65 Best Non-Fiction Books of All Time

The ten best books challenge is ricocheting around on social media, so it seemed like an appropriate time to update my 2012 list. These are probably not the best books of all time but these non-fiction titles were important to me when I read them over the last 20 years.
1. The Power of Their Ideas, Meier (the small school Bible)
2. & 3. The Students are Watching and the Horace series, Sizer
4. & 5. Reinventing Public Education and It Takes a City, Hill
6 & 7. Global Achievement Gap and Creating Innovators, Wagner
8. Disrupting Class, Christensen, Horn and Johnson
9. Jefferson’s Children, Botstein
10. Other People’s Children, Delpit
11. How Children Succeed, Tough
12. Education Unbound, Hess
13. Mindset, Dweck
14. Drive, Pink
15. Stratosphere, Fullan
16. 5th Discipline, Senge (mind blowing in ‘90)
17. In Search of Excellence, Peters and Waterman
18. Competitive Strategy, Porter (Classic)|
19. Positioning, Ries and Trout
20. The Innovator’s Dilemma, Christiansen
21. The Age of Unreason, Handy
22&23. Good to Great & Built to Last, Collins
24. Managing for Results, or anything by Drucker
25. The Courage to Teach, Palmer
26. Leadership is an Art, DePree (Still the best)
27. The Leadership Challenge, Kouzes and Posner (The guidebook)
28. A Force for Change, Koter
29. Orbiting the Giant Hairball, MacKenzie (Fun runner up)
30. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Covey
31. Who Moved My Cheese?, Johnson
32. John Adams, McCullough (Read a Madison biography after that.)
33. Benjamin Franklin, Isaacson
34. At Canaan’s Edge, Branch
35. Guns, Germs & Steel, Diamond (mind blowing in ‘99 but Jared went dark in Collapse)
36. Development as Freedom, Amartya Sen
37. Which World?, Hammond
38. Culture Matters, Harrison & Huntington
39&40. Fourth Turning & Millennials Rising, Strauss/Howe
41&42. The Lexus and the Olive Tree & Longitudes and Attitudes, Friedman
43. The Post-American World, Zakaria
44. Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God, Macy and Barrows
45. The Heart Aroused, Whyte (Good runner up with leadership application)
46. Early Morning, Stafford (Touching biography makes Bill Stafford accessible)
47. New and Collected Poems, Milosz
48. Poems New and Collected, Szymborska (What is it about mid-century Poles?)
49. The Complete Poems of D.H. Lawrence
50&51.Teaching With Fire & Teaching With Heart, Intrator and Scribner
52. Consilience, Wilson (Wow)
53. Art & Physics, Shlain (Amazing parallels)
54. The Turning Point, Capra (Where Meg Wheatley got her start)
55. The Clock of the Long Now, Brand
56. Einstein’s Dreams, Lightman (Only fiction on the list; mind bending)
57. For the Time Being, Dillard (Another mind bender/dual biography)
58. The Blank Slate, Pinker
59. Elegant Universe, Greene
60. A Brief History of Time, Hawking
61. Tipping Point, Gladwell
62. Good Work, Gardner, Csikszentmihalyi and Damon
63. Flow, Csikszentmihalyi
64. Care of the Soul, Moore
65. The Reinvention of Work, Fox
Our new book, Smart Cities That Work for Everyone, will be in stores September 23. In the book you’ll read about how education drives the the economic development agenda and how innovative new tools and schools are making it possible for individuals, organizations, and cities to boost learning outcomes. Working with 60 contributing authors made it one of my best book experiences of all times.
What books made a difference to you and your work? Please share titles and authors in our comments section.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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