The Greatest "Nonfiction" Books Since 2010

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This list represents a comprehensive and trusted collection of the greatest books. Developed through a specialized algorithm, it brings together 268 '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 Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

    The book tells the story of Henrietta Lacks, a poor African American tobacco farmer whose cells, taken without her knowledge in 1951, became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, and more. Henrietta's cells have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown, and her family can't afford health insurance. The book explores the collision between ethics, race, and medicine; of scientific discovery and faith healing; and of a daughter consumed with questions about the mother she never knew.

  2. 2. The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee

    This book is a comprehensive history of cancer, its treatments, and the ongoing search for a cure. It presents an in-depth exploration of the disease from its first documented appearances thousands of years ago through the epic battles in the twentieth century to cure, control, and conquer it, to a radical new understanding of its essence. The book also discusses the politics of cancer research, the impact of patient activism, and the complex and often fraught relationships between researchers, oncologists, and patients.

  3. 3. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert

    The book explores the concept of the sixth extinction, suggesting that we are currently in the midst of it due to human activity. By examining previous mass extinctions and the current rapid loss of species, the author argues that humans are causing a mass extinction event through climate change, habitat destruction, and spreading of non-native species. The book offers a sobering look at the impact of human behavior on the natural world, emphasizing the urgency of addressing these environmental issues.

  4. 4. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

    This book provides a comprehensive exploration of the history of the human species, tracing back from the earliest forms of Homo Sapiens to the modern day. It delves into evolutionary biology, the development of cultures and societies, and the rise of major ideologies and technologies. The book also discusses the future of the species, posing thought-provoking questions about our roles and responsibilities in a rapidly changing world.

  5. 5. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

    The book delves into the two systems that drive the way we think—System 1, which is fast and intuitive, and System 2, which is slow and deliberate. The author, a Nobel laureate, explores how these systems shape our judgments and decision-making. He presents several groundbreaking experiments that have shaped our understanding of human thought, revealing where we can trust our intuitions and how we can tap into the benefits of slow thinking. The book also discusses how our cognitive biases often lead to errors in judgment and affect our decision-making processes.

  6. 6. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson

    This book is an in-depth exploration of the Great Migration, the movement of African Americans from the rural South to the urban North and West that took place in the 20th century. The narrative is built around the personal stories of three individuals who made this journey, providing a detailed and intimate look at the experiences, struggles, and hopes of those who participated in this significant historical event. The book also examines the broader social, economic, and political implications of the Great Migration, shedding light on its impact on American society and culture.

  7. 7. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

    The book is a profound work that explores the concept of race in America through the lens of the author's personal experiences. It is written as a letter to the author's teenage son, offering him a stark portrayal of his place in a society that is marked by racial injustice. The narrative provides a deeply personal analysis of American history and its lasting impact on the African American community, with the author sharing his experiences of fear, violence, and struggle. It is an exploration of the physical and psychological impacts of being black in the United States, and a call for a deeper understanding of the nation's racial history.

  8. 8. The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

    "The New Jim Crow" is a thought-provoking and eye-opening book that examines the deeply ingrained racial bias within the American criminal justice system. Drawing on extensive research and personal anecdotes, the author explores how the War on Drugs has disproportionately targeted and marginalized Black communities, leading to a modern-day system of racial control and oppression. This powerful critique challenges readers to confront the systemic racism that continues to perpetuate inequality and injustice in the United States.

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

    This book provides an in-depth look at the housing crisis in America, focusing on eight families in Milwaukee who are struggling to keep a roof over their heads. The author explores the role of eviction in perpetuating poverty, illuminating the business of landlords and the harsh reality of tenants in impoverished neighborhoods. The book offers a close examination of the intersection between profit and poverty, revealing how both are intricately linked in the American housing market.

  10. 10. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

    This book is a gripping true story of a WWII veteran, who was an Olympic runner before the war. His plane crashes in the Pacific during a reconnaissance mission, and he survives for 47 days on a raft, only to be captured by the Japanese Navy and sent to a series of brutal prisoner of war camps. Despite the immense suffering, he remains unbroken, maintaining his dignity and hope, and eventually finds redemption after the war.

  11. 11. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

    This poignant memoir is a reflection on life and death by a young neurosurgeon who is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. He grapples with the role reversal from doctor to patient, and confronts the reality of his mortality. The narrative explores the intersection of medicine and philosophy, and the meaning of life when faced with death. Despite his deteriorating health, he continues to find joy in his relationships and work, leaving behind a powerful message about the value of every moment.

  12. 12. The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

    "The Argonauts" is a genre-bending memoir that chronicles the author's romantic relationship with her fluidly gendered partner, their journey to become parents, and their experiences with queer family-making. The narrative intertwines personal anecdotes with critical theories on gender, sexuality, and identity, challenging traditional notions of family, motherhood, and love. It offers a powerful exploration of desire, limitations, and the possibilities of language, pushing the boundaries of what memoirs can do and be.

  13. 13. Pulphead: Essays by John Jeremiah Sullivan

    "Pulphead: Essays" is a collection of non-fiction essays that explore various aspects of American culture, history, and personal experiences. The author takes the reader on a journey through a wide range of topics, from popular music and television to historical events and personal anecdotes. The essays are marked by their humor, insight, and the author's unique perspective, offering a thought-provoking and often surprising look at the American experience.

