The Greatest "Nonfiction, Fiction" Books Since 1980

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This list represents a comprehensive and trusted collection of the greatest books. Developed through a specialized algorithm, it brings together 305 'best of' book lists to form a definitive guide to the world's most acclaimed books. For those interested in how these books are chosen, additional details can be found on the rankings page.

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  1. 1. The Rings of Saturn by W. G. Sebald

    "The Rings of Saturn" is a richly detailed travelogue that follows the narrator's journey along the coast of Suffolk, England. The narrative weaves together history, literature, and personal anecdotes, exploring topics as diverse as the decline of the herring industry, the horrors of colonialism in the Congo, and the life of philosopher Sir Thomas Browne. The book is characterized by its melancholic tone, its digressive style, and its meditative reflections on memory, time, and decay.

    The 1002nd Greatest Book of All Time
  2. 2. The Emigrants by Winfried Georg Sebald

    "The Emigrants" is a novel that explores the experiences and memories of four different emigrants, each with a unique and complex history. The narrative primarily focuses on the psychological impact of displacement and the haunting nature of the past. The author delves deep into their lives, revealing their struggles with identity, loss, and the persistent influence of their roots. The narrative is interwoven with historical events, photographs, and other documents, creating a rich tapestry that blurs the line between fact and fiction.

    The 1227th Greatest Book of All Time
  3. 3. What Is the What by Dave Eggers

    The novel is a fictionalized account of a real-life Sudanese refugee, Valentino Achak Deng, who was forced to flee from his village during the Second Sudanese Civil War. The story follows his harrowing journey as a child through Ethiopia and Kenya, his life in various refugee camps, and his eventual resettlement in the United States. The book explores themes of survival, identity, and the power of storytelling, while shedding light on the tragic history and ongoing humanitarian crisis in Sudan.

    The 1894th Greatest Book of All Time
  4. 4. Hideous Kinky by Esther Freud

    A young woman travels to Morocco with her two daughters in search of a more fulfilling and adventurous life. The novel explores the experiences of the two young girls as they navigate this new and unfamiliar culture, their mother's search for spiritual enlightenment, and their struggles with poverty. The narrative is a poignant exploration of childhood innocence, the complexities of motherhood, and the clash of cultures.

    The 2163rd Greatest Book of All Time
  5. 5. Wittgenstein's Nephew by Thomas Bernhard

    "Wittgenstein's Nephew" is a semi-autobiographical novel that explores the friendship between the narrator and his friend Paul, who is the nephew of the famous philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. The story takes place in Vienna and is set against the backdrop of the Austrian mental health system. The novel delves into themes of sanity, insanity, and the fine line that separates the two, while also offering a critique of Austrian society. It is a meditation on the nature of illness, both physical and mental, and the impact it has on personal relationships and one's perception of the world.

    The 3003rd Greatest Book of All Time
  6. 6. Life is a Carawanserai Has Two Doors I Went in One I Came out the Other by Emine Sevgi Özdamar

    This novel follows the life of a young Turkish girl growing up in the 1950s and 60s, exploring her experiences in a rapidly changing society. The protagonist navigates the complexities of her family life, her struggle with her identity and her eventual emigration to Germany. The book explores themes of female empowerment, cultural clashes, and the immigrant experience, all told through a unique narrative style that blends reality with dreams and folktales.

    The 3757th Greatest Book of All Time
  7. 7. In My Mother's House by Kim Chernin

    "In My Mother's House" is a poignant exploration of the complex relationship between a daughter and her mother, set against the backdrop of the daughter's journey to understand her own identity and the influence of her mother's past. The narrative delves into themes of feminism, psychoanalysis, and Jewish cultural heritage, as the daughter grapples with her mother's expectations and the weight of generational trauma. Through a blend of memoir and fiction, the book examines the intricate bonds of family and the struggle for self-definition in the shadow of a powerful maternal figure.

    The 4506th Greatest Book of All Time
  8. 8. Patrimony by Philip Roth

    The book is a poignant non-fiction account that delves into the complex relationship between a son and his aging father, who is grappling with a fatal brain tumor. As the father's health deteriorates, the son is confronted with the impending loss and the weight of familial duty, love, and the shared history that binds them. The narrative is a deeply personal exploration of identity, memory, and mortality, offering a raw and honest look at the challenges of caregiving and the process of saying goodbye to a loved one. Through this journey, the son gains a deeper understanding of his father's life and legacy, as well as his own place in the continuum of their family's story.

    The 4545th Greatest Book of All Time
  9. 9. The Places In Between by Rory Stewart

    "The Places In Between" is a memoir by Rory Stewart about his journey on foot across Afghanistan in 2002, shortly after the fall of the Taliban. He travels from Herat to Kabul, encountering a variety of people and landscapes along the way. The book provides a unique insight into the culture and history of Afghanistan, as well as the challenges faced by the country in the aftermath of war. Stewart's writing is both lyrical and informative, making for a compelling read.

