The Greatest Russian, American "Contemporary, Nonfiction" 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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Contemporary books are a genre that focuses on stories set in the present day, often exploring current social, cultural, and political issues. These books are typically written in a modern style and often feature relatable characters dealing with real-life situations. Contemporary books can cover a wide range of topics, from romance and family drama to coming-of-age stories and thrillers. The genre is constantly evolving to reflect the changing world we live in, making it a popular choice for readers who want to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and issues.


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  1. 1. A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace

    "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again" is a collection of seven essays that blends humor, insight, and philosophical pondering. The author explores a wide range of topics, from the impact of television on contemporary literature to the despair of the American cruise industry, and even the nature of David Lynch's films. The book is a brilliant showcase of the author's unique ability to see the extraordinary in the ordinary, all while using his sharp wit and expansive intellect to explore the complexities of modern life.

    The 1244th Greatest Book of All Time
  2. 2. The Journalist and the Murderer by Janet Malcolm

    The book is a gripping exploration of the uneasy relationship between journalists and their subjects. It delves into the ethical dilemmas faced by journalists when they become too involved with their subjects. The narrative centers around a lawsuit between a convicted murderer and the author who wrote about his case, revealing the blurred lines between objectivity and subjectivity in journalism. The book also raises questions about the morality and responsibility of the journalistic profession.

    The 1510th Greatest Book of All Time
  3. 3. House by Tracy Kidder

    "House" is an in-depth exploration of the process of building a home from the ground up. The book follows the journey of a young couple as they work with an architect and a team of builders to construct their dream house. The narrative delves into the intricate details of construction, the complexities of the interpersonal relationships involved, and the emotional rollercoaster that comes with creating a home. It's a unique perspective on the American dream of homeownership.

    The 4144th Greatest Book of All Time
  4. 4. 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
  5. 5. The Sound Of A Wild Snail Eating by Renee Raudman, Elisabeth Tova Bailey

    In this contemplative memoir, a bedridden woman finds solace and profound lessons in the life of a wild snail that has taken up residence on her nightstand. As her own physical world shrinks due to a debilitating illness, the snail's simple, yet intricate existence offers her a unique perspective on the nature of survival, resilience, and the intricate balance of life. Through observations of the snail's habits and the parallels drawn between its life and human existence, the narrative weaves a rich tapestry that explores the wonder and beauty of nature, even in its smallest manifestations, and reflects on the healing power of the natural world.

    The 8334th Greatest Book of All Time
  6. 6. White Girls by Hilton Als

    "White Girls" is a collection of essays that explore the concept of "white girls" as the author sees it - a cultural and racial construct, rather than a literal description. The book delves into the author's personal experiences, pop culture, history, and his own identity as a gay black man. It examines figures from pop culture, literature, and the author's personal life, including Truman Capote, Michael Jackson, and the author's own sister, to explore themes of race, gender, identity, and the love and loss that comes with friendship.

    The 8718th Greatest Book of All Time
  7. 7. My Kind of Place by Susan Orlean

    This book is a collection of travel stories that take readers to a variety of fascinating locations around the world. The author's unique perspective and storytelling ability bring each location to life, whether it's a high-stakes poker tournament in Las Vegas, a taxidermy convention, or a small town in Africa. The book explores the peculiarities and charms of each place, focusing not just on the locations themselves, but also on the people who inhabit them. The author's sense of curiosity and adventure is infectious, making this a compelling read for anyone interested in travel and exploration.

    The 8943rd Greatest Book of All Time
  8. 8. All About Love by bell hooks

    This book delves into the multifaceted nature of love, challenging the conventional wisdom that often leads to misunderstandings and heartache. It proposes a transformative approach to love, advocating for its recognition as a combination of care, commitment, trust, knowledge, responsibility, and respect. The author argues that our cultural assumptions about love are flawed and that by embracing a more nurturing and empathetic view, individuals can foster healthier relationships and a more compassionate society. Through a blend of personal anecdotes, philosophical insights, and practical wisdom, the book invites readers to reconsider their beliefs and behaviors around love, and to cultivate it as a verb rather than just an emotion.

    The 9597th Greatest Book of All Time
  9. 9. The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia by Masha Gessen

    This book provides a deeply researched examination of the resurgence of totalitarianism in Russia, focusing on the lives of four individuals born at what promised to be the dawn of democracy. The book explores how, after the fall of the Soviet Union, instead of moving towards a democratic society, Russia has seen a rise in a new form of totalitarianism under its current leadership. It delves into the psychological shift in the Russian populace, the government's use of homophobia as a method of control, and how the internet and social media have been weaponized for political purposes.

