The Education of Henry Adams by Henry Brooks Adams topped the list, followed by The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James, Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington and A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf. The list included everything from memoirs (such as those listed above) to text books (such as The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money by Keynes or The Elements of Style by Strunk and White) to polemics (like Silent Spring by Rachel Carson or Why We Can’t Wait by Martin Luther King), to collections of essays (such as those of T. S. Eliot or James Baldwin). A separate list of the 100 best novels of the 20th century was created the same year.
A list chosen by readers was published separately by Modern Library in 1999. With close to 200,000 votes, The Virtue of Selfishness by Ayn Rand was selected as the best non-fiction book. Two other titles related to Rand – Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand and Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life – were #3 and #6, respectively. The Reader’s Poll has been cited by Harry Binswanger, a longtime associate of Rand and promoter of her work, as representative of “the clash between the intellectual establishment and the American people.” However, Jesse Walker, writing in Reason magazine, has observed that the Reader’s Poll is an example of the unreliability of internet polls and their tendency to overemphasize the opinions of small but especially devoted groups