The Greatest French, British "Nonfiction" Books Since 1990

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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. Experience by Martin Amis

    "Experience" is a memoir which delves into the author's life, exploring his relationships with his family, friends, and his own self. The narrative is a candid reflection on his father's influence, his friendships with other writers, his marriages, and his children. The author also discusses his experiences with fame, age, and loss, providing an intimate look into his personal and professional journey. The memoir is a blend of the author's unique humor, sharp observations, and poignant moments, offering a compelling and deeply personal narrative.

  2. 2. 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.

  3. 3. Mendeleyev's Dream by Paul Strathern

    This book traces the history of chemistry from the ancient philosophers' wild speculations about the composition of the universe to the creation of the periodic table by Dmitri Mendeleyev. Through a blend of storytelling and science, it explores the development of atomic theory and chemical elements, leading up to Mendeleyev's groundbreaking dream in which he envisioned the periodic table in its modern form. The narrative delves into the lives and discoveries of key figures in the field of chemistry, illustrating how their work contributed to our understanding of the elements that make up the world around us.

  4. 4. Postwar by Tony Judt

    "Postwar" is a comprehensive analysis of the history of Europe from the end of World War II to the early 21st century. The book examines the major political, cultural, social, and economic changes that have shaped the continent, including the Cold War, the rise and fall of the Soviet Union, the rebuilding of Western Europe, and the challenges of integrating Eastern Europe into the European Union. It also delves into the impact of these events on the daily lives of Europeans, exploring themes of memory, identity, and the struggle to come to terms with the past.

  5. 5. Second World War by John Keegan

    "Second World War" is a comprehensive account of the global conflict that took place from 1939 to 1945. The book offers a detailed examination of the political, military, and social aspects of the war, from the rise of Hitler and the attack on Pearl Harbor, to the Holocaust and the dropping of the atomic bomb. The author provides an in-depth analysis of the strategies and tactics used by the major powers, and presents a vivid picture of the human cost of the war. The book also includes a variety of maps and photographs to help illustrate the events and locations discussed.

  6. 6. Love's Work by Gillian Rose

    "Love's Work" is a deeply personal memoir that explores the life of a renowned philosopher as she grapples with her terminal cancer diagnosis. The book is a profound exploration of love, suffering, and the human condition, as the author reflects on her personal relationships, her career, and her Jewish faith. It is a philosophical and emotional journey that challenges readers to confront their own mortality and the complexities of human life.

  7. 7. Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties by Ian MacDonald

    This book provides a comprehensive analysis of the Beatles' music and its cultural impact during the 1960s. It delves into the creation and significance of each track, examining the technical innovations, lyrical content, and the sociopolitical context of the era. The work offers a song-by-song breakdown, exploring how the band's evolving creative dynamics and the tumultuous decade they helped define were reflected in their recordings. It is both a critical study of the band's discography and a reflection on the revolutionary spirit of the sixties, highlighting how the group's work was intertwined with the broader changes in music, politics, and society.

  8. 8. The Intellectuals And The Masses by John Carey

    This book presents a critical examination of the attitudes of early 20th-century intellectuals towards the masses, exploring the disdain and fear that writers and thinkers of the time harbored against the growing literacy and political empowerment of the working class. The author scrutinizes the elitist views and often eugenic arguments that were used to justify the exclusion of the broader population from cultural and intellectual life. By delving into the works and personal correspondences of prominent figures, the text reveals a landscape of intellectual snobbery and challenges the romantic idealization of literary giants by exposing their contempt for the 'masses' they often deemed inferior.

  9. 9. The Invisible Woman by Claire Tomalin

    The book is a compelling biography that uncovers the life of a woman who played a significant yet largely unrecognized role in literary history. It delves into the hidden narrative of the mistress and muse of a celebrated 19th-century author, exploring the challenges she faced as a woman in Victorian society. Her story, which includes clandestine love affairs, heartbreak, and resilience, is pieced together from scraps of historical evidence, shedding light on her influence on the author's work and revealing the sacrifices she made. The biography is a testament to the untold stories of women who have been overshadowed by the legacies of famous men.