    The 4781st Greatest Book of All Time
  10. 10. Getting Home Alive by Aurora Levins Morales and Rosario Morales

    "Getting Home Alive" is a poignant collection of stories and poems that weave together the experiences of a mother and daughter, reflecting on their rich Puerto Rican heritage, their lives in the United States, and the intersection of their personal and political struggles. The work delves into themes of feminism, identity, colonialism, and social justice, offering a raw and intimate exploration of what it means to navigate the complexities of culture, family, and survival. Through a tapestry of vivid narratives and lyrical reflections, the book captures the resilience and determination of two women bound by blood and their shared journey toward empowerment and belonging.

    The 4787th Greatest Book of All Time
  11. 11. Dark Feasts: The World Of Ramsey Campbell by Ramsey Campbell

    "Dark Feasts: The World Of Ramsey Campbell" delves into the eerie and captivating mind of renowned horror author Ramsey Campbell. This book offers a comprehensive exploration of Campbell's unique writing style, his inspirations, and the themes that permeate his works. Through interviews, essays, and analysis, readers are taken on a journey through the dark and unsettling worlds that Campbell has masterfully crafted, revealing the depths of his imagination and the impact he has had on the horror genre.

    The 5090th Greatest Book of All Time
  12. 12. Silent Dancing by Judith Ortiz Cofer

    "Silent Dancing" is a poignant collection of autobiographical essays and poetry that weave together the memories of a Puerto Rican girl growing up in two worlds: the vibrant, warm island of her birth, and the cold, often unwelcoming urban landscape of New Jersey. Through a series of reflective and lyrical narratives, the author explores the complexities of her bicultural identity, dealing with themes of family, language, and the search for a sense of belonging. Her stories oscillate between the past and the present, capturing the nostalgia for a homeland left behind and the challenges of navigating a new American life, all while trying to hold onto her cultural heritage and personal history.

    The 5106th Greatest Book of All Time
  13. 13. John Wesley's Sermons: An Anthology by Albert C. Outler

    This anthology is a compilation of sermons by John Wesley, a renowned theologian and co-founder of Methodism. The sermons cover a wide range of theological and moral themes, offering a comprehensive insight into Wesley's spiritual teachings and beliefs. They reveal his profound understanding of Christian faith and his commitment to the application of religious principles in daily life. The anthology serves as a valuable resource for those interested in Wesleyan theology, Methodism, and Christian spirituality.

    The 5174th Greatest Book of All Time
  14. 14. Talking Indian by Anna Lee Walters

    The book is a poignant exploration of Native American identity and the complexities of cultural preservation amidst the backdrop of modern America. Through a series of interconnected stories, the narrative delves into the lives of various characters as they navigate the challenges of maintaining their ancestral traditions and language in a society that often marginalizes their heritage. The author weaves a tapestry of personal and communal experiences, reflecting on themes of memory, loss, and resilience, ultimately presenting a heartfelt examination of what it means to "talk Indian" in a world where such identities are constantly under pressure.

    The 5329th Greatest Book of All Time
  15. 15. The Passage Of Power: The Years Of Lyndon Johnson by Robert Caro

    "The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson" by Robert Caro is the fourth volume in his acclaimed biography of the 36th President of the United States. This book covers the years from 1958 to 1964, including Johnson's ascent to the presidency following the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Caro explores Johnson's struggles to pass civil rights legislation, his relationship with Kennedy's family, and his efforts to establish his own presidential legacy. The book also delves into Johnson's personal life, including his marriage to Lady Bird Johnson and his health issues. Overall, "The Passage of Power" provides a comprehensive and insightful look into one of the most complex and consequential figures in American political history.

    The 5449th Greatest Book of All Time
  16. 16. Cutting The Rose by Efua Doorkenoo

    "Cutting The Rose" is a gripping and thought-provoking novel that delves into the complexities of identity, culture, and the power dynamics within a Ghanaian community. Set in the 1960s, the story follows the life of a young woman named Akosua, who must navigate the expectations placed upon her as a woman in a patriarchal society while also grappling with her own desires and ambitions. Through vivid storytelling and rich character development, the author explores themes of tradition, love, and the pursuit of self-discovery in a changing world.

    The 5725th Greatest Book of All Time
  17. 17. The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes

    "The Fatal Shore" provides an expansive and detailed historical account of the colonization of Australia by the British Empire, focusing particularly on the transportation of convicts to the penal colonies established there in the 18th and 19th centuries. The book delves into the harsh realities and brutal conditions faced by the convicts, as well as the broader social, political, and economic ramifications of establishing a colony on the other side of the world. Through compelling narratives and meticulous research, it explores the transformation of Australia from a penal colony to a nation, examining the impact on both the indigenous populations and the settlers.

