The 20 Best Nonfiction Books About Ideas


Given the choice, I would much rather read a book than watch a movie. That bias leads me to read a lot of books – an average of 1 per week over the last 3 years. Some are inspiring and change the way I view and think about the world while others are bland and mediocre.

This is my curated list of the best nonfiction books I’ve encountered. I’ve left off some of the mass-market books, like The Tipping Point, Freakonomics, The 7 Habits of Highly-Effective People, How to Win Friends and Influence People, etc. My assumption is that you’re literate enough to have read them already.

Top 5
The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz
The Innovator’s Solution by Clayton Christensen
Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson
The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferris

Extremely Good
Made to Stick by Dan Heath and Chip Heath
Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
Moonwalking With Einstein by Joshua Foer
The Big Short by Michael Lewis
The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki
The Long Tail by Chris Anderson
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
Naked Economics by Charles Wheelan

Pretty Good
Tell to Win by Peter Guber
Gang Leader for a Day by Sudhir Venkatesh
What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell
Free by Chris Anderson
First, Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman
The End of Poverty by Jeffrey Sachs
Jack: Straight from the Gut by Jack Welch

What books would you add to the list?

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  • Jeff Rosenbaugh March 2, 2012 at 9:44 am

    I’m a huge fan of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck. I found that I had quite a bit to learn for myself as an individual, as a leader in my organization, and as a future parent. It has it’s dry spots, but overall I enjoyed it.

  • Derek March 2, 2012 at 8:29 pm

    I’ve heard her name before, and given your recommendation I just requested it from the library.