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. 201 . The Americans by Robert Frank

    The Americans, by Robert Frank, was a highly influential book in post-war American photography. It was first published in France in 1958, and the following year in the United States. The photograph...

    - Google
  2. 202 . El Bulli: 1998-2002 by Ferran Adria, Juli Soler, Albert Adria

    Ferran Adria is widely considered to be the most innovative, most influential, and indeed the greatest chef in the world today. Culinary giants like Thomas Keller venerate him. El Bulli, the restau...

    - Google
  3. 203 . Hollywood Babylon by Kenneth Anger

    Hollywood Babylon is a book by avant-garde filmmaker Kenneth Anger which details the sordid scandals of many famous and infamous Hollywood denizens from the 1900s to the 1950s. First published in t...

    - Google
  4. 204 . Gödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter

    Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid (commonly GEB) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Douglas Hofstadter, described as "a metaphorical fugue on minds and machines in the spirit of Lewis C...

  5. 205 . God and Man at Yale by William F. Buckley, Jr

    God and Man at Yale: The Superstitions of "Academic Freedom," is a book published in 1951 by William F. Buckley, Jr., who eventually became a leading voice in the American conservative movement in ...

  6. 206 . Ideas Have Consequences by Richard M. Weaver

    Ideas Have Consequences is a philosophical work by Richard M. Weaver, published in 1948. The book is largely a treatise on the deleterious effects that the doctrine of nominalism has had on Western...

  7. 207 . The Economy of Cities by Jane Jacobs

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  8. 208 . The Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom

    One of our country's most distinguished political philosophers argues that the social/political crisis of 20th-century America is really an intellectual crisis. Allan Bloom's sweeping analysis is e...

  9. 209 . Ethnic America by Thomas Sowell

    A distinguished economist traces the history of nine American ethnic groups--the Irish, the Germans, the Jews, the Italians, the Chinese, the Japanese, the Blacks, the Puerto Ricans, and the Mexica...

  10. 210 . The Memory of Fire Trilogy by Eduardo Galeano

    Now in one collection, the century-spanning trilogy filled with “the wonders of the lands and people of Latin America” (The Washington Post). Eduardo Galeano’s Memory of Fire Trilogy defies categor...

    - Google
  11. 211 . Pavel's Letters by Monika Maron

    Teasing her family's past out of the fog of oblivion and lies, one of Germany's greatest writers asks about the secrets families keep, about the fortitude of ordinary people in extraordinary circum...

    - Google
  12. 212 . The Rebel by Albert Camus

    The Rebel (French: L'Homme révolté) is a 1951 book-length essay by Albert Camus, which treats both the metaphysical and the historical development of rebellion and revolution in societies, especial...

  13. 213 . Before Night Falls by Reinaldo Arenas

    Before Night Falls (Spanish: Antes que anochezca: autobiografía) is the 1992 autobiography of Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas, describing his early life in Cuba, his time in prison, and his escape to ...

  14. 214 . Three Case Histories by Sigmund Freud

    Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) was an Austrian neurologist and psychologist who founded the psychoanalytic school of psychology. Although his theories remain controversial until this day, Freud made a l...

  15. 215 . The Drowned and the Saved by Primo Levi

    The Drowned and the Saved (Italian: I sommersi e i salvati) is a book of essays on life in the Nazi extermination camps by Italian-Jewish author and Holocaust survivor Primo Levi, drawing on his pe...

  16. 216 . Borstal Boy by Brendan Behan

    Borstal Boy is a 1958 autobiographical book by Brendan Behan. The story depicts a young, fervently idealistic Behan, who loses his naïveté over the three years of his sentence to a juvenile borstal...

  17. 217 . Love's Work by Gillian Rose

    Love’s Work is at once a memoir and a book of philosophy. Written by the English philosopher Gillian Rose as she was dying of cancer, it is a book about both the fallibility and endurance of love, ...

    - Google
  18. 218 . Memoirs of My Nervous Illness by Daniel Paul Schreber

    In 1884, the distinguished German jurist Daniel Paul Schreber suffered the first of a series of mental collapses that would afflict him for the rest of his life. In his madness, the world was revea...

    - Google
  19. 219 . Promise at Dawn by Romain Gary

    Promise at Dawn (French: La promesse de l'aube) is a 1960 autobiographical novel by the French writer Romain Gary. Two films based on the novel, and sharing the same title, have been released: one ...

  20. 220 . Hideous Kinky by Esther Freud

    Hideous Kinky is an autobiographical novel by Esther Freud, daughter of British painter Lucian Freud and Bernardine Coverley and great-granddaughter of Sigmund Freud. It depicts the author's unconv...

  21. 221 . Down Second Avenue by Es'kia Mphahlele

    Es’kia Mphahlele’s seminal memoir of life in apartheid South Africa—available for the first time in Penguin Classics Nominated for the Nobel Prize in 1969, Es’kia Mphahlele is considered the Dean o...

    - Google
  22. 222 . Wittgenstein's Nephew by Thomas Bernhard

    Wittgenstein’s Nephew is an autobiographical work by Thomas Bernhard, originally published in 1982. It is a recollection of the author's friendship with Paul Wittgenstein, the nephew of Ludwig Witt...

