The Greatest Nonfiction Books Since 1970


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 Revenge of Gaia by James Lovelock

  2. 502 . Blue Highways: A Journey into America by William Least Heat-Moon

    Hailed as a masterpiece of American travel writing, Blue Highways is an unforgettable journey along our nation's backroads. William Least Heat-Moon set out with little more than the need to put hom...

    - Google
  3. 503 . The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale

  4. 504 . Race Matters by Cornel West

    Race Matters is a 1994 social sciences book, authored by Cornel West. The book was first published on March 29, 1994 in the English language by Vintage Books. The book analyses moral authority and ...

  5. 505 . Change We Can Believe In by Barack Obama

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  6. 506 . Them: A Memoir Of Parents by Francine du Plessix Gray

  7. 507 . Coming of Age in the Milky Way by Timothy Ferris

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  8. 508 . Under the Eye of the Clock by Christopher Nolan

  9. 509 . Tales from Ovid by Ted Hughes

    Tales from Ovid is a poetical work written by the English poet Ted Hughes. Published in 1997 by Faber and Faber, it is a retelling of twenty-four tales from Ovid's Metamorphoses. It won the Whitbre...

  10. 510 . The Solace of Open Spaces by Gretel Ehrlich

    A stunning collection of personal observations that uses images of the American West to probe larger concerns in lyrical, evocative prose that is a true celebration of the region.

    - Google
  11. 511 . London Orbital: A Year Walking Around the M25 by Iain Sinclair

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  12. 512 . Looking at Dance by Edwin Denby

    Edwin Orr Denby (February 4, 1903 – July 12, 1983) was one of the most important and influential American dance critics of the 20th century, as well as a poet and novelist. His dance reviews and es...

  13. 513 . In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: Prose by Alice Walker

    Walker’s collection of early nonfiction serves as the manifesto of a young artist—and an illuminating self-portrait What is a womanist? Alice Walker sets out to define the concept in this anthology...

    - Google
  14. 514 . Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, James D. Houston

    The American-born author describes her family's experience and impressions when they were forced to relocate to a camp for the Japanese in Owens Valley, California, during World War II.

    - Google
  15. 515 . The Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit

    The Faraway Nearby is a 2013 book by Rebecca Solnit. Containing writing reminiscent of memoir, literary criticism, travelogue, prose poetry, as well as analyses of myth, fairytale and narratives mo...

  16. 516 . The Empathy Exams: Essays by Leslie Jamison

    From personal loss to phantom diseases, The Empathy Exams is a bold and brilliant collection, winner of the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize A Publishers Weekly Top Ten Essay Collection of Spring 20...

    - Google
  17. 517 . The Edward Hoagland Reader by Edward Hoagland

  18. 518 . Earth: An Intimate History by Richard Fortey

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  19. 519 . The Joy of Sex by Alex Comfort

    The Joy of Sex is an illustrated sex manual by Alex Comfort, M.B., Ph.D., first published in 1972. An updated edition was released in September, 2008.

  20. 520 . Coleridge: Early Visions by Richard Holmes

  21. 521 . The Names by N. Scott Momaday

    The Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist recalls the significant events and ventures of his own life, his own land, and his own people, recreating his experiences as an American Indian and those of his ...

    - Google
  22. 522 . Function of the Orgasm by Wilhelm Reich

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  23. 523 . March: Book One by John Lewis

    Congressman John Lewis (GA-5) is an American icon, one of the key figures of the civil rights movement. His commitment to justice and nonviolence has taken him from an Alabama sharecropper's farm t...

    - Google
  24. 524 . In the Shadow of Man by Jane Goodall

  25. 525 . House by Tracy Kidder

    Tracy Kidder takes readers to the heart of the American Dream: the building of a family's first house with all its day-to-day frustrations, crises, tensions, challenges, and triumphs.

    - Google
  26. 526 . The Pleasure of the Text by Roland Barthes

    The Pleasure of the Text is a short book published in 1975 by Roland Barthes. It was written in French and later translated into English. Barthes sets out some of his ideas about literary theory.

