The Greatest Nonfiction Books Since 2000


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. 101 . 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
  2. 102 . The Gulf: The Making of An American Sea by Jack E. Davis

    Winner of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for History Winner of the 2017 Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction A National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction Finalist A New York Times Notable Book of 2017 One o...

    - Google
  3. 103 . Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom by David W. Blight

    Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom is a 2018 biography of African American abolitionist Frederick Douglass, written by historian David W. Blight. It was published in 2018 by Simon & Schuster a...

  4. 104 . Liberty's Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World by Maya Jasanoff

    A global history of the post-Revolutionary War exodus of 60,000 Americans loyal to the British Empire to such regions as Canada, India and Sierra Leone traces the experiences of specific individual...

    - Google
  5. 105 . Sons of Mississippi by Paul Hendrickson

    To help us understand racism in America, former Washington Post journalist Hendrickson tells the story of the seven white Mississippi sheriffs shown admiring a billy club in a famed 1962 photograph.

  6. 106 . The Most Famous Man in America by Debby Applegate

  7. 107 . Vera by Stacy Schiff

  8. 108 . 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
  9. 109 . Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing by Ted Conover

    Acclaimed journalist Conover sets a new standard for reporting when he applies for a job as a prison officer. So begins his odyssey at Sing Sing, once a model prison but now the New York State's mo...

  10. 110 . 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...

  11. 111 . Arc of Justice by Kevin Boyle

    In this electrifying story of the sensational murder trial that divided Detroit and ignited the civil rights struggle, Boyle weaves a tapestry of narrative history that documents the volatile Ameri...

  12. 112 . 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...

  13. 113 . 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...

  14. 114 . What Hath God Wrought by Daniel Walker Howe

    The book tracks the period in American history from the end of the War of 1812 to the end of the Mexican American War. It is focused on the revolutionary changes in transportation and communication...

  15. 115 . Unfinished Business by Stephen Bonsal

  16. 116 . Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan by Herbert P. Bix

    Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan is a book by Herbert P. Bix on Emperor Hirohito, emperor of Japan from December 25, 1926 until his death on January 7, 1989, won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for ...

  17. 117 . Polio: An American Story by David M. Oshinsky

    Polio: An American Story is a book by David M. Oshinsky, professor of history at The University of Texas at Austin, which documents the polio epidemic in the United States during the 1940s and 1950...

  18. 118 . Eden's Outcasts by Jon Matteson

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  19. 119 . 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...

  20. 120 . 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...

  21. 121 . Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow

    Washington: A Life is a 2010 biography of George Washington, the first President of the United States, written by American historian and biographer Ron Chernow. The book is a "one-volume, cradle-to...

  22. 122 . American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House by Jon Matteson

  23. 123 . Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink

    One of the New York Times’s Best Ten Books of the Year Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction Winner of the 2014 J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize, the Los Angeles Times Book Pri...

    - Google
  24. 124 . 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...

  25. 125 . 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 ...

  26. 126 . 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
  27. 127 . 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
  28. 128 . The Reformation by Diarmaid MacCulloch

    The Reformation: A History (2003) is a history book by English historian Diarmaid MacCulloch. It is a survey of the European Reformation between 1490 and 1700. It won the 2004 National Book Critics...

  29. 129 . The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America by George Packer

    Paints a picture of the last thirty years of life in America by following several citizens, including the son of tobacco farmers in the rural south, a Washington insider who denies his idealism for...

    - Google
  30. 130 . Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World by Liaquat Ahamed

    Argues that the stock market crash of 1929 and subsequent Depression occurred as a result of poor decisions on the part of four central bankers who jointly attempted to reconstruct international fi...

    - Google
  31. 131 . 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
  32. 132 . Just Kids by Patti Smith

    Just Kids is a memoir by Patti Smith, published on January 19, 2010. In the book, Smith documents her relationship with artist Robert Mapplethorpe.

  33. 133 . 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...

  34. 134 . 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...

  35. 135 . Margaret Fuller: A New American Life by Megan Marshall

    Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Biography From an early age, Margaret Fuller provoked and dazzled New England’s intellectual elite. Her famous Conversations changed women’s sense of how they could...

    - Google
  36. 136 . 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...

  37. 137 . 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...

  38. 138 . Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China by Evan Osnos

    A Beijing correspondent for The New Yorker documents the political, economic and cultural changes occurring in today's China, examining a transition from Communist to personal power while addressin...

    - Google
  39. 139 . Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA by Tim Weiner

    Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA is a 2007 book by Tim Weiner. Legacy of Ashes is a detailed history of the Central Intelligence Agency from its creation after World War II, through the Cold...

  40. 140 . The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss

    The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo is a 2012 biography of General Thomas-Alexandre Dumas written by Tom Reiss. The book presents the life and career of...

  41. 141 . 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...

  42. 142 . 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...

  43. 143 . 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
  44. 144 . 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...

  45. 145 . 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...

  46. 146 . 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
  47. 147 . 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
  48. 148 . 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
  49. 149 . 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...

  50. 150 . 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...