The Greatest Nonfiction Books Since 1900

How is this list generated?

This list is generated from 130 "best of" book lists from a variety of great sources. An algorithm is used to create a master list based on how many lists a particular book appears on. Some lists count more than others. I generally trust "best of all time" lists voted by authors and experts over user-generated lists. On the lists that are actually ranked, the book that is 1st counts a lot more than the book that's 100th. If you're interested in the details about how the rankings are generated and which lists are the most important(in my eyes) please check out the list details page.

If you have any comments, suggestions, or corrections please feel free to e-mail me.

  1. 901 . Fatal Purity: Robespierre and the French Revolution by Ruth Scurr

  2. 902 . We Die Alone by David Howarth

  3. 903 . Kabloona by Gontran de Poncins

    Kabloona is a book by French adventurer Gontran de Poncins, written in collaboration with Lewis Galantiere, first published in English in 1941. It recounts Poncin's solo unsupported journey in the ...

  4. 904 . An Evil Cradling by Brian Keenan

    Brian Keenan went to Beirut in 1985 for a change of scene from his native Belfast. He became headline news when he was kidnapped by fundamentalist Shi'ite militiamen and held in the suburbs of Beir...

    - Google
  5. 905 . Conquistadors of the Useless by Lionel Terray

  6. 906 . Carrying the Fire by Michael Collins

  7. 907 . My Father and other Working-Class Football Heroes by Gary Imlac

  8. 908 . Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller

    Blue Like Jazz is the second book by Donald Miller. This semi-autobiographical work, subtitled "Non-Religious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality," is a collection of essays and personal reflections...

  9. 909 . The Burder of Southern History by C. Vann Woodward

  10. 910 . The Message In the Bottle by Walker Percy

    The Message in the Bottle: How Queer Man is, How Queer Language is, and What One Has to Do with the Other is a collection of essays on semiotics written by Walker Percy and first published in 1975....

  11. 911 . The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World by Niall Ferguson

    The Ascent of Money: The Financial History of the World is Harvard professor Niall Ferguson's tenth book, published in 2008, and an adapted television documentary for Channel 4 (UK) and PBS (US). I...

  12. 912 . The Mountains of My Life by Walter Bonatti

  13. 913 . Great Heart by James West Davidson, John Rugge

  14. 914 . Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found by Suketu Mehta

    Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found is a narrative nonfiction book by Suketu Mehta, published in 2004, about the Indian city of Mumbai ("Bombay"). It was published in hardcover by Random House's Al...

  15. 915 . Comfort Me with Apples by Ruth Reichl

  16. 916 . This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War by Drew Gilpin Faust

  17. 917 . Random Family by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc

    Adrian Nicole LeBlanc is an American journalist whose works focus on the marginalized members of society: adolescents living in poverty, prostitutes, women in prison, etc.

  18. 918 . The Valleys of the Assassins by Freya Stark

  19. 919 . Berlin: The Downfall, 1945 by Antony Beevor

  20. 920 . The Silent World by Jacques Cousteau

  21. 921 . Alaska Wilderness by Robert Marshall

  22. 922 . The Earl of Louisiana by A. J. Liebling

    Originally this book was a three-part profile in The New Yorker. It's a breezy portrait of the last 15 months of Earl Long's lusty career. Liebling believes that Governor Earl Long, brother of the ...

  23. 923 . Origins of the New South by C. Vann Woodward

  24. 924 . I Married Adventure by Osa Johnson

  25. 925 . The Descent of Pierre Saint-Martin by Norbert Casteret

  26. 926 . Killing Yourself to Live by Chuck Klosterman

    Killing Yourself to Live: 85% of a True Story is a work of non-fiction written by Chuck Klosterman, first published by Scribner in 2005. It is the third book released by Klosterman. Klosterman cons...

  27. 927 . The Crystal Horizon by Reinhold Messner

  28. 928 . The Predators' Ball by Connie Bruck

  29. 929 . Grizzly Years by Doug Peacock

    Doug Peacock is an American naturalist, outdoorsman, and author. He is best known for his book Grizzly Years: In Search of the American Wilderness, a memoir of his experiences in the 1970s and 1980...

