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25 Best Nonfiction Books of All Time According to Mark Manson

Updated: Aug 31, 2023

Have you read any of these books and what are your thoughts on them?

In this article, we’ll delve into a handpicked list of 25 phenomenal nonfiction books that have left an indelible mark on Mark Manson.

I’ll provide a short summary on the book and my favourite quote from it :)

Affiliate Disclaimer: This post features Amazon affiliate links, which means I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase through these links.

Step into the world of Michel de Montaigne, a master of introspection and reflection. His essays, written over four centuries ago, remain a testament to the enduring questions of human nature, inviting readers to ponder their own thoughts and emotions.

“He who fears he shall suffer, already suffers what he fears.”― Michel de Montaigne, The Complete Essays

Freud's exploration of the human psyche and its intersection with societal norms offers a thought-provoking examination of the tensions between individual desires and the demands of civilization. Delve into the depths of human consciousness and the intricate interplay between pleasure, aggression, and culture.

“Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.”― Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents

Henry David Thoreau's experiment in simple living at Walden Pond takes readers on a transcendental journey, urging us to reconnect with nature, question materialism, and contemplate the true essence of a meaningful existence.

“I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.”― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Niccolò Machiavelli's enduring treatise on politics and leadership provides a stark look at the strategies and tactics necessary for wielding power. Beyond its reputation for ruthlessness, the book raises profound questions about the ethical boundaries of governance.

“There is no other way to guard yourself against flattery than by making men understand that telling you the truth will not offend you.”― Machiavelli Niccolo, The Prince

Embark on a panoramic exploration of the human past with the Durants as your guides. This concise yet profound work distills the lessons of history, enabling us to perceive patterns and understand the forces that have shaped civilizations.

“you can’t fool all the people all the time,” but you can fool enough of them to rule a large country.”― Will Durant, The Lessons of History

Maya Angelou's memoir is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity. Through her eloquent prose, she chronicles her experiences with racism, trauma, and self-discovery, ultimately celebrating the power of hope and healing.

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”― Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Anne Frank's poignant diary offers an intimate glimpse into her life in hiding during the Holocaust. Her words become a haunting reminder of the atrocities of war and a testament to the enduring strength of the human soul.

“It's really a wonder that I haven't dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”― Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl

Ernest Becker's groundbreaking work explores the profound impact of mortality on human psychology and culture. It delves into the ways in which our awareness of death shapes our motivations, beliefs, and actions.

“The road to creativity passes so close to the madhouse and often detours or ends there.”― Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death

Viktor Frankl's deeply moving memoir captures his experiences as a Holocaust survivor and his subsequent development of logotherapy. He reveals how finding meaning in suffering can offer a sense of purpose and resilience even in the darkest of times.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”― Viktor E. Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning

Douglas Hofstadter's intricate tapestry of mathematics, art, and music takes readers on a mind-bending journey. Exploring the nature of creativity, intelligence, and self-reference, the book challenges our understanding of consciousness and cognition.

''Perhaps the greatest contradiction in our lives, the hardest to handle, is the knowledge 'There was a time when I was not alive, and there will come a time when I am not alive.' On one level, when you 'step out of yourself' and see yourself as 'just another human being', it makes complete sense. But on another level, perhaps a deeper level, personal nonexistence makes no sense at all. All that we know is embedded inside our minds, and for all that to be absent from the universe is not comprehensible. This is a basic undeniable problem of life...”― Douglas Hofstadter, Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid

In this timeless classic of popular science, Stephen Hawking elucidates complex cosmological concepts, from the origins of the universe to the nature of black holes, making astrophysics accessible and captivating for all.

“There could be whole antiworlds and antipeople made out of antiparticles. However, if you meet your antiself, don’t shake hands! You would both vanish in a great flash of light.”― Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time

William Shirer's monumental work meticulously chronicles the ascent and ultimate collapse of Nazi Germany. Through detailed historical analysis, the book offers profound insights into the fragility of democracy and the consequences of unchecked power.

“No class or group or party in Germany could escape its share of responsibility for the abandonment of the democratic Republic and the advent of Adolf Hitler. The cardinal error of the Germans who opposed Nazism was their failure to unite against it.”― William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany

Dive into the life and influence of Robert Moses, the mastermind behind modern New York City. Caro's gripping biography delves into the intersections of politics, urban planning, and power, shaping the very landscape of a metropolis.

