The Guardian’s 100 greatest non-fiction books

51m isOxoL SL500 AA266 PIkin3 BottomRight 23 34 AA300 SH20 OU01I wonder how many of them are in ebook format. I guess I’ll find out as I go searching. Here’s part of the list. You can find the full 100 here.

Travel

The Travels of Ibn Battuta by Ibn Battuta (1355)
The Arab world’s greatest medieval traveller sets down his memories of journeys throughout the known world and beyond

Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain (1869)
Twain’s tongue-in-cheek account of his European adventures was an immediate bestseller

Black Lamb and Grey Falcon by Rebecca West (1941)
A six-week trip to Yugoslavia provides the backbone for this monumental study of Balkan history

Venice by Jan Morris (1960)
An eccentric but learned guide to the great city’s art, history, culture and people

A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor (1977)
The first volume of Leigh Fermor’s journey on foot through Europe – a glowing evocation of youth, memory and history

Danube by Claudio Magris (1986)
Magris mixes travel, history, anecdote and literature as he tracks the Danube from its source to the sea

China Along the Yellow River by Cao Jinqing (1995)
A pioneering work of Chinese sociology, exploring modern China with a modern face

The Rings of Saturn by WG Sebald (1995)
A walking tour in East Anglia becomes a melancholy meditation on transience and decay

Passage to Juneau by Jonathan Raban (2000)
Raban sets off in a 35ft ketch on a voyage from Seattle to Alaska, exploring Native American art, the Romantic imagination and his own disintegrating relationship along the way

Letters to a Young Novelist by Mario Vargas Llosa (2002)
Vargas Llosa distils a lifetime of reading and writing into a manual of the writer’s craft

1 Comment on The Guardian’s 100 greatest non-fiction books

  1. That list is more revealing as to the nature of its authors than as to the intrinsic worthiness of the titles – especially in what they left out.

    Of course there are quite a few of these I have not read, and have no intention to. Studying philosophy gave me enough Hegel to last a lifetime. Trust me on this, Hegel’s Phenomenology of Mind is good for insomnia relief and little else.

    How to deal with this reality of unread ‘masterpieces’? Some helpful hints from a discussion I shamelessly lifted from a slate discussion eons ago.

    In the case of the “great books I haven’t read” game, there are several obvious strategies:

    The inevitable subtext of any “confession” parlor game, including this one, is the competition to come up with the “confession” that actually reflects most flatteringly on the confessor.

    –The boast-rephrased-as-a-confession: “Although I’ve made it through all his other works, I just can’t seem to get much beyond the first two-thirds of Joyce’s ‘Finnegan’s Wake’ without getting bogged down.”

    –The confession of monstrous erudition: “I have been told that Rainis is the one Latvian poet I really should read, but his work is just so, well, stuffy…”

    –The confession of taste slightly more rarefied than yours: “I recall hearing raves about Remains of the Day, but thirty pages into it, I remember thinking, ‘reads like a Masterpiece Theater script’ and chucking it away. Now I’m embarrassed to say I don’t even know whatever became of that stupid butler.”

    –The confession of a callow youth long past: “It took me forever to appreciate Proust. For most of my life, I thought him a tiresome, self-absorbed pervert with logorrhea, and couldn’t be bothered to read past the first madeleine. Now, of course, I zip through the whole series every summer at the cottage, and it’s the highlight of my vacation.”

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