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7 Classic Science Fiction Books Worth Revisiting

good books non fiction

Science Fiction stories delve into all things futuristic, technological, extraterrestrial — you catch our drift. Pivotal authors in the space include Isaac Asimov, George Orwell, Philip K. Dick, N. K. Jemisin, and countless others.

In celebration of both Asimov, his peers, and the entire genre, we’ve put together a collection of sci-fi books that are always worth rereading (or reading for the first time if you’re just getting into these magical worlds of tomorrow). From fun and fascinating intergalactic travels to dystopian futures that will leave you with much to think about, these sci-fi tales are fundamental to the genre.

Foundation Series – Isaac Asimov

good books non fiction

The Foundation series began as a few short stories published in the magazine Astounding Stories of Super-Science back in the 1940s and ultimately became an entire series of seven epic books. The tale is set in the distant future where a man named Hari Seldon has invented “psychohistory,” a mathematical means of predicting the future. 

Unfortunately, its predictions aren’t very flattering: They foretell a time when humanity will more or less revert back to the Dark Ages. These predictions get Seldon and his crew exiled to a distant planet known as “the Foundation,” where they attempt to shorten the period of decline to come. Apple TV+ also turned the series into a TV show and released the first season in 2021. 

Dune – Frank Herbert

good books non fiction

As fans of the 2021 Dune film may know, the story is based on the 1960s book by Frank Herbert and its sequels. Dune eventually became a bit like a literary version of Star Wars, as Herbert wrote six novels in the Dune series before he passed away. Later, his son Brian and author Kevin J. Anderson teamed up to produce numerous sequels and spinoffs based on the Dune -iverse.

The saga is set in a future where noble families rule different planets under a sort of intergalactic feudal system. In the first of the six foundational novels, readers are introduced to the heir of one such distinguished group, a boy named Paul Atreides whose family is charged with ruling a planet called Arrakis. When his family is betrayed, Paul embarks on a journey that blends everything from adventure to mysticism in one of the most epic sci-fi tales of all time. 

The Left Hand of Darkness – Ursula K. Le Guin

good books non fiction

While some earlier sci-fi classics tend to reflect women in the light of the times in which they were written, The Left Hand of Darkness is a whole other experience altogether. The 1969 novel follows the adventures of Genly Ai, an envoy who is sent to a stray world called Winter in an attempt to bring it back into the intergalactic fold. 

However, to stand a chance, he must overcome his own preconceptions when he’s confronted with a culture that exists entirely without gender prejudice. As Ai soon discovers, some of the creatures on Winter express multiple genders, while others don’t identify with any at all. If you’re a reader who loves to go deep, this one makes for a fascinating read. 

Nineteen Eighty-Four – George Orwell

good books non fiction

While the actual 1984 may have come and gone, the dystopian novel that shares its name remains a pivotal work of science fiction. The Atlantic notes that “No novel of the past century has had more influence than George Orwell’s 1984 ,” and this assessment is indeed a fair one. Published in 1949, the story follows Winston Smith, who lives under a totalitarian government in which “the Party” controls every aspect of its citizens’ lives. 

“Big Brother,” an invisible yet omnipresent leader, is always surveilling the populace to ensure that no one commits so much as a thoughtcrime, which involves no more than thinking of rebelling against the Party. When Smith dares to think for himself, he sets off on a haunting journey that transports readers to a world that’s all too easy to imagine actually existing. While this isn’t necessarily an easy read, it’s an important one that will stay with you for years.  

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? – Philip K. Dick

good books non fiction

Though you may not think you’ve heard of this one, it may be a bit more familiar than you think — it’s the inspiration behind Ridley Scott’s film, Blade Runner (1982). First published in 1968, the novel takes place in a dystopian 2021 where entire species have been eliminated by a global war. In an effort to replace live animals, which are highly prized, series of incredibly realistic androids have been developed, some of which are even fashioned after human beings. 

However, when the government becomes wary of these AI humans and their disturbing capabilities, it eventually bans them from Earth. Bounty hunter Rick Deckard is sent to “retire” any rogue androids that remain, which doesn’t prove to be an easy task. 

Kindred – Octavia E. Butler

good books non fiction

Kindred has become a foundational work of sci-fi and African-American literature alike. The story follows a modern young Black woman named Dana who is suddenly deposited back in time to the pre-Civil War South. Through a series of trips between that era and her own time, Dana is forced to contend with the horrors of slavery, racism and sexism while completing a series of tasks. 

Though each journey becomes more dangerous, Dana realizes that her own family’s future depends on their successful completion. First published in 1979, the novel remains relevant today with its skillful blend of romance, sci-fi, feminism, equality and adventure. 

A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle

good books non fiction

A Wrinkle in Time is a classic story of good vs. evil presented through an adventurous sci-fi lens. The tale follows a high school student named Meg Murray, her friend Calvin O’Keefe and her younger brother Charles Wallace. When the three are introduced to tesseracts (or wrinkles in time) by an unearthly visitor, they set off on a journey through time and space to rescue Meg’s missing scientist father.

Along the way, she learns a series of timeless life lessons about everything from the power of individuality to the resiliency of love. Appropriate for both young and adult readers alike, this one is a fun and fascinating tale that seems impossible to outgrow. 


good books non fiction

The best non-fiction books of all time

From eye-opening autobiographies to political exposés, broaden your horizons with our edit of the best non-fiction books of all time. .

good books non fiction

The best non-fiction books can educate readers on vital subjects, offer fresh new perspectives, or simply give us a valuable, and often entertaining, insight into the lives of others. Here is our edit of the must-read non-fiction books of 2023, and the best non-fiction books of all time. 

  • New non-fiction books
  • Science & technology
  • Autobiographies, biographies & memiors
  • True stories & exposés
  • Self-help, lifestyle & wellbeing
  • Finance & investing
  • Political & historical
  • Natural world & environment
  • Sports books & autobiographies

The best non-fiction books of 2023

The making of the modern middle east, by jeremy bowen.

Book cover for The Making of the Modern Middle East

BBC's International Editor, Jeremy Bowen, provides a compelling and informative exploration of the Middle East in The Making of the Modern Middle East . Drawing on his extensive experience and insights from his prominent podcast, 'Our Man in the Middle East', Bowen journeys across the region, tracing its history. He encounters everyday people, their leaders, and delves into the power dynamics that have inflicted suffering on civilians. From Syria to Israel and Palestine, Bowen's deep comprehension of the region's varied political, cultural and religious aspects is evident throughout the book.

Mozart in Italy

By jane glover.

Book cover for Mozart in Italy

At thirteen years old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was a child prodigy who had captured the hearts of northern Europe, but his father Leopold was now determined to conquer Italy. Together, they made three visits there the last when Mozart was seventeen, all vividly recounted here by acclaimed conductor Jane Glover. Evocative, beautifully written and with a profound understanding of eighteenth-century classical music,  Mozart in Italy  reveals how what he experienced during these Italian journeys changed Mozart – and his music – for ever.

Ten Times Calmer

By dr kirren schnack.

Book cover for Ten Times Calmer

Dr Kirren Schnack is here to tell you that your anxiety isn’t here to stay. As an Oxford trained and practicing NHS clinical psychologist with twenty years’ experience, she offers a first aid kit of tools to help you understand what you’re going through and change how you’re feeling – and it might just be easier than you think. The ten chapters cover everything from dealing with anxious thoughts and stress to managing uncertainty and safely tackling trauma, with each tip taking you one step closer to an anxiety-free life. 

Holding the Note

By david remnick.

Book cover for Holding the Note

David Remnick, the Pulitzer Prize-winnning journalist and editor of The New Yorker, writes about the lives and work of some of the greatest musicians, songwriters, and performers of the past fifty years. He portrays a series of musical lives – Leonard Cohen, Buddy Guy, Mavis Staples, Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, Patti Smith, and more – and their unique encounters with the passing of that essential element of music: time. These are intimate portraits of some of the greatest creative minds of our time written with a lifetime’s passionate attachment to music that has shaped us all.

Book cover for Stay True

Winner of Pulitzer Prize in Memoir, Stay True  is a deeply moving and intimate memoir about growing up and moving through the world in search of meaning and belonging. When Hua Hsu first meets Ken in a Berkeley dorm room, he hates him. A frat boy with terrible taste in music, Ken seems exactly like everyone else. For Hua, Ken represents all that he defines himself in opposition to – the mainstream. The only thing Hua, the son of Taiwanese immigrants, and Ken, whose Japanese American family has been in the US for generations, have in common is that, however they engage with it, American culture doesn’t seem to have a place for either of them. 

Father and Son

By jonathan raban.

Book cover for Father and Son

On 11 June 2011, three days short of his sixty-ninth birthday, Jonathan Raban suffered a stroke which left him unable to use the right side of his body. Learning to use a wheelchair in a rehab facility outside Seattle and resisting the ministrations of the nurses overseeing his recovery, Raban began to reflect upon the measure of his own life in the face of his own mortality. Together with the chronicle of his recovery is the extraordinary story of his parents’ marriage, the early years of which were conducted by letter while his father fought in the Second World War.

A Brief Atlas of the Lighthouses at the End of the World

By gonzález macías.

Book cover for A Brief Atlas of the Lighthouses at the End of the World

From a blind lighthouse keeper tending a light in the Arctic Circle, to an intrepid young girl saving ships from wreck at the foot of her father's lighthouse, and the plight of the lighthouse crew cut off from society for forty days, this is a glorious book full of illuminating stories that will transport the reader to the world's most isolated and inspiring lighthouses.

Beyond the Story

Book cover for Beyond the Story

Published in celebration of their 10th anniversary, this is the BTS's first official book , including unreleased photos, QR codes of videos and other exclusive content. Through in-depth interviews and years of coverage by Myeongseok Kang, the world of K-pop comes alive. As digital artists, BTS has been communicating with the world through the internet and this book allows readers to immediately access trailers, music videos, and more online to have a rich understanding of all the key moments in BTS history. Complete with a timeline of all major milestones,  Beyond the Story is a remarkable archive — truly everything about BTS in one volume.

Party Lines

By ed gillett.

Book cover for Party Lines

From the illicit reggae blues dances and acid-rock free festivals of the 1970s, through the ecstasy-fuelled Second Summer of Love in 1988, to the increasingly corporate dance music culture of the post-Covid era,  Party Lines  is a groundbreaking new history of UK dance music, exploring its pivotal role in the social, political and economic shifts on which modern Britain has been built. Ed Gillett   charts an ongoing conflict, fought in basement clubs, abandoned warehouses and sunlit fields, between the revolutionary potential of communal sound and the reactionary impulses of the British establishment.

Gonzo Capitalism

By chris guillebeau.

Book cover for Gonzo Capitalism

In Gonzo Capitalism , Chris Guillebeau explores how millennials and gen-Z are embracing unconventional ways to make money amidst financial challenges. He showcases individuals who have earned substantial income by sending potatoes in the mail, naming other people's babies, and getting paid to play online games. With a keen eye on the evolving platform economy, he reveals the inner workings of our economy and empowers readers to capitalize on new tools and platforms to turn their talents into income. Gonzo Capitalism provides valuable insights for those seeking alternative paths to financial success in a changing world.

The Snakehead

By patrick radden keefe.

Book cover for The Snakehead

From the author of Empire of Pain comes a thrilling panorama of a secret world run by a surprising criminal. Cheng Chui Ping, a charismatic middle-aged grandmother managed a multimillion-dollar business smuggling people – all from a tiny noodle shop in New York's Chinatown. The Snakehead, uncovers the inner workings of this empire, and recounts the decade-long FBI investigation that eventually brought her down. But this is not just a crime story. As an incompetent and corrupt INS pursues desperate immigrants, Patrick Radden Keefe paints a portrait of a generation of these undocumented people, and ultimately the ironies of immigration in America more broadly. 

The Queer Parent

By lotte jeffs and stu oakley.

Book cover for The Queer Parent

From fertility and adoption queries to starting school and navigating conversations with your kids, The Queer Parent is the essential guide for LGBTQ+ parents, parents-to-be and allies. Written by Lotte Jeffs and Stu Oakley, the hosts of the award-winning podcast  Some Families , this funny, empathetic guide contains advice from dozens of queer families and experts who share their experiences, tips, and pitfalls they faced in the journey to becoming parents. Whether you’re a parent, a teacher, a friend or anything in between, this book is essential reading for everyone.  

With You Every Step

By rob burrow.