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

    This book is a gripping narrative that provides an in-depth look into the lives of residents in a Mumbai slum, focusing on their struggles and aspirations. The author paints a vivid picture of the harsh realities of poverty, corruption, and inequality, while also highlighting the resilience and hope of the inhabitants. The narrative is a powerful exploration of the complexities of modern India, revealing the stark contrast between the country's booming economy and the grim living conditions of its underprivileged citizens.

  15. 15. March: Book One by John Lewis

    "March: Book One" is a graphic novel that depicts the early life of a key figure in the American civil rights movement. Raised in rural Alabama, he grows up inspired by the activism surrounding the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the words of Martin Luther King Jr., which sets him on the path of nonviolent protest. The novel highlights his commitment to the fight for equal rights and his journey from a young boy on a farm to one of the key figures in the civil rights movement.

  16. 16. Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon

    This book explores the experiences of families accommodating children with physical, mental and social disabilities and differences. The author examines various conditions such as deafness, dwarfism, Down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, disability, prodigiousness, transgender, and criminality. The book delves into the challenges, struggles, but also the triumphs, of these families and how they find profound meaning in their differences. It's a comprehensive study of identity, love, and acceptance.

  17. 17. Just Kids by Patti Smith

    "Just Kids" is a poignant memoir that explores the journey of two friends in New York City during the late 1960s and 70s. The book delves into their dreams, struggles, and successes as they navigate their way through the city's vibrant art and music scene. It's a tale of love, friendship, and the pursuit of artistic inspiration, providing a raw and intimate look into their lives as they strive to make a name for themselves in the world of art and music.

  18. 18. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown

    This self-help book explores the concept of vulnerability, arguing that it is not a sign of weakness but rather an act of courage and strength. The author uses research and personal experiences to demonstrate that embracing vulnerability can lead to more fulfilling relationships, effective parenting, and successful leadership. The book provides practical advice on how to live authentically, confront fear, and transform vulnerability into a source of connection and empowerment.

  19. 19. Born A Crime by Trevor Noah

    "Born A Crime" is a captivating memoir that chronicles the life of Trevor Noah, a South African comedian and television host. Set during the apartheid era, the book explores Noah's experiences as a mixed-race child growing up in a society where interracial relationships were illegal. With humor and insight, Noah recounts his struggles with identity, poverty, and racism, while also highlighting the resilience and strength of his mother who played a pivotal role in his life. This thought-provoking memoir offers a compelling and personal perspective on race, family, and the power of laughter in the face of adversity.

  20. 20. Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe

    This book is a gripping exploration of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, focusing on the disappearance of Jean McConville, a mother of ten who was abducted by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in 1972. The narrative weaves together the stories of several key figures in the IRA, including Dolours Price, an IRA member who became disillusioned with the organization, and Brendan Hughes, a former IRA commander. The book delves deep into the political and personal complexities of the conflict, revealing the long-lasting trauma and moral ambiguities that continue to haunt those involved.

  21. 21. The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir by Thi Bui

    This illustrated memoir captures the story of a Vietnamese family who fled to America after the fall of South Vietnam in the 1970s. The narrative traces their journey and struggles as refugees, while also delving into the family's complex history and relationships. The author uses her own experiences as a new mother to explore themes of parenthood, identity, and the enduring effects of displacement and trauma.

  22. 22. The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Family's Century of Art and Loss by Edmund de Waal

    This book is a family memoir that traces the journey of a collection of miniature Japanese sculptures, called netsuke, through generations of a wealthy Jewish family. The narrative delves into the family's rise to prominence in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, their survival during the Nazi regime, their post-war struggles, and their eventual decline. The author uses the netsuke as a lens to explore the themes of art, loss, and family legacy.

  23. 23. Factfulness by Hans Rosling

    The book challenges common misconceptions about the state of the world, using a wealth of statistical data to argue that, contrary to popular belief, global living conditions are improving significantly. It introduces ten instincts that distort our perspective—from the fear instinct (which leads us to perceive the world as more frightening than it is) to the destiny instinct (which causes us to assume that the fates of populations are predetermined). The author, a renowned public health expert, encourages readers to adopt a "factful" mindset, which relies on data and evidence to create a more accurate understanding of the world, ultimately fostering a more positive and productive approach to global challenges.

  24. 24. The Better Angels Of Our Nature by Steven Pinker

    This book presents a comprehensive analysis of violence throughout human history, arguing that, contrary to popular belief, we are living in the most peaceful era ever. The author uses a wealth of data to demonstrate how the rates of violence, from homicide to war, have decreased over centuries due to various social, cultural, and political developments. By examining the forces he believes have led to this decline, such as the spread of government, trade, and the influence of enlightenment thinking, the book offers an optimistic view of humanity's ability to reduce violence through reason and empathy, suggesting that our better angels are indeed winning the battle against our inner demons.

  25. 25. We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

    The book explores the importance of feminism in today's society and argues that gender equality is not just a women's issue, but a concern for everyone. Drawing from personal experiences and anecdotes, the author highlights the various ways in which gender inequality manifests itself and offers insightful perspectives on how we can work towards a more inclusive and equitable world for all.

Reading Statistics

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Download

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.

Download