The best non-fiction books can teach people about important topics, give them new ideas, or give us a glimpse into the lives of other people. Here is our list of the best non-fiction books of all time and the must-read non-fiction books of 2022.
The best general non-fiction books
In Defence of Witches by Mona Chollet
Person: Who is a witch? In Defense of Witches turns the term “witch” into a powerful role model for women today. It’s a symbol of power that can go beyond the boundaries society places on women.
Everywhere you look, there are witches. Whether they are casting spells on Donald Trump or posting pictures of their crystal-adorned altar on Instagram, witches are everywhere. But who were the people who came before these modern witches? Many types of women have been censored, eliminated, or repressed over the centuries because they were thought to be witches. She says that by looking at the lives of people who did something different, we can learn more about the variety of roles that women can play.
The Psychology of Stupidity by Jean-Francois Marmion
Jean-François Marmion is the editor of this book about stupidity. It’s written by some of the best minds in the world, including a Nobel Prize winner. Stupidity: The Psychology of Stupidity talks about how lazy thinking leads to bad decisions, why even smart people can believe nonsense, how media manipulation makes us all dumber, and what can go wrong when you try to debate with someone who isn’t smart.
God: An Anatomy by Francesca Stavrakopoulou
We now call this area Israel and Palestine. Three thousand years ago, people in this area worshipped a group of deities led by a god called El. El had seventy children, all of whom were gods. One of these children, Yahweh, fought humans and monsters and became the God of the monotheistic faiths. Before the Bible was written, there was a long history of God in culture.
Professor Francesca Stavrakopoulou writes elegantly and argues ferociously about God’s cultural DNA, and in the process, she looks at the founding principles of Western culture.
Scary Smart by Mo Gawdat
A book written by the former business manager of Google, called Scary Smart, talks about how artificial intelligence is way smarter than us. It’s also predicted to be a billion times smarter than humans by 2049. AI is able to look into the future and make smart predictions, looking around corners both real and virtual. It doesn’t have to deal with any distractions and can work at a very high speed.
But AI also gets so many things wrong. Because humans write the algorithms that make up AI, there are flaws in them that show how imperfect humans are. Mo Gawdat, who has a lot of experience in the field, says that we need to change the way AI is made and teach ourselves and our machines how to live better. ‘Mo Gawdat is my life coach.’ His writing, his ideas, and his willingness to share them have changed my life in so many ways. Everything he writes is a great lesson in how to be human.
A Bigger Picture by Vanessa Nakate
People of color and from the Global South are often left out of discussions about climate change, even though they contribute the least and suffer the most from it. If this gap isn’t closed, Vanessa Nakate shows what will happen to the climate if it isn’t.
As Uganda’s first climate striker at the age of twenty-one, Vanessa is a powerful voice. In this interview, she talks about how the climate crisis affects everything from anti-racism and feminism to education and even extremist radicalization. Vanessa’s unwavering bravery shows readers that no matter what your age, background, or skin color, you can be a climate activist and make a real difference in the world.
A World on the Wing by Scott Weidensaul
They keep going even though there are a lot of things in their way. This is the uplifting story of the billions of birds that keep going even though we have put a lot of things in their way. During the last two decades, we’ve learned a lot more about how long and complicated it is for birds to migrate. For his book, A World on the Wing, Scott Weidensaul and other writers and ornithologists try to find some of the most amazing flights that birds make all over the world. They try to figure out how they did it.
Wayfinding by Michael Bond
Bond tries to figure out why some people are better at finding their way than other people. He also talks about sex differences in navigation, and tries to figure out why being lost can be so bad for your mental health. When we’re not sure where we are, our brains make “cognitive maps” that help us stay where we are. This helps us stay oriented even when we don’t know where we are.
Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe
If you’re looking for a book that’s going to be popular this spring, you’ll want to read “Empire of Pain.” It’s a story about three generations of one family, and how they played a role in the stories of Valium and Oxycontin.
Rich: The Sackler family is one of the wealthiest in the world, and they are well-known for giving a lot of money to both the arts and the sciences. When it was revealed that the family had made and sold Oxycontin, a painkiller that helped start the opioid crisis, which has killed more than half a million people around the world. If you want to know the secret history of the Sackler family, this is the book for you.
Making It by Jay Blades
In Making It, a book that is full of inspirational stories about how to beat the odds and make things better even when it seems like there is no hope.
Jay Blades talks about strength, weakness, and what it means to be a man in this book. He talks about how he grew up on a council estate in Hackney, where he was sheltered and innocent. When he was a teenager, he was exposed to violent racism at school, where he was beaten by police. Finally, he became a beloved star of the hit primetime show The Repair Shop.
He shows that with care and love, anything can be fixed. Jay’s positivity, pragmatism, and kindness shine through every single page of his book. Our interview with Jay is here. He tells us how hard work and “mistakes” have made him who he is today.
How to Make an Apple Pie from Scratch by Harry Cliff
If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you first have to make the universe. – Carl Sagan says this:
When Harry Cliff reads this line from Sagan, he decides to go on a quest to find the best apple pie recipe. He goes back in time to a tiny fraction of a second before our universe began to look for the ingredients that make up our universe. It’s a good book if you want to know what matter is made of, how our world came to be after the Big Bang, or what the first moments of our universe looked like.
The Sleeping Beauties by Suzanne O’Sullivan
They fall asleep for months and years at a time when refugee children go to sleep in Sweden. In upstate New York, high school students have seizures that are contagious. Employees at the US Embassy in Cuba say they get headaches and forget things when they hear noises in the night.
These different cases are some of the most interesting diagnostic mysteries of the twenty-first century, as both doctors and scientists have tried to understand them and, more important, find a way to treat them. When Suzanne O’Sullivan saw the sleeping refugee children in Sweden, she thought it was very moving. She decided to travel the world to see other communities that have been hit by so-called “mystery illnesses.”
Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man by Emmanuel Acho
As the host of the viral video series, Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man, he has written a book about race and racism that is very important. This book is about systemic racism and how to deal with it. All of the questions that many white people are afraid to ask, but which everyone needs to know now more than ever. Emmanuel Acho takes on all of these questions.
Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett
Lisa Feldman Barrett, a neuroscientist, writes seven short essays about that big gray blob between your ears. She talks about the brain’s origins and structure, as well as myths about the fight between thoughts and emotions, or between nature and nurture. The book is full of surprises, humor, and revelations about human nature. It’s sure to be interesting to both casual readers and people who know a lot about science.
It’s Not About the Burqa by Mariam Khan
She brings together the voices of seventeen Muslim women who live in the western world today to make a book about them. The women talk about everything from arranged marriage to queer identity, racism, and wavering faith. Each essay is a passionate call to end the oppression, misogyny, and Islamophobia that Muslim women face in western society. This is what the essays are about.
Bad Blood by John Carreyrou
What can you do with no knowledge, technology that doesn’t work, and an amazing sales pitch? This is the question we want to answer. Disturbingly far away. When a big company cheated, it was called Bad Blood. This is the story of that case. Tech start-up Theranos was valued at $9 billion because of its new medical technology before it was found out it was all a lie. Journalist John Carreyrou talks about the rise and fall of Theranos and how it all turned out to be a lie.