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. 401 . The Mirror and the Lamp by Meyer Howard Abrams

    This clear, accessible account of Hegelian logic makes a case for its enormous seductiveness, its surprising presence in the collective consciousness, and the dangers associated therewith. Offering...

  2. 402 . The Art of the Soluble: Creativity and Originality in Science by Peter B. Medawar

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  3. 403 . All But My Life by Gerda Weissmann Klein

    A Polish Jew records her experiences and struggle for survival in Nazi work camps and during a thousand-mile forced march

    - Google
  4. 404 . A Theory of Justice by John Rawls

    A Theory of Justice is a widely-read book of political philosophy and ethics by John Rawls. Rawls attempts to solve the problem of distributive justice by utilising a variant of the familiar dev...

  5. 405 . My Forbidden Face by Latifa

    Latifa was born into an educated middle-class Afghan family in Kabul in 1980. She dreamed of one day of becoming a journalist, she was interested in fashion, movies and friends. Her father was in t...

    - Google
  6. 406 . Art and Illusion by Ernest H. Gombrich

    Considered a great classic by all who seek for a meeting ground between science and the humanities, Art and Illusion examines the history and psychology of pictorial representation in light of pres...

  7. 407 . A Man in Love: My Struggle by Karl Ove Knausgaard

    'Intense and vital... Ceaselessly compelling... Superb' James Wood, New Yorker This is a book about leaving your wife and everything you know. It is about fresh starts, about love, about friendship...

    - Google
  8. 408 . Falling Leaves by Adeline Yen Mah

    The story of an unwanted Chinese daughter growing up during the Communist Revolution, blamed for her mother's death, ignored by her millionaire father and unwanted by her Eurasian step mother. A st...

    - Google
  9. 409 . Principia Ethica by George Moore

    Principia Ethica is a Monograph by philosopher George Moore, first published in 1903. It is one of the standard texts of modern ethics, and introduced the term naturalistic fallacy.

  10. 410 . In My Hands by Irene Opdyke

    IRENE GUT WAS just 17 in 1939, when the Germans and Russians devoured her native Poland. Just a girl, really. But a girl who saw evil and chose to defy it. “No matter how many Holocaust stories one...

    - Google
  11. 411 . Philosophy and Civilization by John Dewey

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  12. 412 . On Growth and Form by D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson

    The central theme of On Growth and Form is that biologists of its author's day overemphasized evolution as the fundamental determinant of the form and structure of living organisms, and underemphas...

  13. 413 . Funny in Farsi by Firoozeh Dumas

    NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER In 1972, when she was seven, Firoozeh Dumas and her family moved from Iran to Southern California, arriving with no firsthand knowledge of this country beyond her father’s...

    - Google
  14. 414 . Ideas and Opinions by Albert Einstein

    Ideas and Opinions contains essays by eminent scientist Albert Einstein on subjects ranging from atomic energy, relativity, and religion to human rights, and economics. Previously published article...

  15. 415 . The Afterlife: A Memoir by Donald Antrim

    From "a fiercely intelligent writer" (The New York Times), a wry, poignant story of the difficult love between a mother and a son In the winter of 2000, shortly after his mother's death from cancer...

    - Google
  16. 416 . The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander

    A deeply resonant memoir for anyone who has loved and lost, from acclaimed poet and Pulitzer Prize finalist Elizabeth Alexander. In THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD, Elizabeth Alexander finds herself at an e...

    - Google
  17. 417 . The Gentrification of the Mind by Sarah Schulman

    In this memoir of the AIDS years (1981-1996) in New York, CUNY Professor of English Sarah Schulman recalls how much of the queer culture, cheap rents, and virbrant downtown arts movement vanished a...

    - Google
  18. 418 . Albert Murray: Collected Essays & Memoirs by Albert Murray

    In his 1970 classic The Omni-Americans, Albert Murray (1916–2013) took aim at protest writers and social scientists who accentuated the “pathology” of race in American life. Against narratives of m...

    - Google
  19. 419 . Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward

    Two-time National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward (Salvage the Bones, Sing, Unburied, Sing) contends with the deaths of five young men dear to her, and the risk of being a black man in the rural Sout...

    - Google
  20. 420 . The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir by Thi Bui

    An intimate and poignant graphic novel portraying one family’s journey from war-torn Vietnam, from debut author Thi Bui. This beautifully illustrated and emotional story is an evocative memoir abou...

    - Google
  21. 421 . Enrique's Journey by Sonia Nazario

    An astonishing story that puts a human face on the ongoing debate about immigration reform in the United States, now updated with a new Epilogue and Afterword, photos of Enrique and his family, an ...

    - Google
  22. 422 . American Shaolin by Matthew Polly

    Describes the childhood dream that led the author to study martial arts at China's famed Shaolin Temple, his initial disenchantment that turned into respect for the instructors, and the training th...

    - Google
  23. 423 . Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah

    A riveting memoir of a girl's painful coming-of-age in a wealthy Chinese family during the 1940s. A Chinese proverb says, "Falling leaves return to their roots." In Chinese Cinderella, Adeline Yen ...

    - Google
  24. 424 . Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

    Jonathan Safran Foer spent much of his teenage and college years oscillating between omnivore and vegetarian. But on the brink of fatherhood-facing the prospect of having to make dietary choices on...

