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Best Nonfiction Books: The 100 Best Nonfiction Books of All Time

Arthur Worsley
by Arthur Worsley
M.A. Psychology, Oxford. McKinsey Alum. Founder & Editor at TAoL.
14 MINUTE READ

Best Nonfiction Books

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Looking for the best nonfiction books of all time?

You’re in the right place!

Why Good Nonfiction Books Matter

Whatever problem you’re facing, whatever you’re struggling with, whatever mentorship you feel you’re missing – your answers are out there, somewhere, in a nonfiction book.

Someone has been through this already. They’ve found the solution. They’ve learned the answers. They’ve spent years of their life researching and recording their discoveries, somewhere, in this ultimate list of must-read nonfiction books.

Looking for something specific? You’ll find breakdowns of my best nonfiction book recommendations, by topic, on the book recommendations page.

Curious which of these nonfiction books have most changed my life? Go check out some of my book summaries.

But if you’re just curious what the best nonfiction books of all time are; if you’re looking for a list of nonfiction book recommendations; if you want something inspiring to read next then you can stop looking.

Check out the list of nonfiction book recommendations below, pick the first title that jumps out at you and start reading!

Read wisely, read widely and read well.

(P.s., Enjoy this? Try this list of the 100 best fiction books of all time.)

The 100 Best Nonfiction Books of All Time

Why these best nonfiction books and not others? The best nonfiction books of all time below are the top picks from my long list of hundreds of books, ranked by a combination of Goodreads rating, number of Goodreads reviews and first publication date. The aim is to surface what’s most loved, what’s most popular and what’s proven timelessly relevant.

Think something’s missing? Leave a comment or email me and I’ll add it to the next round of updates. I honestly love hearing from you so please, do get in touch!

Note: I’ve excluded religious texts from this list. For a breakdown of those, see this list of the best philosophy books of all time.

Books 1-10: The Top 10 Best Nonfiction Books of All Time

Here are the 10 best nonfiction books from my database…

Best Nonfiction Books: Meditations
1. Meditations – Marcus Aurelius (FREE Summary)
A deeply humbling and thought-provoking insight into the stoic mindset of one of history’s greatest leaders and thinkers – by Roman emperor, philosopher and example to us all, Marcus Aurelius.
Published 180 // 303 pages // Rated 4.2 over 102,600 reviews on Goodreads
Best Nonfiction Books: Mere Christianity
2. Mere Christianity – C.S. Lewis (Summary)
Published 1952 // 191 pages // Rated 4.3 over 276,100 reviews on Goodreads
Best Nonfiction Books: Letters from a Stoic
3. Letters from a Stoic – Seneca (Summary)
A powerful and practical collection of 124 letters on how to become a more devoted stoic in every aspect of life, by stoic philosopher and tutor to emperor Nero, Seneca the Younger.
Published -49 // 256 pages // Rated 4.3 over 18,200 reviews on Goodreads
Best Nonfiction Books: Letters to a Young Poet
4. Letters to a Young Poet – Rainer Maria Rilke
Published 1929 // 80 pages // Rated 4.3 over 45,300 reviews on Goodreads
Best Mindset Books: As a Man Thinketh
5. As a Man Thinketh – James Allen (FREE Summary)
THE #1 ranking, uplifting, pocket-sized pep-talk on the power and importance of changing your thoughts as the cornerstone to changing your life – by philosopher and prolific self-help author, James Allen.
Published 1902 // 34 pages // Rated 4.3 over 67,000 reviews on Goodreads
Best Nonfiction Books: Cosmos
6. Cosmos – Carl Sagan (Summary)
Published 1980 // 384 pages // Rated 4.4 over 107,700 reviews on Goodreads
Best Nonfiction Books: How to Win Friends and Influence People
7. How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie (FREE Summary)
The classic guide to greatly improving effectiveness and efficiency by mastering the ability to work with and through the people around you – by self-improvement guru, Dale Carnegie.
Published 1936 // 288 pages // Rated 4.2 over 716,700 reviews on Goodreads
Best Nonfiction Books: The Art of Living
8. The Art of Living – Epictetus
The Classical Manual on Virtue, Happiness and Effectiveness
Published 125 // 128 pages // Rated 4.2 over 16,700 reviews on Goodreads
Best Nonfiction Books: Apology
9. Apology – Plato (FREE Summary)
Three powerful speeches made by Socrates, a founder of Western Philosophy, in his final defence of wisdom, excellence and his life – by Socrates’s student, Aristotle’s teacher and eminent Greek philosopher, Plato.
Published -380 // 127 pages // Rated 4.2 over 31,900 reviews on Goodreads
Best Nonfiction Books: The Magic of Thinking Big
10. The Magic of Thinking Big – David J. Schwartz (FREE Summary)
A powerful, practical and uplifting book to help get you out of a rut, invigorate your goals and empower you towards success – by life-long motivational writer and coach, David J. Schwartz.
Published 1959 // 320 pages // Rated 4.2 over 76,900 reviews on Goodreads