Book cover for With You Every Step

The moving affection between rugby legends, fundraising heroes and best friends Rob Burrow and Kevin Sinfield has inspired and uplifted the nation. In this truly special, pocket-sized gift book, heartfelt words from Rob and Kevin are brought to life with artwork from leading illustrators, to create an inspiring and hopeful celebration of love, support and connection. Exploring universal truths and celebrating kindness, empathy and the joy of friendship,  With You Every Step  is the perfect way to show the special people in your life, young and old, just how much they mean to you.

Closer to Love

By vex king.

Book cover for Closer to Love

Vex King is back with Closer to Love , a practical guide to creating lasting connections. After finding peace and joy in his own romantic relationship, he is now sharing his wisdom to guide readers on their own journeys. He considers the complexities of modern relationships and how to navigate these in an ever-changing world, helps us to overcome fears, expectations and insecurities, and clarifies our sense of selves, ultimately helping us to get closer to love. From the bestselling author of Good Vibes, Good Life and Healing is the New High , Closer to Love is an unmissable read from one of the nation's favourite self-help gurus.  

To My Sisters

By courtney daniella boateng.

Book cover for To My Sisters

From the hosts of the hit podcast, To My Sisters, comes this essential guide to sisterhood. Old friends Renee Kapuku and Courtney Daniella Boateng are united in one mission – reinvigorate and redefine sisterhood to inspire a global community of women to uplift each other and reclaim their power. They argue that unconditional love is too often limited to parents or spouses, when actually embracing the power of friendship and community in an authentic way is just as powerful. Packed with practical advice, reflective activities and wise words, To My Sisters  will teach you how to find, build and nourish lifelong friendships. 

A Girlhood: A Letter to My Transgender Daughter

By carolyn hays.

Book cover for A Girlhood: A Letter to My Transgender Daughter

This thought-provoking and moving memoir is an ode to Carolyn Hays's transgender daughter – a love letter to a child who has always known herself. After a caseworker from the Department of Children and Families knocked on the door to investigate a complaint about the upbringing of their transgender child, the Hays family moved away from their Republican state. In A Girlhood, Carolyn Hays tells of the brutal truths of being trans, of the sacrificial nature of motherhood and of the lengths a family will go to shield their youngest from the cruel realities of the world. Hays asks us all to love better, for children everywhere enduring injustice and prejudice just as they begin to understand themselves.

‘ Stunning . . . Built like a thriller, moving, wise and illuminated on every page with love. ’ Joanne Harris, author of Chocolat

by Jo Cheetham

Book cover for Killjoy

In this story of everyday people doing extraordinary things, Jo Cheetham writes of her time protesting up and down the country as part of the No More Page 3 campaign. When studying and working as a nanny in London, Jo saw news of an upcoming protest against the Page 3 pictorial in The Sun . Soon, she was embroiled in a movement determined to expose and take down this exploitative industry. In doing so she made an unlikely group of friends that would become her closest confidents and allies. Both hilarious and moving, Killyjoy shows us the power of a grassroots campaign and of shouting a little bit louder. 

Finding Hildasay

By christian lewis.

Book cover for Finding Hildasay

After hitting rock bottom having suffered with depression for years, Christian Lewis made an impulsive decision to walk the entire coastline of the UK. Just a few days later he set off with a tent, walking boots and a tenner in his pocket. Finding Hildasay tells us some of this incredible story, including the brutal three months Christian Lewis spent on the uninhabited island of Hildasay in Scotland with no fresh water or food. It was there, where his route was most barren, that he discovered pride and respect for himself. This is not just a story of a remarkable journey, but one of depression, survival and the meaning of home. 

How Big Things Get Done

By bent flyvbjerg.

Book cover for How Big Things Get Done

Understanding what distinguishes the triumphs from the failures has been the life’s work of Oxford professor Bent Flyvbjerg. In How Big Things Get Done , along with bestselling author Dan Gardner, he reveals the errors that leads projects to fail, and the principles that make them succeed. Think of how Apple’s iPod went from a project with a single employee to an enormously successful product launch in eleven months. But such successes are the exception. Exploring case studies across a broad spectrum of technologies and businesses, discover why this is an exception, and how to be one of these exceptions. 

Blood on the Snow

By robert service.

Book cover for Blood on the Snow

Exploring the world events that preceded the 1917 Russian Revolution, in Blood on the Snow, Robert Service revisits the period that has fascinated him throughout his career. The esteemed historian presents the revisionist idea that it was Tsar Nicholas II’s decision to join the war against Germany in 1914, rather than a revolution driven by worker and peasant activism, that sowed the seeds of the Revolution. Through examination of primary source material, including diary entries from ordinary Russians, Service presents a compelling narrative of the events leading up to the birth of Bolshevik Russia. 

Warhol After Warhol

By richard dorment.

Book cover for Warhol After Warhol

Twenty years ago, art critic Richard Dorment received a phone call that would change his life. The caller asked Dorment for his help after two of his prized pieces, paintings by the late pop artist Andy Warhol, had been declared fake. As the duo embark on a decade-long quest to prove the authenticity of the paintings, they stumble upon a world full of corruption and greed, and meet the colourful characters who hold the power. A stranger-than-fiction examination of the corruption and lies that have permeated the art world, Warhol After Warhol lifts the lid on the mystery and scandal that surrounds the billion-dollar art industry.

by Rob Copeland

Book cover for The Fund

Five decades after founding hedge-fund Bridgewater Associates, in October 2022 billionaire Ray Dalio announced he would be retiring from running the firm that has made him extremely rich, and infamous in the process. Now, through hundreds of interviews with those who know the fund and Dalio most intimately, Rob Copeland tells the shocking and fascinating story behind the firm’s enduring success. Revealing the secrets of the man behind the biggest hedge-fund on Wall Street, The Fund is a must-read business book for fans of The Big Short and Million Dollar Whale.  

Breaking Twiter

By ben mezrich.

Book cover for Breaking Twiter

For more than twenty years, Twitter was a digital home for users to post, retweet and debate, until one bizarre day in October 2022. Charting one of the strangest and most polarising business takeovers of modern times, in this expose of Elon Musk’s acquisition of the brand, bestselling author Ben Mezrich charts the fateful fall of the platform formally known as Twitter. With interviews with Twitter employees, and sources close to Musk, Mezrich lifts the lid on the mass firings, the exodus of advertisers and how one man’s decisions have changed the internet forever. 

by Scott Shigeoka

Book cover for Seek

When was the last time you learned something new or spoke to someone totally different to you about their viewpoints and experiences? In his new book, Seek , curiosity-expert Scott Shigeoka invites us to wonder, explore what makes us curious and expand our understanding of the world. In this practical and accessible guide you’ll learn how harnessing your natural curiosity by letting go of assumptions and embracing hardship can help you enjoy a more connected, compassionate and interesting life. 

The Geek Way

By andrew mcafee.

Book cover for The Geek Way

If you’ve ever had an incredible idea that fell on deaf ears when you spoke to your boss about it, this book is for you. Rethinking the traditional structures of top-down hierarchies, some of Silicon Valley’s most successful companies have embraced the geek way of thinking, making decisions using trial and error, evidence and stress-testing, and doing away with the practice of upper management being the sole decision makers. By examining what it is that makes businesses and teams that embrace the approach work, Andrew McAfee has unlocked the secrets of The Geek Way , and how you can apply the principles to improve your business. The future is geeky! 

Went to London, Took the Dog: A Diary

By nina stibbe.

Book cover for Went to London, Took the Dog: A Diary

Two decades after she left the capital for Cornwall, Nina Stibbe made the life-changing decision to take a ‘sabbatical’ from her life and marriage to move in with her friend, writer Deborah Moggach, for a year. From spending more time with her adult children and rediscovering the London she once called home, to realising that both she and the city have changed immeasurably over the years, Stibbe charts the experience with her trademark humour and grace. Went to London, Took the Dog is a funny, deeply moving read for anyone who is dreaming of or embarking on a new chapter in their life. 

The best non-fiction books about science & technology

The psychology of stupidity, by jean-francois marmion.

Book cover for The Psychology of Stupidity

Edited by Jean-François Marmion, this dissection of stupidity is brought to you by some of the brightest brains around, including a Nobel Prize winner. The Psychology of Stupidity explains how lazy thinking leads to bad decisions, why even smart people can believe nonsense, how media manipulation makes us all dumber, and the pitfalls of trying to debate with a fool.

by Laurent Richard

Book cover for Pegasus

Pegasus is the most powerful piece of spyware ever developed, installed on a phone by as little as a missed Whatsapp call. Once on your phone it can record your calls, copy your messages, steal your photos and secretly film you, and those controlling it are able to track your daily movements. Award-winning journalists Laurent Richard and Sandrine Riguard have been investigating this for more than twenty years. Pegasus outlines this journey and explores how people's lives and privacy are being threatened by cyber-surveillance.  

Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain

By lisa feldman barrett.

Book cover for Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain

In seven short essays about that big grey blob between your ears, neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett explores the origins and structure of the brain, as well as shelving popular myths about the alleged battle between thoughts and emotions, or between nature and nurture. Sure to intrigue casual readers and scientific veterans alike, the book is full of surprises, humour and revelations about human nature.

Scary Smart

By mo gawdat.

Book cover for Scary Smart

In Scary Smart,  The former chief business officer of Google outlines how artificial intelligence is way smarter than us, and is predicted to be a billion times more intelligent than humans by 2049. Free from distractions and working at incredible speeds, AI can look into the future and make informed predictions. But AI also gets so much wrong. Because humans design the algorithms that form AI, there are imperfect flaws embedded within them that reflect the imperfection of humans. Mo Gawdat, drawing on his unparalleled expertise in the field, outlines how and why we must alter the terrifying trajectory of AI development and teach ourselves and our machines to live better. 

‘ Mo Gawdat is my life guru. His writing, his ideas and his generosity in sharing them has changed my life for the better in so many ways. Everything he writes is an enlightening education in how to be human. ’ Elizabeth Day

The Book of Minds

By philip ball.

Book cover for The Book of Minds

Philosophers have spent centuries trying to understand the workings of the human mind. But, asks award-winning science writer Philip Ball, what about the non-human mind? His contention is that we need to move on from considering the human mind as the standard to judge all others. And that the more we understand about the minds of other creatures, from octopuses to chimpanzees – as well as the potential minds of computers and aliens – the more we begin to see and comprehend our own.

A Brief History of Black Holes

By dr becky smethurst.

Book cover for A Brief History of Black Holes

Right now, you are orbiting a black hole. The Earth goes around the Sun, and the Sun goes around the centre of the Milky Way: a supermassive black hole – the strangest and most misunderstood phenomenon in the galaxy. In  A Brief History of Black Holes  University of Oxford astrophysicist, Dr Becky Smethurst shares why black holes aren’t really ‘black’, that you never ever want to be ‘spaghettified’, and why beyond the event horizon, the future is a direction in space rather than in time. Full of wit and learning, this captivating book explains why black holes contain the secrets to the most profound questions about our universe.

How to Make an Apple Pie from Scratch

By harry cliff.

Book cover for How to Make an Apple Pie from Scratch

‘If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.’ - Carl Sagan. Inspired by Sagan’s famous line, Harry Cliff ventures out in search of the ultimate apple pie recipe, tracing the ingredients of our universe through the hearts of dying stars and back in time to a tiny fraction of a second after our universe began. If you've ever wondered what matter is really made of, or how our world began after the Big Bang, or what the very first moments of our universe looked like – then this is the book for you.

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Discover more enlightening popular science books

The best autobiographies, biographies & memoirs, queen of our times, by robert hardman.

Book cover for Queen of Our Times

This is the definitive biography of Queen Elizabeth II by one of Britain’s leading royal authorities. With original insights from those who knew her best, interviews with world leaders and access to unseen papers, bestselling author Robert Hardman explores the full, astonishing life of our longest reigning monarch in this compellingly authoritative yet intimate biography.

by Yusra Mardini

Book cover for Butterfly

After fleeing her native Syria to the Turkish coast in 2015, Yusra Mardini boarded a small dinghy full of refugees headed for Greece. On the journey, the boat's engine cut out. It started to sink. Seventeen-year-old Yusra, her sister, and two others took to the water to push the overcrowded boat for three and a half hours in open water. Eventually, they managed to land on Lesbos, with Yusra and the others having saved the lives of those on board. Butterfly is Yusra Mardini's journey from war-torn Damascus to Berlin and from there to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games. Discover Yusra and her incredible story of resilience and unstoppable spirit.

This Is Going to Hurt

By adam kay.

