The Greatest Nonfiction Books Since 1990


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. 101 . Last Train to Memphis by Peter Guralnick

  2. 102 . All Over But The Shoutin' by Rick Bragg

  3. 103 . 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...

  4. 104 . 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...

  5. 105 . 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
  6. 106 . 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...

  7. 107 . 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")...

  8. 108 . United States: Essays 1952-1992 by Gore Vidal

    United States: Essays 1952-1992

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  9. 109 . 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
  10. 110 . 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...

  11. 111 . 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...

  12. 112 . 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
  13. 113 . The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

    The God Delusion is a 2006 bestselling non-fiction book by British biologist Richard Dawkins, professorial fellow of New College, Oxford, and inaugural holder of the Charles Simonyi Chair for the P...

  14. 114 . A People's Tragedy by Orlando Figes

    This multi-award book is history on an epic yet human scale. Vast in scope, exhaustive in original research, written with passion, narrative skill, and human sympathy, "A People's Tragedy" offers a...

  15. 115 . The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf

    The Beauty Myth examines beauty as a demand and as a judgment upon women. Subtitled How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women, Wolf examines how modern conceptions of women's beauty impact the sp...

  16. 116 . A Child Called 'It' by Dave Pelzer

    A Child Called "It": One Child's Courage to Survive is Dave Pelzer's 1995 autobiographical account of his alleged abuse as a child by an alcoholic mother, Catherine Roerva.

  17. 117 . Schott's Original Miscellany by Ben Schott

    Schott's Miscellanies are a trio of best-selling books by Ben Schott. They consist of a collection of trivia generally centred on the culture of the United Kingdom (and to a lesser extent the rest ...

  18. 118 . The Rise of the West by William H. McNeill

    The Rise of the West explores human history in terms of the effect of different world civilizations on one another. McNeill assumes "decent familiarity with Western history," which allows describin...

  19. 119 . The Taming of Chance by Ian Hacking

    In this important new study Ian Hacking continues the enquiry into the origins and development of certain characteristic modes of contemporary thought undertaking in such previous works as the best...

  20. 120 . Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott

    "I woke up with a start at 4:00 one morning and realized that I was very, very pregnant." So begins novelist Anne Lamott's journal of the birth of her son, Sam, and their first year together. She m...

  21. 121 . Mountains Beyond Mountains: One doctor's quest to heal the world by Tracy Kidder

    Profound and powerful, Mountains Beyond Mountains takes us from Harvard to Haiti, Peru, Cuba and Russia, as the charismatic but flawed genius Dr Paul Farmer challenges widely-held preconceptions ab...

    - Google
  22. 122 . Eden's Outcasts by Jon Matteson

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  23. 123 . W.E.B. Du Bois: The Fight for Equality and The American Century by David Levering Lewis

    William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (pronounced /duːˈbɔɪs/ doo-BOYSS) (February 23, 1868 – August 27, 1963) was an American civil rights activist, Pan-Africanist, sociologist, historian, author, and e...

  24. 124 . The Fate of Liberty: Abraham Lincoln and Civil Liberties by Mark E. Neely, Jr

    If Abraham Lincoln was known as the Great Emancipator, he was also the only president to suspend the writ of habeas corpus. Indeed, Lincoln's record on the Constitution and individual rights has fu...

  25. 125 . The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832 by Alan Taylor

    National Book Award Finalist: Impressively researched and beautifully crafted . . . a brilliant account of slavery in Virginia during and after the Revolution. Mark M. Smith, Wall Street Journal"

    - Google
  26. 126 . A Civil Action by Jonathan Harr

    A Civil Action is a 1996 non-fiction novel by Jonathan Harr depicting the real-life water contamination case in Woburn, Massachusetts in the 1980s. The book became a best-seller and won the Nationa...

  27. 127 . W.E.B. Dubois : Biography of a Race, 1868–1919 by David Levering Lewis

    William Edward Burghardt Du Bois - the premier architect of the civil rights movement in America - was a towering and controversial personality, a fiercely proud individual blessed with the languag...