Books 11-100: 90 Good Nonfiction Books to Read Next

Here are the next 90 best nonfiction books from my database…

11. The Intelligent Investor – Benjamin Graham (Summary)
Published 1949 // 623 pages // Rated 4.2 over 97,000 reviews on Goodreads
12. The Elements of Style – William Strunk Jr. (FREE Summary)
A short, prescriptive classic filled with good advice on writing great (American) English while omitting needless words – by professor and author William Strunk Jr.
Published 1918 // 105 pages // Rated 4.2 over 69,000 reviews on Goodreads
13. The Complete Essays – Michel de Montaigne
Published 1572 // 1,344 pages // Rated 4.2 over 15,200 reviews on Goodreads
14. On the Shortness of Life – Seneca (Summary)
Published -49 // 106 pages // Rated 4.2 over 22,900 reviews on Goodreads
15. Think and Grow Rich – Napoleon Hill (FREE Summary)
A best-selling book of all time and a cornerstone guide to the Law of Attraction and the role of the subconscious in transforming your life – by a titan of the self-help genre, Napoleon Hill.
Published 1937 // 233 pages // Rated 4.2 over 253,200 reviews on Goodreads
16. The Imitation of Christ – Thomas à Kempis
Published 1418 // 288 pages // Rated 4.2 over 18,100 reviews on Goodreads
17. Gödel, Escher, Bach – Douglas R. Hofstadter
An Eternal Golden Braid
Published 1979 // 777 pages // Rated 4.3 over 40,400 reviews on Goodreads
18. Be Here Now – Ram Dass
Published 1971 // 416 pages // Rated 4.3 over 29,800 reviews on Goodreads
19. The Gay Science – Friedrich Nietzsche
Published 1882 // 398 pages // Rated 4.3 over 13,100 reviews on Goodreads
20. Alcoholics Anonymous – Alcoholics Anonymous
Published 1939 // 576 pages // Rated 4.5 over 7,700 reviews on Goodreads
21. Law of Success – Napoleon Hill
Published 1925 // 1,035 pages // Rated 4.3 over 10,900 reviews on Goodreads
22. The 5 Love Languages – Gary Chapman (FREE Summary)
The Secret to Love that Lasts
A concise, actionable and time-tested guide to letting others know they are loved and feeling loved and appreciated in return – by best-selling author, pastor and marriage counsellor, Gary Chapman.
Published 1990 // 209 pages // Rated 4.3 over 334,400 reviews on Goodreads
23. The Right Stuff – Tom Wolfe
Published 1979 // 352 pages // Rated 4.2 over 41,800 reviews on Goodreads
24. How I Raised Myself From Failure to Success in Selling – Frank Bettger (Summary)
Published 1947 // 192 pages // Rated 4.3 over 14,100 reviews on Goodreads
25. The Power of Myth – Joseph Campbell (Summary)
Published 1988 // 320 pages // Rated 4.3 over 41,400 reviews on Goodreads
26. On Food and Cooking – Harold McGee
The Science and Lore of the Kitchen
Published 1984 // 896 pages // Rated 4.5 over 13,100 reviews on Goodreads
27. The Hero With a Thousand Faces – Joseph Campbell
Published 1949 // 416 pages // Rated 4.2 over 29,100 reviews on Goodreads
28. The Feynman Lectures on Physics – Richard P. Feynman
Published 1964 // 1,552 pages // Rated 4.6 over 6,700 reviews on Goodreads
29. The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are – Alan W. Watts (Summary)
Published 1966 // 163 pages // Rated 4.3 over 15,400 reviews on Goodreads
30. The Guns of August – Barbara W. Tuchman
Published 1962 // 658 pages // Rated 4.2 over 53,000 reviews on Goodreads
31. The Science of Getting Rich – Wallace D. Wattles (Summary)
Published 1910 // 146 pages // Rated 4.2 over 35,300 reviews on Goodreads
32. How to Stop Worrying and Start Living – Dale Carnegie (Summary)
Published 1944 // 358 pages // Rated 4.1 over 87,200 reviews on Goodreads