    - Google
  25. 425 . "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!": Adventures of a Curious Character by Richard P. Feynman

    A New York Times bestseller—the outrageous exploits of one of this century's greatest scientific minds and a legendary American original. Richard Feynman, winner of the Nobel Prize in physics, thri...

    - Google
  26. 426 . Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain by Peter Fryer

    Staying Power is recognised as the definitive history of black people in Britain, an epic story that begins with the Roman conquest and continues to this day. In a comprehensive account, Peter Frye...

    - Google
  27. 427 . Soul of a Citizen: Living with Conviction in Challenging Times by Paul Rogat Loeb

    Soul of a Citizen awakens within us the desire and the ability to make our voices heard and our actions count. We can lead lives worthy of our convictions. A book of inspiration and integrity, Soul...

    - Google
  28. 428 . Madame Curie - A Biography by Eve Curie by Eve Curie

    Marie Curie is a women who changed the face of science for all time, not just because of her discovery of the radioactive element Radium and her work with it, but because of her incredible strides ...

    - Google
  29. 429 . Why the West Rules - For Now: The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal About the Future by Ian Morris

    Why does the West rule? In this magnum opus, eminent Stanford polymath Ian Morris answers this provocative question, drawing on 50,000 years of history, archeology, and the methods of social scienc...

    - Google
  30. 430 . The Death of Woman Wang MMP by Jonathan Spence

    In The Death of Woman Wang the award-winning historian Jonathan Spence paints a vivid picture of an obscure time and place: provincial China in the late 17th century. Drawing on a range of sources,...

    - Google
  31. 431 . The Private Life of Chairman Mao by Li Zhi-Sui

    From 1954 until Mao Zedong's death 22 years later. Dr. Li Zhisui was the Chinese ruler's personal physician. For most of these years, Mao was in excellent health; thus he and the doctor had time to...

    - Google
  32. 432 . The Frugal Superpower: America's Global Leadership in a Cash-Strapped Era by Michael Mandelbaum

    Which of America's essential international commitments can we afford to keep in this time of diminished financial resources?

    - Google
  33. 433 . Ain't No Makin' It: Aspirations and Attainment in a Low-income Neighborhood by Jay MacLeod

    This classic text addresses one of the most important issues in modern social theory and policy: how social inequality is reproduced from one generation to the next. With the original 1987 publicat...

    - Google
  34. 434 . Science and Civilisation in China by Joseph Needham

    Science and Civilisation in China is a series of books initiated and edited by British biochemist and China scholar Joseph Needham (1900-1995). They deal with the history of science and technology ...

  35. 435 . The Autobiography of Mark Twain by Mark Twain

    Mark Twain’s Autobiography is a two-volume set published over ten years after Twain's death in order to protect the "guilty". It was well received, as the public was hungry for some new books by Ma...

  36. 436 . The Spirit of St. Louis by Charles Lindbergh

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  37. 437 . Consider The Lobster by David Foster Wallace

    Consider the Lobster (2005) is a collection of essays by novelist David Foster Wallace. It is also the title of one of the essays, which was published in Gourmet Magazine in 2004. The entire list o...

  38. 438 . Slavery by Another Name by Douglas A. Blackmon

    The book describes the exploitation of black Americans after the end of the American Civil War. Blackmon presents evidence that slavery in the United States did not end with the Civil War, instead ...

  39. 439 . Last Train to Memphis by Peter Guralnick

  40. 440 . All Over But The Shoutin' by Rick Bragg

  41. 441 . The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman

    The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures is a 1997 book by Anne Fadiman that chronicles the struggles of a Hmong refugee fami...

  42. 442 . Mary Chestnut's Civil War by Mary Chesnut

    Mary Boykin Chesnut began her diary on February 18, 1861, and ended it on June 26, 1865. She was an eyewitness to many historic events as she accompanied her husband to significant sites of the Civ...

  43. 443 . Backlash by Susan Faludi

    Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women is the title of a 1991 nonfiction book by Pulitzer Prize winner Susan Faludi, which argues for the existence of a media driven "backlash" against...

  44. 444 . The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science by Richard Holmes

    The Age of Wonder: How the romantic generation discovered the beauty and terror of Science is a 2008 popular science book about the history of science written by Richard Holmes. In it, the author d...

  45. 445 . We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda by Philip Gourevitch

    We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda is a 1998 non-fiction book about the genocide of 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda in 1994, wr...

  46. 446 . John Adams by David McCullough

    John Adams is a 2001 biography of Founding Father and second U.S. President John Adams written by popular historian David McCullough. It won a 2002 Pulitzer Prize (for "Biography or Autobiography")...

  47. 447 . Growing Up by Russell Baker

  48. 448 . Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon

    From the National Book Award–winning author of The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression comes a monumental new work, a decade in the writing, about family. In Far from the Tree, Andrew Solomon tel...

    - Google
  49. 449 . Orientalism by Edward W. Said

    The noted critic and a Palestinian now teaching at Columbia University,examines the way in which the West observes the Arabs.

    - Google
  50. 450 . Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez

    Barry Lopez's National Book Award-winning classic study of the Far North is widely considered his masterpiece. Lopez offers a thorough examination of this obscure world-its terrain, its wildlife...