Book cover for This Is Going to Hurt

This is Going To Hurt  began life as a comedy show inspired by the junior doctors’ strike and is Adam Kay’s no-holds-barred account of his life as a junior doctor. Written in secret  between gruelling hospital shifts, the book is by turns shocking, sad and laugh-out-loud funny, while telling you everything you ever need to know - and more - about life on a hospital ward. Highlighting the long hours, poor pay and staffing problems caused by underfunding, this is a must-read for anyone who values the NHS.

I Heard What You Said

By jeffrey boakye.

Book cover for I Heard What You Said

Jeffrey Boakye’s experience as a black student shaped the teacher he became. In I Heard What You Said , his unflinching memoir, Boakye examines his experience as a black teacher in today’s education system. From outrageous questions about his background to his ability to navigate spaces that are white by default and teaching problematic texts in English, Boayke reflects with wit and passion on why he chooses to teach in a system designed to fail millions of children each year. 

The Happiest Man on Earth

By eddie jaku.

Book cover for The Happiest Man on Earth

This heartbreaking yet hopeful memoir shows us how happiness can be found even in the darkest of times. In November 1938, Eddie Jaku was beaten, arrested and taken to a German concentration camp. He endured unimaginable horrors for the next seven years and lost family, friends and his country.  But he survived. And because he survived, he vowed to smile every day. He now believes he is the ‘happiest man on earth’. This is his story. 

Brown Girl Like Me

By jaspreet kaur.

Book cover for Brown Girl Like Me

Equal parts memoir and manifesto, Jaspreet Kaur equips women with the confidence and skillset they need to navigate the difficulties that come with an intersectional identity. Interviews with brilliant South Asian Women of all walks of life as well as academic insight show what life is really like for brown women in the diaspora. Pulling no punches, and tackling topics from mental health and menstruation stigma to education and beauty standards,  Brown Girl Like Me  will educate, inspire and spark urgent conversations for change; essential reading for South Asian women and people with an interest in feminism and cultural issues.

The Reluctant Carer

Book cover for The Reluctant Carer

The phone rings. Your elderly father has been taken to hospital, and your even older mother is home with nobody to look after her. What do you do? Drop everything and go and help of course. But it's not that straightforward, and your own life starts to fall apart as quickly as their health. This funny, deeply honest and moving book is a love letter to family, to all carers, and to anyone who has packed a bag to help out for a few days and found they are back to stay. 

50 best autobiographies & biographies of all time

The best true stories & shocking exposés, by john carreyrou.

Book cover for Bad Blood

How far can you get with no expertise, technology that doesn’t work, and an extraordinary sales pitch? Disturbingly far. Bad Blood is the story of one of the biggest corporate fraud cases of the 21st century. Journalist John Carreyrou explores the rise and shocking fall of tech start-up Theranos, which was valued at $9 billion based on its innovative medical technology before it was all revealed to be a lie. This is the riveting story of the biggest corporate fraud since Enron, and a tale of ambition and hubris set amid the bold promises of Silicon Valley.

Everything you need to know about the Theranos scandal

Empire of pain.

Book cover for Empire of Pain

Empire of Pain is the story of three generations of the Sackler family, and their role in the stories of Valium and Oxycontin. As one of the richest families in the world, the Sacklers are known for their lavish donations in the arts and the sciences. The source of the family fortune was vague, however, until it emerged that they were responsible for making and marketing Oxycontin, a blockbuster painkiller that was a catalyst for the opioid crisis – an international epidemic of drug addiction which has killed nearly half a million people. This masterpiece of narrative reporting is the secret history of the Sackler dynasty.

‘ You feel almost guilty for enjoying it so much. ’ The Times

Book cover for Rogues

From forgers to money launderers to arms merchants and those on death row, this is a book about behaving badly. Award-winning and hypnotically brilliant New Yorker  writer Patrick Radden Keefe takes readers on a gripping but also humane trip into the psyches of those who society would rather forget. With global reach and meticulous research, this is a bravura piece of journalism. 

by Oliver Sacks

Book cover for Awakenings

For over four decades, twenty First World War veterans languished in hospital, treated by professionals who had no idea how to awaken them from their catatonic stupor. Motionless and silent, the men were aware of their surroundings but had no interest in engaging in them. That was until the day Dr Oliver Sacks administered a revolutionary new drug, L-DOPA, which roused the men from their inertia. A stranger-than-fiction story written in Sacks’ unmistakable prose, Awakenings is a compelling read and a classic of medical writing. 

The Sleeping Beauties

By suzanne o'sullivan.

Book cover for The Sleeping Beauties

In Sweden, refugee children fall asleep for months and years at a time. In upstate New York, high school students develop contagious seizures. In the US Embassy in Cuba, employees complain of headaches and memory loss after hearing strange noises in the night. These disparate cases are some of the most remarkable diagnostic mysteries of the twenty-first century, as both doctors and scientists have struggled to explain them and – more crucially – to treat them. Neurologist Suzanne O’Sullivan travels the world to visit other communities who have also been subject to outbreaks of so-called ‘mystery’ illnesses.

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The best self-help, lifestyle & wellbeing books, how to calm your mind, by chris bailey.

Book cover for How to Calm Your Mind

Productivity expert Chris Bailey offers a toolkit of accessible, science-based strategies to pursue calmness, and ultimately live a less anxious and more engaged life in How to Calm Your Mind. Covering topics including our desire for dopamine, 'busyness' and the digital world, Chris Bailey encourages us to develop our capacity for calm. In doing so, he believes we can build a deeper, more expansive reservoir of energy to draw from throughout the day and invest in the missing piece that leads our efforts to become sustainable over time, ultimately making room to do good work and live a happy life. 

by Marisa G. Franco, PhD

Book cover for Platonic

When was the last time you put yourself out there to make a new friend? For many of us, the answer is too long ago. In Platonic , Dr Marisa G. Franco explains how the undervaluing of friendship in our culture has led to an epidemic of isolation, and what we can do about it. Platonic  teaches us to identify and understand our individual attachment styles and why exploring how we behave in relationships is the key to unlocking what we’re doing right (and what we could do better) in our friendships. This book is the ultimate guide to learning how we make and keep friends for life.

That Little Voice In Your Head

Book cover for That Little Voice In Your Head

Mo Gawdat's That Little Voice in Your Head  is a practical guide to rewiring your brain for joy. He reveals that by talking down the negative voice within, we can change the way we think, turn greed into kindness, transform apathy into compassionate action and create our own happiness. Gawdat's brain exercises draw on his experience as a former Google engineer and Chief Business Officer, as well as from his neuroscience studies. And he explains how – despite their complexity – our brains generally behave in predictable ways. Drawing inspiration from the life of his late son, Gawdat has written a manual for happiness that is steeped in empathy.

The Kindness Method

By shahroo izadi.

Book cover for The Kindness Method

In these difficult times, we could all benefit from showing ourselves a little kindness. If you want to use this time to make a change, Behavioural Change Specialist Shahroo Izadi believes there’s only one way to make change last, and that’s to be kind to yourself . The Kindness Method was developed through a combination of professional training and personal experience and will leave you feeling empowered, positive and ready to make a change, whether it’s weight loss, cutting down on alcohol or improving your relationships.

The Greatest Self-Help Book (is the one written by you)

Book cover for The Greatest Self-Help Book (is the one written by you)

From Sunday Times bestselling author of  Good Vibes, Good Life  and  Healing is the New High , Vex King and social media star Kaushal, this is a journal like no other. Filled with exercises, activities and visual prompts, it will help you to understand and regulate your emotions, maintain habits that work for you, shift negative mindsets and cultivate positive thought patterns, build self-awareness and carve out time to practise self-love and gratitude. Think of this as your companion to help you build a healthier relationship with yourself and others;  The Greatest Self-Help Book  is the one written by you.

‘ I have always believed in the idea that people inspire people. I know what's what inspired me... and Vex really is the ultimate example of that. ’ Deliciously Ella

Kurashi at Home

By marie kondo.

Book cover for Kurashi at Home

Create an oasis of calm and find what sparks your   joy with the first full-colour, beautifully photographed guide from Marie Kondo. Over a decade on from the launch of  The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,  Marie Kondo is back with new wisdom on how to transform your life and home into spaces of calm. This guide introduces the concept of  kurashi –  meaning way of life – and encourages readers to spend every day in the pursuit of joy, moving her focus from the physical act of tidying towards an even more holistic and personal approach to curating our environments.

H is for Hawk

By helen macdonald.

Book cover for H is for Hawk

In this original blend of memoir, biography and nature writing, Helen Macdonald explores how raising Mabel the goshawk helped her heal after her father's sudden death. After buying Mabel for £800 on a Scottish quayside, Macdonald embarked on the long, strange business of trying to train this wildest of animals. The book parallels her experience to that of T. H. White, a closeted homosexual and sadist in the 1930s, who also flew a hawk to self-soothe. With beautiful descriptions of nature, as well as profound reflections on grief, this award-winning book will dazzle and delight in unexpected ways. 

The best self-help & self-care books

The best finance books.

‘ The Psychology of Money is bursting with interesting ideas and practical takeaways. Quite simply, it is essential reading for anyone interested in being better with money. Everyone should own a copy. ’ James Clear on The Psychology of Money

The Psychology of Money: Timeless lessons on wealth, greed, and happiness

By morgan housel.

Book cover for The Psychology of Money: Timeless lessons on wealth, greed, and happiness

In The Psychology of Money award-winning author Morgan Housel reveals that our success with money isn’t necessarily about what we know, but how we behave . Through nineteen short stories, Housel explores the way we think about our finances in the real world, helping us understand more about our strange relationship with money and teaching readers how to make better sense of one of life’s most important topics. This is a vital read for anyone looking to redefine their relationship with their finances, and if you’re already a fan, Morgan Housel’s new book, Same as Ever: Timeless Lessons on Risk, Opportunity and Living a Good Life , came out this year.


By jl collins.

Book cover for Pathfinders

Hailed as 'The Godfather of Financial Independence', in Pathfinders , JL Collins accompanies readers through fascinating real-life stories from people on the journey to financial independence, and accompanies these with reflections on his 'rules for the road'. These heartfelt, and often surprising tales are the ultimate companion for your own journey to financial freedom, and the true and lasting wealth that lies at the end.

The best political & historical non-fiction books

God: an anatomy, by francesca stavrakopoulou.

Book cover for God: An Anatomy

Three thousand years ago, in the region we now call Israel and Palestine, people worshipped an array of deities led by a god called El. El had seventy children, all of whom were gods themselves; one of these children, Yahweh, fought humans and monsters and eventually evolved into the God of the great monotheistic faiths. The history of God in culture stretches back centuries before the Bible was written. Elegantly written and fiercely argued, Professor Francesca Stavrakopoulou provides a fascinating analysis of God’s cultural DNA, and in the process explores the founding principles of Western culture.

In Defence of Witches

By mona chollet.

Book cover for In Defence of Witches

Who is a witch? In Defence of Witches recasts the term 'witch' into a powerful role model to women today, as an emblem of power free to exist beyond the narrow limits society imposes on women. Witches are everywhere, whether they are casting spells on Donald Trump or posting photos of their crystal-adorned altar on Instagram. Historically accused of witchcraft, often meeting violent ends, many types of women have been censored, eliminated, repressed, over the centuries. Mona Chollet shows that by considering the lives of those who dared to live differently, we can learn more about the richness of roles available. 

The Ship Beneath the Ice

By mensun bound.

Book cover for The Ship Beneath the Ice

On 21 November 1915, Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ship,  Endurance , sank beneath the ice of the most hostile sea on Earth. While the miraculous survival of all those on board has entered legend, the iconic ship that bore them to the brink of the Antarctic was considered forever lost . . . until March 2022. Including countless fascinating stories of Shackleton and his ship, photographs from Shackleton's original voyage and from the legendary recovery expedition itself; in The Ship beneath the Ice, the Director of Exploration tells the story of the monumental discovery in his own words.

Warrior Queens & Quiet Revolutionaries

By kate mosse.

Book cover for Warrior Queens & Quiet Revolutionaries

Warrior Queens & Quiet Revolutionaries  is a celebration of unheard and under-heard women’s history . Within these pages you’ll meet nearly 1000 women whose names deserve to be better known: from the Mothers of Invention and the trailblazing women at the Bar; warrior queens and pirate commanders; the women who dedicated their lives to the natural world or to medicine; those women of courage who resisted and fought for what they believed; to the unsung heroes of stage, screen and stadium. Joyous, celebratory and engaging, Kate Mosse's book is for everyone who has ever wondered how history is made.

A (Very) Short History of Life On Earth

By henry gee.

