MLA Platinum Award Press Release

Book Club Top 10 - All Time Favorite Nonfiction

This is the second in a series of four posts. See also overall favorites, mysteries & thrillers, and most popular books of 2019.


In the previous post we shared the results of our 2020 survey of book club members to find out their all-time favorite book club books. Most of the overall top 10 fall into the broad bucket of "literary fiction," but we know that most book clubs read a variety of genres, and rightly so because the qualities that make a book ripe for discussion are certainly not exclusive to "literary fiction," let alone "women's fiction."

So, we probed a little deeper to ask specifically about the respondents' favorite nonfiction books, giving them the opportunity to nominate up to three books and reminding them that we were interested only in titles they had discussed in a book club setting, because not every excellent book makes for great discussion; 1,172 responded to this question.


Book Clubs' All-Time Favorite Nonfiction Books

2020 Rank Book % of Respondents
1 Educated by Tara Westover (2018, Random House) 18.0%
2 The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (2010, Crown) 9.6%
3 Becoming by Michelle Obama (2018, Crown) 9.3%
4 The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown (2013, Viking) 7.4%
5 The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson (2003, Random House) 6.2%
6 Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann (2017, Doubleday) 6.1%
7 The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (2005, Scribner) 5.5%
8= Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (2010, Random House) 4.3%
8= Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson (2014, Spiegel & Grau) 4.3%
10 Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance (2016, Harper) 3.8%
Jan 2020 Survey: 1,172 responded, option to name up to 3 books, 2,726 total responses, average 2.3 titles per respondent.

Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City comes in at #5, but this doesn't do justice to his overall popularity with book clubs. When we added up all votes for his books, we found that a full 10% of respondents named him in their top three nonfiction favorites.

Please do share your favorite book club nonfiction books by posting below.

More Top 10 Lists:

Overall All-Time Favorites
All-Time Mystery & Thriller Favorites
Most Popular Books of 2019
About the Survey

Davina Morgan-Witts

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