  23. 223 . Cataract by Mykhaylo Osadchy

    A Ukrainian poet's memoir of repression and resistance.

    - Google
  24. 224 . Storm of Steel by Ernst Jünger

    Storm of Steel (in German: In Stahlgewittern) is the memoir of German officer Ernst Jünger's experiences on the Western Front during the First World War. It was originally printed privately in 1920...

  25. 225 . The Struggle for Europe by Chester Wilmot

    From the ashes of World War II to the conflict over Iraq, William Hitchcock examines the miraculous transformation of Europe from a deeply fractured land to a continent striving for stability, tole...

  26. 226 . The Road from Coorain by Jill Ker Conway

    Jill Ker Conway is a noted historian, specializing in the experience of women in America, and was the first woman president of Smith College.

    - Google
  27. 227 . Zeitoun by Dave Eggers

    Zeitoun is a nonfiction book written by Dave Eggers and published by McSweeney's in 2009. It tells the story of Abdulrahman Zeitoun, the Syrian-American owner of a painting and contracting company ...

  28. 228 . Systematic Theology by Wolfhart Pannenberg

    An important mark of a systematic theology is that it be distinct from the rest; owning one does not preclude the need for others. What distinguishes Pannenberg's (systematic theology, Univ. of Mun...

  29. 229 . The Campaign of the Marne by Sewell Tyng

    A forgotten American's masterly account of the First World War in the West.

  30. 230 . North by Seamus Heaney

    With this collection, first published in 1975, Heaney located a myth which allowed him to articulate a vision of Ireland--its people, history, and landscape--and which gave his poems direction, coh...

    - Google
  31. 231 . Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus by Ludwig Wittgenstein

    Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus is the only book-length philosophical work published by the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein during his lifetime. It is an ambitious project to identify the r...

  32. 232 . Insight: A Study of Human Understanding by Bernard Lonergan

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  33. 233 . Disraeli by Robert Blake

    Biography of Benjamin Disraeli

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  34. 234 . Democracy and Leadership by Irving Babbitt

    Irving Babbitt was a leader of the intellectual movement called American Humanism, or the New Humanism, and a distinguished professor of French literature at Harvard. Democracy and Leadership, firs...

  35. 235 . The Machiavellians by James Burnham

    Burnham is the greatest political analyst of our century and this is his best book.

  36. 236 . The Armies of the Night by Norman Mailer

    The Armies of the Night (1968) is a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning nonfiction novel written by Norman Mailer and sub-titled History as a Novel/The Novel as History. Mailer essential...

  37. 237 . The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell

    The Hero with a Thousand Faces (first published in 1949) is a non-fiction book, and seminal work of comparative mythology by Joseph Campbell. In this publication, Campbell discusses his theory of t...

  38. 238 . The ABC of Reading by Ezra Pound

    ABC of Reading is a book by Ezra Pound published in 1934. In it, Pound sets out an approach to the appreciation and understanding of literature (focusing primarily on poetry).

  39. 239 . Second World War by John Keegan

    Praised as "the best military historian of our generation" by Tom Clancy, John Keegan here reconsiders his masterful study of World War II, The Second World War, with a new foreword. Keegan examine...

  40. 240 . The Making of Homeric Verse by Milman Parry

    Milman Parry, who died in 1935 while a young assistant professor at Harvard, is now considered one of the leading classical scholars of this century. Yet Parry's articles and French dissertations--...

  41. 241 . Great Bridge by David McCullough

    This monumental book is the enthralling story of one of the greatest events in our nation's history, during the Age of Optimism — a period when Americans were convinced in their hearts that all thi...

  42. 242 . Care of the Soul: Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness by Thomas More

    This New York Times bestseller (more than 200,000 hardcover copies sold) provides a path-breaking lifestyle handbook that shows how to add spirituality, depth, and meaning to modern-day life by nur...

    - Google
  43. 243 . The Strange Ride of Rudyard Kipling by Angus Wilson

    A critical biography of Kipling focuses on the writer's literary and peripatetic searches for a refuge to replace the lost Indian Eden of his childhood

  44. 244 . Scrutiny by F. R. Leavis

    Enormously important in education, especially in England. Leavis understood what one kind of 'living English' is.

  45. 245 . The Edge of the Sword by Charles De Gaulle

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  46. 246 . Bureaucracy by Ludwig von Mises

    Bureaucracy is a political book written by Austrian School economist and libertarian thinker Ludwig von Mises. The author's stated motivation in writing the book is his concern with the spread of s...

  47. 247 . Balzac by Stefan Zweig

    On the joys of working one's self to death. The chapter 'Black Coffee' is a masterpiece of imaginative reconstruction.

  48. 248 . The Good Society by Walter Lippmann

    The Good Society is a critical text in the history of liberalism. Initially a series of articles published in a variety of Lippmann's favorite magazines, as the whole evolved, it became a frontal a...

  49. 249 . The Christian Tradition by Jaroslav Pelikan

    The century's most comprehensive account of Christian teaching from the second century on.

  50. 250 . Strange Defeat by Marc Bloch

    L'Etrange defaite (English, "Strange Defeat") is a book written in the summer of 1940 by French historian Marc Bloch and published after his death in the summer of 1944. The main thesis of the boo...