Yesterday, The Guardian released a list of the 100 greatest nonfiction books to coincide with the release of the shortlist for the BBC’s Samuel Johnson Prize for Nonfiction, and it’s bound to ruffle some feathers. They’ve divided up the books into 17 categories, from Art to Travel, with a few ostensibly divisive entries thrown in (e.g., the only book in the “mind” category is Sigmund Freud’s 1899 opus, The Interpretation of Dreams). We’ve chosen our favorites from the bunch and included them below, though not without hemming and hawing before we made our decision. Should we include the most popular books — those that have impacted the most lives or changed the course of history? Or should we include those that were written with the most skill, though they might be less loved? In the end, we decided on a mix of the two, though we realize they aren’t always mutually exclusive. If you’d like to weigh in, then follow this link to nominate a book you think has been unjustly omitted from the list, and see our choices after the jump.
The Histories by Herodotus (400 BCE)
This is where it all begins — the first known historian to collect information, shape it, and then create a narrative around it. In the Histories Herodotus tackles the Greco-Persian Wars — which can be blamed on Cyrus the Great and his henchmen, if you want to go around pointing fingers. (We’re sure the Persians would disagree, however.) Enter the age of long form narrative nonfiction.