The Greatest British "Nonfiction" Books Since 1900

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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. A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf

    This book is an extended essay that explores the topic of women in fiction, and the societal and economic hindrances that prevent them from achieving their full potential. The author uses a fictional narrator and narrative to explore the many difficulties that women writers faced throughout history, including the lack of education available to them and the societal expectations that limited their opportunities. The central argument is that a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.

    The 177th Greatest Book of All Time
  2. 2. The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money by John Maynard Keynes

    This influential economic treatise presents a groundbreaking theory that challenges classical economics, asserting that aggregate demand, driven by public and private sector spending, is the primary factor influencing economic activity and employment levels. The book also introduces the concept of fiscal and monetary policies as tools to manage economic downturns, thus shaping the foundation of modern macroeconomics. It further critiques the idea that market economies would automatically provide full employment and argues for active government intervention to prevent economic recessions and depressions.

    The 354th Greatest Book of All Time
  3. 3. Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell

    The book is a personal account of the author's experiences during the Spanish Civil War, specifically his time with the POUM (Partit Obrer d'Unificació Marxista) militia in Catalonia. He provides an in-depth look at the social revolution that took place, the daily life of a soldier, the political infighting and betrayals among the Republican factions, and his eventual disillusionment with the cause he initially supported. The book is both a war memoir and a detailed analysis of a complex political situation.

    The 359th Greatest Book of All Time
  4. 4. A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

    A Brief History of Time is a popular science book that explores a broad range of topics in cosmology, including the Big Bang, black holes, light cones and superstring theory. The author does not shy away from complex theories and concepts, but explains them in a way that is accessible to non-scientific readers. The book also discusses the possibility of time travel and the boundaries of scientific knowledge. Throughout, the author emphasizes the ongoing quest for a unifying theory that can combine quantum mechanics and general relativity into one all-encompassing, coherent theoretical framework.

    The 361st Greatest Book of All Time
  5. 5. Black Lamb and Grey Falcon by Rebecca West

    "Black Lamb and Grey Falcon" is a comprehensive and detailed travelogue of Yugoslavia, penned by a British author during the brink of World War II. The book beautifully interweaves history, politics, culture, and personal experiences to paint a vivid picture of the Balkan region. It also serves as a profound reflection on the impending war and the author's concerns about the rise of fascism in Europe, making it not just a travel book but also an essential historical document.

    The 377th Greatest Book of All Time
  6. 6. Testament Of Youth by Vera Brittain

    Testament of Youth is a poignant memoir detailing the author's experiences during World War I. The narrative follows her journey from her early life, her time as a Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse serving in London, Malta, and France, and her later years as a writer and pacifist. The author's personal loss, including the death of her fiancé and her brother, and the impact of the war on her generation, is a central theme, offering a unique female perspective on the devastating effects of war.

    The 549th Greatest Book of All Time
  7. 7. The Making of the English Working Class by E. P. Thompson

    This book is a comprehensive historical analysis of the formation of the English working class from the late 18th century to the mid-19th century. The author meticulously examines various aspects of society including the Industrial Revolution, the rise of Methodism, and political movements, arguing that the working class was not a byproduct of economic factors alone, but was actively self-formed through struggles over issues like workers' rights and political representation. The book is widely regarded as a seminal text in social history due to its focus on the experiences and agency of ordinary people.

    The 553rd Greatest Book of All Time
  8. 8. The Second World War by Winston Churchill

    This book provides a comprehensive overview of the Second World War from the perspective of one of its most influential leaders. It covers the entire span of the war, from its origins in the political and economic turmoil of the 1930s, to the major battles and strategic decisions that shaped its course, to its aftermath and impact on the world. The author's unique perspective and firsthand experience, combined with his eloquent and insightful writing, make this a definitive account of one of the most important events in modern history.