Book cover for A (Very) Short History of Life On Earth

This lyrical and moving account takes us back to the early history of the earth, a wildly inhospitable place with swirling seas, constant volcanic eruptions and an unstable atmosphere. The triumph of life as it emerges, survives and evolves in this hostile setting is Henry Gee's riveting subject: he traces the story of life on earth from its turbulent beginnings to the emergence of early hominids and the miracle of the first creatures to fly. You'll never look at our planet in the same way again.

The Fall of Boris Johnson

By sebastian payne.

Book cover for The Fall of Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson was touted as the saviour of the country and the Conservative Party, obtaining a huge commons majority and finally getting Brexit done. But within three short years, he was deposed in disgrace, leaving the country in crisis. Sebastian Payne, Whitehall Editor for the  Financial Times , tells the essential behind-the-scenes story, charting the betrayals, rivalries and resignations that resulted in the dramatic Conservative coup and set in motion events that saw the party sink to catastrophic new lows.

‘ A genuinely page turning, gripping account of some of the most extraordinary days in modern British history. ’ Andrew Marr

Black and British

By david olusoga.

Book cover for Black and British

In this vital re-examination of a shared history, historian and broadcaster David Olusoga tells the rich and revealing story of the long relationship between the British Isles and the people of Africa and the Caribbean. This edition features a new chapter encompassing the Windrush scandal and the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020, events which put black British history at the centre of urgent national debate. This is vivid confirmation that black history can no longer be kept separate and marginalised. It is woven into the cultural and economic histories of the nation and it belongs to us all. 

How to Survive a Plague

By david france.

Book cover for How to Survive a Plague

How to Survive a Plague was the winner of The Green Carnation Prize for LGBTQ Literature and the Lambda Literary Award for LGBT non-fiction. The book is a riveting and moving account of the AIDS epidemic and the activists at grass-roots level who fought to develop the drugs which turned AIDS from an almost always fatal infection to a manageable disease. Weaving together dozens of individual stories, many from people who were facing their own life or death struggles with the disease, this is an insider’s account of an incredibly important moment in our history.

The best history books to read right now

The best non-fiction books about the natural world & environment, the rise and reign of the mammals, by steve brusatte.

Book cover for The Rise and Reign of the Mammals

In  The Rise and Reign of the Mammals , palaeontologist Steve Brusatte weaves together the history and evolution of our mammal forebears with stories of the scientists whose fieldwork and discoveries underlie our knowledge, both of iconic mammals like the mammoths and sabre-toothed tigers of which we have all heard, and of fascinating species that few of us are aware of. For what we see today is but a very limited range of the mammals that have existed; in this fascinating and ground-breaking book, Steve Brusatte tells their – and our – story.

A World on the Wing

By charles scott weidensaul.

Book cover for A World on the Wing

This is the rousing story of the billions of birds that, despite the numerous obstacles we have placed in their path, continue to head to the far horizon. The past two decades have seen an explosion in our understanding of the feats of endurance and complexity involved in bird migration. A World on the Wing  sees Pulitzer Prize-shortlisted writer and ornithologist Scott Weidensaul track some of the most remarkable flights undertaken by birds around the world.

The Green Gardening Handbook

By nancy birtwhistle.

Book cover for The Green Gardening Handbook

Going green in the garden has never been easier with Nancy Birtwhistle’s sustainable, eco-friendly tips that will help you make the most of your space, and what it can grow. Whether you have a sprawling garden, a modest patch of grass or just a spare windowsill,  The Green Gardening Handbook  has over 100 tips that will help you embrace the joy of growing and eating from your own garden. This is a book for anyone green-fingered or not, packed with practical advice to save money and reduce waste, packaged in a beautifully illustrated guide. 

Nancy Birtwhistle shares her eco-friendly cleaning tips

The last drop, by tim smedley.

Book cover for The Last Drop

A gripping, thought-provoking and ultimately optimistic investigation into the world’s next great climate crisis – the scarcity of water. Water stress is already driving the first waves of climate refugees. It’s increasingly clear that human mismanagement of water is dangerously unsustainable, for both ecological and human survival. And yet in recent years some key countries have been quietly and very successfully addressing water stress. In  The Last Drop , award-winning environmental journalist Tim Smedley meets experts, victims, activists and pioneers to find out how we can mend the water table that our survival depends upon.

The Sixth Extinction

By elizabeth kolbert.

Book cover for The Sixth Extinction

Over the last half a billion years, there have been five mass extinctions of life on earth. Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. Elizabeth Kolbert combines field reporting, the history of ideas and the work of geologists, botanists and marine biologists to tell the stories of a dozen species. The sixth extinction is likely to be mankind's most lasting legacy and Elizabeth Kolbert's book urgently compels us to rethink the fundamental question of what it means to be human.

Live more sustainably with these essential reads

The best non-fiction sports books, the inner game of tennis, by w timothy gallwey.

Book cover for The Inner Game of Tennis

Recently named by Bill Gates as one of his 'all-time favourite books', and described by Billie Jean King as her 'tennis bible', this bestseller has been a must-read for tennis players of all abilities for nearly fifty years. Rather than concentrating on how to improve technique, Gallwey deals with the 'inner game' within ourselves as we try to overcome doubt and maintain clarity of mind when playing. 'It’s the best book on tennis that I have ever read,' says Gates, 'and its profound advice applies to many other parts of life.'

Alone on the Wall

By alex honnold.

Book cover for Alone on the Wall

In the last forty years, only a handful of climbers have pushed themselves as far, ‘free soloing’ to the absolute limit of human capabilities. Half of them are dead. Although Alex Honnold’s exploits are probably a bit  too  extreme for most of us, the stories behind his incredible climbs are exciting, uplifting and truly awe-inspiring. Alone on the Wall  is a book about the essential truth of being free to pursue your passions and the ability to maintain a singular focus, even in the face of mortal danger. This updated edition contains the account of Alex's El Capitan climb, which is the subject of the Oscar and BAFTA winning documentary,  Free Solo .

by Poorna Bell

Book cover for Stronger

Poorna Bell’s journey to get strong began when – following the death of her husband, Rob – she realized that she had been relying on the men in her life to take out the bins, carry the luggage and move furniture. Poorna is now a competitive amateur power-lifter and the strongest she has ever been. This inspiring non-fiction book is part memoir and part manifesto, starting a conversation about women’s mental and physical strength and fitness which has nothing to do with weight loss. 

The Damned Utd

By david peace.

Book cover for The Damned Utd

In 1974 the brilliant and controversial Brian Clough made perhaps his most eccentric decision: he accepted the position of Leeds United manager. A successor to Don Revie, his bitter adversary, Clough was to last just 44 days. In one of the most acclaimed British sports novels of recent years –subsequently made into a film starring Michael Sheen – David Peace takes us into the mind and thoughts of Ol' Big 'Ead himself, and brings vividly to life one of football's most complex and fascinating characters.

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In this episode of Book Break, Emma takes a look at some of the weird and wonderful non-fiction books you may not have heard of:

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14 of the Best Nonfiction Books You Should Read

All ye readers, buckle up.

Today, I’m giving you 14 non-fiction books I believe everyone should read.

For each book, I’ve provided a brief summary. Now it’s up to you to decide if it’s worth your time.

Let’s dig in.

1. The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk

The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk

If you want to know everything about trauma and how to deal with it, this is your go-to guide.

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2. The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz

The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz

This book argues for simplifying our lives and limiting ourselves in various ways to combat the constant bombardment of options we face daily.

3. The Blank Slate by Steven Pinker

The Blank Slate by Steven Pinker

This book is a must-read for anyone interested in the ongoing debates around gender , sex , and race.

4. Getting the Love You Want by Dr. Harville Hendrix

Getting the Love You Want by Dr. Harville Hendrix

If you want to understand why you keep dating the same type of person, give this a read.

5. The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker

The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker

We undertake massive projects in the hope of leaving a legacy, allowing us to forget our mortality.

6. Influence by Robert Cialdini

Influence by Robert Cialdini

It’s also useful for consumers who want to understand how they’re being manipulated.

7. Atomic Habits by James Clear

Atomic Habits by James Clear

Learn how small actions can accumulate and compound over time.

8. The Elephant in the Brain by Kevin Simler and Robin Hanson

The Elephant in the Brain by Kevin Simler and Robin Hanson

This book exposes the hidden motives behind our beliefs and attitudes.

9. Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg

Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg

Understand how your use of language affects your emotions and relationships .

10. The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt

The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt

This book offers some important points about culture in recent generations.

11. So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport

So Good They Can't Ignore You by Cal Newport

This book offers a fresh perspective on how to find purpose and passion in life.

12. The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel

The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel

This book shows that people’s understanding of money is often flawed and that those who want to be wealthy often just want to spend money—ironically, the very thing that prevents them from becoming wealthy.

13. The Second Mountain by David Brooks

The Second Mountain by David Brooks

This book is particularly profound for people in their 30s and 40s who are experiencing success for the first time and grappling with the question, “What’s the point?”

14. Democracy for Realists by Christopher H. Achen and Larry M. Bartels

Democracy for Realists by Christopher H. Achen and Larry M. Bartels

This book is sobering and eye-opening, providing examples of why people with expertise and experience should be the ones making important decisions.

Looking for More Books to Read?

I’ve put together a list of over 200 “best books” organized by genre , as well as my all-time recommended reading list that includes the book(s) I’m reading each month. Check them out.

good books non fiction

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50 essential non-fiction books

50 essential non-fiction books

Similar to our list of 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime , this selection of 50 non-fiction books makes shopping for great literature easy. This curated list covers the gamut of non-fiction. Shop for science books, tales of endurance, food memoirs , biographies, history books , and much more.

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

After two years of careful reading, moving backwards through time, Robert McCrum has concluded his selection of the 100 greatest nonfiction books. Take a quick look at five centuries of great writing

  • Robert McCrum reflects on his 100 greatest nonfiction books list
  • The 100 best novels written in English: the full list
  • What did Robert miss? Leave your thoughts in the comments

1. The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert (2014) An engrossing account 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 examination of the author’s grief following the sudden death of her husband changed the nature of writing about bereavement.

3. No Logo by Naomi Klein (1999) Naomi Klein’s timely anti-branding bible combined a fresh approach to corporate hegemony with potent reportage from the dark side of capitalism.

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

5. Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama (1995) This remarkably candid memoir revealed not only a literary talent, but a force that would change the face of US politics for ever.

6. A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking (1988) The theoretical physicist’s mega-selling account of the origins of the universe is a masterpiece of scientific inquiry that has influenced the minds of a generation.

7. The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe (1979) Tom Wolfe raised reportage to dazzling new levels in his quest to discover what makes a man fly to the moon.

8. Orientalism by Edward Said (1978) This polemical masterpiece challenging western attitudes to the east is as topical today as it was on publication.

9. Dispatches by Michael Herr (1977) A compelling sense of urgency and a unique voice make Herr’s Vietnam memoir the definitive account of war in our time.

10. The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins (1976) An intoxicating renewal of evolutionary theory that coined the idea of the meme and paved the way for Professor Dawkins’s later, more polemical works.

Tom Wolfe.

11. North by Seamus Heaney (1975) This raw, tender, unguarded collection transcends politics, reflecting Heaney’s desire to move “like a double agent among the big concepts”.

12. Awakenings by Oliver Sacks (1973) Sacks’s moving account of how, as a doctor in the late 1960s, he 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 famous polemic remains a masterpiece of passionate free expression in which she challenges a woman’s role in society.

14. Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom by Nik Cohn (1969) This passionate account of how rock’n’roll changed the world was written with the wild energy of its subject matter.

15. The Double Helix by James D Watson (1968) An astonishingly personal and accessible account of how Cambridge scientists Watson and Francis Crick unlocked the secrets of DNA and transformed our understanding of life.

16. Against Interpretation by Susan Sontag (1966) The American novelist’s early essays provide the quintessential commentary on the 1960s.

17. Ariel by Sylvia Plath (1965) The groundbreaking collection, revolving around the poet’s fascination with her own death, established Plath as one of the last century’s most original and gifted poets.

18. The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan (1963) The book that ignited second-wave feminism captured the frustration of a generation 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 as an anatomy of pre-industrial Britain – and a description of the lost experience of the common man.

20. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson (1962) This classic of American advocacy sparked a nationwide outcry against the use of pesticides, inspired legislation that would endeavour to control pollution, and launched the modern environmental movement in the US.

Susan Sontag 1975

21. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas S Kuhn (1962) The American physicist and philosopher of science coined the phrase “paradigm shift” in a book that is seen as a milestone in scientific theory.