33. On Writing Well – William Zinsser (FREE Summary)
The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction
A book so brimming with literary wisdom that it feels like you’re clutching a living brain. Writing, about writing, for writers – by writer, editor, critic, teacher and captain of the craft, William Zinsser.
Published 1976 // 336 pages // Rated 4.3 over 20,800 reviews on Goodreads
34. The Making of the Atomic Bomb – Richard Rhodes
Published 1986 // 886 pages // Rated 4.4 over 16,300 reviews on Goodreads
35. The Power of Positive Thinking – Norman Vincent Peale (Summary)
Published 1952 // 128 pages // Rated 4.1 over 93,300 reviews on Goodreads
36. Relativity – Albert Einstein
The Special and the General Theory
Published 1916 // 130 pages // Rated 4.2 over 17,000 reviews on Goodreads
37. Psycho-Cybernetics – Maxwell Maltz (Summary)
A New Way to Get More Living Out of Life
Published 1960 // 288 pages // Rated 4.2 over 20,100 reviews on Goodreads
38. The Symposium – Plato
Published -385 // 131 pages // Rated 4.1 over 47,400 reviews on Goodreads
39. Discipline and Punish – Michel Foucault (Summary)
The Birth of the Prison
Published 1975 // 352 pages // Rated 4.2 over 24,600 reviews on Goodreads
40. The Wisdom of Insecurity – Alan W. Watts
A Message for an Age of Anxiety
Published 1951 // 152 pages // Rated 4.2 over 13,700 reviews on Goodreads
41. Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind – Shunryu Suzuki (Summary)
Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice
Published 1970 // 138 pages // Rated 4.2 over 40,200 reviews on Goodreads
42. Peace Is Every Step – Thich Nhat Hanh
The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life
Published 1990 // 160 pages // Rated 4.3 over 33,400 reviews on Goodreads
43. Infinite Jest – David Foster Wallace
Published 1996 // 1,088 pages // Rated 4.3 over 70,500 reviews on Goodreads
44. Influence – Robert B. Cialdini (Summary)
The Psychology of Persuasion
Published 1984 // 320 pages // Rated 4.2 over 118,700 reviews on Goodreads
45. Human, All Too Human – Friedrich Nietzsche
A Book for Free Spirits
Published 1878 // 428 pages // Rated 4.2 over 9,700 reviews on Goodreads
46. Economics in One Lesson – Henry Hazlitt
The Shortest & Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics
Published 1946 // 218 pages // Rated 4.2 over 13,900 reviews on Goodreads
47. Philosophical Investigations – Ludwig Wittgenstein
Published 1953 // 464 pages // Rated 4.2 over 12,100 reviews on Goodreads
48. Security Analysis – Benjamin Graham
Principles and Technique
Published 1962 // 770 pages // Rated 4.3 over 8,100 reviews on Goodreads
49. Escape from Freedom – Erich Fromm
Published 1941 // 301 pages // Rated 4.2 over 9,400 reviews on Goodreads
50. Barbarians at the Gate – Bryan Burrough (Summary)
The Fall of RJR Nabisco
Published 1990 // 592 pages // Rated 4.3 over 29,200 reviews on Goodreads
51. Bird by Bird – Anne Lamott (Summary)
Some Instructions on Writing and Life
Published 1994 // 237 pages // Rated 4.2 over 73,000 reviews on Goodreads
52. Unlimited Power – Anthony Robbins (Summary)
The New Science Of Personal Achievement
Published 1986 // 448 pages // Rated 4.2 over 27,700 reviews on Goodreads
53. The Selfish Gene – Richard Dawkins (Summary)
Published 1976 // 360 pages // Rated 4.1 over 129,900 reviews on Goodreads
54. A Brief History of Time – Stephen Hawking (Summary)
Published 1988 // 212 pages // Rated 4.2 over 272,900 reviews on Goodreads
55. The Four Loves – C.S. Lewis
Published 1960 // 192 pages // Rated 4.1 over 40,800 reviews on Goodreads
