If nonfiction is your thing, Random House, publisher of the Modern Library classics, has developed The 100 Best Nonfiction Books of the Century (www.randomhouse.com/modernlibrary/100bestnonfiction.html). Actually, Random House created two lists, one by a distinguished panel of scholars and authors, and the other by Random House regular participating readers. Both lists are excellent and have significant differences, so they are worth reviewing. You can’t go wrong with either list if you’re looking for a comprehensive survey of nonfiction from the Western perspective.
The National Review created a list of its own, The 100 Best Nonfiction Books of the Century, (www.nationalreview.com/100best/100_books.html) in response to the Random House lists. This list is annotated by Board members who selected the titles.
If your heart belongs to the American West, check out The San Francisco Chronicle's 100 Best Nonfiction Books of the 20th Century Written in English about--or by an author from--the Western United States (www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/chronicle/archive/1999/11/21/RV2252.DTL). The list includes authors whose reputations extend far beyond the region they cover: Wallace Stegner (Beyond the Hundredth Meridian), Edward Abbey (Desert Solitaire), John Muir (My First Summer in the Sierra), Ursula K. LeGuin (Dancing at the Edge of the World), Shelby Steele (The Content of Our Character), Barbara Kingsolver (High Tide in Tucson), and Maxine Hong Kingston (The Woman Warrior).