60 Non-Fiction Books Every Educated Person Should Read
30 Books a Well-Rounded Person Should Read (Non-Fiction) Book Recommendations

60 Non-Fiction Books Every Educated Person Should Read

If you’re interested in being considered “well-read,” you probably already know that breadth is more important than depth.

The following list covers 60 books spanning topics like Science, History, Business & Money, Politics & Government, Social Sciences, Biography, and Philosophy.

These are books that will make you a well-rounded person, and many of them are even worth reading more than once.

This list is by no means complete. Visitors of this site are among the biggest readers of leather-bound books. So I’m sure there are other books worthy of being mentioned that I’ve missed. Make sure to add your own picks in the comments section.

Here is our list of 60 non-fiction books to make yourself a more well-rounded reader.

Social Sciences

1. How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Notable Quote:

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

2. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini

Influence, New and Expanded: The Psychology of Persuasion

Notable Quote:

“The way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost.”

3. You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You’re Deluding Yourself by David McRaney

You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, an d 46 Other Ways You're Deluding Yourself by [David McRaney]

Notable Quote:

“You want to believe that those who work hard and sacrifice get ahead and those who are lazy and cheat do not. This, of course, is not always true. Success is often greatly influenced by when you were born, where you grew up, the socioeconomic status of your family, and random chance.”

4. Wayfinding: The Art and Science of How We Find and Lose Our Way by Michael Bond

Notable Quote:

Wayfinding is a psychological assessment of what happens when we are lost – not deliberately lost, but really lost – and how people make decisions – rational and mostly irrational – in order to find their way home

5. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

Notable Quote:

“Superbly researched, deeply insightful, and a fascinating read, Quiet is an indispensable resource for anyone who wants to understand the gifts of the introverted half of the population.”

6. The Soul of Black Folk by W. E. B. Du Bois

The Souls of Black Folk

Notable Quote:

“Du Bois is the brook of fire through which we all must pass in order to gain access to the intellectual and political weaponry needed to sustain the radical democratic tradition in our time.”

7. The Colour of Madness: Mental Health and Race in Technicolour by Samara Linton and Rianna Walcott

Notable Quote:

“Full of beauty, pain, hope, sadness, humor, and a profound sense of power, this essential text captures the experience of mental health challenges for people of color in their own words, through a simply stunning collection of poetry, story, and art.”

Business & Money

8. The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason

Notable Quote:

“A part of all you earn is yours to keep.”

9. The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham

Notable Quote:

“The intelligent investor is a realist who sells to optimists and buys from pessimists.”

10. The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy by Thomas J. Stanley

Notable Quote:

“Whatever your income, always live below your means.”

11. The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith

Notable Quote:

“The most decisive mark of the prosperity of any country is the increase of the number of its inhabitants.”

12. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Notable Quote:

“A reliable way to make people believe in falsehoods is frequent repetition, because familiarity is not easily distinguished from truth. Authoritarian institutions and marketers have always known this fact.”

13. Think Like a Breadwinner: A Wealth-Building Manifesto for Women Who Want to Earn More (and Worry Less) by Jennifer Barrett

Think Like a Breadwinner: A Wealth-Building Manifesto for Women Who Want to Earn More (and Worry Less) by [Jennifer Barrett]

Notable Quote:

“Think Like a Breadwinner is the roadmap women need to take charge of their financial futures. Jennifer Barrett empowers readers to be unabashedly confident while getting smart about their money behaviors, ultimately unlocking their fullest potentials and wildest dreams.”

14. Money in One Lesson: How it Works and Why by Gavin Jackson

Notable Quote:

“A highly illuminating, well-researched and beautifully written book on one of humanity’s most important innovations. People both love and hate money. But mostly, they fail to understand it. Such ignorance is not bliss. Happily, this book will go far to cure it.”


15. A Little History of the World by E. H. Gombrich

Notable Quote:

“If you want to do anything new you must first make sure you know what people have tried before.”

16. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared M. Diamond

Notable Quote:

“Much of human history has consisted of unequal conflicts between the haves and the have-nots.”

17. A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn

Notable Quote:

“The memory of oppressed people is one thing that cannot be taken away, and for such people, with such memories, revolt is always an inch below the surface.”

18. Tutankhamun’s Trumpet: Ancient Egypt in 100 Objects from the Boy-King’s Tomb by Toby Wilkinson

Notable Quote:

“The cleverness of the book lies in how individual grave goods are used to crack open the mindset of a civilisation… This book thrums with life. To the ancient Egyptians, a pharaoh’s tomb was a ‘resurrection machine’ and, in a sense, they were right. The dead cannot be resurrected but, through the artefacts they used, we can sense the lives they lived. I’ve read many books on ancient Egypt, but I’ve never felt closer to its people.”

19. The Last Days of Hitler: The Classic Account of Hitler’s Fall From Power by Hugh Trevor Roper

Notable Quote:

”Brilliantly written and researched, it remains the most vivid account of the final Wagnerian chapter of Hitler’s tyranny.”