56. Capital, Vol. 1 – Karl Marx
A Critical Analysis of Capitalist Production
Published 1867 // 1,152 pages // Rated 4.2 over 7,800 reviews on Goodreads
57. One Up On Wall Street – Peter Lynch
How to Use What You Already Know to Make Money in the Market
Published 1988 // 304 pages // Rated 4.2 over 24,800 reviews on Goodreads
58. The Demon-Haunted World – Carl Sagan
Science as a Candle in the Dark
Published 1996 // 459 pages // Rated 4.3 over 64,000 reviews on Goodreads
59. Letter from the Birmingham Jail – Martin Luther King Jr.
Published 1963 // 35 pages // Rated 4.7 over 4,300 reviews on Goodreads
60. Acres of Diamonds – Russell H. Conwell
Published 1892 // 68 pages // Rated 4.2 over 8,300 reviews on Goodreads
61. How to Have Confidence and Power in Dealing with People – Les Giblin
Published 1956 // 192 pages // Rated 4.2 over 12,400 reviews on Goodreads
62. When Things Fall Apart – Pema Chödrön (Summary)
Heart Advice for Difficult Times
Published 1996 // 160 pages // Rated 4.3 over 32,000 reviews on Goodreads
63. Fragments – Heraclitus
Published -500 // 97 pages // Rated 4.2 over 5,400 reviews on Goodreads
64. High Output Management – Andrew S. Grove (Summary)
A game-changing bible on entrepreneurship and management for anyone seeking practical ways to supercharge their personal and professional productivity – by founder of Intel, Andrew Grove.
Published 1983 // 272 pages // Rated 4.3 over 9,700 reviews on Goodreads
65. Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude – Napoleon Hill (Summary)
Published 1960 // 384 pages // Rated 4.2 over 9,500 reviews on Goodreads
66. The Miracle of Mindfulness – Thich Nhat Hanh (Summary)
An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation
Published 1975 // 140 pages // Rated 4.2 over 27,700 reviews on Goodreads
67. The Way of Zen – Alan W. Watts (Summary)
Published 1957 // 236 pages // Rated 4.2 over 15,500 reviews on Goodreads
68. Euclid’s Elements – Euclid
Published -290 // 499 pages // Rated 4.3 over 2,800 reviews on Goodreads
69. When Things Fall Apart – Pema Chödrön (Summary)
Heart Advice for Difficult Times
Published 1996 // 160 pages // Rated 4.3 over 43,300 reviews on Goodreads
70. The Muqaddimah – Ibn Khaldun (Summary)
An Introduction to History
Published 1377 // 480 pages // Rated 4.3 over 3,300 reviews on Goodreads
71. The Second Sex – Simone de Beauvoir (Summary)
Published 1949 // 746 pages // Rated 4.1 over 28,300 reviews on Goodreads
72. The Book of Chuang Tzu – Zhuangzi
Published -350 // 320 pages // Rated 4.4 over 2,000 reviews on Goodreads
73. A Book of Five Rings – Miyamoto Musashi
The Classic Guide to Strategy
Published 1645 // 192 pages // Rated 4.1 over 33,300 reviews on Goodreads
74. On the Genealogy of Morals – Friedrich Nietzsche
Published 1887 // 208 pages // Rated 4.1 over 17,600 reviews on Goodreads
75. The Secret Teachings of All Ages – Manly P. Hall
Published 1928 // 751 pages // Rated 4.4 over 3,700 reviews on Goodreads
76. Spiritual Midwifery – Ina May Gaskin
Published 1975 // 482 pages // Rated 4.4 over 5,500 reviews on Goodreads
77. The Problem of Pain – C.S. Lewis
Published 1940 // 162 pages // Rated 4.1 over 44,100 reviews on Goodreads
78. The Discourses – Epictetus
Published 108 // 384 pages // Rated 4.2 over 3,900 reviews on Goodreads
79. Stalingrad – Antony Beevor
The Fateful Siege, 1942–1943
Published 1998 // 494 pages // Rated 4.3 over 26,600 reviews on Goodreads
80. Writing Down the Bones – Natalie Goldberg
Freeing the Writer Within
Published 1986 // 312 pages // Rated 4.2 over 24,900 reviews on Goodreads
