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Best Nonfiction Books: The 100 Best Nonfiction Books Of All Time (2020)

Best Nonfiction Books
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Best Nonfiction Books

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Looking for the best nonfiction books of all time? You’re in the right place!

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., If you enjoy this, you might like 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.

  1. Night (The Night Trilogy #1) (1958), Elie Wiesel
    115 pages. Rated 4.3 over 951,200 reviews on Goodreads.
  2. Mere Christianity (1952), C.S. Lewis (Summary)
    191 pages. Rated 4.3 over 276,100 reviews on Goodreads.
  3. Endurance (1959), Alfred Lansing
    Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage
    282 pages. Rated 4.4 over 80,600 reviews on Goodreads.
  4. Meditations (180), 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.
    303 pages. Rated 4.2 over 102,600 reviews on Goodreads.
  5. As a Man Thinketh (1902), James Allen (Summary)
    80 pages. Rated 4.3 over 53,100 reviews on Goodreads.
  6. The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965), Malcolm X (Summary)
    466 pages. Rated 4.3 over 194,500 reviews on Goodreads.
  7. Letters from a Stoic (-49), 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.
    256 pages. Rated 4.3 over 18,200 reviews on Goodreads.
  8. The Choice (1959), Edith Eger
    Embrace the Possible
    289 pages. Rated 4.6 over 24,900 reviews on Goodreads.
  9. Letters to a Young Poet (1929), Rainer Maria Rilke
    80 pages. Rated 4.3 over 45,300 reviews on Goodreads.
  10. The Complete Maus (1986), Art Spiegelman
    296 pages. Rated 4.6 over 131,500 reviews on Goodreads.
  11. Cosmos (1980), Carl Sagan (Summary)
    384 pages. Rated 4.4 over 107,700 reviews on Goodreads.
  12. If This Is a Man • The Truce (1947), Primo Levi
    419 pages. Rated 4.6 over 14,500 reviews on Goodreads.
  13. How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936), 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.
    288 pages. Rated 4.2 over 580,200 reviews on Goodreads.
  14. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), Maya Angelou
    289 pages. Rated 4.2 over 396,200 reviews on Goodreads.
  15. The Intelligent Investor (1949), Benjamin Graham (Summary)
    623 pages. Rated 4.2 over 75,100 reviews on Goodreads.
  16. On the Shortness of Life (-49), Seneca (Summary)
    106 pages. Rated 4.2 over 17,300 reviews on Goodreads.
  17. Autobiography of a Yogi (1946), Paramahansa Yogananda
    520 pages. Rated 4.2 over 45,300 reviews on Goodreads.
  18. Apology (-380), Plato
    127 pages. Rated 4.2 over 31,900 reviews on Goodreads.
  19. The Magic of Thinking Big (1959), 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.
    320 pages. Rated 4.2 over 63,200 reviews on Goodreads.
  20. Think and Grow Rich (1937), 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.
    233 pages. Rated 4.2 over 187,900 reviews on Goodreads.
  21. My Bondage and My Freedom (1855), Frederick Douglass
    432 pages. Rated 4.4 over 10,400 reviews on Goodreads.
  22. The Elements of Style (1918), 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.
    105 pages. Rated 4.2 over 69,000 reviews on Goodreads.
  23. “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!” (1985), Richard P. Feynman
    Adventures of a Curious Character
    391 pages. Rated 4.3 over 151,000 reviews on Goodreads.
  24. The Art of Living (125), Epictetus
    The Classical Manual on Virtue, Happiness and Effectiveness
    128 pages. Rated 4.2 over 13,800 reviews on Goodreads.
  25. Law of Success (1925), Napoleon Hill
    1,035 pages. Rated 4.4 over 8,600 reviews on Goodreads.
