40 Modern Nonfiction Books Everyone Should Read

40 Modern Nonfiction Books Everyone Should Read
by Marc, of Marc and Angel Hack Life: Practical Tips for Productive Living

I have, of course, read nonfiction books for classes, but I don’t tend to read them for pleasure. There are a few exceptions, but not many, and they certainly don’t include self-help books.

However, I was recently sent a link for this list of 40 Modern Nonfiction Books Everyone Should Read, all of them self-help oriented, and I was actually pretty impressed.

I started skimming the list, wondering if I had been assigned to read any of them and how much I had (or would have) disliked them. Instead, I was actually kind of impressed by the collection. Several of the titles and descriptions popped up as ones that I really should read.

There are four that I am actively excited to read. I checked that my library has them and I am looking forward to reading self-help nonfiction.

There are more about which I agree with the author of the article, that it would probably do me good to read, and not just in a putting-serious-effort-into-picking-out-some-small-amount-of-wheat-from-the-chaff type of good that I mostly see in self-help books. There are an additional ten of the books that I plan to check out and see if they live up to Marc’s descriptions. Because I think they might do me good without being too painful.

Of course, there’s also the other 26 books that I have no intention of reading, either due to disinterest or out-right dislike, but I still feel that, given a list of 40 books in a genre I don’t read, having a third of them look good is an amazing percentage and deserves some kudos.

I’m not going to list out here which books I thought were appealing and which I didn’t* because I think it’s well worth your time to skim the list yourself and see which ones you think sound interesting or useful for you.

So check it out and see what you think.



* There will be reviews here in the relatively near future of the some of the books I thought looked good as I go through the ones that I liked.

7 comments on “40 Modern Nonfiction Books Everyone Should Read

  1. Anna says:

    I was so embarrassed that out of 40, I had only read one: thank goodness for Freakonomics, which I highly recommend – a shockingly interesting look at how statistics can both discover and cover interesting correlations, depending on the politics behind the data (and there is almost always politics behind the data). I felt bad about my lack of nonfiction reading, but then reevaluated the list and saw that it was self-improvement books (clearly having failed to read the intro), which I tend to steer clear of in general.

    These do seem like the cream of the crop, though, and several that I wouldn’t have thought of as self-improvement books, exactly, but I can see how the author picks books that can expand your way of thinking of things, not necessarily ones with step-by-step approaches toward self-improvement. There were a couple that had been on my to-read list at some point or another and just got forgotten, so maybe I’ll try to pick them up again. I remember being really interested in Nickel and Dimed when it first came out, and lately I’ve been mulling over the fact that I live pretty much paycheck to paycheck and yet make more than the national average, and I can’t for the life of me figure out how people make ends meet on minimum wage.

    • Rebecca says:

      Yes, well, I hadn’t read any of them, so you’re beating me. I’m also wondering: if we got a wide selection of people to name the top forty books that they think everyone should have read, how many of each of those lists would either of us have read? The list is just one guy’s opinion, after all.

      I can’t for the life of me figure out how people make ends meet on minimum wage

      I’ve wondered that sometimes. There are people who live and do things on extremely small amounts of money and I don’t really understand it. And while I would like to, I really hope I never have to.

  2. Kinsey says:

    Bleh. I don’t know. These don’t seem to be be good books, or well-written books, just things the author found sort of helpful. I’ve read about 10, and don’t think of any of them as things people NEED to read. But then, I would probably tell people that they NEED to read Pride and Prejudice, and that’s not going to help anyone budget or get a job.

    Anyway, Malcom Gladwell aside, this just feels like a very dull set of books.

    • Anna says:

      Wow, I am so impressed you’ve read so many of these! I don’t think I realized that you read self-improvement books at all. (I’ve been trying to craft a joke about you reaching self-improvement saturation and having already accomplished maximum improvement, but they all come out as an insulting joke, not the complimentary joke I intend, so I’m giving up.) Do you recommend any others that you can think of right on the spot?

      • Kinsey says:

        And I sort of thought, “If I’ve read so many of these, why am I not perfect by now?” And honestly, most of the ones I have read are less self-help and more general nonfiction (Malcolm Gladwell, Barbara Ehrenich, etc.).

        If I was making my own list of nonfiction books that I think everyone should read, based on the extent to which that have impacted by life, it would look like this:

        1) The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
        2) Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
        3) This is Water by David Foster Wallace
        4) Take the Cannoli by Sarah Vowell

        Again, none of these are really going to help anyone get a job or anything.

    • Rebecca says:

      Hee. I would say that everyone should read and enjoy Pride & Prejudice, but I have seen one too many high school student decide they hate Jane Austen because she’s required reading.

      Since you’ve already read ten of these, you may be a more discriminating reviewer of self-help books. The four you listed did look more lively than these. Maybe you should make a post of your suggestions for what everyone should read? Or we each could, although I’d pretty much only be able to make a list if it allowed fiction.

  3. Anna says:

    Huh, you know, I hadn’t thought about it until I saw your mini-list of recommended self-improvement books, which is three-fourths female authors, but out of the linked list of 40, only three of the books are written by female authors, which is a little telling.

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