    The 558th Greatest Book of All Time
  9. 9. Eminent Victorians by Lytton Strachey

    "Eminent Victorians" is a biographical work that profiles four influential figures from the Victorian era. The book provides an in-depth look into the lives of Cardinal Manning, Florence Nightingale, Thomas Arnold, and General Gordon, exploring their respective contributions to British society during the 19th century. Through these portraits, the book offers a critical and often satirical analysis of Victorian values, institutions, and moral attitudes, challenging the idealized narrative of the era.

    The 608th Greatest Book of All Time
  10. 10. The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins

    This groundbreaking book presents a revolutionary perspective on the theory of natural selection. The author argues that genes, rather than individuals or species, are the true units of evolution. He suggests that these 'selfish' genes are driven by their own survival, leading to complex behaviors and characteristics in the organisms they inhabit. This work reframes our understanding of evolution, emphasizing the gene's role in shaping biological life and behavior.

    The 611th Greatest Book of All Time
  11. 11. Good-Bye to All That by Robert Graves

    This memoir provides a candid and unflinching look at the horrors of World War I, as experienced by a young British officer. The narrative explores the brutality and futility of war, the author's struggle with shell shock, his disillusionment with the military and British society, and his decision to leave England for a new life abroad. It also offers insights into the author's personal life, including his troubled marriage and his relationships with other prominent figures of the time.

    The 631st Greatest Book of All Time
  12. 12. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks

    The book is a collection of clinical tales about patients suffering from a variety of neurological disorders. The author, a neurologist, shares his experiences with these patients, whose conditions range from common ailments like amnesia and aphasia, to rare disorders like visual agnosia and Tourette's Syndrome. The stories are both compassionate and insightful, revealing the complexities of the human brain and the resilience of the human spirit, even in the face of debilitating illness.

    The 673rd Greatest Book of All Time
  13. 13. The Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T. E. Lawrence

    "The Seven Pillars of Wisdom" is an autobiographical account of the experiences of a British soldier serving in the Middle East during World War I. The narrative offers an insider's perspective of the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire, detailing the author's role in the guerrilla warfare, his interactions with various tribal leaders, and his deep understanding and appreciation of the Arabic culture. The book is also known for its philosophical reflections on war, politics, and the author's personal struggles.

    The 742nd Greatest Book of All Time
  14. 14. My Family And Other Animals by Gerald Durrell

    In this humorous and heartwarming memoir, a young boy named Gerald Durrell recounts his unconventional upbringing on the idyllic Greek island of Corfu. Surrounded by a colorful cast of eccentric family members and a menagerie of unique animals, Gerald's adventures and misadventures bring joy and laughter to readers as he navigates the wonders of nature and the challenges of growing up. With vivid descriptions and witty anecdotes, this book is a delightful tribute to the beauty of the natural world and the bonds of family.

    The 776th Greatest Book of All Time
  15. 15. Collected Essays of George Orwell by George Orwell

    This book is a compilation of essays by a renowned author, known for his sharp wit and critical eye. It covers a wide range of topics, from politics and language to literature and culture. The author's insightful and often provocative viewpoints provide a unique perspective on the world, challenging readers to question their own beliefs and assumptions. His straightforward writing style and keen observations make these essays as relevant today as when they were first published.

    The 780th Greatest Book of All Time
  16. 16. Ways Of Seeing by John Berger

    This book is a seminal work of art criticism that challenges traditional Western cultural aesthetics by examining the ways in which we culturally learn to view art, particularly the impact of modern mass-reproduction on our experience of seeing. The author argues that the context, or "gaze," through which we perceive art significantly affects its meaning and our appreciation of it. The book also explores the portrayal of women in art and society, the relationship between art and ownership, and the connection between historical context and visual perception. It is a provocative critique that encourages readers to reconsider the role of visual imagery in our everyday lives and the power structures inherent in the act of looking.

    The 809th Greatest Book of All Time
  17. 17. Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis

    "Mere Christianity" is a theological book that explores the common ground upon which all of those of Christian faith stand. It provides an intellectual defense of Christianity that centers on the Law of Nature, arguing that God is behind this law. The book also explores Christian values, the cardinal virtues, and the theological virtues, ultimately arguing for the reasonableness of Christianity. The final section of the book discusses the doctrine of the Trinity and the process of becoming a Christian.