  26. The Power Broker (1974), Robert A. Caro
    Robert Moses and the Fall of New York
    1,344 pages. Rated 4.5 over 12,500 reviews on Goodreads.
  27. The Complete Essays (1572), Michel de Montaigne
    1,344 pages. Rated 4.2 over 15,200 reviews on Goodreads.
  28. The Diary of a Young Girl (1947), Anne Frank
    283 pages. Rated 4.2 over 2,671,000 reviews on Goodreads.
  29. Gödel, Escher, Bach (1979), Douglas R. Hofstadter
    An Eternal Golden Braid
    777 pages. Rated 4.3 over 40,400 reviews on Goodreads.
  30. The Imitation of Christ (1418), Thomas à Kempis
    288 pages. Rated 4.2 over 18,100 reviews on Goodreads.
  31. Alcoholics Anonymous (1939), Alcoholics Anonymous
    576 pages. Rated 4.5 over 7,700 reviews on Goodreads.
  32. Be Here Now (1971), Ram Dass
    416 pages. Rated 4.3 over 23,900 reviews on Goodreads.
  33. The Path to Power (1982), Robert A. Caro
    882 pages. Rated 4.4 over 16,700 reviews on Goodreads.
  34. The Gay Science (1882), Friedrich Nietzsche
    398 pages. Rated 4.3 over 13,100 reviews on Goodreads.
  35. Totto-chan (1981), Tetsuko Kuroyanagi
    The Little Girl at the Window
    232 pages. Rated 4.3 over 22,800 reviews on Goodreads.
  36. The 5 Love Languages (1990), Gary Chapman (Summary)
    The Secret to Love that Lasts
    209 pages. Rated 4.3 over 282,400 reviews on Goodreads.
  37. The Science of Getting Rich (1910), Wallace D. Wattles (Summary)
    146 pages. Rated 4.2 over 30,800 reviews on Goodreads.
  38. Desert Solitaire (1968), Edward Abbey
    337 pages. Rated 4.2 over 38,500 reviews on Goodreads.
  39. Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind (1970), Shunryu Suzuki (Summary)
    Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice
    138 pages. Rated 4.2 over 34,800 reviews on Goodreads.
  40. The Right Stuff (1979), Tom Wolfe
    352 pages. Rated 4.2 over 41,800 reviews on Goodreads.
  41. How I Raised Myself From Failure to Success in Selling (1947), Frank Bettger (Summary)
    192 pages. Rated 4.3 over 14,100 reviews on Goodreads.
  42. The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt (1979), Edmund Morris
    780 pages. Rated 4.2 over 41,500 reviews on Goodreads.
  43. Long Walk to Freedom (1994), Nelson Mandela
    656 pages. Rated 4.3 over 64,600 reviews on Goodreads.
  44. On Food and Cooking (1984), Harold McGee
    The Science and Lore of the Kitchen
    896 pages. Rated 4.5 over 13,100 reviews on Goodreads.
  45. The Power of Myth (1988), Joseph Campbell (Summary)
    320 pages. Rated 4.3 over 41,400 reviews on Goodreads.
  46. West with the Night (1942), Beryl Markham
    294 pages. Rated 4.2 over 29,000 reviews on Goodreads.
  47. The Feynman Lectures on Physics (1964), Richard P. Feynman
    1,552 pages. Rated 4.6 over 6,700 reviews on Goodreads.
  48. The Power of Positive Thinking (1952), Norman Vincent Peale (Summary)
    128 pages. Rated 4.2 over 81,600 reviews on Goodreads.
  49. The Hero With a Thousand Faces (1949), Joseph Campbell
    416 pages. Rated 4.2 over 29,100 reviews on Goodreads.
  50. Wild Swans (1991), Jung Chang
    Three Daughters of China
    562 pages. Rated 4.3 over 88,100 reviews on Goodreads.
  51. The Guns of August (1962), Barbara W. Tuchman
    658 pages. Rated 4.2 over 53,000 reviews on Goodreads.
  52. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861), Harriet Ann Jacobs
    176 pages. Rated 4.1 over 41,000 reviews on Goodreads.
  53. Peace Is Every Step (1990), Thich Nhat Hanh
    The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life
    160 pages. Rated 4.3 over 27,500 reviews on Goodreads.
  54. The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are (1966), Alan W. Watts (Summary)
    163 pages. Rated 4.3 over 15,400 reviews on Goodreads.
