The Greatest Nonfiction Books Since 1970


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. 151 . Red Scarf Girl by Ji-li Jiang

    This accessible autobiography is the true story of one girl's determination to hold her family together during one of the most terrifying eras of the twentieth century. It's 1966, and twelve-year-o...

    - Google
  2. 152 . Experience by Martin Amis

  3. 153 . I Have Lived a Thousand Years by Livia Bitton-Jackson

    A graphic narrative describes what happens to a 13-year-old Jewish girl when the Nazis invade Hungary in 1944. Includes a brief chronology of the Holocaust.

  4. 154 . Zami: A New Spelling of My Name by Audre Lorde

    Zami: A New Spelling of My Name is a 1982 autobiography by American poet Audre Lorde. It started a new genre that the author calls biomythography, which combines history, biography, and myth. In th...

  5. 155 . I Will Bear Witness by Victor Klemperer

    The author's firsthand account of life in Nazi Germany chronicles the escalation of the war, including the bombing of Dresden and his escape from deportation to a Jewish concentration camp.

    - Google
  6. 156 . Born to Run by Chris McDougall

    At the heart of Born to Run lies a mysterious tribe of Mexican Indians, the Tarahumara, who live quietly in canyons and are reputed to be the best distance runners in the world; in 1993, one of the...

    - Google
  7. 157 . 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...

  8. 158 . 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
  9. 159 . 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
  10. 160 . 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
  11. 161 . 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
  12. 162 . 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
  13. 163 . 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
  14. 164 . 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
  15. 165 . 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
  16. 166 . 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. 167 . 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. 168 . 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
  19. 169 . 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
  20. 170 . 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
  21. 171 . 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
  22. 172 . 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
  23. 173 . 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
  24. 174 . "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
  25. 175 . 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
  26. 176 . 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
  27. 177 . 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
  28. 178 . 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
  29. 179 . 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
  30. 180 . 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
  31. 181 . 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
  32. 182 . 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...

  33. 183 . 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 ...

  34. 184 . Last Train to Memphis by Peter Guralnick

  35. 185 . All Over But The Shoutin' by Rick Bragg

  36. 186 . 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...

  37. 187 . 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...

  38. 188 . 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...

  39. 189 . A Distant Mirror by Barbara Tuchman

    A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century, published in 1978, is a work by American historian Barbara Tuchman, focusing on life in 14th century Europe. To provide a central figure in her swe...

  40. 190 . 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
  41. 191 . The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson

    One of The New York Times Book Review’s 10 Best Books of the Year In this epic, beautifully written masterwork, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Isabel Wilkerson chronicles one of the great untold sto...

    - Google
  42. 192 . 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...

  43. 193 . 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...

  44. 194 . 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")...

  45. 195 . United States: Essays 1952-1992 by Gore Vidal

    United States: Essays 1952-1992

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  46. 196 . 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
  47. 197 . 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...

  48. 198 . The Good War by Studs Terkel

    "The Good War": An Oral History of World War Two is a telling of the oral history of World War II written by Studs Terkel. The work won the 1985 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction. It is a firs...

  49. 199 . The Forever War by Dexter Filkins

    The Forever War is a non-fiction book by American journalist Dexter Filkins about his observations on assignment in Afghanistan and Iraq during the Iraq War. The book made the New York Times Book R...

  50. 200 . We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live: Collected Nonfiction by Joan Didion

    A definitive compilation of essays and nonfiction writings spanning more than forty years includes the author's reflections on politics, lifestyle, place, and cultural figures, including her studie...

    - Google