Monday, October 14, 2013

Newport Library's Classic Non-Fiction

Following on the heels of our Classic Fiction List, a reader asked us to create a list of classic non-fiction. After consulting library staff and a few online lists, including a very nice one at Goodreads, I tweaked together a list that includes both “classics” and staff favorites.

Some readers may shake their heads at what I’ve left out: the Bible, Mein Kampf and Das Kapital, for example. Many such well-known titles appear on all sorts of lists and these can be easily found online. I wanted to create a list that a modern book lover might actually read (John Locke’s Second Treatise Of Government anyone?) In addition to what staff thought were must-read classics, I also included more recent favorites I felt should be, or perhaps, will be classics in years to come. Some of the staff titles may be less familiar but are noteworthy nevertheless.

I also wanted to cover as much of the non-fiction world as possible (history and the social sciences titles predominate the online lists) and wanted to include topics like gardening, cooking, animals and even crafts. I also restricted the list to titles that our Ocean Books consortium owns. As a result, this list is completely arbitrary and just a tad eccentric.

The list is arranged alphabetically by author:

1. A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander
2. Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose
6. The Curve Of Time by M. Wylie Blanchet
8. A Walk In The Woods by Bill Bryson
9. The Hero With A Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell
10. The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus
11. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
12. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
13. In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin
14. Two Years Before The Mast by R.H. Dana
15. On The Origin Of Species by Charles Darwin
16. Guns, Germs And Steel by Jared Diamond
17. Pilgrim At Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
18. Out Of Africa by Isak Dinesen
19. Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich
20. The Diary Of A Young Girl by Anne Frank
21. The Golden Bough by James Frazer
22. The Interpretation Of Dreams by Sigmund Freud
23. The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan
24. Ticked by James Fussell
25. The Affluent Society by John Kenneth Galbraith
26. The Lady Queen by Nancy Goldstone
28. Team Of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
29. Wait Till Next Year by Doris Kearns Goodwin
30. The Good Nurse by Charles Graeber
32. Mythology by Edith Hamilton
33. A Brief History Of Time by Stephen Hawking
34. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
35. The Histories by Herodotus
36. All Creatures Great And Small by James Herriot
37. Godel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter
39. Blue Latitudes by Tony Horwitz
40. The Doors Of Perception by Aldous Huxley
41. History Of Art by H.W. Janson
43. Dogs of Bedlam Farm by Jon Katz
44. On Writing by Stephen King
45. The Year 1000 by Robert Lacey
46. The Seven Pillars Of Wisdom by T.E. Lawrence
47. A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold
48. Young Men And Fire by Norman MacLean
49. A Random Walk Down Wall Street by Burton Malkiel
50. A World Lit Only By Fire by William Manchester
51. 1491 by Charles Mann
52. West With The Night by Beryl Markham
53. The Sheltering Desert by Henno Martin
54. Nicholas And Alexandra by Robert Massie
55. The Essential Earthman by Henry Mitchell
56. Salt, Sugar, Fat by Michael Moss
59. Homage To Catalonia by George Orwell
61. The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels
62. Green Thoughts by Eleanor Perenyi
65. The Botany Of Desire by Michael Pollan
66. Travels by Marco Polo
67. The Long Walk by Slavomir Rawicz
68. Cadillac Desert by Marc Reisner
69. Between Pacific Tides by Edward Ricketts
70. Apples Are From Kazakhstan by Christopher Robbins
71. The Joy Of Cooking by Irma Rombauer
72. Wind, Sand And Stars by Antoine de Saint Exupery
73. And The Band Played On by Randy Shilts
75. Longitude by Dava Sobel
76. Tibetan Book Of Living And Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche
77. Maus by Art Spiegelman
78. Autobiography Of Alice B Toklas by Gertrude Stein
70. The Places In Between by Rory Stewart
80. The Elements Of Style by WIlliam Strunk
81. The Art of War by Sun Zi
82. Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki
83. Hard Times by Studs Terkel
84. Arabian Sands by Wilfred Thesiger
85. The Lives Of A Cell by Lewis Thomas
86. Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas by Hunter Thompson
87. Walden by Henry David Thoreau
88. A Distant Mirror by Barbara Tuchman
89. The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman
90. The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain
91. The Tiger by John Vaillant
92. Working On The Edge by Spike Walker
93. The Double Helix by James Watson
94. The World Without Us by Alan Weisman
95. De Profundis by Oscar Wilde
97. A Room Of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
98. She’s Tricky Like Coyote by Lionel Youst
99. Knitting Without Tears by Elizabeth Zimmermann


  1. So many books, so little time! I know you kept your list to 100, but I would add Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey, and The Conduct of Life by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Also Daniel Boorstin's The Discoverers.

  2. Feel free to add your own!
    There were many that I left off...and it was my list!

  3. Well done - thank you!