  10. 10. Dr. Johnson & Mr. Savage by Richard Holmes

    This book delves into the complex friendship between the 18th-century literary figure Samuel Johnson and the enigmatic poet Richard Savage. It explores the profound influence they had on each other's lives and works, set against the backdrop of London's vibrant and often sordid literary scene. The narrative weaves a tale of two men from vastly different backgrounds who form an unlikely bond, with Johnson becoming fascinated by Savage's scandalous history and the mysteries surrounding his true identity. Through their association, the book examines themes of authorship, friendship, and the struggles of the creative life, while also painting a rich picture of the society they navigated.

  11. 11. 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.

  12. 12. The Age Of Wonder by Richard Holmes

    "The Age of Wonder" explores the scientific and cultural advancements of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, known as the Romantic Age. Richard Holmes delves into the lives and achievements of prominent figures such as Joseph Banks, Humphry Davy, and William Herschel, who revolutionized fields like astronomy, chemistry, and botany. Through vivid storytelling, Holmes captures the spirit of curiosity, imagination, and wonder that defined this era, highlighting the profound impact it had on shaping our modern understanding of science and the world.

  13. 13. Looking Back by Norman Douglas

    "Looking Back" is a memoir that provides a detailed account of the author's life, experiences, and travels. The author reflects on his encounters with various personalities, his explorations of different cultures, and his observations about the world. The book offers a unique perspective on life, relationships, and human nature, all delivered with a sharp wit and a keen eye for detail.

  14. 14. Memoirs by Raymond Aron

    The book in question is an intellectual autobiography by a prominent French philosopher and sociologist, chronicling his life from his early years through the tumultuous events of the 20th century. It delves into his experiences during World War II, his observations on the Cold War, and his relationships with other notable intellectuals of his time. The author reflects on his philosophical and political evolution, offering insights into his analytical approach to history, politics, and society. His memoirs serve as a window into the mind of a thinker deeply engaged with the ideological and historical challenges of his era, providing a personal perspective on the broader intellectual currents that shaped the modern world.

  15. 15. Cavaliers And Roundheads by Christopher Hibbert

    "Cavaliers and Roundheads" is a historical account that delves into the turbulent period of the English Civil War in the 17th century, offering a detailed narrative of the conflict between the Royalists (Cavaliers) and the Parliamentarians (Roundheads). The book provides a comprehensive analysis of the political, religious, and social factors that fueled the war, while also painting vivid portraits of the key figures involved, including King Charles I and Oliver Cromwell. Through meticulous research and engaging storytelling, the work captures the complexities of the era, the brutal battles, and the ultimate transformation of the English monarchy and parliamentary system.

  16. 16. Nations And Nationalism by Ernest Gellner

    This book presents a theoretical exploration of the concept of nationalism, the social conditions fostering it, and its role in the modern world. The author argues that nationalism is a product of industrial society, which necessitates a homogenous culture for communication and a centralized education system to sustain the industrial and economic structure. The work critically examines the origins and implications of nationalism, suggesting that it is not an ancient phenomenon but rather a relatively recent one that arises when a society transitions from agrarian to industrial. The author contends that nationalism serves to align the political and national unit, without necessarily corresponding to pre-existing ethnic or cultural identities, and is a political principle that holds that the political and the national unit should be congruent.

  17. 17. Good Company by Frances Partridge

    "Good Company" is a reflective memoir that offers an intimate glimpse into the life of a central figure within the Bloomsbury Group, an influential circle of intellectuals and artists in early 20th-century England. The book weaves personal anecdotes, diary entries, and letters to paint a vivid portrait of the author's friendships, loves, and the cultural milieu in which she lived. It provides an honest and often poignant exploration of the author's relationships with key literary and artistic figures of the time, their shared experiences during the tumultuous years of the World Wars, and the enduring impact of these relationships on her life and work. The memoir stands as a testament to the power of intellectual companionship and the profound influence of community on individual creativity.