  30. 930 . America by John Stewart

  31. 931 . One Man's Mountains by Tom Patey

  32. 932 . A Critique of the Theory of Evolution by Thomas Hunt Morgan

  33. 933 . The True Believer by Eric Hoffer

    A stevedore on the San Francisco docks in the 1940s, Eric Hoffer wrote philosophical treatises in his spare time while living in the railroad yards. The True Believer -- the first and most famous o...

    - Google
  34. 934 . Snobbery: The American Version by Joseph Epstein

    Joseph Epstein's highly entertaining new book takes up the subject of snobbery in America after the fall of the prominence of the old Wasp culture of prep schools, Ivy League colleges, cotillions, ...

    - Google
  35. 935 . Judgement and Reasoning in the Child by Jean Piaget

  36. 936 . Theophrastus: His Psychological, Doxographical, and Scientific Writings by William Wall Fortenbaugh, Dimitri Gutas

    Theophrastus (/ˌθiːəˈfræstəs/; Greek: Θεόφραστος; c. 371 – c. 287 BC[1]), a Greek native of Eresos in Lesbos, was the successor to Aristotle in the Peripatetic school. He came to Athens at a young ...

    - Google
  37. 937 . Nixonland by Rick Perlstein

    Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America is a work of history written by Rick Perlstein, released in May 2008.

  38. 938 . The Wisdom Of Crowds by James Surowiecki

    The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations, published in 2004, ISBN 978-0385503860, is a book written by...

  39. 939 . My Early Life by Winston Churchill

    This memoir was first published in 1930 and describes the author's school days, his time in the Army, his experiences as a war correspondent and his first years as a member of Parliament.

    - Google
  40. 940 . The Raw and the Cooked by Claude Lévi-Strauss

  41. 941 . Ariel by Sylvia Plath

    The poems in Sylvia Plath's Ariel, including many of her best-known such as 'Lady Lazarus', 'Daddy', 'Edge' and 'Paralytic', were all written between the publication in 1960 of Plath's first book, ...

    - Google
  42. 942 . My Life in France by Julia Child

    The legendary food expert describes her years in Paris, Marseille, and Provence and her journey from a young woman who could not cook or speak any French to the publication of her cookbooks and bec...

    - Google
  43. 943 . This Hallowed Ground by Bruce Catton

    This Hallowed Ground: The Story of the Union Side of the Civil War

  44. 944 . Whoredom in Kimmage by Rosemary Mahoney

    An Irish-American writer returns to her homeland to pen several stories about contemporary Irish women, from Mad Minnie of Corofin to Mary Robinson, the first female president of Ireland. By the au...

    - Google
  45. 946 . The Writer on Her Work by Janet Sternburg

    Published to high praise "groundbreaking ...a landmark" (Poets & Writers) this was the first anthology to celebrate the diversity of women who write. Seventeen novelists, poets, and writers of nonf...

  46. 947 . The Lost City of Z by David Grann

    The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon is the debut non-fiction book by American author David Grann. The book was published in 2009 and recounts the activities of the British ...

  47. 948 . War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning by Chris Hedges

    As a veteran war correspondent, Chris Hedges has survived ambushes in Central America, imprisonment in Sudan, and a beating by Saudi military police. He has seen children murdered for sport in Gaza...

    - Google
  48. 949 . Great Plains by Ian Frazier

    National Bestseller With his unique blend of intrepidity, tongue-in-cheek humor, and wide-eyed wonder, Ian Frazier takes us on a journey of more than 25,000 miles up and down and across the vast an...

    - Google
  49. 950 . Pulphead: Essays by John Jeremiah Sullivan

    A sharp-eyed, uniquely humane tour of America’s cultural landscape—from high to low to lower than low—by the award-winning young star of the literary nonfiction world. In Pulphead, John Jeremiah Su...

    - Google