“Hospitality has always been a potent political weapon. Moses used it like a master. Coupled with his overpowering personality, a buffet often did as much for a proposal as a bribe.”― Robert A. Caro, The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York

Richard Dawkins introduces the revolutionary concept of gene-centered evolution, challenging conventional notions of altruism and illuminating the role of genes in shaping behavior and adaptation.

“Let us try to teach generosity and altruism, because we are born selfish. Let us understand what our own selfish genes are up to, because we may then at least have the chance to upset their designs, something that no other species has ever aspired to do.”― Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene

Yuval Noah Harari takes us on a sweeping journey through the history of Homo sapiens, from our origins as hunter-gatherers to the complex societies and technological advancements that define our modern world.

“You could never convince a monkey to give you a banana by promising him limitless bananas after death in monkey heaven.”― Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Elizabeth Kolbert's meticulously researched work warns of the current mass extinction event caused by human activity. It highlights the urgent need for environmental awareness and action to preserve the planet's biodiversity.

“Though it might be nice to imagine there once was a time when man lived in harmony with nature, it’s not clear that he ever really did.”― Elizabeth Kolbert, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History

Elie Wiesel's searing memoir recounts his experiences as a Holocaust survivor, bearing witness to the unspeakable atrocities of genocide while also showcasing the indomitable strength of the human spirit.

Behind me, I heard the same man asking:

"For God's sake, where is God?" And from within me, I heard a voice answer: "Where He is? This is where--hanging here from this gallows..." That night, the soup tasted of corpses.” ― Elie Wiesel, Night

Bill Bryson embarks on a captivating journey through the annals of science, unraveling the mysteries of the universe, the Earth's history, and the intricate tapestry of life.

“Not one of your pertinent ancestors was squashed, devoured, drowned, starved, stranded, stuck fast, untimely wounded, or otherwise deflected from its life's quest of delivering a tiny charge of genetic material to the right partner at the right moment in order to perpetuate the only possible sequence of hereditary combinations that could result -- eventually, astoundingly, and all too briefly -- in you.”― Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything

Joan Didion's raw and candid memoir navigates the labyrinthine landscape of grief and loss. With emotional depth and intellectual acuity, she explores the complexities of mourning and the resilience of the human heart.

“A single person is missing for you, and the whole world is empty.”― Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking

Katherine Boo's immersive narrative takes readers to the heart of a Mumbai slum, shedding light on the lives, dreams, and struggles of individuals striving for a better future amidst the stark disparities of a modern city.

“Much of what was said did not matter, and that much of what mattered could not be said.”― Katherine Boo, Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity

John Hershey's poignant account of the aftermath of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima offers a deeply human perspective on the devastating impact of war and the enduring ethical questions surrounding its use.

“...their faces were wholly burned, their eyesockets were hollow, the fluid from their melted eyes had run down their cheeks.”― John Hersey, Hiroshima

Stephen Greenblatt traces the intellectual odyssey that led to the rediscovery of an ancient Roman manuscript, sparking the Renaissance and shaping the modern world's cultural and intellectual landscape.

“The greatest obstacle to pleasure is not pain; it is delusion.”― Stephen Greenblatt, The Swerve: How the World Became Modern

Truman Capote's genre-defying work combines journalistic rigor with narrative finesse as it delves into the chilling true story of a gruesome murder and its ripple effects through a community.

“As long as you live, there's always something waiting; and even if it's bad, and you know it's bad, what can you do? You can't stop living.”― Truman Capote, In Cold Blood

Alfred Lansing's gripping narrative recounts Ernest Shackleton's Antarctic expedition and the incredible feats of human endurance and resilience displayed by the crew in the face of unimaginable challenges.

“No matter what the odds, a man does not pin his last hope for survival on something and then expect that it will fail.”― Alfred Lansing, Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage

Simone de Beauvoir's groundbreaking feminist manifesto critically examines the societal constructs that have shaped women's roles, identities, and autonomy, paving the way for discussions on gender equality and liberation.

“Women's mutual understanding comes from the fact that they identify themselves with each other; but for the same reason each is against the others.”― Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex


If you enjoyed these book recommendations, check out more similar list on my on my blog —


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