    The 5800th Greatest Book of All Time
  18. 18. Dark Money: The Hidden History Of The Billionaires Behind The Rise Of The Radical Righ by Jane Mayer

    "Dark Money" by Jane Mayer is an investigative book that delves into the secretive world of political funding by wealthy individuals and corporations. Mayer exposes the hidden history of the billionaires behind the rise of the radical right, including the Koch brothers and their network of donors. She reveals how these donors have used their enormous wealth to shape American politics and policy, pushing their own interests and agendas while undermining democracy. Mayer's book is a sobering reminder of the dangers of unchecked political influence by the ultra-wealthy.

    The 5801st Greatest Book of All Time
  19. 19. Passage To Juneau by Jonathan Raban

    In "Passage to Juneau," the author embarks on a solo journey by boat along the Inside Passage from Seattle to Juneau, Alaska. The narrative intertwines the challenges of navigating the treacherous coastal waters with personal reflections and historical insights. As the voyage progresses, it becomes a profound exploration of the landscape, maritime history, and the author's own internal struggles, particularly dealing with the sudden death of his father and the unraveling of his marriage. The book offers a meditative look at the interplay between the human psyche and the vast, imposing natural world.

    The 5815th Greatest Book of All Time
  20. 20. Selected Stories by William Trevor

    "Selected Stories" is a collection of short stories by acclaimed author William Trevor. The book features some of Trevor's most memorable and haunting tales, exploring themes of love, loss, and the complexities of human relationships. With his signature style of understated elegance and quiet, observant prose, Trevor creates characters that are both ordinary and extraordinary, capturing the subtle nuances of their lives and the emotions that drive them. From the Irish countryside to London's bustling streets, these stories offer a glimpse into the human experience and the ways in which we navigate the world around us.

    The 5817th Greatest Book of All Time
  21. 21. A Million Little Pieces by James Frey

    The book is a controversial memoir that details the author's intense struggle with addiction, chronicling his experiences from the depths of substance abuse to the painful path of recovery. It vividly portrays his time in a rehabilitation facility, the colorful characters he meets there, and the personal demons he battles along the way. The narrative delves into themes of redemption, the harsh realities of addiction, and the complex journey towards self-forgiveness and healing, despite later being revealed to contain fabrications and embellishments of the author's experiences.

    The 5851st Greatest Book of All Time
  22. 22. Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

    "Alexander Hamilton" by Ron Chernow is a comprehensive biography of one of America's founding fathers. The book chronicles Hamilton's life from his impoverished childhood in the Caribbean to his rise as a key figure in the American Revolution and his role in shaping the country's early government. Chernow delves into Hamilton's complex personality, his political and economic philosophies, and his tumultuous personal life, including his infamous affair with Maria Reynolds. The biography sheds light on Hamilton's lasting impact on American politics and economics, and his legacy as one of the most influential figures in the nation's history.

    The 5857th Greatest Book of All Time
  23. 23. Midnight In Chernobyl by Adam Higginbotham

    "Midnight In Chernobyl" is a non-fiction book that tells the story of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster. The book provides a detailed account of the events leading up to the explosion, the immediate aftermath, and the long-term effects of the disaster. It also explores the political and social context of Soviet Ukraine at the time, and the impact that the disaster had on the country and the world. The book draws on interviews with survivors, officials, and experts, as well as archival documents and scientific research, to provide a comprehensive and compelling narrative of one of the worst nuclear accidents in history.

    The 6075th Greatest Book of All Time
  24. 24. Thank You For Not Reading by Dubravka Ugrešić

    "Thank You For Not Reading" by Dubravka Ugrešić is a collection of essays that explores the decline of reading culture in contemporary society. Ugrešić delves into various aspects of this phenomenon, including the impact of technology, the rise of celebrity culture, and the commodification of literature. With her sharp and witty observations, she raises important questions about the future of reading and the value of literature in an increasingly digital and image-driven world.

    The 6099th Greatest Book of All Time
  25. 25. Kiswahili, Past, Present And Future Horizons by Rocha Chimera

    "Kiswahili, Past, Present And Future Horizons" explores the rich history, current state, and potential future of the Kiswahili language. The book delves into the origins and development of Kiswahili, highlighting its significance as a lingua franca in East Africa. It examines the language's role in literature, education, and communication, while also addressing the challenges and opportunities it faces in a rapidly changing global landscape. Through insightful analysis and compelling examples, the author presents a comprehensive overview of Kiswahili's past achievements and its promising prospects for continued growth and influence.

    The 6211th Greatest Book of All Time

Reading Statistics

Click the button below to see how many of these books you've read!


If you're interested in downloading this list as a CSV file for use in a spreadsheet application, you can easily do so by clicking the button below. Please note that to ensure a manageable file size and faster download, the CSV will include details for only the first 500 books.