  55. The Last Days of Socrates (-400), Plato
    256 pages. Rated 4.1 over 34,200 reviews on Goodreads.
  56. The Making of the Atomic Bomb (1986), Richard Rhodes
    886 pages. Rated 4.4 over 16,300 reviews on Goodreads.
  57. On Writing Well (1976), 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 general captain of the craft, William Zinsser.
    336 pages. Rated 4.3 over 20,800 reviews on Goodreads.
  58. The Last Lion (1983), William Manchester
    Winston Spencer Churchill: Visions of Glory 1874-1932
    992 pages. Rated 4.4 over 11,300 reviews on Goodreads.
  59. The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. (1986), Martin Luther King Jr.
    400 pages. Rated 4.4 over 15,900 reviews on Goodreads.
  60. The Miracle of Mindfulness (1975), Thich Nhat Hanh (Summary)
    An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation
    140 pages. Rated 4.2 over 22,500 reviews on Goodreads.
  61. How to Stop Worrying and Start Living (1944), Dale Carnegie (Summary)
    358 pages. Rated 4.1 over 71,600 reviews on Goodreads.
  62. Relativity (1916), Albert Einstein
    The Special and the General Theory
    130 pages. Rated 4.2 over 17,000 reviews on Goodreads.
  63. How to Have Confidence and Power in Dealing with People (1956), Les Giblin
    192 pages. Rated 4.3 over 10,700 reviews on Goodreads.
  64. Influence (1984), Robert B. Cialdini (Summary)
    The Psychology of Persuasion
    320 pages. Rated 4.2 over 96,000 reviews on Goodreads.
  65. The Wisdom of Insecurity (1951), Alan W. Watts
    A Message for an Age of Anxiety
    152 pages. Rated 4.2 over 13,700 reviews on Goodreads.
  66. Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude (1960), Napoleon Hill (Summary)
    384 pages. Rated 4.3 over 7,600 reviews on Goodreads.
  67. The Story of My Life (1902), Helen Keller
    240 pages. Rated 4.1 over 128,700 reviews on Goodreads.
  68. Discipline and Punish (1975), Michel Foucault (Summary)
    The Birth of the Prison
    352 pages. Rated 4.2 over 24,600 reviews on Goodreads.
  69. On Writing (2000), Stephen King
    A Memoir of the Craft
    320 pages. Rated 4.3 over 215,800 reviews on Goodreads.
  70. Infinite Jest (1996), David Foster Wallace
    1,088 pages. Rated 4.3 over 70,500 reviews on Goodreads.
  71. Psycho-Cybernetics (1960), Maxwell Maltz (Summary)
    A New Way to Get More Living Out of Life
    288 pages. Rated 4.2 over 14,600 reviews on Goodreads.
  72. The Selfish Gene (1976), Richard Dawkins (Summary)
    360 pages. Rated 4.1 over 129,900 reviews on Goodreads.
  73. A Brief History of Time (1988), Stephen Hawking (Summary)
    212 pages. Rated 4.2 over 272,900 reviews on Goodreads.
  74. Economics in One Lesson (1946), Henry Hazlitt
    The Shortest & Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics
    218 pages. Rated 4.2 over 13,900 reviews on Goodreads.
  75. Security Analysis (1962), Benjamin Graham
    Principles and Technique
    770 pages. Rated 4.3 over 7,000 reviews on Goodreads.
  76. Human, All Too Human (1878), Friedrich Nietzsche
    A Book for Free Spirits
    428 pages. Rated 4.2 over 9,700 reviews on Goodreads.
  77. Philosophical Investigations (1953), Ludwig Wittgenstein
    464 pages. Rated 4.2 over 12,100 reviews on Goodreads.
  78. Black Like Me (1960), John Howard Griffin
    208 pages. Rated 4.1 over 58,500 reviews on Goodreads.
  79. Escape from Freedom (1941), Erich Fromm
    301 pages. Rated 4.2 over 9,400 reviews on Goodreads.
  80. Letter from the Birmingham Jail (1963), Martin Luther King Jr.
    35 pages. Rated 4.7 over 4,300 reviews on Goodreads.
  81. Bird by Bird (1994), Anne Lamott (Summary)
    Some Instructions on Writing and Life
    237 pages. Rated 4.2 over 73,000 reviews on Goodreads.