81. You Can Heal Your Life – Louise L. Hay
Published 1984 // 253 pages // Rated 4.1 over 68,900 reviews on Goodreads
82. Politics and the English Language – George Orwell
Published 1946 // 20 pages // Rated 4.3 over 4,500 reviews on Goodreads
83. I Am That – Nisargadatta Maharaj
Talks with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
Published 1973 // 550 pages // Rated 4.3 over 6,500 reviews on Goodreads
84. Institutes of the Christian Religion – John Calvin
Published 1536 // 1,810 pages // Rated 4.1 over 9,700 reviews on Goodreads
85. The Prize – Daniel Yergin
The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power
Published 1991 // 885 pages // Rated 4.4 over 8,100 reviews on Goodreads
86. Boundaries – Henry Cloud (Summary)
When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life
Published 1992 // 314 pages // Rated 4.2 over 60,900 reviews on Goodreads
87. Berlin Diary – William L. Shirer
The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941
Published 1941 // 627 pages // Rated 4.3 over 4,500 reviews on Goodreads
88. Zen Flesh, Zen Bones – Paul Reps
A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings
Published 1957 // 216 pages // Rated 4.2 over 7,000 reviews on Goodreads
89. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding – La Leche League International
Published 1958 // 463 pages // Rated 4.2 over 8,300 reviews on Goodreads
90. The Principia – Isaac Newton
Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy
Published 1687 // 991 pages // Rated 4.2 over 4,300 reviews on Goodreads
91. Financial Peace Revisited – Dave Ramsey
Published 1992 // 352 pages // Rated 4.3 over 13,600 reviews on Goodreads
92. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen R. Covey (FREE Summary)
Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
A perennial masterpiece on leading a happy, productive and purposeful existence and an unmissable stop for any pilgrim of personal improvement – by educator, author and speaker, Stephen Covey.
Published 1989 // 372 pages // Rated 4.1 over 590,700 reviews on Goodreads
93. Dragons of Eden – Carl Sagan
Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence
Published 1977 // 271 pages // Rated 4.2 over 17,000 reviews on Goodreads
94. Liar’s Poker – Michael Lewis
Published 1989 // 310 pages // Rated 4.2 over 76,100 reviews on Goodreads
95. Nonviolent Communication – Marshall B. Rosenberg (Summary)
A Language of Life
Published 1999 // 220 pages // Rated 4.3 over 24,400 reviews on Goodreads
96. How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk – Adele Faber (Summary)
Published 1996 // 286 pages // Rated 4.3 over 26,100 reviews on Goodreads
97. A Random Walk Down Wall Street – Burton G. Malkiel
The Time-Tested Strategy for Successful Investing
Published 1973 // 432 pages // Rated 4.1 over 28,700 reviews on Goodreads
98. Either/Or – Søren Kierkegaard
A Fragment of Life
Published 1843 // 640 pages // Rated 4.2 over 7,100 reviews on Goodreads
99. Letting Go – David R. Hawkins
The Pathway To Surrender
Published 1905 // 368 pages // Rated 4.2 over 4,600 reviews on Goodreads
100. The Art of War – Sun Tzu
Published -500 // 273 pages // Rated 4.0 over 297,000 reviews on Goodreads

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Arthur Worsley
I founded TAoL to discover and share the best wisdom on how to live long and prosper. Before that I studied Psychology, Philosophy & Physiology at Oxford and consulted at McKinsey. Still curious? Learn more or take my FREE productivity quiz.

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