Non-fiction books have always been an influential and thought-provoking aspect of our literary culture. In the 21st century, this trend continues with an abundance of truly remarkable non-fiction works that have impacted modern thought and culture. Here, we present a list of the top 15 non-fiction books of the 21st century.
The Impact of Non-Fiction Books in the 21st Century
The role of non-fiction books in shaping modern thought and culture can hardly be understated. These powerful books have influenced social and political change, driven cultural trends, and provided insight into some of the most pressing issues of our time.
Shaping Modern Thought and Culture
The books on this list have gone beyond traditional narratives and have provided new insights into historical, cultural, and social issues of our modern age. They have challenged old beliefs and provided a new perspective through vigorous research and analysis.
One such book is “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari. This book explores the history of our species, from the emergence of Homo sapiens in Africa to the present day. Harari challenges the traditional narrative of human history and provides a new perspective on our evolution and development as a species. His analysis of the cognitive, agricultural, and scientific revolutions has had a profound impact on our understanding of human history and culture.
Another book that has shaped modern thought is “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot. This book tells the story of Henrietta Lacks, an African American woman whose cancer cells were taken without her knowledge or consent in 1951. These cells, known as HeLa cells, have been used in countless scientific experiments and have led to numerous medical breakthroughs. Skloot’s book raises important questions about medical ethics, informed consent, and the exploitation of marginalized communities in scientific research.
Influencing Social and Political Change
These books have also been instrumental in effecting social and political change. By raising awareness, they have brought about new policies and reforms that have moved society forward. They have given a voice to marginalized groups, shed light on injustices, and inspired positive change.
“The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” by Michelle Alexander is one such book. This groundbreaking work explores the racial disparities in the criminal justice system and argues that the system functions as a new form of racial control. Alexander’s book has sparked a national conversation about mass incarceration and has led to important policy changes, such as the legalization of marijuana and the reduction of mandatory minimum sentences.
“Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson
Another book that has influenced social and political change is “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson. This book, published in 1962, exposed the dangers of pesticides and their impact on the environment. Carson’s work led to the banning of DDT and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. Her book is widely credited with launching the modern environmental movement and inspiring a new generation of activists.
Non-fiction books have had a profound impact on our culture and society. They have challenged our assumptions, raised our awareness, and inspired us to take action. As we move forward into the 21st century, these books will continue to shape our understanding of the world and our place in it.
Criteria for Selecting the Best Non-Fiction Books
The books featured on this list were chosen based on various criteria. Cultural significance, critical acclaim, reader reviews, and ratings all played a role in their selection. Above all, they are works that have stood the test of time and continue to be relevant today.
Books that offer an accurate and in-depth look at various cultures have always been valuable in understanding the world around us. The books on this list provide insight into the diverse and varied cultures that make up our world.
“The Autobiography of Malcolm X” by Alex Haley and Malcolm X
For example, “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” by Alex Haley and Malcolm X is a powerful memoir that explores the life and experiences of one of the most influential African American leaders in history. Through his personal account, readers gain a deeper understanding of the struggles and triumphs of the Civil Rights Movement.
“The Joy Luck Club” by Amy Tan
“The Joy Luck Club” by Amy Tan is another book that offers a unique perspective on culture. The novel follows the lives of four Chinese immigrant mothers and their American-born daughters, exploring the complex relationships between the two generations and the cultural differences that often create tension.
Books that receive critical acclaim are recognized for their exceptional writing, meticulous research, and unique perspective. The books on this list have earned critical acclaim, garnering numerous awards and accolades from literary critics and organizations.
“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot is a prime example of a book that has received critical acclaim. The non-fiction work tells the story of Henrietta Lacks, an African American woman whose cancer cells were taken without her knowledge and used for scientific research. Skloot’s writing is engaging and informative, and the book has won numerous awards, including the National Academies Communication Award and the Wellcome Trust Book Prize.
“The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History” by Elizabeth Kolbert is another book that has received critical acclaim. The non-fiction work explores the current mass extinction of species and its causes, offering a sobering look at the impact of human activity on the planet. The book has won numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction.
Reader Reviews and Ratings
Reader reviews and ratings offer insight into the appeal and impact of a book. The books on this list have received glowing reviews and high ratings from readers. They are books that have resonated with people and have left a lasting impression.
