The 100 best nonfiction books of all time: the full list

4 years ago 130

1. The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert (2014)
An engrossing relationship of the looming catastrophe caused by ecology’s “neighbours from hell” – mankind.

2. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (2005)
This steely and devastating introspection of the author’s grief pursuing the abrupt decease of her hubby changed the quality of penning astir bereavement.

3. No Logo by Naomi Klein (1999)
Naomi Klein’s timely anti-branding book combined a caller attack to firm hegemony with potent reportage from the acheronian broadside of capitalism.

4. Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes (1998)
These passionate, audacious poems addressed to Hughes’s precocious wife, Sylvia Plath, lend to the couple’s mythology and are a landmark successful English poetry.

5. Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama (1995)
This remarkably candid memoir revealed not lone a literate talent, but a unit that would alteration the look of US authorities for ever.

6. A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking (1988)
The theoretical physicist’s mega-selling relationship of the origins of the beingness is simply a masterpiece of technological enquiry that has influenced the minds of a generation.

7. The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe (1979)
Tom Wolfe raised reportage to dazzling caller levels successful his quest to observe what makes a antheral alert to the moon.

8. Orientalism by Edward Said (1978)
This polemical masterpiece challenging occidental attitudes to the eastbound is arsenic topical contiguous arsenic it was connected publication.

9. Dispatches by Michael Herr (1977)
A compelling consciousness of urgency and a unsocial dependable marque Herr’s Vietnam memoir the definitive relationship of warfare successful our time.

10. The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins (1976)
An intoxicating renewal of evolutionary mentation that coined the thought of the meme and paved the mode for Professor Dawkins’s later, much polemical works.

Tom Wolfe.
Tom Wolfe successful 2012. Photograph: Mark Seliger/AP

11. North by Seamus Heaney (1975)
This raw, tender, unguarded postulation transcends politics, reflecting Heaney’s tendency to determination “like a treble cause among the large concepts”.

12. Awakenings by Oliver Sacks (1973)
Sacks’s moving relationship of how, arsenic a doc successful the precocious 1960s, helium revived patients who had been neurologically “frozen” by sleeping sickness reverberates to this day.

13. The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer (1970)
The Australian feminist’s celebrated polemic remains a masterpiece of passionate escaped look successful which she challenges a woman’s relation successful society.

14. Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom by Nik Cohn (1969)
This passionate relationship of however rock’n’roll changed the satellite was written with the chaotic vigor of its taxable matter.

15. The Double Helix by James D Watson (1968)
An astonishingly idiosyncratic and accessible relationship of however Cambridge scientists Watson and Francis Crick unlocked the secrets of DNA and transformed our knowing of life.

16. Against Interpretation by Susan Sontag (1966)
The American novelist’s aboriginal essays supply the quintessential commentary connected the 1960s.

17. Ariel by Sylvia Plath (1965)
The groundbreaking collection, revolving astir the poet’s fascination with her ain death, established Plath arsenic 1 of the past century’s astir archetypal and talented poets.

18. The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan (1963)
The publication that ignited second-wave feminism captured the vexation of a procreation of middle-class American housewives by daring to ask: “Is this all?”

19. The Making of the English Working Class by EP Thompson (1963)
This influential, painstakingly compiled masterpiece reads arsenic an anatomy of pre-industrial Britain – and a statement of the mislaid acquisition of the communal man.

20. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson (1962)
This classical of American advocacy sparked a nationwide outcry against the usage of pesticides, inspired authorities that would endeavour to power pollution, and launched the modern biology question successful the US.

Susan Sontag 1975
Susan Sontag, pictured successful 1975. Photograph: © The Peter Hujar Archive; courtesy Pace MacGill Gallery

21. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas S Kuhn (1962)
The American physicist and philosopher of subject coined the operation “paradigm shift” successful a publication that is seen arsenic a milestone successful technological theory.

22. A Grief Observed by CS Lewis (1961)
This almighty survey of nonaccomplishment asks: “Where is God?” and explores the feeling of solitude and consciousness of betrayal that adjacent non-believers volition recognise.

23. The Elements of Style by William Strunk and EB White (1959)
Dorothy Parker and Stephen King person some urged aspiring writers towards this crisp usher to the English connection wherever brevity is key.

24. The Affluent Society by John Kenneth Galbraith (1958)
An optimistic bestseller, successful which JFK’s favoured economist promotes concern successful some the nationalist and backstage sectors.

25. The Uses of Literacy: Aspects of Working-Class Life by Richard Hoggart (1957) This influential taste survey of postwar Britain offers pertinent truths connected wide connection and the enactment betwixt mean radical and the elites.

26. Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin (1955)
Baldwin’s landmark postulation of essays explores, successful telling language, what it means to beryllium a achromatic antheral successful modern America.

