Required Reading: Nonfiction Books

The very word nonfiction defines some literature by what it is not. But often such books, including these 10, changed minds and lives

  • Share
  • Read Later

THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MALCOLM X (1965) His account of his evolution from Malcolm Little, criminal, to Malcolm X, charismatic black militant leader, appeared shortly after his assassination. At once an unsparing confession and spiritual quest, the book tells a haunting tale of racial persecution and rebirth.

CIVILIZATION AND ITS DISCONTENTS (1930) In this late summation of his life's work, Sigmund Freud set out to explain why people living in happily ordered public groups can be so miserable in private. The answer, elegantly argued, is that societies thrive by curbing the hungers of individual egos. Hence anger and feelings of guilt; and hence psychoanalysis.

THE COMMON SENSE BOOK OF BABY AND CHILD CARE (1946) Dr. Benjamin Spock, a Manhattan pediatrician, wrote down what he had learned from his practice and launched an upheaval in how parents rear children. His advice on how to value love over rules went on to sell 50 million copies and earned him, unfairly, blame as the "permissive" father of the '60s' youthful demonstrators.

DEMOCRACY AND EDUCATION (1916) John Dewey's argument that an evolving democracy required a new way of teaching its future citizens became one of the most influential and controversial theories of the century. Out with old methods of rote learning; in with practical problem solving and learning by doing. The classroom debate continues.

THE DIARY OF A YOUNG GIRL (1947) Anne Frank was barely 13 when she began writing her private thoughts; she was hiding from the Nazis in an Amsterdam attic along with her parents, her sister and four other people. Two years later, all were captured. Frank did not survive, but her book did--discovered after the war. In its translations and adaptations, it became the best-known personal memoir of the Holocaust years.

THE GENERAL THEORY OF EMPLOYMENT, INTEREST AND MONEY (1936) This study was John Maynard Keynes' major work. Not intended for the public, it had vast public consequences. By positing that government spending could revive sagging economies, Keynes rewrote the rules of free-market capitalism.

THE GULAG ARCHIPELAGO (1974) Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's massive account of Stalinist terrors, some of it written in the first person, made headlines in the West when its existence became known. It was the most authoritative indictment of the Soviet system ever published, and it came from within the U.S.S.R. The author was expelled.

THE OTHER AMERICA (1962) Michael Harrington's report of ingrained, persistent poverty beneath the affluent surface of U.S. life raised a problem that many of his readers thought had long been solved. Among those readers was President John F. Kennedy, who proposed that the nation's poor needed federal help. Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty was launched by Harrington's book.

THE SECOND SEX (1949) Originally published in France, Simone de Beauvoir's philosophical treatise on the condition of women in modern life contended, among other things, that gender is largely a social and political definition and thus capable of being altered. This idea quickly became an inspiration and rallying cry for nascent feminists everywhere.

  1. Previous Page
  2. 1
  3. 2