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. 201 . The Pope and Mussolini by David I. Kertzer

    The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe is a 2014 Pulitzer Prize winner biography of Pope Pius XI about his relations with Benito Mussolini and rise ...

  2. 202 . 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
  3. 203 . American Prometheus by Kai Bird, Martin J. Sherwin

    American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer is a biography of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin published by Alfred A. Knopf in 2005. Twenty-five yea...

  4. 204 . 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...

  5. 205 . Brother, I'm Dying by Edwidge Danticat

    Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography A National Book Award Finalist A New York Times Notable Book From the age of four, award-winning writer Edwidge Danticat came to t...

    - Google
  6. 206 . A Nation under Our Feet by Steven Hahn

    A Nation under Our Feet: Black Political Struggles in the Rural South from Slavery to the Great Migration is a Pulitzer Prize-winning book written in 2003 by Steven Hahn. The book is a history of t...

  7. 207 . 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
  8. 208 . A Midwife's Tale by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

    A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard based on her diary, 1785–1812.

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  9. 209 . The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan

    The dust storms that terrorized the High Plains in the darkest years of the Depression were like nothing ever seen before or since. Timothy Egan's critically acclaimed account rescues this iconic c...

  10. 210 . 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 ...

  11. 211 . 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...

  12. 212 . Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America by Gilbert King

    Arguably the most important American lawyer of the twentieth century, Thurgood Marshall was on the verge of bringing the landmark suit Brown v. Board of Education before the U.S. Supreme Court when...

    - Google
  13. 213 . 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
  14. 214 . How We Die: Reflections on Life's Final Chapter by Sherwin B. Nuland

    The 1994 NBA nonfiction winner, Yale physician Nuland's study of the clinical, biological and emotional details of dying.

  15. 215 . 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...

  16. 216 . de Kooning by Mark Stevens, Annalyn Swan

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  17. 217 . George F. Kennan: An American Life by John Lewis Gaddis

    George F. Kennan: An American Life is a nonfiction book about U.S. diplomat George F. Kennan by John Lewis Gaddis that won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography.Pulitzer.org descri...

  18. 218 . Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan

    Surfing only looks like a sport. To initiates, it is something else entirely: a beautiful addiction, a demanding course of study, a morally dangerous pastime, a way of life. Raised in California an...

    - Google
  19. 219 . Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation by Dan Fagin

    Recounts the decades-long saga of the New Jersey seaside town plagued by childhood cancers caused by air and water pollution due to the indiscriminate dumping of toxic chemicals.

    - Google
  20. 220 . Khrushchev: The Man and His Era by William Taubman

  21. 221 . Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser

    The first comprehensive historical biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the beloved author of the Little House on the Prairie books Millions of readers of Little House on the Prairie believe they kno...

    - Google
  22. 222 . 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...

  23. 223 . 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.

  24. 224 . No Logo by Naomi Klein

  25. 225 . 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...

  26. 226 . 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
  27. 227 . 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....

  28. 228 . 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...

  29. 229 . 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
  30. 230 . Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

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  31. 231 . 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
  32. 232 . 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
  33. 233 . 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
  34. 234 . 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
  35. 235 . 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...

  36. 236 . 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...

  37. 237 . 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
  38. 238 . 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...

  39. 239 . 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...

  40. 240 . 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...

  41. 241 . The 9/11 Commission Report by 9/11 Commission

  42. 242 . 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
  43. 243 . The Rest is Noise by Alex Ross

  44. 244 . 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...

  45. 245 . 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
  46. 246 . 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
  47. 247 . 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.

  48. 248 . Crusade and Jihad: Islam and the Christian World by Bassam Tibi

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  49. 249 . 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
  50. 250 . 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...