22. A Grief Observed by CS Lewis (1961) This powerful study of loss asks: “Where is God?” and explores the feeling of solitude and sense of betrayal that even non-believers will recognise.

23. The Elements of Style by William Strunk and EB White (1959) Dorothy Parker and Stephen King have both urged aspiring writers towards this crisp guide to the English language where brevity is key.

24. The Affluent Society by John Kenneth Galbraith (1958) An optimistic bestseller, in which JFK’s favoured economist promotes investment in both the public and private sectors.

25. The Uses of Literacy: Aspects of Working-Class Life by Richard Hoggart (1957) This influential cultural study of postwar Britain offers pertinent truths on mass communication and the interaction between ordinary people and the elites.

26. Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin (1955) Baldwin’s landmark collection of essays explores, in telling language, what it means to be a black man in 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 in his later seminal work, Civilisation.

28. The Hedgehog and the Fox by Isaiah Berlin (1953) The great historian of ideas starts with an animal parable and ends, via a dissection of Tolstoy’s work, in an existential system of thought.

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

30. A Book of Mediterranean Food by Elizabeth David (1950) This landmark recipe book, a horrified reaction to postwar rationing, introduced cooks to the food of southern Europe and readers to the art of food writing.

American novelist, writer, playwright, poet, essayist and civil rights activist James Baldwin in 1979.

31. The Great Tradition by FR Leavis (1948) The controversial critic’s statement on English literature is an entertaining, often shocking, dissection of the novel, whose effects are still felt to this day.

32. The Last Days of Hitler by Hugh Trevor-Roper (1947) The historian’s vivid, terrifying account of the Führer’s demise, based on his postwar work 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 trust themselves, but was also accused of being the source of postwar “permissiveness”.

34. Hiroshima by John Hersey (1946) Hersey’s extraordinary, gripping book tells the personal stories of six people who endured the 1945 atom bomb attack.

35. The Open Society and Its Enemies by Karl Popper (1945) The Austrian-born philosopher’s postwar rallying cry for western liberal democracy was hugely influential in the 1960s.

36. Black Boy: A Record of Childhood and Youth by Richard Wright (1945) This influential memoir of a rebellious southern boyhood vividly evokes the struggle for African American identity in the decades before civil rights.

37. How to Cook a Wolf by MFK Fisher (1942) The American culinary icon was one of the first writers to use food as a cultural metaphor, describing the sensual pleasures of the table with elegance and passion.

38. Enemies of Promise by Cyril Connolly (1938) Connolly’s dissection of the art of writing and the perils of the literary life transformed the contemporary English scene.

39. The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell (1937) Orwell’s unflinchingly honest account of three northern towns during the Great Depression was a milestone in the writer’s political development.

40. The Road to Oxiana by Robert Byron (1937) Much admired by Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh, Byron’s dazzling, timeless account of a journey to Afghanistan is perhaps the greatest travel book of the 20th century.

George Orwell At A TypewriterCaption: George Orwell, British writer and journalist, at a typewriter (Photo by Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)

41. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie (1936) The original self-help manual on American life – with its influence stretching from the Great Depression to Donald Trump – has a lot to answer for.

42. Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain (1933) Brittain’s study of her experience of the first world war as a nurse and then victim of loss remains a powerful anti-war and feminist statement.

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

44. Goodbye to All That by Robert Graves (1929) Graves’s account of his experiences in the trenches of the first world war is a subversive tour de force.

45. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf (1929) Woolf’s essay on women’s struggle for independence and creative opportunity is a landmark of feminist thought.

46. The Waste Land by TS Eliot (1922) Eliot’s long poem, written in extremis, came to embody the spirit of the years following the first world war.

47. Ten Days That Shook the World by John Reed (1919) The American socialist’s romantic account of the Russian revolution is a masterpiece of reportage.

48. The Economic Consequences of the Peace by John Maynard Keynes (1919) The great economist’s account of what went wrong at the Versailles conference after the first world war was polemical, passionate and prescient.

49. The American Language by HL Mencken (1919) This declaration of linguistic independence by the renowned US journalist and commentator marked a crucial new chapter in American prose

50. Eminent Victorians by Lytton Strachey (1918) Strachey’s partisan, often inaccurate but brilliant demolitions of four great 19th-century Britons illustrates life in the Victorian period from different perspectives.

Virginia Woolf, pictured in 1933.

51. The Souls of Black Folk by WEB Du Bois (1903) The great social activist’s collection of essays on the African American experience became a founding text of the civil rights movement.

52. De Profundis by Oscar Wilde (1905) There is a thrilling majesty to Oscar Wilde’s tormented tour de force written as he prepared for release from Reading jail.

53. The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James (1902) This revolutionary work written by Henry James’s less famous brother brought a democratising impulse to the realm of religious belief.

54. Brief Lives by John Aubrey, edited by Andrew Clark (1898) Truly ahead of his time, the 17th-century historian and gossip John Aubrey is rightly credited as the man who invented biography.

55. Personal Memoirs by Ulysses S Grant (1885) The civil war general turned president was a reluctant author, but set the gold standard for presidential memoirs, outlining his journey from boyhood onwards.

56. Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain (1883) This memoir of Samuel Clemens’s time as a steamboat pilot provides insight into his best-known characters, as well as the writer he would become.

57. Travels With a Donkey in the Cévennes by Robert Louis Stevenson (1879) The Scottish writer’s hike in the French mountains with a donkey is a pioneering classic in outdoor literature – and as influential as his fiction.

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

59. Culture and Anarchy by Matthew Arnold (1869) Arnold caught the public mood with this high-minded but entertaining critique of Victorian society posing questions about the art of civilised living that still perplex us.

60. On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin (1859) Darwin’s revolutionary, humane and highly readable introduction to his theory of evolution is arguably the most important book of the Victorian era.

American writer and satirist Samuel Langhorne Clemens, known by pen name Mark Twain.

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

62. The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands by Mary Seacole (1857) A gloriously entertaining autobiography by the widely revered Victorian sometimes described as “the black Florence Nightingale”.

63. The Life of Charlotte Brontë by Elizabeth Gaskell (1857) Possibly Gaskell’s finest work – a bold portrait of a brilliant woman worn down by her father’s eccentricities and the death of her siblings.

64. Walden by Henry David Thoreau (1854) This account of one man’s rejection of American society has influenced generations of free thinkers.

65. Thesaurus by Dr Peter Mark Roget (1852) Born of a Victorian desire for order and harmony among nations, this guide to the English language is as unique as it is indispensable.

66. London Labour and the London Poor by Henry Mayhew (1851) The influence of the Victorian journalist’s detailed, dispassionate descriptions of London lower-class life is clear, right up to the present day.

67. Household Education by Harriet Martineau (1848) This protest at the lack of women’s education was as pioneering as its author was in Victorian literary circles.

68. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave by Frederick Douglass (1845) This vivid memoir was influential in the abolition of slavery, and its author would become one of the most influential African Americans of the 19th century.

69. Essays by RW Emerson (1841) New England’s inventor of “transcendentalism” is still revered for his high-minded thoughts on individuality, freedom and nature expressed in 12 essays.

70. Domestic Manners of the Americans by Frances Trollope (1832) Rich in detail and Old World snobbery, Trollope’s classic travelogue identifies aspects of America’s national character still visible today.

Frederick Douglass, pictured in 1855.

71. An American Dictionary of the English Language by Noah Webster (1828) Though a lexicographical landmark to stand alongside Dr Johnson’s achievement, the original sold only 2,500 copies and left its author in debt.

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

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

74. Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa by Mungo Park (1799) The Scottish explorer’s account of his heroic one-man search for the river Niger was a contemporary bestseller and a huge influence on Conrad, Melville and Hemingway.

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

76. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft (1792) This radical text attacked the dominant male thinkers of the age and laid the foundations of feminism.

77. The Life of Samuel Johnson LLD by James Boswell (1791) This huge work is one of the greatest of all English biographies and a testament to one of the great literary friendships.

78. Reflections on the Revolution in France by Edmund Burke (1790) Motivated by the revolution across the Channel, this passionate defence of the aristocratic system is a landmark in conservative thinking.

79. The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano by Olaudah Equiano (1789) The most famous slave memoir of the 18th century is a powerful and terrifying read, and established Equiano as a founding figure in black literary tradition.

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

“Mary Wollstonecraft.

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

82. The Diary of Fanny Burney (1778) Burney’s acutely observed memoirs open a window on the literary and courtly circles of late 18th-century England.

83. The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon (1776-1788) Perhaps the greatest and certainly one of the most influential history books in the English language, in which Gibbon unfolds the narrative from the height of the Roman empire to the fall of Byzantium.

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

85. Common Sense by Tom Paine (1776) This little book helped ignite revolutionary America against the British under George III.

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

87. A Treatise of Human Nature by David Hume (1739) This is widely seen as the philosopher’s most important work, but its first publication was a disaster.

88. A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift (1729) The satirist’s jaw-dropping solution to the plight of the Irish poor is among the most powerful tracts in the English language.

89. A Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain by Daniel Defoe (1727) Readable, reliable, full of surprise and charm, Defoe’s Tour is an outstanding literary travel guide.

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

Samuel Johnson, circa 1754.

91. The Book of Common Prayer by Thomas Cranmer (1662) Cranmer’s book of vernacular English prayer is possibly the most widely read book in the English literary tradition.

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

93. Hydriotaphia, Urn Burial, or A Brief Discourse of the Sepulchral Urns Lately Found in Norfolk by Sir Thomas Browne (1658) Browne earned his reputation as a “writer’s writer” with this dazzling short essay on burial customs.

94. Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes (1651) Hobbes’s essay on the social contract is both a founding text of western thought and a masterpiece of wit and imagination.

95. Areopagitica by John Milton (1644) Today, Milton is remembered as a great poet. But this fiery attack on censorship and call for a free press reveals a brilliant English radical.

96. Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions by John Donne (1624) The poet’s intense meditation on the meaning of life and death is a dazzling work that contains some of his most memorable writing.

97. The First Folio by William Shakespeare (1623) The first edition of his plays established the playwright for all time in a trove of 36 plays with an assembled cast of immortal characters.

98. The Anatomy of Melancholy by Robert Burton (1621) Burton’s garrulous, repetitive masterpiece is a compendious study of melancholia, a sublime literary doorstop that explores humanity in all its aspects.

99. The History of the World by Walter Raleigh (1614) Raleigh’s most important prose work, close to 1m words in total, used ancient history as a sly commentary on present-day issues.

100. King James Bible: The Authorised Version (1611) It is impossible to imagine the English-speaking world celebrated in this series without the King James Bible, which is as universal and influential as Shakespeare.

  • 100 best nonfiction books of all time
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  • Autobiography and memoir
  • Science and nature books
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Fall Preview

33 Nonfiction Books to Read This Fall

Memoirs by Barbra Streisand, Patrick Stewart, Jada Pinkett Smith; hotly anticipated books on Elon Musk and Sam Bankman-Fried; and plenty more.

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Shreya Chattopadhyay

By Shreya Chattopadhyay and Miguel Salazar

  • Sept. 4, 2023

The cover of “Beyond the Wall” shows a photograph of a young person driving a turquoise Trabant car in the direction of the camera. Only the driver’s side half of the car can be seen. Out of focus in the background, the sky is taken up by row after row of East German flag buntings on strings.

Beyond the Wall: A History of East Germany , by Katja Hoyer

A historian turns her eye to the country of her birth in this political history of the German Democratic Republic, which existed from 1949 to 1990. Contrary to common depictions, Hoyer presents a picture of a vibrant society that weathered intense state suppression but also enacted solidarity.

Basic Books, Sept. 5

Crossings: How Road Ecology Is Shaping the Future of Our Planet , by Ben Goldfarb

Humans have built 40 million miles of road on earth, which have profoundly influenced our world. Goldfarb’s account examines roads in context of the environment around them — touching on the Trans-Canada highway that conservationists called “the meatmaker,” and even the mountain lions trapped in California’s Santa Monica Mountains — and profiles the scientists, engineers and organizers seeking to mitigate their ecological harm.

Norton, Sept. 12

Elon Musk , by Walter Isaacson

The best-selling author of “Steve Jobs” returns with a biography of the richest man on earth. Isaacson spent two years shadowing Musk, the head of X (formerly Twitter), Tesla and SpaceX, and interviewing both his friends and foes. The resulting book delves deep into the billionaire’s demons, including childhood bullies and a difficult father, and interrogates their relationship to his success.