  28. 128 . Medical Apartheid by Harriet A. Washington

    Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present is a 2007 book by Harriet A. Washington. It is a comprehensive history of medica...

  29. 129 . Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo

    Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity is a non-fiction book written by the Pulitzer Prize-winner Katherine Boo in 2012. It won the National Book Award and the L...

  30. 130 . The Years of Extermination by Saul Friedlander

    The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945 is the second volume of Saul Friedlander's history of Nazi Germany and the Jews. It won the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction i...

  31. 131 . The Race Beat by Gene Roberts, Hank Klibanoff

    The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation is a Pulitzer Prize-winning book written in 2006 by journalists Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff. The book is about...

  32. 132 . The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power by Daniel Yergin

    The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power is Daniel Yergin's 800-page history of the global oil industry from the 1850s through 1990. The Prize benefited from extraordinary timing: publis...

  33. 133 . A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide by Samantha Power

    "A Problem from Hell": America and the Age of Genocide is a book by Samantha Power, Professor of Human Rights Practice at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, which explores America's un...

  34. 134 . Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy by Carlos Eire

    A childhood in a privileged household in 1950s Havana is joyous and cruel, like any other — but with exotic differences. Lizards roam the house and grounds. Fights aren't waged with snowballs but w...

  35. 135 . 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...

  36. 136 . Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi

    Americans like to insist that we are living in a postracial, color-blind society. In fact, racist thought is alive and well; it has simply become more sophisticated and more insidious. And as award...

    - Google
  37. 137 . Time, Love, Memory by Jonathan Weiner

    Jonathan Weiner, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for The Beak of the Finch, brings his brilliant reporting skills to the story of Seymour Benzer, the Brooklyn-born maverick scientist whose study of ge...

  38. 138 . The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and Its Dangerous Legacy by David Hoffman

    A history of the end of the arms race describes the Soviet Union's development of an automatic retaliatory attack system, the United States's efforts to create space-based missile defenses, and the...

    - Google
  39. 139 . Ashes to Ashes by Richard Kluger

    Ashes To Ashes: America's Hundred-Year Cigarette War, The Public Health, And The Unabashed Triumph Of Philip Morris, written by Richard Kluger and published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1996, won the 1997...

  40. 140 . Personal History by Katharine Graham

    Personal History is the autobiography of Katharine Graham. It was published in 1997 and won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography in 1998. The book received widespread critical acclaim ...

  41. 141 . 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...

  42. 142 . Ghost Wars by Steve Coll

    The book describes the CIA's efforts in Afghanistan to include the covert paramilitary programs against the Soviet Union and the Taliban. It also includes detailed descriptions of operations that a...

  43. 143 . Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

    Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City is a 2016 non-fiction book by the American author Matthew Desmond. Set in the poorest areas of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the book follows eight families...

  44. 144 . Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II by John W. Dower

    The book covers the Occupation of Japan by the Allies between August 1945 and April 1952, delving into topics such as Douglas MacArthur's administration, the Tokyo war crimes trials and Hirohito's ...

  45. 145 . Original Meanings by Jack N. Rakove

    Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution (ISBN 0679781218) is a 464 page, non-fiction book authored by Jack N. Rakove and published on May 27, 1997 by Vintage Books. ...

  46. 146 . William Cooper's Town by Alan Taylor

    An innovative work of biography, social history, and literary analysis, this Pulitzer Prize-winning book presents the story of two men, William Cooper and his son, the novelist James Fennimore Coop...

  47. 147 . When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

    Doctor Paul Kalanithi devoted his final days to the living. Written in the months he had been given after a terminal cancer diagnosis, Kalanithi composed this courageous memoir about becoming a doc...

  48. 148 . Carry Me Home by Diane McWhorter

    Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama, the Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution, written by Diane McWhorter and published by Simon & Schuster in 2001, won the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize an...

  49. 149 . An Army at Dawn by Rick Atkinson

    An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa 1942-1943 is a Pulitzer Prize-winning book written in 2002 by long-time Washington Post correspondent Rick Atkinson. The book is a history of the North Afri...

  50. 150 . Vera by Stacy Schiff