“The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls
“The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls is a memoir that has touched the hearts of many readers. The book tells the story of Walls’ unconventional upbringing with her dysfunctional family, offering a poignant and often humorous look at the complexities of family relationships. The book has received high ratings on Goodreads and has been a New York Times Bestseller for over seven years.
“Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer
“Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer is another book that has received high ratings from readers. The non-fiction work recounts Krakauer’s experience climbing Mount Everest during the disastrous 1996 season, in which eight climbers died. The book is a gripping and harrowing account of the dangers of high-altitude mountaineering and has been praised for its vivid and engaging writing style.
The Top 10 Non-Fiction Books
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
Michelle Alexander’s seminal work, The New Jim Crow, explores the ramifications of mass incarceration on racial injustices in America. It highlights how the US criminal justice system perpetuates racial inequality and social injustice. The New Jim Crow was a finalist for the National Book Award and won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work in Non-Fiction.
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
In Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari provides a brief yet comprehensive history of homo sapiens. He explores how we have evolved and developed as a species, from early beginnings to modern times. Sapiens also examines the critical issues facing us today, including the development of technology and its impact on our future. Sapiens won the National Library of China’s Wenjin Book Award.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks tells the remarkable story of Henrietta Lacks, whose cancer cells were taken without her knowledge or consent in 1951 and became the foundation for countless scientific breakthroughs. Skloot also delves into the ethical and moral implications of medical research and race. The book won the 2010 Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize for Non-Fiction.
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson
The Warmth of Other Suns documents the experiences of three African Americans who left the Jim Crow South to create new lives for themselves in the North and West during the eight decades-long Great Migration. Wilkerson’s work reminds us of the power and resilience of the human spirit and is a testament to the strength of African American culture. The book won the National Book Critics Circle Award.
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Ta-Nehisi Coates’ landmark work, Between the World and Me, is written as a letter to his adolescent son. He shares his personal experiences of being black in America and the ways in which America’s social and political systems keep black people oppressed. Between the World and Me won the 2015 National Book Award for Non-Fiction, the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, and the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work in Non-Fiction.
The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert
In The Sixth Extinction, Elizabeth Kolbert examines the mass extinctions that have taken place throughout history and the current state of the Earth’s ecosystems. She provides a sobering account of the environmental impact of human activities and the urgent need for conservation efforts. The Sixth Extinction won the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction.
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
In Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson recounts his work as a lawyer defending those on death row and his efforts to reform America’s criminal justice system. The book highlights the institutional racism that afflicts the justice system and Stevenson’s attempt to promote social justice. Just Mercy was a New York Times bestseller and was named one of the best books of the year by several publications.
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond
Evicted is an immersive investigation into the lives of eight Milwaukee families struggling to keep a roof over their heads. The book examines the practices of landlords, the impact of eviction on families, and the cycle of poverty created by America’s housing crisis. Evicted won the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction.
Educated by Tara Westover
Educated is a memoir by Tara Westover that recounts her upbringing in a strict and oppressive household in rural Idaho. Despite lacking a formal education, Westover pursues a path that leads her to Harvard and Cambridge University. Educated is a moving account of one woman’s determination to break free from the constraints of her upbringing and achieve her dreams.
Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance
J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy is a personal memoir that explores the decline of the white working class in America. Vance reflects on his upbringing in the Appalachian region and provides insight into the cultural and economic challenges facing many working-class Americans. Hillbilly Elegy was a New York Times bestseller and was named one of the best books of the year by multiple publications.
Each of the books featured on this list has shaped modern thought and culture in their unique ways. They have provided insight into diverse cultures, brought about new policies and reforms, and challenged old beliefs. They are all works that have stood the test of time and will continue to influence society for years to come.
Yuval Noah Harari, Stephen Fry, Stephen Hawking, Bill Bryson, and Brian Cox are all brilliant non-fiction writers spanning genres from anthropology to astronomy.
What are the best non-fiction books written in the 21st century?
Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari, The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee, and The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander are all hugely popular non-fiction books written in the 21st century.
Why is it better to read non-fiction books than fictional books?
Non-fiction helps you to learn more about the world, develop analytical thinking, and understand how concepts, scientific theories, and historical timelines work.