  27. 527 . How We Live by Rust Hills

  28. 528 . Taking the World in for Repairs by Richard Selzer

    A collection of a dozen short stories, essays, and memoirs originally published in 1986, and now available in trade paperback. Richard Selzer retired as a surgeon in 1984 to write about his profess...

    - Google
  29. 529 . Documents of Modern Art by Robert Motherwell

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  30. 530 . A Life's Work: On Becoming a Mother by Rachel Cusk

    Rachel Cusk (born in Canada in 1967) is an author.

  31. 531 . The Water Is Wide by Pat Conroy

    The bestselling Pat Conroy memoir—now available as an ebook The moving story of a young teacher’s experience on an island forgotten by the world Though the children of Yamacraw Island live less tha...

    - Google
  32. 532 . Recollected Essays by Wendell Berry

    These eleven essays, selected by the author from five previous collections, provides us with a single volume tracing Mr. Berry's desire to 'make myself responsibly at home in this world and in my n...

    - Google
  33. 533 . Reflections from Captivity by Ho Chi Minn

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  34. 534 . Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

    The founder of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama recounts his experiences as a lawyer working to assist those desperately in need, reflecting on his pursuit of the ideal of compas...

    - Google
  35. 535 . The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama

    The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream is the second book written by then-Senator Barack Obama. In the fall of 2006 it became number one on both the New York Times and Amaz...

  36. 536 . The Paris Review Interviews by Paris Review

    The Paris Review is an English-language literary magazine based in New York City. As its name suggests it was founded in Paris in 1953, for "the good writers and good poets, the non-drumbeaters and...

  37. 537 . Self-Consciousness by John Updike

    John Updike’s memoirs consist of six Emersonian essays that together trace the inner shape of the life, up to the age of fifty-five, of a relatively fortunate American male. The author has attempte...

    - Google
  38. 538 . The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux

    First published more than thirty years ago, Paul Theroux's strange, unique, and hugely entertaining railway odyssey has become a modern classic of travel literature. Here Theroux recounts his early...

    - Google
  39. 539 . A Life of Picasso by John Richardson

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  40. 540 . Fiction and the Figures of Life by William H. Gass

  41. 541 . The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer

    The publication of Germaine Greer's The Female Eunuch in 1970 was a landmark event, raising eyebrows and ire while creating a shock wave of recognition in women around the world with its steadfast ...

    - Google
  42. 542 . Being Jordan by Katie Price

  43. 543 . The Blair Years by Alastair Campbell

    The Blair Years is a book by Alastair Campbell, featuring extracts from his diaries detailing the period during which he worked for Tony Blair. Published by Random House, the book was released on 9...

  44. 544 . The World Within the Word by William H. Gass

  45. 545 . Fargo Rock City by Chuck Klosterman

    Fargo Rock City: A Heavy Metal Odyssey in Rural Nörth Daköta is a book written by Chuck Klosterman, first published by Scribner in 2001. It is a history of heavy metal music, with a particular emph...

  46. 546 . Hunger of Memory by Richard Rodriguez

    Hunger of Memory is the story of Mexican-American Richard Rodriguez, who begins his schooling in Sacramento, California, knowing just 50 words of English, and concludes his university studies in th...

    - Google
  47. 547 . Ever Since Darwin: Reflections in Natural History by Stephen Jay Gould

    Stephen Jay Gould reexamines Darwin's theory in light of the findings of modern evolutionary biology and shows the ways in which biological theories have been concocted to justify social ills

    - Google
  48. 548 . Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching by Mychal Denzel Smith

    New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice How do you learn to be a black man in America? For young black men today, it means coming of age during the presidency of Barack Obama. It means witnessin...

    - Google
  49. 549 . Coming into the Country by John McPhee

    Coming into the Country is an unforgettable account of Alaska and Alaskans. It is a rich tapestry of vivid characters, observed landscapes, and descriptive narrative, in three principal segments th...

    - Google
  50. 550 . Metaphors of Memory by D. Draaisma

    What is memory? It is at the same time ephemeral, unreliable and essential to everything we do. Without memory we lose our sense of identity, reasoning, even our ability to perform simple physical ...

    - Google