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. 301 . The Radicalism of the American Revolution by Gordon S. Wood

    Historians have always had problems explaining the revolutionary character of the American Revolution: its lack of class conflict, a reign of terror, and indiscriminate violence make it seem positi...

  2. 302 . The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas by Louis Menand

    The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America is a Pulitzer Prize-winning 2001 book by Louis Menand, an American writer and legal scholar. The Metaphysical Club recounts the lives and intellec...

  3. 303 . Lindbergh by A. Scott Berg

    Andrew Scott Berg (born December 4, 1949) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American biographer. After graduating from Princeton University in 1971, Berg expanded his senior thesis, about editor Maxwell ...

  4. 304 . Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America by James Forman

    In recent years, America’s criminal justice system has become the subject of an increasingly urgent debate. Critics have assailed the rise of mass incarceration, emphasizing its disproportionate im...

    - Google
  5. 305 . The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time by Jonathan Weiner

    The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time winner of the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction. this book on evolutionary biology written for the layperson by Jonathan Weiner in ...

  6. 306 . Rough Crossings by Simon Schama

    Rough Crossings: Britain, the Slaves and the American Revolution is a history book and television series by Simon Schama. This gives an account of the history of thousands of enslaved African Amer...

  7. 307 . Gulag: A History by Anne Applebaum

    The book charts the history of the Gulag organization from its beginnings in the Solovki prison camp and the construction of the White Sea Canal through its explosive growth in the Great Terror and...

  8. 308 . Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable

    Winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for History Hailed as "a masterpiece" (San Francisco Chronicle), the late Manning Marable's acclaimed biography of Malcolm X finally does justice to one of the mos...

    - Google
  9. 309 . Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America's Vietnam by Fredrik Logevall

    A history of the four decades leading up to the Vietnam War offers insights into how the U.S. became involved, identifying commonalities between the campaigns of French and American forces while di...

    - Google
  10. 310 . Fin-de-Siècle Vienna by Carl E. Schorske

    Fin-de-Siècle Vienna: Politics and Culture, written by American cultural historian Carl E. Schorske won the 1981 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction. It has been described as a magnificent revel...

  11. 311 . The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery by Eric Foner

    In a landmark work of deep scholarship and insight, Foner gives us a life of Lincoln as it intertwined with slavery, the defining issue of the time and the tragic hallmark of American history. The ...

    - Google
  12. 312 . Young Men and Fire by Norman Maclean

    Young Men and Fire is a non-fiction book written by Norman Maclean and edited by his son, John Norman Maclean. It is an account of Norman Maclean's research of the Mann Gulch fire of 1949 and the 1...

  13. 313 . Annals of the Former World by John McPhee

    The book presents a geological history of North America, and was researched and written over the course of two decades beginning in 1978. It consists of a compilation of five books, the first four ...

  14. 314 . Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation by Joseph Ellis

    Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation is a Pulitzer Prize–winning book written by Joseph Ellis, a professor of history at Mount Holyoke College. This text explores how a group of individ...

  15. 315 . Postwar by Tony Judt

    Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 is a 2005 book by historian Tony Judt, the Director of New York University's Erich Maria Remarque Institute. The book examines the history of Europe from the...

  16. 316 . Bad Blood by Lorna Sage

    Bad Blood is a 2000 work blending collective biography and memoir by the Welsh literary critic and novelist Lorna Sage.

  17. 317 . No Logo by Naomi Klein

  18. 318 . Chronicles: Volume One by Bob Dylan

    Chronicles, Volume One is the first part of Bob Dylan's planned 3-volume memoir. Published on October 5, 2004 by Simon & Schuster, the 304-page volume covers selected points from Dylan's long caree...

  19. 319 . A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Martin Luther King

    "We've got some difficult days ahead," civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr., told a crowd gathered at Memphis's Clayborn Temple on April 3, 1968. "But it really doesn't matter to me now be...

    - Google
  20. 320 . Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets by Svetlana Alexievich

    NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The magnum opus and latest work from Svetlana Alexievich, the 2015 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature—a symphonic oral history about the disintegration of the Sovie...

    - Google
  21. 321 . Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

    Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (Hebrew: קיצור תולדות האנושות‎, [Ḳitsur toldot ha-enoshut]) is a book by Yuval Noah Harari, first published in Hebrew in Israel in 2011 and in English in 2014....

  22. 322 . Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty

    Capital in the Twenty-First Century is a 2013 book by French economist Thomas Piketty. It focuses on wealth and income inequality in Europe and the United States since the 18th century. It was init...

  23. 323 . A Death in the Family by Karl Ove Knausgaard

    The first instalment of Knausgaard’s relentlessly self-examining six-volume series My Struggle revolves around the life and death of his alcoholic father. Whether or not you regard him as the Prous...

