The Greatest Nonfiction Books Since 1980


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. 451 . 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
  2. 452 . 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
  3. 453 . 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
  4. 454 . The Weather Makers by Tim Flannery

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

  5. 455 . 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
  6. 456 . 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
  7. 457 . 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
  8. 458 . Enthusiasms by Bernard Levin

  9. 459 . 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...

  10. 460 . 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...