20. Ten Days that Shook the World by John Reed

Notable Quote:

“Reed’s work, though, is an astonishingly fortuitous eyewitness account and is a great place to start understanding the most momentous event of the 20th Century.”

21. The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon

The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

Notable Quote:

“A wonderful, splendid book—a book that should be read by every American, student or otherwise, who wants to understand his country, its true history, and its hope for the future.”


22. A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

Notable Quote:

“We now know that our galaxy is only one of some hundred thousand million that can be seen using modern telescopes, each galaxy itself containing some hundred thousand million stars.”

23. The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin

Notable Quote:

“This preservation of favorable variations and the rejection of injurious variations, I call Natural Selection.”

24. A (very) Short History of Life on Earth: 4.6 Billion Years in Pithy Chapters by Henry Gee

Notable Quote:

“A scintillating, fast-paced waltz through four billion years of evolution, from one of our leading science writers. As a senior editor at Nature, Henry Gee has had a front-row seat to the most important fossil discoveries of the last quarter century. His poetic prose animates the history of life, from the first bacteria to trilobites to dinosaurs to us”

25. A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

Notable Quote:

“It is a curious feature of our existance that we come from a planet that is very good at promoting life but even better at extinguishing it.”

26. The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA by James D. Watson Ph.D.

Notable Quote:

“In the end, though, science is what matters; scientists not a bit.”

27. Seven And A Half Lessons About The Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett

Notable Quote:

“A deeply researched, compulsively readable, subtly philosophical tour through the human brain…. In just a few pages, Barrett dispels myths so deeply entrenched that many of us assumed they were indisputable scientific fact. And she does all of this with the effortless concision of a poet, not a word wasted…. Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain deserves to be read and re-read and then, just as important, to be thought about deeply.”

28. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas S. Huhn

Notable Quote:

““Truth emerges more readily from error than from confusion.”

29. The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee

Notable Quote:

“A meticulously researched, panoramic history . . . What makes Mukherjee’s narrative so remarkable is that he imbues decades of painstaking laboratory investigation with the suspense of a mystery novel and urgency of a thriller. . . . He possesses a striking gift for carving some of science’s most abstruse concepts into forms as easily understood and reconfigured as a child’s wooden blocks.”

30. The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Notable Quote:

“‘One of the most graceful and moving non-fiction books I’ve read in a very long time’ Dwight Garner, New York Times ‘Skloot’s book is wonderful – deeply felt, gracefully written, sharply reported. It is a story about science but, much more, about life.’ Susan Orlean, author of The Orchid Thief”


31. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin

Notable Quote:

“As a child I was fond of reading, and all the little money that came into my hands was ever laid out in books.”

32. Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Notable Quote:

“In order to ‘win a man to your cause,’ Lincoln explained, you must first reach his heart, ‘the great high road to his reason.’”

33. Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson

Notable Quote:

“The value of a college education is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think”

34. The Diary of a Young Girl by Ann Frank

Notable Quote:

“I don’t think of all the misery but of the beauty that still remains.”

35. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass

Notable Quote:

“You have seen how a man was made a slave; you shall see how a slave was made a man.”

36. Brown Baby: A Memoir of Race, Family and Home by Nikesh Shukla

Notable Quote:

“Brown Baby is a beautifully intimate and soul-searching memoir. It speaks to the heart and the mind and bears witness to our turbulent times.”

37. This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Young Doctor by Adam Kay

Notable Quote:

“This book is heartbreaking, hilarious, and truly important. I believe in its humanity, its spirit, and its conscience. The best doctor’s visit you will ever have” 

Politics & Government

38. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli

Notable Quote:

“A prudent man should always follow in the path trodden by great men and imitate those who are most excellent, so that if he does not attain to their greatness, at any rate he will get some tinge of it.”

39. The Rights of Man by Thomas Paine

Notable Quote:

“Whatever is my right as a man is also the right of another; and it becomes my duty to guarantee as well as to possess.”

40. The Social Contract by Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Notable Quote:

“Liberty may be gained, but can never be recovered.”

41. The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels

Notable Quote:

“Political power, properly so called, is merely the organised power of one class for oppressing another.”

42. Orientalism by Edward W. Said 

Notable Quote:

“A groundbreaking critique of the West’s historical, cultural, and political perceptions of the East that is – three decades after its first publication – one of the most important books written about our divided world” 


43. The Republic by Plato

Notable Quote:

“I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing.”

44. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig

Notable Quote:

“Some things you miss because they’re so tiny you overlook them. But some things you don’t see because they’re so huge.”

45. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

Notable Quote:

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

46. The Book of Minds: How to Understand Ourselves and Other Beings from Animals to AI to Aliens by Philip Ball

Notable Quote:

“A journey into the concept of the mind, mixing neurology, philosophy, technology, and other disciplines. Although everyone has a mind, few experts agree on its makeup. Ball delivers a fine investigation of the possibilities… Many of his topics are among the hottest in neuroscience today, explored by scores of academics and popularizers such as Oliver Sacks, Antonio Damasio, and Daniel Dennett. Building on their theories and others, Ball makes a useful addition to the literature. A difficult subject lucidly illuminated, if not fully explained.”  