  82. The Four Loves (1960), C.S. Lewis
    192 pages. Rated 4.1 over 40,800 reviews on Goodreads.
  83. What Do You Care What Other People Think? (1988), Richard Feynman
    Further Adventures of a Curious Character
    288 pages. Rated 4.3 over 21,600 reviews on Goodreads.
  84. Barbarians at the Gate (1990), Bryan Burrough (Summary)
    The Fall of RJR Nabisco
    592 pages. Rated 4.3 over 29,200 reviews on Goodreads.
  85. Unlimited Power (1986), Anthony Robbins (Summary)
    The New Science Of Personal Achievement
    448 pages. Rated 4.2 over 27,700 reviews on Goodreads.
  86. When Things Fall Apart (1996), Pema Chödrön (Summary)
    Heart Advice for Difficult Times
    160 pages. Rated 4.3 over 34,700 reviews on Goodreads.
  87. Capital, Vol. 1 (1867), Karl Marx
    A Critical Analysis of Capitalist Production
    1,152 pages. Rated 4.2 over 7,800 reviews on Goodreads.
  88. Discourses and Selected Writings (108), Epictetus
    A transcription of a collection of intensely practical informal lectures given on the subject of happiness and freedom around 108 AD, by stoic philosopher and freed slave, Epictetus.
    276 pages. Rated 4.4 over 2,200 reviews on Goodreads.
  89. Acres of Diamonds (1892), Russell H. Conwell
    68 pages. Rated 4.2 over 7,800 reviews on Goodreads.
  90. Up from Slavery (1900), Booker T. Washington
    256 pages. Rated 4.1 over 23,900 reviews on Goodreads.
  91. When Things Fall Apart (1996), Pema Chödrön (Summary)
    Heart Advice for Difficult Times
    160 pages. Rated 4.3 over 32,000 reviews on Goodreads.
  92. High Output Management (1983), Andrew S. Grove (Summary)
    272 pages. Rated 4.3 over 9,700 reviews on Goodreads.
  93. Fragments (-500), Heraclitus
    97 pages. Rated 4.2 over 5,400 reviews on Goodreads.
  94. Gandhi (1927), Mahatma Gandhi
    An autobiography
    528 pages. Rated 4.1 over 49,000 reviews on Goodreads.
  95. The Second Sex (1949), Simone de Beauvoir (Summary)
    746 pages. Rated 4.1 over 28,300 reviews on Goodreads.
  96. The Book of Chuang Tzu (-350), Zhuangzi
    320 pages. Rated 4.4 over 2,000 reviews on Goodreads.
  97. The Symposium (-385), Plato
    131 pages. Rated 4.0 over 38,600 reviews on Goodreads.
  98. The Way of Zen (1957), Alan W. Watts (Summary)
    236 pages. Rated 4.2 over 15,500 reviews on Goodreads.
  99. I Am That (1973), Nisargadatta Maharaj
    Talks with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
    550 pages. Rated 4.5 over 4,600 reviews on Goodreads.
  100. The Muqaddimah (1377), Ibn Khaldun (Summary)
    An Introduction to History
    480 pages. Rated 4.3 over 3,300 reviews on Goodreads.

Enjoyed this list of the best nonfiction books of all time? You might also like…

II. Best Books Of All Time

These are the overall best books to read (by type).

III. Best Nonfiction Books (A-Z)

These are the best nonfiction books to read (by topic).

IV. Best Fiction Books (A-Z)

These are the best fiction books to read (by genre).

Or, you can read all my book recommendations.
Arthur Worsley
Arthur Worsley
Arthur is a thinker and writer who helps people who want more from their lives learn to be more productive, find more balance and live life more meaningfully. Want to know more? Take this 2-minute quiz to discover your Productivity Quotient (PQ) and learn how to get BIG things done. Take the Quiz →

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  1. Darryl says:

    Billions and Billions, by Carl Sagan, written when he knew he was terminally ill.

    • Arthur says:

      Amazing, Darryl – I didn’t have this one in my reading list.

      Have added it in now and it will definitely make the next update.

      Thank you for the recommendation! Arthur

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