27. The Nude: A Study of Ideal Art by Kenneth Clark (1956)
Clark’s survey of the nude from the Greeks to Picasso foreshadows the critic’s towering claims for humanity successful his aboriginal seminal work, Civilisation.

28. The Hedgehog and the Fox by Isaiah Berlin (1953)
The large historiographer of ideas starts with an carnal parable and ends, via a dissection of Tolstoy’s work, successful an existential strategy of thought.

29. Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett (1952/53)
A bleakly hilarious, enigmatic watershed that changed the connection of theatre and inactive sparks statement six decades on. An absurdist masterpiece.

30. A Book of Mediterranean Food by Elizabeth David (1950)
This landmark look book, a horrified absorption to postwar rationing, introduced cooks to the nutrient of confederate Europe and readers to the creation of nutrient writing.

American novelist, writer, playwright, poet, essayist and civilian  rights activistic  James Baldwin successful  1979.
American novelist, writer, playwright, poet, essayist and civilian rights activistic James Baldwin successful 1979. Photograph: Ralph Gatti/AFP/Getty Images

31. The Great Tradition by FR Leavis (1948)
The arguable critic’s connection connected English lit is an entertaining, often shocking, dissection of the novel, whose effects are inactive felt to this day.

32. The Last Days of Hitler by Hugh Trevor-Roper (1947)
The historian’s vivid, terrifying relationship of the Führer’s demise, based connected his postwar enactment for British intelligence, remains unsurpassed.

33. The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care by Dr Benjamin Spock (1946)
The groundbreaking manual urged parents to spot themselves, but was besides accused of being the root of postwar “permissiveness”.

34. Hiroshima by John Hersey (1946)
Hersey’s extraordinary, gripping publication tells the idiosyncratic stories of six radical who endured the 1945 atom weaponry attack.

35. The Open Society and Its Enemies by Karl Popper (1945)
The Austrian-born philosopher’s postwar rallying outcry for occidental wide ideology was hugely influential successful the 1960s.

36. Black Boy: A Record of Childhood and Youth by Richard Wright (1945)
This influential memoir of a rebellious confederate boyhood vividly evokes the conflict for African American individuality successful the decades earlier civilian rights.

37. How to Cook a Wolf by MFK Fisher (1942)
The American culinary icon was 1 of the archetypal writers to usage nutrient arsenic a taste metaphor, describing the sensual pleasures of the array with elegance and passion.

38. Enemies of Promise by Cyril Connolly (1938)
Connolly’s dissection of the creation of penning and the perils of the literate beingness transformed the modern English scene.

39. The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell (1937)
Orwell’s unflinchingly honorable relationship of 3 bluish towns during the Great Depression was a milestone successful the writer’s governmental development.

40. The Road to Oxiana by Robert Byron (1937)
Much admired by Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh, Byron’s dazzling, timeless relationship of a travel to Afghanistan is possibly the top question publication of the 20th century.

 George Orwell, British writer   and journalist, astatine  a typewriter (Photo by Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)
George Orwell seen astatine his typewriter. Photograph: Mondadori/Getty Images

41. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie (1936)
The archetypal self-help manual connected American beingness – with its power stretching from the Great Depression to Donald Trump – has a batch to reply for.

42. Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain (1933)
Brittain’s survey of her acquisition of the archetypal satellite warfare arsenic a caregiver and past unfortunate of nonaccomplishment remains a almighty anti-war and feminist statement.

43. My Early Life: A Roving Commission by Winston Churchill (1930)
Churchill delights with candid tales of puerility and boy’s ain adventures successful the Boer warfare that made him a tabloid hero.

44. Goodbye to All That by Robert Graves (1929)
Graves’s relationship of his experiences successful the trenches of the archetypal satellite warfare is simply a subversive circuit de force.

45. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf (1929)
Woolf’s effort connected women’s conflict for independency and originative accidental is simply a landmark of feminist thought.

46. The Waste Land by TS Eliot (1922)
Eliot’s agelong poem, written successful extremis, came to embody the tone of the years pursuing the archetypal satellite war.

47. Ten Days That Shook the World by John Reed (1919)
The American socialist’s romanticist relationship of the Russian gyration is simply a masterpiece of reportage.

48. The Economic Consequences of the Peace by John Maynard Keynes (1919)
The large economist’s relationship of what went incorrect astatine the Versailles league aft the archetypal satellite warfare was polemical, passionate and prescient.

49. The American Language by HL Mencken (1919)
This declaration of linguistic independency by the renowned US writer and commentator marked a important caller section successful American prose

50. Eminent Victorians by Lytton Strachey (1918)
Strachey’s partisan, often inaccurate but superb demolitions of 4 large 19th-century Britons illustrates beingness successful the Victorian play from antithetic perspectives.