Simon & Schuster, Sept. 12

Glossy: Ambition, Beauty, and the Inside Story of Emily Weiss’s Glossier , by Marisa Meltzer

The cosmetics behemoth Glossier began in 2010, with the lifestyle blog “Into the Gloss.” Meltzer emphasizes the entrepreneurial savvy of the brand’s founder, Emily Weiss, who blogged in the mornings before her internship at Vogue and eventually secured funding from the same venture capital firm as Apple and Google, turning Glossier into the rare billion-dollar company helmed by a woman.

Atria/One Signal, Sept. 12

Larry McMurtry: A Life , by Tracy Daugherty

A celebrated literary biographer takes on the life of McMurtry, a fellow Texan known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “Lonesome Dove,” and other best selling Westerns. Daugherty’s perceptive analysis brings alive McMurtry’s trademark wit — he often wore a shirt that said “minor regional novelist” — along with his solitary tendencies and disciplined approach to writing.

St. Martin’s, Sept. 12

Father and Son: A Memoir , by Jonathan Raban

Raban died in January, but this meditative memoir tells two parallel stories: Raban’s own, coming to terms with the limitations of his body after suffering a stroke at 68; and his father’s, who was evacuated at the Battle of Dunkirk during World War II and with whom his relationship was distant for many years.

Knopf, Sept. 19

American Gun: The True Story of the AR-15 , by Cameron McWhirter and Zusha Elinson

Two Wall Street Journal reporters dig into the history of this controversial weapon, which was invented in a 1950s California garage, used widely by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War and adopted by mass shooters in the 2000s. The book’s measured examination considers how World War II, pop culture and profit contributed to the AR-15’s proliferation.

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Sept. 26

Germany 1923: Hyperinflation, Hitler’s Putsch, and Democracy in Crisis, by Volker Ullrich . Translated by Jefferson Chase.

This history investigates the forces that led to the Weimar Republic’s eventual collapse, many of which came to a head in 1923. Economic pressures, along with occupation by French troops and Hitler’s failed coup all made for a “year of lunacy,” Ullrich writes, though such forces would not succeed in toppling Germany’s first democracy for another decade.

Liveright, Sept. 26

Thicker Than Water: A Memoir , by Kerry Washington

The star of “Scandal” and “Little Fires Everywhere” offers a view into her private life and identity. Her memoir touches on childhood traumas, the mentors who helped her career, the motivations behind her political advocacy and her tumultuous but satisfying path to finding her authentic self.

Little Brown Spark, Sept. 26

Alfie and Me: What Owls Know, What Humans Believe , by Carl Safina

The author, an ecologist, and his wife rescued a screech owl in bad shape, expecting it would be well on its way soon. But the owl’s prolonged stay, which coincided with the Covid-19 pandemic, brought a sense of “consistent magic,” prompting Safina to reflect on nature, spirituality and human existence.

Norton, Oct. 3

Collision of Power: Trump, Bezos, and The Washington Post , by Martin Baron

The former executive editor of the Post details the many difficult decisions involved in maintaining journalistic integrity during the years he ran the paper, from 2013-2021. Especially fascinating is Baron’s inside analysis of the forces at play when Jeff Bezos bought the Post in 2013, and three years later, when Donald Trump became president and expected Bezos to censor it.

Flatiron, Oct. 3

A Day in the Life of Abed Salama: Anatomy of a Jerusalem Tragedy , by Nathan Thrall

A Palestinian father desperately looks for his 5-year-old son after his school bus crashes outside of Jerusalem. As his search is slowed down by bureaucratic hurdles and a scattered emergency response, Thrall depicts the agony of losing a child and how it’s intensified by the discrimination Palestinians face under Israeli rule.

Metropolitan, Oct. 3

Eve: How the Female Body Drove 200 Million Years of Human Evolution , by Cat Bohannon

Bohannon traces the development of mammalian milk from a field mouse that lived 200 million years ago, investigates the biological mystery of menopause and provides evidence that women utilized tools before men in this comprehensive book, which synthesizes a wide breadth of scientific research to reframe the story of evolution around the female body.

Knopf, Oct. 3

Extremely Online: The Untold Story of Fame, Influence, and Power on the Internet , by Taylor Lorenz

The Washington Post reporter presents a history of social media, “the greatest and most disruptive change in modern capitalism.” She reports on “mommy bloggers” and the birth of influencers, catalogs the rise and fall of platforms that have shaped online culture and offers a sober assessment of their toll on our collective mental health.

Simon & Schuster, Oct. 3

Going Infinite: The Rise and Fall of a New Tycoon , by Michael Lewis

Lewis, the author of “The Big Short” and other books cataloging financial breakdowns, first met Sam Bankman-Fried after a friend asked him to vet Bankman-Fried’s cryptocurrency platform FTX. About a year later, both men were in the Bahamas when Bankman-Fried was arrested and charged with fraud. This new book, based on many months of interviews, chronicles the meteoric rise and fall of both the company and the man.

How to Say Babylon: A Memoir , by Safiya Sinclair

“The scorch-marks of his anger were everywhere I looked, my family withered and blistered,” the Jamaican poet recalls. As she recounts her upbringing under the surveillance of a restrictive and volatile Rastafari father, she reflects on childhood trauma, colonialism and her growing affinity for poetry.

37 Ink, Oct. 3

Making It So: A Memoir , by Patrick Stewart

Stewart reflects on not only his years in the Royal Shakespeare Company and his famous “Star Trek” role as Picard (about which his feelings have changed), but also his working-class childhood in northern England, his changing relationship to family and even his love for nearly-burned toast. Now 83, the actor insists he has no intention of retiring from his lifelong calling: “Why would I stop?”

Gallery, Oct. 3

A Man of Two Faces: A Memoir, a History, a Memorial , by Viet Thanh Nguyen

The Pulitzer Prize-winning writer pushes the boundary of genre in his new memoir, which investigates his personal history as a Vietnamese refugee forced to flee at age 4, as well as the many narratives that form the idea of America itself. Film criticism, poetry and self-effacing jokes are involved, but ultimately, “this is a war story,” he writes.

Grove, Oct. 3

Madonna: A Rebel Life , by Mary Gabriel

At over 800 pages long, Gabriel’s detailed biography seems to follow every peak and valley of Madonna’s life, tracing her childhood in 1960s Michigan and the loss of her mother at 5 years old; rise to fame in the nascent years of MTV; AIDS advocacy; and much more.

Little, Brown, Oct. 10

The Canceling of the American Mind: Cancel Culture Undermines Trust and Threatens Us All — But There Is a Solution , by Greg Lukianoff and Rikki Schlott

Lukianoff, an author of “ The Coddling of the American Mind ,” explains the phenomenon of cancel culture, shows how it’s employed by liberals and conservatives alike and explores its context within a greater struggle for status and power in America. Along with Schlott, a columnist at The New York Post, he provides suggestions for reclaiming free speech.

Simon & Schuster, Oct. 17

Judgment at Tokyo: World War II on Trial and the Making of Modern Asia , by Gary J. Bass

After World War II ended, Japanese military leaders were put on trial for war crimes, an attempt to reckon with atrocities that took more than two years. Bass’s history shows that, unlike its more famous counterpart in Nuremberg, the Tokyo trial provided few decisive resolutions, and argues that its legacy still reverberates today.

Knopf, Oct. 17

Worthy , by Jada Pinkett Smith

Pinkett Smith described her upcoming memoir as “an adventure, a search for love and self-worth.” In it, she opens up about her early life in Baltimore, her marriage to Will Smith and addresses the “falsehoods” she says have circulated about her life over the past several years.

Dey Street, Oct. 17

I Must Be Dreaming , by Roz Chast

“I am creating them. So why, as they unfold, am I always so surprised?” the renowned cartoonist asks about her dreams in this inspired graphic narrative. She enlists everyone and everything she can — Aristotle, Freud, neuroscientists — in her quest to find out, in vivid color.

Bloomsbury, Oct. 24

Romney: A Reckoning , by McKay Coppins

Romney has played many political roles — Massachusetts governor, presidential candidate, senator from Utah. He granted Coppins, a staff writer at The Atlantic who has covered the Republican Party and religion for years, access to private journal entries, emails and texts and sat for interviews. Coppins said he was “ astonished by his level of candor” while working on this biography.

Scribner, Oct. 24

Tupac Shakur: The Authorized Biography , by Staci Robinson

Robinson, who knew Shakur in high school, draws on the rapper’s letters and notebooks along with interviews with close family and friends, in the first biography authorized by the Shakur estate. It includes photos, handwritten lyrics, and other artifacts from the estate’s archives.

Crown, Oct. 24

Being Henry: The Fonz … and Beyond , by Henry Winkler

Winkler is known for his role on the beloved 1970s sitcom “Happy Days,” and he’s been a television fixture for decades; his performance on “Barry” won an Emmy in 2018. His new memoir chronicles the vagaries of his career, his struggle with dyslexia, his experience writing children’s books and more.

Celadon, Oct. 31

Class: A Memoir of Motherhood, Hunger, and Higher Education , by Stephanie Land

In this follow-up to “ Maid ,” a best-selling memoir about her grueling life as a domestic worker in Washington State, Land recounts the years in which she juggled her pursuit of a writing career with the reality of life as a single parent “who struggled to make ends meet in endless, sometimes impossible ways.”

Atria/One Signal, Nov. 7

To Free the Captives: A Plea for the American Soul , by Tracy K. Smith

Smith, a former U.S. Poet Laureate, draws on her personal and family history to make sense of the “din of human division and strife” in America. Beginning with her grandfather’s experience as a World War I veteran in Sunflower, Ala., and touching on her own spiritual life, she offers searching questions about the nation’s future.

Knopf, Nov. 7

My Name is Barbra , by Barbra Streisand

This book has been hotly anticipated since its announcement years ago. Streisand offers a highly detailed (nearly 1,000 pages) account of her life. It covers her early struggles to become an actress, the hardships she endured as a Jewish woman directing in Hollywood, her friendships with fellow celebrities and much more.

Viking, Nov. 7

World Within a Song: Music That Changed My Life and Life That Changed My Music , by Jeff Tweedy

The frontman and a founding member of Wilco reflects on 50 songs that have shaped his life and art, including tracks by Joni Mitchell, Otis Redding and Billie Eilish, as he meditates on what compels us to listen to and create music.

Dutton, Nov. 7

Broken Code: Inside Facebook and the Fight to Expose Its Harmful Secrets , by Jeff Horwitz

Horwitz, a technology reporter at The Wall Street Journal, has written award-winning investigations of how Facebook shielded its elite users, enabled human and drug trafficking and amplified anger on the platform. He expands on that reporting in this book, providing a view of the company’s operations and highlighting the employees who identified concerns, proposed solutions and fought efforts to slow them.

Doubleday, Nov. 14

Chasing Bright Medusas: A Life of Willa Cather , by Benjamin Taylor

Taylor’s biography captures Cather’s early life in Virginia and Nebraska in the late 19th century, and covers her development as a journalist and writer who eschewed contemporary fashions. It offers a thoughtful analysis of her work and makes a case for its relevance today.

Viking, Nov. 14

Milton Friedman: The Last Conservative , by Jennifer Burns

Burns, a historian at Stanford and the author of an intellectual biography of Ayn Rand, gives Friedman, a driving force in the postwar embrace of free-market economics, similar treatment in this rigorous account. She draws on archival material to trace his influences, assess his work and recount the struggles and triumphs that shaped his life.

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Nov. 14

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With millions of books sold and a TV adaptation starring Gary Oldman, Mick Herron, the author of the “Slow Horses” series, has yet to wrap his head around his success .

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The Greatest Nonfiction Books

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 . Essays by Michel de Montaigne

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Essays is the title given to a collection of 107 essays written by Michel de Montaigne that was first published in 1580. Montaigne essentially invented the literary form of essay, a short subjectiv...

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2 . Walden by Henry David Thoreau

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Walden (first published as Walden; or, Life in the Woods) is an American book written by noted transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau, a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings.

3 . Confessions by Augustine

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Confessions is the name of an autobiographical work, consisting of 13 books, by St. Augustine of Hippo, written between AD 397 and AD 398. Modern English translations of it are sometimes published ...

4 . The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud

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This book introduces Freud's theory of the unconscious with respect to dream interpretation. Dreams, in Freud's view, were all forms of "wish-fulfillment" — attempts by the unconscious to resolve a...

5 . The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli

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Il Principe (The Prince) is a political treatise by the Florentine public servant and political theorist Niccolò Machiavelli. Originally called De Principatibus (About Principalities), it was origi...