47. The Psychology of Stupidity by Jean-Francois Marmion (Editor)

Notable Quote:

“A comprehensive and witty inquiry into human folly in its myriads form … with a wealth of insights… Urgent and transformative, this compendium will leave readers equally amused, appalled, and enlightened.”


48. No Friends but the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison by Behrouz Boochani

Notable Quote:

“As war, crime, famine, and civil disruption result in growing numbers of asylum seekers, Boochani’s deeply disturbing memoir introduces readers to hard realities and reveals the wounded hearts of captors and prisoners alike.”

49. The Happiest Man on Earth: The Beautiful Life of an Auschwitz Survivor by Eddie Jaku

Notable Quote:

“A beautifully told, poignant story that should become required reading. Thank you, Eddie, for sharing your story of courage, resilience, kindness, and love. Your book is our tonic, our medicine, our hope for living the happiest life we can.”

50. Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds by David Goggins

Notable Quote:

 “By the time you finish David Goggins’s new book, you’ll have kicked your victim mentality in the butt. Where you go from there is entirely up to you–as Goggins makes clear in this entertaining and poignant memoir cum inspirational how-to. As the man with a hole in his heart tells you, there are no excuses in life, only reasons to try harder.”

51. The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told by Alex Haley

Notable Quote:

“This is one of the most interesting most influential books that had ever been created.”


52. A Bigger Picture: My Fight to Bring a New African Voice to the Climate Crisis by Vanessa Nakate

Notable Quote:

“This is a wonderful story, wonderfully told! Vanessa Nakate is a crucial climate leader, reminding us of one of the iron laws of global warming: the less you did to cause it, the sooner and harder you get hit. Thank heaven her voice will echo far and wide, and down through the years.”

53. Green Living Made Easy: 101 Eco Tips, Hacks and Recipes to Save Time and Money by Nancy Birtwhistle

Notable Quote:

“Finally, an eco-friendly home guide that’s relatable, and we can all follow.”

54. The Natural History of Selbourne by Gilbert White

Notable Quote:

This is the book that inspired Darwin to explore and describe the natural world.

55. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson

Notable Quote:

“It takes a strong writer with a very clear view ( back in the early 60’s) to make a very sciency topic into a gripping read. Ms. Carson broke down a complex scientific relationship between chemicals and the welfare of the planet and those of us who live here.. All of us, down to the microbes…”


56. The Art of War by Sun Tzu

Notable Quote:

“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”

57. Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution by Steven Levy

Notable Quote:

“Systems are organic, living creations: if people stop working on them and improving them, they die.”

58. The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer

Notable Quote:

“Like a woman, this book gets better with age. Greer’s punchy prose and all-too-true observations motivate you to go out and do something to liberate yourself-and other women.”

59. The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr.

Notable Quote:

“Omit needless words.”

60. Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom by Nik Cohn

Notable Quote:

“This is probably the first attempt to write a history of rock, yet it never seems to get cited by other histories. It deserves to be. It is a gem, full of fascinating observations of where rock was at in the 1960s from an English perspective, and by the author of course of the story that led to Saturday Night Fever. This is an absolute treat.”


The 60 books above are some of the best non-fiction works that every educated person should read. The collection, which spans centuries of great writing, ranges from political exposes to inspirational autobiographies and more. With a wide range of topics, you are sure to find something that interests you.

What books did we miss that you would include? Let us know in the comments…

If you want to read some or all of these books, you should learn to read faster and more efficiently by enrolling in an Iris Reading course today!

Iris Reading is the largest and most trusted provider of speed-reading and memory courses. Our courses have been taught to thousands, including students of Ivy League universities (like Stanford, Berkeley, etc.) and professionals of A-list organizations (like NASA, Google, etc.).

Our courses will equip you to read at super speed while comprehending what you read. Increase your reading speed today so that you can read more in less time. Register for the Speed Reading Foundation Course today.

Paul Nowak

Paul is the founder of Iris Reading, the largest provider of speed-reading and memory courses. His workshops have been taught to thousands of students and professionals worldwide at institutions that include: NASA, Google, HSBC and many Fortune 500 companies.

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  • sinluz

    Nice list but Ohhhh My, A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn?!?!? This book is filled with intentional inaccuracies and propaganda. This is only to be read by people that have the background to evaluate with a critical eye. Otherwise, it is not education but indoctrination. That this book is shows up in high school curricula is an embarrassment to the public education establishment. Well read and educated people should know better. Unfortunately, this sham of a history book seems to spread like a virus. Very sad.

    • James

      Could not agree more, it is phenomenal to witness how much the book blows up. I mean it’s meant to tell a specific narrative so it also loves to omit a lot of unfortunate facts.