Books

50 essential non-fiction books

50 essential non-fiction books

Similar to our list of 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime, this list of 50 non-fiction books contains recommendations you might actually read (if you haven't already). This curated list covers the gamut of non-fiction, from compelling war stories to key feminist texts, to unbelievable struggles for survival, to tales of life in the culinary trade.

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Essential non-fiction books

By Stephen Hawking
Was there a beginning of time? Could time run backwards? These are just some of the questions considered in an internationally acclaimed masterpiece by one of the world's greatest thinkers.
By Maya Angelou
Captures the longing of lonely children, the brute insult of bigotry, and the wonder of words that can make the world right.
By Truman Capote
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.
By Dee Brown
Generated shockwaves with its frank and heartbreaking depiction of the systematic annihilation of American Indian tribes across the western frontier.
By John Hersey
On August 6, 1945, Hiroshima was destroyed by the first atom bomb ever dropped on a city. This book, John Hersey's journalistic masterpiece, tells what happened on that day.
By Helen Macdonald
Helen Macdonald's story of adopting and raising one of nature's most vicious predators has soared into the hearts of millions of readers worldwide.
By Oliver Sacks
Oliver Sacks recounts the stories of patients lost in the bizarre, apparently inescapable world of neurological disorders.
By Isak Dinesen
In this book, the author of Seven Gothic Tales gives a true account of her life on her plantation in Kenya.
By Philip Gourevitch
A first-hand account one of the defining outrages of modern history, an unforgettable anatomy of Rwanda's decimation. As riveting as it is moving, it is a profound reckoning with humanity's betrayal and its perseverance.
By Farley Mowat
Hordes of bloodthirsty wolves are slaughtering the arctic caribou, and the government's Wildlife Service assigns naturalist Farely Mowat to investigate.
By Anne Frank
Discovered in the attic in which she spent the last years of her life, Anne Frank's remarkable diary has become a world classic - a powerful reminder of the horrors of war and an eloquent testament to the human spirit.
By Naomi Wolf
The bestselling classic that redefined our view of the relationship between beauty and female identity.
By Alfred Lansing
The harrowing tale of British explorer Ernest Shackleton's 1914 attempt to reach the South Pole, one of the greatest adventure stories of the modern age.
By Nick Hornby
In America, it is soccer. But in Great Britain, it is the real football. No pads, no prayers, no prisoners. And that's before the players even take the field.
By Elie Wiesel
A terrifying account of the Nazi death camp horror that turns a young Jewish boy into an agonized witness to the death of his family, the death of his innocence, and the death of his God.
By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
A unique definition of feminism for the 21st century, one rooted in inclusion and awareness.
By Piers Paul Read
On October 12, 1972, a plane carrying a team of young rugby players crashed into the remote, snow-peaked Andes. Out of the 45 original passengers and crew, only 16 made it off the mountain alive.
By Lorna Sage
Lorna Sage delivers the tragicomic memoir of her escape from a claustrophobic childhood in post-WWII Britain - and the story of the weddings and relationships that defined three generations of her family.
By MFK Fisher
Written to inspire courage in those daunted by wartimes shortages, How to Cook a Wolf continues to rally cooks during times of plenty, reminding them that providing sustenance requires more than putting food on the table.
By Ernest Hemingway
A Moveable Feast brilliantly evokes the exuberant mood of Paris after World War I and the unbridled creativity and unquenchable enthusiasm that Hemingway himself epitomized.
By Bill Bryson
Taking as territory everything from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization, Bryson seeks to understand how we got from there being nothing at all to there being us.
By Ron Chernow
The riveting life of Alexander Hamilton, an illegitimate, largely self-taught orphan from the Caribbean who overcame all the odds to become George Washington's aide-de-camp and the first Treasury Secretary of the United States.
By Malcolm Gladwell
Blink is a book about how we think without thinking, about choices that seem to be made in an instant-in the blink of an eye-that actually aren't as simple as they seem.
By Anthony Bourdain
A deliciously funny, delectably shocking banquet of wild-but-true tales of life in the culinary trade from Chef Anthony Bourdain.
By Antony Beevor