    The 813th Greatest Book of All Time
  18. 18. The Open Society by Karl Popper

    This book is a critique of totalitarianism and a defense of liberal democracy. The author argues against the concept of a perfect, immutable society, instead advocating for an "open society" that allows for constant change and improvement. He criticizes theories of historical determinism and the notion of "the collective", emphasizing the importance of individual freedom and human rights. The book also examines and challenges the philosophies of Plato, Hegel, and Marx, linking their ideas to the rise of fascism and communism in the 20th century.

    The 859th Greatest Book of All Time
  19. 19. West With the Night by Beryl Markham

    The book is a memoir of a British-born woman who grew up in Kenya during the early 20th century. She recounts her unconventional upbringing, her passion for horses, and her career as a bush pilot. The narrative is filled with vivid descriptions of the African landscape and wildlife, as well as her personal adventures and encounters. The book culminates with her historic solo flight across the Atlantic from east to west.

    The 873rd Greatest Book of All Time
  20. 20. The Road to Oxiana by Robert Byron

    This travelogue chronicles a journey through Persia and Afghanistan in the 1930s, capturing the author's keen observations of the architecture, landscapes, and people he encounters. The narrative combines historical research, personal anecdotes, and vivid descriptions, providing a unique insight into these regions during this period. The author's witty and engaging style, combined with his passion for architecture, makes this book not just a travel diary but a valuable piece of cultural and historical documentation.

    The 878th Greatest Book of All Time
  21. 21. The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard

    "The Worst Journey in the World" is a gripping account of the Terra Nova Expedition to the South Pole in 1910-1913. The book vividly describes the perilous journey undertaken by a team of explorers, their struggles with brutal weather conditions, and the tragic loss of their leader and four other members on their return from the Pole. The narrative is not only about physical survival in harsh conditions, but also about the psychological toll of such an expedition, making it a timeless testament to human endurance and spirit.

    The 900th Greatest Book of All Time
  22. 22. The Story of Art by Ernest H. Gombrich

    "The Story of Art" is a comprehensive guide to the history of art, covering a vast span of time from prehistoric art to contemporary movements. The book provides insights into the cultural, historical, and social contexts that have influenced the creation of art throughout various periods. It offers detailed analysis of major works and styles, and discusses the techniques used by artists from different eras. It is not only an exploration of the evolution of art but also an attempt to understand the motivations and inspirations of the artists behind the works.

    The 932nd Greatest Book of All Time
  23. 23. Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell

    This book is a semi-autobiographical work that explores the harsh realities of poverty in two of Europe's most renowned cities. The protagonist, a struggling writer, first experiences the squalor, hardship, and vagabond lifestyle of Paris, where he works menial jobs and often goes hungry. The narrative then shifts to London, where the protagonist lives as a tramp, navigating the oppressive rules of homeless shelters and the stigma of poverty. The book is a deeply empathetic and insightful exploration of the often invisible world of the impoverished.

    The 941st Greatest Book of All Time
  24. 24. A Study of History by Arnold J. Toynbee

    "A Study of History" is an extensive 12-volume universal history, exploring the development and decay of world civilizations throughout the ages. The author proposes that civilizations rise and fall based on their responses to challenges, both physical and social. The book also puts forth the idea that religions play a crucial role in the rise of civilizations and that the failure of a civilization's creative power can lead to its decline. The work is renowned for its scholarly depth and its controversial theories about the cyclical nature of history.

    The 984th Greatest Book of All Time
  25. 25. Selected Essays of T. S. Eliot by T. S. Eliot

    This book is a collection of critical and reflective essays by a renowned poet and literary critic. The author explores a variety of topics including literature, culture, society, and religion. The essays offer an insightful and thought-provoking commentary on the works of other writers, as well as the author's own views on literary theory and criticism. The collection serves as an important resource for understanding the author's intellectual development and his influence on 20th century literature and criticism.

    The 1006th Greatest Book of All Time

Reading Statistics

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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.

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