Best Nonfiction

The best nonfiction books I’ve read over the past few years.

10 Best Nonfiction Books I Read in 2021

  1. Empire of Pain, Patrick Radden Keefe
  2. How to Think, Alan Jacobs
  3. Hidden Valley Road, Robert Kolker
  4. The House of Government, Yuri Slezkine
  5. In the Land of the Cyclops, Karl Ove Knausgaard
  6. Breaking Bread With the Dead, Alan Jacobs
  7. At the Existentialist Café, Sarah Bakewell
  8. A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, George Saunders
  9. Amity and Prosperity, Eliza Griswold
  10. What Are We Doing Here?, Marilynne Robinson

10 Best Nonfiction Books I Read in 2020

  1. Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer
  2. The White Album, Joan Didion
  3. The Years, Annie Ernaux
  4. A Bright Shining Lie, Neil Sheehan
  5. Notes of a Native Son, James Baldwin
  6. Notes on the Death of Culture, Mario Vargas Llosa
  7. Arab and Jew, David K. Shipler
  8. The John McPhee Reader
  9. Why Fish Don’t Exist, Lulu Miller
  10. The Hemingses of Monticello, Annette Gordon-Reed

10 Best Nonfiction Books I Read in 2019

  1. Self-Portrait in Black and White, Thomas Chatterton Williams
  2. The Little Virtues, Natalia Ginzburg
  3. The Braindead Megaphone, George Saunders
  4. What If This Were Enough?, Heather Havrilesky
  5. The Red Parts, Maggie Nelson
  6. The Coddling of the American Mind, Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt
  7. He Held Radical Light, Christian Wiman
  8. Dreamland, Sam Quinones
  9. Blood Horses, John Jeremiah Sullivan
  10. My Private Property, Mary Ruefle

10 Best Nonfiction Books I Read in 2018

  1. The Gene: An Intimate History, Siddhartha Mukherjee
  2. Plainwater: Essays and Poems, Anne Carson
  3. Known and Strange Things, Teju Cole
  4. Gravity and Grace, Simone Weil
  5. The Rituals of Dinner, Margaret Visser
  6. Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education, Michael Pollan
  7. The Future Is History, Masha Gessen
  8. My Promised Land, Ari Shavit
  9. Daybook: The Journal of an Artist, Anne Truitt
  10. Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman

10 Best Nonfiction Books I Read in 2017

  1. Simone Weil: An Anthology, ed. Siân Miles
  2. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, Matthew Desmond
  3. Coming into the Country, John McPhee
  4. Glass, Irony and God, Anne Carson
  5. In a Different Key: The Story of Autism, John Donvan and Caren Zucker
  6. Chekhov, Henri Troyat
  7. Artful Sentences: Syntax as Style, Virginia Tufte
  8. A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, David Foster Wallace
  9. Is There No Place on Earth for Me? Susan Sheehan
  10. Sister Outsider, Audre Lorde

10 Best Nonfiction Books I Read in 2016

  1. Eros the Bittersweet, Anne Carson
  2. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Anne Fadiman
  3. The Pillow Book, Sei Shonagon
  4. The Journals of John Cheever
  5. The Argonauts, Maggie Nelson
  6. The Supper of the Lamb, Robert Farrar Capon
  7. The Assassins’ Gate, George Packer
  8. The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. Du Bois
  9. What Does It Mean to Be White? Robin DiAngelo
  10. Unfinished Business, Anne-Marie Slaughter

10 Best Nonfiction Books I Read in 2015

  1. Black Lamb, Grey Falcon, Rebecca West
  2. Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates
  3. H Is for Hawk, Helen Macdonald
  4. Being Mortal, Atul Gawande
  5. The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander
  6. The Unknown Craftsman, Soetsu Yanagi
  7. The Sixth Extinction, Elizabeth Kolbert
  8. The Looming Tower, Lawrence Wright
  9. Letters to a Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke
  10. The Givenness of Things, Marilynne Robinson

10 Best Nonfiction Books I Read in 2014

  1. Arctic Dreams, Barry Lopez
  2. The Unwinding, George Packer
  3. Madness, Rack, and Honey, Mary Ruefle
  4. The Noonday Demon, Andrew Solomon
  5. The Wisdom of the Desert, Thomas Merton
  6. The Poetics of Space, Gaston Bachelard
  7. Still Life with Oysters and Lemon, Mark Doty
  8. How Fiction Works, James Wood
  9. Overwhelmed, Brigid Schulte
  10. Four Fish, Paul Greenberg

10 Best Nonfiction Books I Read in 2013

  1. My Bright Abyss, Christian Wiman
  2. Far from the Tree, Andrew Solomon
  3. The Architecture of Happiness, Alain de Botton
  4. Pulphead: Essays, John Jeremiah Sullivan
  5. Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Katherine Boo
  6. An American Childhood, Annie Dillard
  7. How We Die, Sherwin B. Nuland
  8. Overdressed, Elizabeth L. Cline
  9. Delusions of Gender, Cordelia Fine
  10. The Letters of Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf, ed. Louise DeSalvo

10 Best Nonfiction Books I Read in 2012

  1. Lit, Mary Karr
  2. The Emperor of All Maladies, Siddartha Mukherjee
  3. The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir
  4. Apollo’s Angels, Jennifer Homans
  5. Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years, Diarmaid MacCulloch
  6. The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, Nicholas G. Carr
  7. The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood, James Gleick
  8. The Liars’ Club, Mary Karr
  9. Speak, Memory, Vladimir Nabokov
  10. Flaubert and Madame Bovary, Francis Steegmuller

10 Best Nonfiction Books I Read in 2011

  1. Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
  2. Moonwalking with Einstein, Joshua Foer
  3. New Seeds of Contemplation, Thomas Merton
  4. Dog Years, Mark Doty
  5. Eating Animals, Jonathan Safran Foer
  6. Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Lives for Animals, Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson
  7. How Proust Can Change Your Life: Not a Novel, Alain de Botton
  8. We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families, Philip Gourevitch
  9. Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, Barbara Demick
  10. Out of Africa, Isak Dinesen

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