6 . The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

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The Diary of a Young Girl is a book based on the writings from a diary written by Anne Frank while she was in hiding for two years with her family during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. The...

7 . The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley

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This book describes Malcolm X's upbringing in Michigan, his maturation to adulthood in Boston and New York, his time in prison, his conversion to Islam, his ministry, his travels to Africa and to M...

8 . The Confessions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau by Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Image of The Confessions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Confessions is an autobiographical book by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. In modern times, it is often published with the title The Confessions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau in order to distinguish it from St. ...

9 . Silent Spring by Rachel Carson

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Silent Spring is a book written by Rachel Carson and published by Houghton Mifflin in September 1962. The book is widely credited with helping launch the environmental movement. When Silent Spri...

10 . The Complete Works of Plato by Plato

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Plato (pronounced /ˈpleɪtoʊ/) (Greek: Πλάτων, Plátōn, "broad") (428/427 BC[a] – 348/347 BC), was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the ...

11 . Pensées by Blaise Pascal

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12 . On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species, published on Thursday 24 November 1859, is a seminal work of scientific literature considered to be the foundation of evolutionary biology. Its full title...

13 . In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

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On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no appar...

14 . The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr , E. B. White

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The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr., and E. B. White, is an American English writing style guide. It is the best-known and most influential prescriptive treatment of English grammar and us...

15 . The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA by James D. Watson

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The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA is an autobiographical account of the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA written by James D. Watson and pub...

16 . A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf

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A Room of One's Own is an extended essay by . First published during 24 October 1929, it was based on a series of lectures she delivered at Newnham College and Girton College, two women's colleges ...

17 . Relativity by Albert Einstein

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In clear, concise language that is accessible to all, Albert Einstein's brilliant theory is explained and its implications discussed.

18 . Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe

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It is Wolfe's first novel, and is considered a highly autobiographical American Bildungsroman. The character of Eugene Gant is generally believed to be a depiction of Wolfe himself. The novel cover...

19 . Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell

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Homage to Catalonia is political journalist and novelist George Orwell's personal account of his experiences and observations in the Spanish Civil War, written in the first person.

20 . Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov

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Speak, Memory is an autobiographical memoir by writer Vladimir Nabokov. The first twelve chapters describe Nabokov's remembrance of his youth in a quasi-aristocratic family living in pre-revolut...

21 . The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money by John Maynard Keynes

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The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money was written by the English economist John Maynard Keynes. The book, generally considered to be his magnum opus, is largely credited with creatin...

22 . Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville

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De la démocratie en Amérique (published in two volumes, the first in 1835 and the second in 1840) is a classic French text by Alexis de Tocqueville on the United States in the 1830s and its strengt...

23 . The Second World War by Winston Churchill

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The Second World War is a six-volume history of the period from the end of the First World War to July 1945, written by Sir Winston Churchill. It was largely responsible for him winning (in 1953) t...

24 . Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx , Friedrich Engels

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Manifesto of the Communist Party (German: Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei), often referred to as The Communist Manifesto, was published on February 21, 1848, and is one of the world's most infl...

25 . Facundo by Domingo Faustino Sarmiento

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"Sarmiento's Facundo remains a foundational work for the traditions of Latin American fiction and historiography, and so an essential book for English language North Americans also, at least for th...

26 . Black Lamb and Grey Falcon by Rebecca West

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Black Lamb and Grey Falcon is an 1,181-page travel book written by Dame Rebecca West, published in 1941. The book gives an account of Balkan history and ethnography, and the significance of Nazi...

27 . The Education of Henry Adams by Henry Adams

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The Education of Henry Adams records the struggle of Bostonian Henry Adams (1838-1918), in early old age, to come to terms with the dawning 20th century, so different from the world of his youth. I...

28 . Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen

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Out of Africa is a memoir by Isak Dinesen, a nom de plume used by the Danish author Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke. The book, first published in 1937, recounts events of the seventeen years when...

29 . Das Kapital by Karl Marx

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Das Kapital: Kritik der politischen Ökonomie (German pronunciation: [das kapiˈtaːl]) (Capital, in the English translation) is an extensive treatise on political economy written in German by Karl Ma...

30 . The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn

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The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is an analysis of the history of science. Its publication was a landmark event in the sociology of knowledge, and popularized the terms paradigm and paradigm...

31 . Dispatches by Michael Herr

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Dispatches is a non-fiction book by Michael Herr that describes the author's experiences in Vietnam as a war correspondent for Esquire magazine. First published in 1977, Dispatches was one of the f...

32 . The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

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The Gulag Archipelago is a book by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn based on the Soviet forced labor and concentration camp system. The three-volume book is a massive narrative relying on eyewitness testimon...

33 . I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

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Sent by their mother to live with their devout, self-sufficient grandmother in a small Southern town, Maya and her brother, Bailey, endure the ache of abandonment and the prejudice of the local “po...

34 . The Civil War by Shelby Foote

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The Civil War: A Narrative (1958-1974) is a three volume, 2,968-page, 1.2 million-word history of the American Civil War by Shelby Foote. Although previously known as a novelist, Foote is most famo...

35 . The Essential Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson by Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Ralph Waldo Emerson (May 25, 1803 – April 27, 1882) was an American essayist, lecturer, and poet, who led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century. He was seen as a champion of indivi...

36 . If This Is a Man by Primo Levi

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If This Is a Man is a work of witness by the Italian author Primo Levi. It was influenced by his experiences in the concentration camp at Auschwitz during the Second World War. It can be described ...

37 . The Histories of Herodotus by Herodotus

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The Histories of Herodotus is considered one of the seminal works of history in Western literature. Written from the 450s to the 420s BC in the Ionic dialect of classical Greek, The Histories serve...

38 . The Principles of Psychology by Will James

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39 . Collected Essays of George Orwell by George Orwell

Image of Collected Essays of George Orwell

In this bestselling compilation of essays, written in the clear-eyed, uncompromising language for which he is famous, Orwell discusses with vigor such diverse subjects as his boyhood schooling, the...

40 . The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe

Image of The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test is a work of literary journalism by Tom Wolfe, published in 1968. Using techniques from the genre of hysterical realism and pioneering new journalism, the novel tell...

41 . The Art of War by Sun Zi

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Offering ancient wisdom on how to use skill, cunning, tactics and discipline to outwit your opponent, this 2000 year old military manual is still worshipped by soldiers on the battlefield and manag...

42 . Civilization and Its Discontents by Sigmund Freud

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Psychosocial developmentConsciousPreconsciousUnconsciousPsychic apparatusId, ego, and super-egoLibidoDriveTransferenceCountertransferenceEgo defensesResistanceProjection

43 . The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs

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The Death and Life of Great American Cities, by Jane Jacobs, is a greatly influential book on the subject of urban planning in the 20th century. First published in 1961, the book is a critique of m...

44 . Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Image of Meditations

Meditations (Τὰ εἰς ἑαυτόν, Ta eis heauton, literally "thoughts/writings addressed to himself") is the title of a series of personal writings by Marcus Aurelius setting forth his ideas on Stoic phi...

45 . The Life of Samuel Johnson by James Boswell

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He's one of English literature's all-time heavyweights, but most of what we know about Samuel Johnson, the man, comes from his friend Boswell’s hearty anecdotal biog.

46 . The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen

Image of The Snow Leopard

The Snow Leopard is a 1978 book by Peter Matthiessen, which is an account of his two month journey along with naturalist George Schaller in 1973 to Crystal Mountain, in the Dolpo region on the Tibe...

47 . Selected Essays of T. S. Eliot by T. S. Eliot

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This is the first large and representative book of T. S. Eliot's prose and it is being published just at the time when Mr. Eliot is returning to America for the Harvard lectures. A year ago Edmund ...

48 . The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe

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The Right Stuff is a 1979 book by Tom Wolfe about the pilots engaged in U.S. postwar experiments with experimental rocket-powered, high-speed aircraft as well as documenting the stories of the firs...

49 . The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich von Hayek

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The Road to Serfdom is a book written by Friedrich von Hayek (recipient of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1974) which transformed the landscape of political thought in the 20th ce...

50 . Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes

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Leviathan, The Matter, Forme and Power of a Common Wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civil, commonly called Leviathan, is a book written by Thomas Hobbes which was published in 1651. It is titled after th...

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2023 Barnes & Noble Author of the Year

David grann.

David Grann is the inaugural recipient of the Author of the Year award from Barnes & Noble in 2023, celebrating his impressive array of achievements that began in 2009 with The Lost City of Z and extended into 2023 with The Wager and the film adaptation of Killers of the Flower Moon . Grann’s writing style, mixing thriller-like stakes and riveting history, solidifies him as one of the literary world’s essential nonfiction voices.

Learn more about The Wager on Poured Over: The B&N Podcast and read more about David Grann on B&N Reads .

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI

B&N Book of the Year Finalists

The Story of Art Without Men

The Best of the Natural World​

Lose yourself in the wonders of nature and the way this world speaks. See all 70 of our Best Books of 2023 lists here .

Entangled Life: The Illustrated Edition: How Fungi Make Our Worlds

Barnes & Noble Holiday Gift Guide

Oath and Honor: A Memoir and a Warning

Our Monthly Nonfiction Picks

This month's pick: the storyteller.

Dave Grohl, the twice-inducted Rock & Roll Hall of Fame member for his work with Nirvana and the Foo Fighters, has lived through and seen a lot, so these tales run the gamut from the early days of his career to his now legend status. Clearly, this is a great book for fans, but it's also an amazing look at the grunge movement and the rock scene from the 80s and beyond.

American Demon: Eliot Ness and the Hunt for America's Jack the Ripper

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Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing: A Memoir

Buy One, Get One 50% Off Hundreds of Books

Everything I Know about Love

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50 notable works of nonfiction

The year’s best memoirs, biographies, history and more.

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‘Also a Poet: Frank O’Hara, My Father, and Me,’ by Ada Calhoun

Calhoun’s memoir offers an unsparing portrait of her father , New Yorker art critic Peter Schjeldahl, and the difficulties of their relationship. She also dives into the lives of a host of influential artists and writers, many of whom Schjeldahl interviewed for a biography of the poet O’Hara that never came to pass.

‘American Midnight: The Great War, a Violent Peace, and Democracy’s Forgotten Crisis,’ by Adam Hochschild

America has fallen prey to mythical enemies and demagogues several times in its history, as Hochschild reminds us in his portrait of one era , 1917 to 1921, when racism, white nationalism, and anti-foreign and anti-immigrant sentiment challenged the country’s ideals.

‘Ancestor Trouble: A Reckoning and a Reconciliation,’ by Maud Newton

Troubled by her family’s legacy of violence, mental illness and racism, Newton delves into genetics and cognitive science to wrestle with questions of inheritance. She also draws on anthropology, history, religion and philosophy to understand our national obsession with genealogy.

‘As It Turns Out: Thinking About Edie and Andy,’ by Alice Sedgwick Wohl

In this family memoir , Wohl discusses her sister Edie Sedgwick’s important but brief collaboration with Andy Warhol. The book also offers a troubling look into the siblings’ complicated family life.

‘Because Our Fathers Lied: A Memoir of Truth and Family, From Vietnam to Today,’ by Craig McNamara

In this staggering book , McNamara struggles to come to terms with his father, former defense secretary Robert McNamara, who supervised the tragedy of the Vietnam War and was a distant, uncommunicative parent.

‘Cheap Land Colorado: Off-Gridders at America’s Edge,’ by Ted Conover

Conover lends a compassionate ear to “the restless and the fugitive, the idle and the addicted, and the generally disaffected” living outside the American mainstream on an isolated Colorado prairie. With his thorough reportage, he conjures a vivid, mysterious subculture populated by men and women with riveting stories to tell.

‘Come Back in September: A Literary Education on West Sixty-Seventh Street, Manhattan,’ by Darryl Pinckney

In the 1970s, the literary critic Elizabeth Hardwick guided the 20-something Darryl Pinckney through the upper echelons of Manhattan literary and intellectual life. This memoir of that apprenticeship — by one of our most distinguished writers on African American culture, literature and history — provides a “you are there” account of those thrilling years.

‘Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America,’ by Maggie Haberman

In this illuminating portrait , Haberman lays special emphasis on Trump’s ascent in the late-1970s and 1980s New York world of hustlers, mobsters, political bosses, compliant prosecutors and tabloid scandalmongers.