  18. 18. Climbing Mount Improbable by Richard Dawkins

    In this thought-provoking exploration of evolutionary biology, the book delves into the intricate mechanisms of natural selection that have sculpted the complex, seemingly improbable forms of life on Earth. Using the metaphor of a mountain to represent the vast landscape of evolutionary possibilities, the author guides readers through a series of biological marvels, from the sophisticated optics of the eye to the elaborate structures of spider webs, demonstrating how gradual, step-by-step changes can lead to the astonishing diversity of life. The book illuminates the power of cumulative selection to produce highly adapted organisms and dispels the notion that such complexity requires intelligent design, reinforcing the marvels of evolution as a process of climbing peaks of adaptive fitness in the vast terrain of biological possibility.

  19. 19. The Straight Mind by Monique Wittig

    The book is a collection of feminist essays that challenge the conventional understanding of gender and sexuality, positing that the concept of "woman" is a social construct created by a heterosexual society to uphold a binary gender system. The author argues that this system perpetuates the oppression of women and LGBTQ+ individuals by reinforcing the straight mind, a heteronormative way of thinking that marginalizes any form of difference. Through a radical rethinking of language, literature, and social structures, the essays advocate for a new feminist perspective that seeks to dismantle the straight mind and create a society where all forms of identity and expression are valued equally.

  20. 20. Essential Cuisine by Michel Bras

    "Essential Cuisine" is a comprehensive guide to gourmet cooking, written by a renowned French chef. The book provides readers with recipes that highlight the chef's innovative and unique approach to cooking, focusing on the use of fresh, local ingredients. The book also includes stunning photography of the dishes and the chef's home region, making it as much a visual feast as a culinary one. It is a must-have for anyone interested in haute cuisine and the art of fine dining.

  21. 21. Nothing to be Frightened Of by Julian Barnes

    This book is a memoir that explores the author's fear of death and his quest for meaning in life. It blends elements of autobiography, philosophy, and literary criticism, drawing on the author's personal experiences, his relationships with his family, and his thoughts on writers and philosophers who have influenced him. The narrative is marked by the author's wit, humor, and keen observations, offering a thoughtful and engaging exploration of mortality and the human condition.

  22. 22. In Siberia by Colin Thubron

    "In Siberia" is a travelogue that takes the reader on a profound journey through the vast and enigmatic Siberian landscape. The author traverses the region, from the Ural Mountains to the Arctic coast, exploring its desolate beauty and the resilience of its inhabitants amidst harsh climates and historical upheavals. Along the way, he encounters remnants of the Soviet era, indigenous cultures clinging to their traditions, and the poignant traces of exile and punishment that have marked the land. The narrative is a rich tapestry of history, personal encounters, and vivid descriptions that capture the soul of a place often synonymous with remoteness and exile.

  23. 23. The Code Book by Simon Singh

    This book is a comprehensive exploration of the history and science of cryptography, the art of secret writing. It delves into the evolution of encryption from ancient times to the modern digital era, examining how codes and ciphers have played pivotal roles in warfare, politics, and business. The narrative covers famous cryptographic milestones, including the Enigma machine of World War II and the development of public key encryption, while also addressing the challenges posed by the quest for privacy in the age of the internet. The book not only provides historical context but also introduces readers to the fundamental principles of cryptography and its significance in contemporary society.

  24. 24. It's Not How Good You Are, Its How Good You Want To Be by Paul Arden

    This motivational guide offers a unique insight into the world of advertising and the mind of a creative genius. It challenges conventional wisdom with a plethora of pithy, often paradoxical advice, aiming to inspire readers to break the rules, think differently, and embrace failure as a necessary step towards success. The book is filled with bold typography, distinctive illustrations, and anecdotes from the author's own illustrious career, making it a compact but impactful read for anyone looking to excel in their professional life or personal endeavors by realizing that ambition and passion can be more critical than talent.

  25. 25. The Proper Study of Mankind by Isaiah Berlin

    "The Proper Study of Mankind" is a collection of essays that explore the history of ideas, specifically focusing on political and philosophical thought. The book delves into the works and ideas of many notable thinkers, examining their influence on society and their relevance to contemporary issues. The author also discusses the importance of individual freedom, the conflicts between values, and the human capacity for making moral choices, offering profound insights into the nature of mankind and the challenges of the modern world.

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.