy refining its view of life, literature, and a great deal in between." -Los Angeles Times Spl...

    - Google
  16. 1066 . Parliament of Whores by P. J. O'Rourke

    Called "an everyman's guide to Washington" (The New York Times), P. J. O'Rourke's savagely funny and national best-seller Parliament of Whores has become a classic in understanding the workings of ...

    - Google
  17. 1067 . The Logic of Scientific Discovery by Karl Popper

    Logik der Forschung is a 1934 book by Karl Popper. It was originally written in German, but reformulated in English by Popper himself some years later, to be published as The Logic of Scientific Di...

  18. 1068 . Mencken Chrestomathy by H. L. Mencken

    Edited and annotated by H.L.M., this is a selection from his out-of-print writings. They come mostly from books—the six of the PREJUDICES series, A BOOK OF BURLESQUES, IN DEFENSE OF WOMEN, NOTES ON...

    - Google
  19. 1069 . Awakenings by Oliver Sacks

    Awakenings--which inspired the major motion picture--is the remarkable story of a group of patients who contracted sleeping-sickness during the great epidemic just after World War I. Frozen for dec...

    - Google
  20. 1070 . The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell

    In this New York Times bestseller, the author of Assassination Vacation "brings the [Puritan] era wickedly to life" (Washington Post). To this day, America views itself as a Puritan nation, but Sar...

    - Google
  21. 1071 . Reliable Essays: The Best of Clive James by Clive James

    Including his most memorable pieces – his ‘Postcard from Rome’, his observations on Margaret Thatcher, his insights into Heaney, Larkin and Orwell – this book also contains brilliantly funny examin...

    - Google
  22. 1072 . A Homemade World by Hugh Kenner

    William Hugh Kenner (January 7, 1923 – November 24, 2003), was a Canadian literary scholar, critic and professor.

  23. 1073 . The Weather Makers by Tim Flannery

    The Weather Makers: The History and Future Impact of Climate Change (2005) is a book by Tim Flannery.

  24. 1074 . Little Wilson and Big God by Anthony Burgess

    These are Anthony Burgess's candid confessions: he was seduced at the age of nine by an older woman; whilst serving in Gibraltar in World War II he was thrown into jail on VE Day for calling Franco...

    - Google
  25. 1075 . Nothing to be Frightened Of by Julian Barnes

    "I don’t believe in God, but I miss him." So begins Julian Barnes’s brilliant new book that is, among many things, a family memoir, an exchange with his brother (a philosopher), a meditation on mor...

    - Google
  26. 1076 . Collected essays by Aldous Huxley

  27. 1077 . Lit: A Memoir by Mary Karr

    The author reveals how, shortly after giving birth to a child she adored, she drank herself into the same numbness that nearly devoured her charismatic but troubled mother, reaching the brink of su...

    - Google
  28. 1078 . Crazy Salad: Some Things about Women by Nora Ephron

    A glimpse into the absurdities and realities of female existence in the early 1970s discusses the media, politics, the first female umpire, and beauty products.

    - Google
  29. 1079 . Enthusiasms by Bernard Levin

  30. 1080 . The Crack-Up by F. Scott Fitzgerald

    The Crack-Up (1945) is a collection of essays by American author F. Scott Fitzgerald. It consists of previously unpublished letters, notes and also three essays originally written for and published...

  31. 1081 . The Power Elite by C. Wright Mills

    The Power Elite is a book written by the sociologist, C. Wright Mills, in 1956. In it Mills called attention to the interwoven interests of the leaders of the military, corporate, and political ele...

  32. 1082 . Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder by Lawrence Weschler

    Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder: Pronged Ants, Horned Humans, Mice on Toast, and Other Marvels of Jurassic Technology is a book by Lawrence Weschler primarily about the Museum of Jurassic Technology...

  33. 1083 . Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

    Into the Wild is a 1996 non-fiction book written by Jon Krakauer. It is an expansion of a 9,000-word article by Krakauer on Chris McCandless titled "Death of an Innocent", which appeared in the Jan...