Virginia Woolf, pictured successful  1933.
Virginia Woolf, pictured successful 1933. Photograph: Central Press/Getty Images

51. The Souls of Black Folk by WEB Du Bois (1903)
The large societal activist’s postulation of essays connected the African American acquisition became a founding substance of the civilian rights movement.

52. De Profundis by Oscar Wilde (1905)
There is simply a thrilling majesty to Oscar Wilde’s tormented circuit de unit written arsenic helium prepared for merchandise from Reading jail.

53. The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James (1902)
This revolutionary enactment written by Henry James’s little celebrated member brought a democratising impulse to the realm of spiritual belief.

54. Brief Lives by John Aubrey, edited by Andrew Clark (1898)
Truly up of his time, the 17th-century historiographer and gossip John Aubrey is rightly credited arsenic the antheral who invented biography.

55. Personal Memoirs by Ulysses S Grant (1885)
The civilian warfare wide turned president was a reluctant author, but acceptable the golden modular for statesmanlike memoirs, outlining his travel from boyhood onwards.

56. Life connected the Mississippi by Mark Twain (1883)
This memoir of Samuel Clemens’s clip arsenic a steamboat aviator provides penetration into his best-known characters, arsenic good arsenic the writer helium would become.

57. Travels With a Donkey successful the Cévennes by Robert Louis Stevenson (1879)
The Scottish writer’s hike successful the French mountains with a donkey is simply a pioneering classical successful outdoor lit – and arsenic influential arsenic his fiction.

58. Nonsense Songs by Edward Lear (1871)
The Victorians loved wordplay, and fewer could rival this compendium of verbal delirium by Britain’s “laureate of nonsense”.

59. Culture and Anarchy by Matthew Arnold (1869)
Arnold caught the nationalist temper with this high-minded but entertaining critique of Victorian nine posing questions astir the creation of civilised surviving that inactive perplex us.

60. On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin (1859)
Darwin’s revolutionary, humane and highly readable instauration to his mentation of improvement is arguably the astir important publication of the Victorian era.

American writer   and satirist Samuel Langhorne Clemens, known by pen sanction  Mark Twain.
Mark Twain. Photograph: Alamy

61. On Liberty by John Stuart Mill (1859)
This fine, lucid writer captured the temper of the clip with this spirited assertion of the English individual’s rights.

62. The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole successful Many Lands by Mary Seacole (1857)
A gloriously entertaining autobiography by the wide revered Victorian sometimes described arsenic “the achromatic Florence Nightingale”.

63. The Life of Charlotte Brontë by Elizabeth Gaskell (1857)
Possibly Gaskell’s finest enactment – a bold representation of a superb pistillate worn down by her father’s eccentricities and the decease of her siblings.

64. Walden by Henry David Thoreau (1854)
This relationship of 1 man’s rejection of American nine has influenced generations of escaped thinkers.

65. Thesaurus by Dr Peter Mark Roget (1852)
Born of a Victorian tendency for bid and harmony among nations, this usher to the English connection is arsenic unsocial arsenic it is indispensable.

66. London Labour and the London Poor by Henry Mayhew (1851)
The power of the Victorian journalist’s detailed, dispassionate descriptions of London lower-class beingness is clear, close up to the contiguous day.

67. Household Education by Harriet Martineau (1848)
This protestation astatine the deficiency of women’s acquisition was arsenic pioneering arsenic its writer was successful Victorian literate circles.

68. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave by Frederick Douglass (1845)
This vivid memoir was influential successful the abolition of slavery, and its writer would go 1 of the astir influential African Americans of the 19th century.

69. Essays by RW Emerson (1841)
New England’s inventor of “transcendentalism” is inactive revered for his high-minded thoughts connected individuality, state and quality expressed successful 12 essays.

70. Domestic Manners of the Americans by Frances Trollope (1832)
Rich successful item and Old World snobbery, Trollope’s classical travelogue identifies aspects of America’s nationalist quality inactive disposable today.

Frederick Douglass, pictured successful  1855.
Frederick Douglass, pictured successful 1855. Photograph: Library of Congress/Getty Images

71. An American Dictionary of the English Language by Noah Webster (1828) Though a lexicographical landmark to basal alongside Dr Johnson’s achievement, the archetypal sold lone 2,500 copies and near its writer successful debt.

72. Confessions of an English Opium-Eater by Thomas De Quincey (1822)
An addiction memoir, by the celebrated and supremely talented modern of Coleridge and Wordsworth, outlining his beingness hooked connected the the drug.

73. Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb (1807)
A troubled brother-and-sister squad produced 1 of the 19th century’s bestselling volumes and simplified the complexity of Shakespeare’s plays for younger audiences.

74. Travels successful the Interior Districts of Africa by Mungo Park (1799)
The Scottish explorer’s relationship of his heroic one-man hunt for the stream Niger was a modern bestseller and a immense power connected Conrad, Melville and Hemingway.

75. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin (1793)
The US founding father’s life, drawn from 4 antithetic manuscripts, combines the affairs of revolutionary America with his backstage struggles.

76. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft (1792)
This extremist substance attacked the ascendant antheral thinkers of the property and laid the foundations of feminism.

77. The Life of Samuel Johnson LLD by James Boswell (1791)
This immense enactment is 1 of the top of each English biographies and a testament to 1 of the large literate friendships.

78. Reflections connected the Revolution successful France by Edmund Burke (1790)
Motivated by the gyration crossed the Channel, this passionate defence of the aristocratic strategy is simply a landmark successful blimpish thinking.

79. The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano by Olaudah Equiano (1789)
The astir celebrated enslaved memoir of the 18th period is simply a almighty and terrifying read, and established Equiano arsenic a founding fig successful achromatic literate tradition.

80. The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne by Gilbert White (1789)
This curate’s beauteous and lucid observations connected the wildlife of a Hampshire colony inspired generations of naturalists.

“Mary Wollstonecraft.
Mary Wollstonecraft. Photograph: Alamy

81. The Federalist Papers by ‘Publius’ (1788)
These omniscient essays clarified the aims of the American republic and fertile alongside the Declaration of Independence arsenic a cornerstone of US democracy.

82. The Diary of Fanny Burney (1778)
Burney’s acutely observed memoirs unfastened a model connected the literate and courtly circles of precocious 18th-century England.

83. The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon (1776-1788)
Perhaps the top and surely 1 of the astir influential past books successful the English language, successful which Gibbon unfolds the communicative from the tallness of the Roman empire to the autumn of Byzantium.

84. The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith (1776)
Blending history, philosophy, science and sociology, the Scottish intelligence single-handedly invented modern governmental economy.

85. Common Sense by Tom Paine (1776)
This small publication helped ignite revolutionary America against the British nether George III.

86. A Dictionary of the English Language by Samuel Johnson (1755)
Dr Johnson’s decade-long endeavour framed the English connection for the coming centuries with clarity, quality and bonzer wit.

87. A Treatise of Human Nature by David Hume (1739)
This is wide seen arsenic the philosopher’s astir important work, but its archetypal work was a disaster.

88. A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift (1729)
The satirist’s jaw-dropping solution to the plight of the Irish mediocre is among the astir almighty tracts successful the English language.

89. A Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain by Daniel Defoe (1727) Readable, reliable, afloat of astonishment and charm, Defoe’s Tour is an outstanding literate question guide.

90. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding by John Locke (1689)
Eloquent and influential, the Enlightenment philosopher’s astir celebrated enactment embodies the English tone and retains an enduring relevance.

Samuel Johnson, circa 1754.
Samuel Johnson, circa 1754. Illustration: UniversalImagesGroup/Getty

91. The Book of Common Prayer by Thomas Cranmer (1662)
Cranmer’s publication of vernacular English supplication is perchance the astir wide work publication successful the English literate tradition.

92. The Diary of Samuel Pepys by Samuel Pepys (1660)
A representation of an bonzer Englishman, whose scintillating firsthand accounts of Restoration England are recorded alongside his rampant intersexual exploits.

93. Hydriotaphia, Urn Burial, oregon A Brief Discourse of the Sepulchral Urns Lately Found successful Norfolk by Sir Thomas Browne (1658)
Browne earned his estimation arsenic a “writer’s writer” with this dazzling abbreviated effort connected burial customs.

94. Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes (1651)
Hobbes’s effort connected the societal declaration is some a founding substance of occidental thought and a masterpiece of wit and imagination.

95. Areopagitica by John Milton (1644)
Today, Milton is remembered arsenic a large poet. But this fiery onslaught connected censorship and telephone for a escaped property reveals a superb English radical.

96. Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions by John Donne (1624)
The poet’s aggravated meditation connected the meaning of beingness and decease is simply a dazzling enactment that contains immoderate of his astir memorable writing.

97. The First Folio by William Shakespeare (1623)
The archetypal variation of his plays established the playwright for each clip successful a trove of 36 plays with an assembled formed of immortal characters.

98. The Anatomy of Melancholy by Robert Burton (1621)
Burton’s garrulous, repetitive masterpiece is simply a compendious survey of melancholia, a sublime literate doorstop that explores humanity successful each its aspects.

99. The History of the World by Walter Raleigh (1614)
Raleigh’s astir important prose work, adjacent to 1m words successful total, utilized past past arsenic a sly commentary connected present-day issues.

100. King James Bible: The Authorised Version (1611)
It is intolerable to ideate the English-speaking satellite celebrated successful this bid without the King James Bible, which is arsenic cosmopolitan and influential arsenic Shakespeare.