    The 9613th Greatest Book of All Time
  10. 10. Borrowed Time by Paul Monette

    "Borrowed Time" is a memoir that chronicles the life of a man and his partner, both diagnosed with AIDS. The narrative provides a deeply personal and raw account of their battle with the disease, highlighting the fear, courage, and love they experienced. The book also sheds light on the early years of the AIDS epidemic in the United States and the lack of understanding and stigma associated with the disease at the time.

    The 9819th Greatest Book of All Time
  11. 11. Heroines by Kate Zambreno

    "Heroines" is a critical commentary and manifesto that delves into the lives and works of the wives and muses of famous 20th-century writers, exploring the ways in which these women, who were often writers and artists themselves, have been marginalized and pathologized by both their partners and society at large. The book blends memoir, literary analysis, and feminist theory to challenge the historical erasure of these women's contributions, examining the gendered biases that have led to their diminished legacies. The author interweaves her own experiences with those of the subjects, creating a powerful narrative that seeks to reclaim the narratives of these forgotten women and expose the systemic injustices that silenced their voices.

    The 9838th Greatest Book of All Time
  12. 12. Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

    "Three Women" is a non-fiction book that delves into the intimate and complex lives of three American women and their experiences with desire and relationships. Through extensive interviews and research, the narrative explores the emotional and sexual trials and tribulations faced by each woman, highlighting their struggles with love, infidelity, power dynamics, and societal expectations. The book provides a raw and revealing look at the intricacies of female desire and the ways in which these women navigate their lives amidst personal and external challenges.

    The 10290th Greatest Book of All Time
  13. 13. They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us by Hanif Abdurraqib

    In this collection of essays, the author weaves together personal anecdotes, music criticism, and social commentary to explore the ways in which music shapes our identities and experiences. Through a lens that is both deeply introspective and widely resonant, the essays delve into the cultural impact of artists ranging from Bruce Springsteen to Chance the Rapper, examining the intersections of race, politics, and popular culture. The author's lyrical prose and poignant reflections offer a unique perspective on the power of music to articulate emotion, forge connections, and provide solace in times of turmoil.

    The 10503rd Greatest Book of All Time
  14. 14. Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story by Paul Monette

    "Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story" is a poignant autobiography that explores the author's journey of self-discovery and acceptance as a gay man in America. The narrative delves into his struggles with his identity, his experiences of homophobia, his life in the closet, and his eventual coming out. The book also documents his relationships, particularly with his long-term partner who succumbed to AIDS, and his own battle with the disease. The memoir serves as a powerful commentary on the societal attitudes towards homosexuality during the 20th century.

    The 10517th Greatest Book of All Time
  15. 15. Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino

    This book is a collection of essays that delve into the complexities of self-delusion in the context of contemporary culture. It offers a sharp and incisive examination of the forces shaping the sense of identity in the internet era, from the rise of social media to the pressures of the modern beauty industry. The author weaves personal anecdotes with cultural criticism to explore how the systems of the internet, politics, and pop culture can trap individuals in reflective loops of performance and validation. Through its pages, the book challenges readers to consider how they can navigate a world where the line between perception and reality is increasingly blurred.

    The 10554th Greatest Book of All Time
  16. 16. Crying In H Mart by Michelle Zauner

    This memoir is a poignant exploration of grief, identity, and heritage through the lens of food and family. The author recounts her experiences growing up as a Korean-American, the complex relationship with her mother, and the profound loss she endures after her mother's death. The narrative weaves between past and present, detailing the author's struggle to find her identity in the intersection of two cultures and her journey to understanding and accepting her heritage, all while navigating the universal experiences of love, loss, and healing. The supermarket H Mart serves as a symbolic anchor for the author's reflections on her mother's homeland and the culinary traditions that serve as a vital link to her memories and cultural roots.

    The 10613th Greatest Book of All Time
  17. 17. I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy

    In this candid memoir, a former child actress chronicles her tumultuous journey through the entertainment industry, detailing the intense pressures and emotional abuse she faced from a controlling mother. She opens up about her struggles with eating disorders, addiction, and the quest for independence, all while grappling with the complex grief following her mother's death. The book offers a raw and poignant exploration of her path to healing, self-acceptance, and the difficult process of breaking free from the toxic dynamics that dominated her early life and career.

    The 10639th 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.