100 easiest to think of off the top of his head

Oh goody, a list. On the other hand it’s a pretty odd list. It’s Robert McCrum’s choice for The 100 best nonfiction books of all time – in English, though that’s not stated, and the last one is the bible which was not written in English. But that’s the only translation as far as I could tell, unless Popper wrote The Open Society in German, which I don’t think he did.

But McCrum includes poetry and drama in non-fiction, which seems like cheating. It lets him include the First Folio, which by all means, but non-fiction, really?

Anyway the contemporary and modern choices seem pretty meh to me – more most popular or most familiar than best. Naomi Klein’s No Logo? Top 100 of all time? Come on. And the Oliver Sacks book that was translated into a movie, when there are others that are such gems.

22. A Grief Observed by CS Lewis (1961)
This powerful study of loss asks: “Where is God?” and explores the feeling of solitude and sense of betrayal that even non-believers will recognise.

23. The Elements of Style by William Strunk and EB White (1959)
Dorothy Parker and Stephen King have both urged aspiring writers towards this crisp guide to the English language where brevity is key.

No no no.

41. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie (1936)
The original self-help manual on American life – with its influence stretching from the Great Depression to Donald Trump – has a lot to answer for.

Indeed, but that doesn’t make it one of the best.

73. Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb (1807)
A troubled brother-and-sister team produced one of the 19th century’s bestselling volumes and simplified the complexity of Shakespeare’s plays for younger audiences.

Again, doesn’t make it a best.

93. Hydriotaphia, Urn Burial, or A Brief Discourse of the Sepulchral Urns Lately Found in Norfolk by Sir Thomas Browne (1658)
Browne earned his reputation as a “writer’s writer” with this dazzling short essay on burial customs.

Now you’re talking. Urn Burial is extraordinary. You can find it online, too, and it’s not really a book, more a long essay.

100. King James Bible: The Authorised Version (1611)
It is impossible to imagine the English-speaking world celebrated in this series without the King James Bible, which is as universal and influential as Shakespeare.

But it’s hardly non-fiction now is it?!

Got any nominees?

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