    - Google
  24. 324 . Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

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  25. 325 . Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit

    Throwing out the crippling assumptions with which many activists proceed, award-winning author Solnit proposes a new vision of how change happens.

    - Google
  26. 326 . Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson

    A New York Times bestseller: The “magnificent” memoir by one of the bravest and most original writers of our time—“A tour de force of literature and love” (Vogue). Jeanette Winterson’s bold and rev...

    - Google
  27. 327 . Women & Power: A Manifesto by Mary Beard

    An updated edition of the Sunday Times Bestseller Britain's best-known classicist Mary Beard, is also a committed and vocal feminist. With wry wit, she revisits the gender agenda and shows how hist...

    - Google
  28. 328 . Underland by Robert Macfarlane

    From the best-selling, award-winning author of Landmarks and The Old Ways, a haunting voyage into the planet’s past and future. Hailed as "the great nature writer of this generation" (Wall Street J...

    - Google
  29. 329 . This House of Grief by Helen Garner

    This House of Grief is a 2014 non-fiction work by Helen Garner. Subtitled "The story of a murder trial", its subject matter is the murder conviction of a man accused of driving his car into a dam r...

  30. 330 . Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli

    Seven Brief Lessons on Physics (Italian: Sette brevi lezioni di fisica) is a short book by the Italian physicist Carlo Rovelli. Originally published in Italian in 2014, the book has been translated...

  31. 331 . The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff

    The challenges to humanity posed by the digital future, the first detailed examination of the unprecedented form of power called "surveillance capitalism," and the quest by powerful corporations to...

    - Google
  32. 332 . Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick

    Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea is a 2009 part-novelization of interviews with refugees from Chongjin, North Korea, written by Los Angeles Times journalist Barbara Demick. In 2010, t...

  33. 333 . Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

    Thinking, Fast and Slow is a best-selling book published in 2011 by Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences laureate Daniel Kahneman. It was the 2012 winner of the National Academies Communicatio...

  34. 334 . One Writer's Beginnings by Eudora Welty

    Eudora Alice Welty (April 13, 1909 – July 23, 2001) was an award-winning American author who wrote short stories and novels about the American South. Her book, The Optimist's Daughter, won the Puli...

  35. 335 . The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson

    The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better is a book by Richard G. Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, published in 2009 by Allen Lane. The book is published in the US by Bloomsbury...

  36. 336 . The 9/11 Commission Report by 9/11 Commission

  37. 337 . Adults in the Room by Yanis Varoufakis

    'One of the greatest political memoirs of all time' (Guardian) -- The Sunday Times Number 1 Bestseller What happens when you take on the establishment? In this blistering, personal account, world-f...

    - Google
  38. 338 . The Rest is Noise by Alex Ross

  39. 339 . I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron

    I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman is a 2006 book written by Nora Ephron. On September 10, 2006 it was listed at #1 on The New York Times Non-Fiction Best Seller list. In...

  40. 340 . The Clash of Civilizations by Samuel P. Huntington

    The classic study of post-Cold War international relations, more relevant than ever in the post-9/11 world, with a new foreword by Zbigniew Brzezinski. Since its initial publication, The Clash of C...

    - Google
  41. 341 . Crusade and Jihad: Islam and the Christian World by Bassam Tibi

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  42. 342 . The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin

    The songlines are the invisible pathways that criss-cross Australia, ancient tracks connecting communities and following ancient boundaries. Along these lines Aboriginals passed the songs which rev...

    - Google
  43. 343 . The Other Education: What you should know about the natural sciences by Ernst Peter Fischer

    It was published as a reaction to Dieter Schwanitz' bestseller "Education. Everything there is to know", in which the natural sciences were deliberately excluded.

  44. 344 . An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It by Al Gore

    The former vice-president details the factors contributing to the growing climate crisis, describes changes to the environment caused by global warming, and discusses the shift in environmental pol...

    - Google
  45. 345 . German History 1800–1918 by Thomas Nipperdey

    Thomas Nipperdey offers readers insights into the history and the culture of German nationalism, bringing to light much-needed information on the immediate prenational period of transition. A subje...

    - Google
  46. 346 . Desert Flower by Waris Dirie, Cathleen Miller

    Waris Dirie leads a double life -- by day, she is an international supermodel and human rights ambassador for the United Nations; by night, she dreams of the simplicity of life in her native Somali...

    - Google
  47. 347 . A Short History Of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

    A Short History of Nearly Everything (ISBN 0-7679-0817-1) is a general science book by Bill Bryson, which explains some areas of science, using a style of language more accessible to the general pu...

  48. 348 . Pictures At A Revolution by Mark Harris

  49. 349 . Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser

    Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal (2001) is a book by investigative journalist Eric Schlosser that examines the local and global influence of the United States fast food indu...

  50. 350 . Rising Tide by John Barry

    Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America

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