Last week, we asked Open Culture readers to write in with your favorite non-fiction titles of all time, and you didn’t disappoint. We had a hard time culling from the more than 100 suggestions, but we did have a few criteria to guide us:
1. Priority went to repeat nominees (Bill Bryson, Hunter S. Thompson, and Richard Dawkins, to name a few).
2. We leaned toward books that are available for free online.
3. When all else failed, we relied on our own preferences — or prejudices.
Thanks again for all of your recommendations, and may we congratulate you on your excellent taste in non-fiction, equalled by only your excellent taste in websites.
Hunter S. Thompson — Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Friedrich Nietzsche — The Gay Science
Richard Dawkins - The Selfish Gene
Wendell Berry — The Way of Ignorance
Joseph Mitchell — Up in the Old Hotel
Brian Greene — The Elegant Universe
Norman Lewis - Voices of the Old Sea
Joan Didion — The White Album
Benjamin Franklin - The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
Tony Judt — Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945
Henry David Thoreau — Walden
Marcus Aurelius — Meditations
Bill Bryson — A Walk in the Woods
George Orwell — Homage to Catalonia
Hannah Arendt — Eichmann in Jerusalem
Booker T. Washington — Up From Slavery
Jorge Luis Borges - Other Inquisitions (1937–1952)
Marcus Rediker — Villains of all Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Golden Age
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi — Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience
Lao Tzu, Stephen Mitchell, trans. Tao Te Ching
Victor Klemperer — I Will Bear Witness: A Diary of the Nazi Years (1933–1941)
Philip Gourevitch — We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed with Our Families
Winston Churchill — A History of the English Speaking Peoples
Lastly, and only in part because we’ve been warned that we would be roundly scolded for the omission: The Elements of Style, by William Strunk and E.B. White
Thanks again, and happy reading!
Sheerly Avni is a San Francisco-based arts and culture writer. Her work has appeared in Salon, LA Weekly, Mother Jones, and many other publications. You can follow her on twitter at @sheerly.