Historians and reviewers worldwide have hailed Antony Beevor's magisterial Stalingrad as the definitive account of World War II's most harrowing battle.
By Barack Obama
In this lyrical, unsentimental, and compelling memoir, the son of a black African father and a white American mother searches for a workable meaning to his life as a black American.
By Dale Carnegie
Advice on how to make friends quickly and easily, win people over to your way of thinking, become a better speaker and more entertaining conversationalist and arouse enthusiasm among your associates.
By Angela Y. Davis
The scathing analysis of the role of prison and the policing of black populations offered by Davis and her comrades in this astonishing volume remains as pertinent today as the day it was first published.
By Fredrick Douglass
Born into a life of bondage, Frederick Douglass secretly taught himself to read and write. It was a crime punishable by death, but it resulted in one of the most eloquent indictments of slavery ever recorded.
By George Orwell
In the 1930s Orwell was sent by a socialist book club to investigate the appalling mass unemployment in the industrial north of England. He went beyond his assignment to investigate the employed as well.
By H.G. Bissinger
The 25th anniversary edition of the classic bestselling story of life in the football-driven town of Odessa Texas.
By James Forman Jr.
Former public defender James Forman, Jr. is a leading critic of mass incarceration and its disproportionate impact on people of color.
By Joan Didion
From one of America's iconic writers, a portrait of a marriage and a life - in good times and bad - that will speak to anyone who has ever loved a husband or wife or child.
By Jon Krakauer
A bank of clouds was assembling on the not-so-distant horizon, but journalist-mountaineer Jon Krakauer, standing on the summit of Mt. Everest, saw nothing that
By Julia Child
Anyone can cook in the French manner anywhere, wrote Mesdames Beck, Bertholle, and Child, with the right instruction. And here is the book, that for forty years, has been teaching Americans how.
By Jung Chang
The story of three generations in twentieth-century China that blends the intimacy of memoir and the panoramic sweep of eyewitness history.
By Laura Hillenbrand
Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.
By Malcolm X
In the searing pages of this classic autobiography, originally published in 1964, Malcolm X, the Muslim leader, firebrand, and anti-integrationist, tells the extraordinary story of his life and the growth of the Black Muslim movement.
By Mark Twain
At once a romantic history of a mighty river, an autobiographical account of Twain's early steamboat days, and a storehouse of humorous anecdotes and sketches.
By Marshall McLuhan
First published in 1967, this text is now more relevant than ever, as McLuhan's foresights about the impact of new media is actualized at unprecedented speeds via the Internet.
By Michael Pollan
Michael Pollan confronted us with this seemingly simple question and, with The Omnivore's Dilemma, his brilliant and eye-opening exploration of our food choices, demonstrated that how we answer it today may determine not only our health but our survival as a species.
By Nichelle McNamara
A masterful true crime account of the Golden State Killer - the elusive serial rapist turned murderer who terrorized California for over a decade - from Michelle McNamara, the gifted journalist who died tragically while investigating the case.
By Naomi Klein
In the last decade, No Logo has become an international phenomenon and a cultural manifesto for the critics of unfettered capitalism worldwide.
By Rachel Carson
Carson's passionate concern for the future of our planet reverberated powerfully throughout the world, and her eloquent book was instrumental in launching the environmental movement.
By Robert Graves
Good-bye to All That was published a decade after the end of the first World War, as the poet and novelist Robert Graves was preparing to leave England for good.
By Simone de Beauvoir
Simone de Beauvoir's essential masterwork is a powerful analysis of the Western notion of
By Sylvia Plath
This edition includes in facsimile the complete working drafts of her poem
By Tina Fey
Before Liz Lemon, before "Weekend Update," before "Sarah Palin," Tina Fey was just a young girl with a dream: a recurring stress dream that she was being chased through a local airport by her middle school gym teacher. She also had a dream that one day she would be a comedian on TV.
By Tom Wolfe
Millions of words have poured forth about man's trip to the moon, but until now few people have had a sense of the most engrossing side of the adventure.
By William Strunk & E.B. White
According to the St. Louis Dispatch, this "excellent book, which should go off to college with every freshman, is recognized as the best book of its kind we have."

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