‘Desperate Remedies: Psychiatry’s Turbulent Quest to Cure Mental Illness,’ by Andrew Scull

Scull tells the story of psychiatry in the United States from the 19th-century asylum to 21st-century psychopharmacology through its dubious characters, its shifting conceptions of mental illness and its often-gruesome treatments.

‘Diary of a Misfit: A Memoir and a Mystery,’ by Casey Parks

Despite its title, this memoir is about two misfits : Parks and an enigmatic character named Roy Hudgins. Parks, a reporter for The Washington Post, captures life in small-town Louisiana and probes Hudgins’s story to explore questions she asks herself about her own sexuality.

‘Easy Beauty: A Memoir,’ by Chloe Cooper Jones

Jones, a philosopher and journalist, uses her experience of disability to examine the ways others perceive bodies they find difficult. In the process, she writes about subjects from tennis to motherhood to Beyoncé in elegantly tuned prose.

‘Eliot After “The Waste Land,” ’ by Robert Crawford

Drawing heavily on T.S. Eliot’s often romantic correspondence with Emily Hale, which was under seal until 2020, this mesmerizing biography helps unpack the personal life of the famously ascetic poet.

‘Esmond and Ilia: An Unreliable Memoir,’ by Marina Warner

In this double portrait of her parents during the first years of their marriage, Warner follows them from the English countryside to Cairo. The book, largely constructed from documents, family stories and imaginative projection, recaptures a worldly, decadent atmosphere.

‘Finding Me,’ by Viola Davis

Davis is known today as the acclaimed actress whose credits include “Doubt,” “Fences” and “How to Get Away With Murder.” This memoir covers her career , but it’s more focused, with brutal candidness, on her traumatic childhood and how it shaped her later success.

‘Free: A Child and a Country at the End of History,’ by Lea Ypi

Ypi’s beguiling memoir of innocence and experience in Albania’s communist era and its aftermath is told through intimate stories of a taken-for-granted life devolving into uncertainty. It serves as a profound primer on how to live when old verities turn to dust.

‘Getting Lost,’ by Annie Ernaux, translated by Alison L Strayer

This book by the French writer , winner of the 2022 Nobel Prize in literature , is made up of diary entries she wrote from 1988 to 1990. They document a Parisian affair with a married Soviet diplomat, a relationship she fictionalized in her short novel “ Simple Passion .”

‘The Great Stewardess Rebellion: How Women Launched a Workplace Revolution at 30,000 Feet,’ by Nell McShane Wulfhart

Travel writer Wulfhart chronicles how stewardesses organized to combat all manner of indignities, such as forced retirement at age 32, demeaning “girdle checks” and draconian weight limits, and in the process transformed the airline industry.

‘His Name Is George Floyd: One Man’s Life and the Struggle for Racial Justice,’ by Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa

This vivid and moving account by Post reporters Samuels and Olorunnipa draws on more than 400 interviews to help depict the world that George Floyd lived in — and the circumstances that led to his death.

‘Imagining the End: Mourning and Ethical Life,’ by Jonathan Lear

In a world buffeted by multiple catastrophes, from gun violence to the destructive effects of climate change, psychoanalyst and philosopher Lear offers a hopeful path through grief and confusion.

‘The Impossible City: A Hong Kong Memoir,’ by Karen Cheung

In this blend of memoir and reportage , Karen Cheung shows how Hong Kong is changing under the pressures of gentrification and China’s authoritarian crackdown. This is a love letter to the city, but it’s one that is free of romanticized illusion and frank about its failings.

‘Index, a History of the: A Bookish Adventure From Medieval Manuscripts to the Digital Age,’ by Dennis Duncan

A lively tour , from ancient Egypt to Silicon Valley, of a section of books that readers often treat as an afterthought. Duncan is an ideal tour guide: witty, engaging, knowledgeable and a fount of diverting anecdotes. Don’t skip this book’s own index, which is, of course, a work of art.

‘The Inheritors: An Intimate Portrait of South Africa’s Racial Reckoning,’ by Eve Fairbanks

Exploring the realities of life after apartheid in South Africa, Fairbanks depicts the complexities and disappointments of an ongoing period of change. Her journalistic approach welcomes readers who know little about the country, but she also offers a great deal for those more familiar with its struggles.

‘The Invisible Kingdom: Reimagining Chronic Illness,’ by Meghan O’Rourke

Acclaimed poet O’Rourke brings lyrical precision to this combination of memoir and reportage about “living at the edge of medical knowledge.” O’Rourke’s physical ailments over many years were often misdiagnosed or dismissed by doctors. In this book, she describes living with her pain while also investigating what we do and don’t know about chronic disease.

‘In Love: A Memoir of Love and Loss,’ by Amy Bloom

In this deeply stirring memoir , novelist Amy Bloom recounts the emotional journey she took with her husband, Brian, who chose to end his life after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Bloom’s technical prowess is evident in her conscription of banal details to preface profound and sobering insights into love, marriage and death.

‘Lady Justice: Women, the Law, and the Battle to Save America,’ by Dahlia Lithwick

Arguing that true justice requires gender equality, Lithwick profiles women who have attempted to push back on legalistic attempts to restrict their rights — and those of others. She presents them not as superheroes but as real people who rely on other women in their collective effort to change things for the better.

‘Lessons From the Edge: A Memoir,’ by Marie Yovanovitch

A career diplomat, Yovanovitch was thrust into the public eye during the first impeachment of Donald Trump. In her memoir , she takes readers through her global career while also attending to the ways Trump has changed things at home.

‘A Life of Picasso: The Minotaur Years, 1933-1943,’ by John Richardson

The fourth and final volume of John Richardson’s life of Picasso is a worthy follow-up to its highly acclaimed predecessors. Completed amid difficult circumstances — Richardson, who died in 2019, was in his 90s and going blind — it is only about half their length. But it is just as rich and astounding.

‘Lost and Found: A Memoir,’ by Kathryn Schulz

This memoir by the Pulitzer-winning New Yorker writer considers the emotional whiplash of a two-year span when her father died and she met the woman who would become her wife.

‘Magnificent Rebels: The First Romantics and the Invention of the Self,’ by Andrea Wulf

Focusing on intellectual life in Jena, Germany, at the turn of the 19th century, Wulf explores how a small group of thinkers reworked our understanding of the relationship between philosophy and action.

‘Newsroom Confidential: Lessons (and Worries) From an Ink-Stained Life,’ by Margaret Sullivan

Sullivan, the former Washington Post media columnist and New York Times public editor, argues that media outlets are failing to adapt vigorously enough to the distortions of reality in the nation’s daily discourse, putting an already fragile democracy in grave jeopardy.

‘The Palace Papers: Inside the House of Windsor — the Truth and the Turmoil,’ by Tina Brown

This episodic examination of the royal family’s difficulties since the death of Princess Diana in 1997 features a combination of preexisting press accounts and Brown’s reporting. It’s both high-minded and gossipy, and addictively readable.

‘Path Lit by Lightning: The Life of Jim Thorpe,’ by David Maraniss

Thorpe, one of the most accomplished athletes who ever lived, was often met with racist derision during his own day. In this deeply researched biography , The Post’s Maraniss offers a sympathetic portrait of an extraordinarily talented man.

‘README.txt: A Memoir,’ by Chelsea Manning

The general outline of Manning’s story is widely known, but in her memoir she captures the more personal feel of her actions and experiences. “Everyone now knows — because of what happened to me — that the government will attempt to destroy you fully,” she writes. Here she shows how she preserved herself in the process.

‘Reality+: Virtual Worlds and the Problems of Philosophy,’ by David J Chalmers

In chapters studded with references to popular culture and informed by high-level philosophical scholarship, Chalmers explores serious questions about whether we live in a simulation . Ultimately, he argues, it may not matter if our world is not as “real” as it seems.

‘Rickey: The Life and Legend of an American Original,’ by Howard Bryant

Baseball Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson was known for his competitiveness, outsize personality and superlative talent. Bryant’s vivid and extensive account , written with access to Henderson and his wife, Pamela, shines a light on this unique and charismatic legend.

‘River of the Gods: Genius, Courage, and Betrayal in the Search for the Source of the Nile,’ by Candice Millard

Many books have been written about the 19th-century European explorers who tried to find the Nile’s source, but this one adds new dimensions to the story . It is especially revealing on the conflicts between two of the most famous men who helped direct some of those expeditions, but it also attends to some of those largely ignored by past historians.

‘Sandy Hook: An American Tragedy and the Battle for Truth,’ by Elizabeth Williamson

If the horrors of the Sandy Hook school shooting were not enough, the families of the murdered children were mercilessly stalked afterward by conspiracy theorists and confronted with vile and obscenity-laden threats, as Williamson meticulously documents in her account of this assault on grieving parents, truth and society itself.

‘Shy: The Alarmingly Outspoken Memoirs of Mary Rodgers,’ by Mary Rodgers and Jesse Green

Pointedly frank but never too unkind, this memoir from musical theater composer and novelist Rodgers dishes on Stephen Sondheim and other luminaries. And though it’s full of gossip, it also documents Rodgers’s journey to self-understanding.

‘Solito: A Memoir,’ by Javier Zamora

In this valuable book , Zamora recounts his terrifying nine-week journey to the United States from El Salvador in 1999, when he was 9 years old, and his struggles growing up in the mythic land of Big Macs on his way to becoming a distinguished poet.

‘Strangers to Ourselves: Unsettled Minds and the Stories That Make Us,’ by Rachel Aviv

Hospitalized at age 6 for “failure to eat,” New Yorker staff writer Aviv became fascinated by the early phases of mental illness, the time before it remakes a person’s identity. In this work , she explores several cases, including her own youthful experience, and assesses the stories people tell themselves about their mental disorders.

‘Tasha: A Son’s Memoir,’ by Brian Morton

“Tasha” is the novelist Brian Morton’s (“ Starting Out in the Evening ”) bracing account of his mother’s final years . “How can you see your parents clearly?” he wonders. He gives it his best, passionately chronicling his mother’s knotty past alongside his present exhaustion, exasperation and anguish.

‘This Body I Wore: A Memoir,’ by Diana Goetsch

Goetsch, an acclaimed poet, here writes about her life as a transgender woman, from the first stirrings of awareness as a young child to formative adult years in the cross-dressing world of New York to transition later in life. Along the way, her personal story casts light on the history of the larger trans community over the course of her lifetime.

‘Truly, Madly: Vivien Leigh, Laurence Olivier, and the Romance of the Century,’ by Stephen Galloway

Galloway traces the fraught romance of Leigh and Olivier , a couple whose marriage was characterized by great passion — as well as other, more mercurial passions. He is especially sharp on the question of Leigh’s mental health.

‘Under the Skin: The Hidden Toll of Racism on American Lives and on the Health of Our Nation,’ by Linda Villarosa

Race plays an enormous role in health care in the United States, with Black people in particular often facing enormously unequal treatment. Villarosa unpacks some of those dangerous inequities in a book that is both deeply researched and profoundly devastating .

‘The War of Nerves: Inside the Cold War Mind,’ by Martin Sixsmith

Sixsmith leads readers through many of the misunderstandings that characterized the conduct of both sides during the Cold War. He also records some of the many ways that Russia and the United States provoked one another, sometimes with near-disastrous results.

‘Watergate: A New History,’ by Garrett M. Graff

Though it explores familiar territory, this book brings the Watergate era to life in a new way, thanks in part to its attention to the “flawed everyday people” who shaped the events as they played out. It also works to correct some of the many errors and omissions in past records.

‘Ways and Means: Lincoln and His Cabinet and the Financing of the Civil War,’ by Roger Lowenstein

The Civil War remade America — and paying for it remade the American financial system. Business writer Lowenstein draws on decades of scholarship to tell the story of how that transformation played out.

‘We Don’t Know Ourselves: A Personal History of Modern Ireland,’ by Fintan O’Toole

Journalist O’Toole brilliantly weaves the story of his life with several momentous decades in his country’s history. The result is a memoir , starting from his working-class roots in Dublin, where he was born in 1958, and an account of how Ireland struggled to join the modern world.

‘When McKinsey Comes to Town: The Hidden Influence of the World’s Most Powerful Consulting Firm,’ by Walt Bogdanich and Michael Forsythe

A masterful work of investigative journalism, this book delves into the often-dubious business practices of one of the world’s largest and most powerful management consulting firms.

‘You Don’t Know Us Negroes and Other Essays,’ by Zora Neale Hurston

This volume collects 51 essays by the author of “ Their Eyes Were Watching God .” It demonstrates Hurston’s formidable range, showing her skills as a critic, anthropologist, journalist and more. Some of the texts included appear in print for the first time here.


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