The best 37 General Knowledge books



Stephen Fry
A Retelling of the Myths of Ancient Greece
4.7 (472 ratings)

What's Mythos about?

Mythos (2017) is a fabulous retelling of the Greek myths. It provides a great introduction to anyone interested in knowing more about the Greek gods and goddesses without any preknowledge or a classical education.

Who should read Mythos?

  • Lovers of Greek mythology
  • Anyone interested in creation stories from ancient cultures
  • Humans who want to understand their origin as seen by the ancient Greeks

A Short History of Nearly Everything

A Short History of Nearly Everything

Bill Bryson
A journey into the most intriguing and intractable questions that science seeks to answer
4.5 (1,096 ratings)

What's A Short History of Nearly Everything about?

A Short History of Nearly Everything (2003) offers an enlightening summary of contemporary scientific thinking relating to all aspects of life, from the creation of the universe to our relationship with the tiniest of bacteria.

Who should read A Short History of Nearly Everything?

  • Adults who want to brush up on their foundational science knowledge
  • People interested in the origin of the universe and life on Earth 
  • Anyone fascinated by the world’s greatest scientific mind

The Memory Palace

The Memory Palace

Lewis Smile
Learn Anything and Everything (Starting with Shakespeare and Dickens)
4.2 (201 ratings)

What's The Memory Palace about?

The Memory Palace (2012) is a step-by-step guide to using your spatial memory to help you remember absolutely anything. It teaches you how to build a palace of memories that will give you the power to recall everything you read, and even to memorize the names of every Shakespeare play in just 15 minutes.

Who should read The Memory Palace?

  • Anyone interested in improving their memory
  • Forgetful people who need help remembering their shopping list
  • Trivia buffs who want vast amounts of knowledge at their disposal

21 Lessons for the 21st Century

21 Lessons for the 21st Century

Yuval Noah Harari
Future proof yourself against the 21st Century
4.4 (1,244 ratings)

What's 21 Lessons for the 21st Century about?

21 Lessons for the 21st Century (2018) is a hard-hitting investigation of civilization’s most pertinent challenges. Humankind is moving deeper into uncharted technological and social territory. These blinks explore how best to navigate our lives in this century of constant change, using fascinating examples from current affairs along the way.

Who should read 21 Lessons for the 21st Century?

  • Current affairs enthusiasts
  • History buffs looking for fresh insights
  • Big-picture thinkers wanting a new perspective on the world’s challenges



Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything
4.3 (461 ratings)

What's Freakonomics about?

Freakonomics (2005) applies rational economic analysis to everyday situations, from online dating to buying a house. The book reveals why the way we make decisions is often irrational, why conventional wisdom is frequently wrong, and how and why we are incentivized to do what we do.

Who should read Freakonomics?

  • Anyone interested in human decision-making.
  • Managers with an interest in the impact of incentives and risk analysis
  • Economists looking for a more creative approach to using the tools of economics

Frames of Mind

Frames of Mind

Howard Gardner
The Theory of Multiple Intelligences
4.5 (348 ratings)

What's Frames of Mind about?

Frames of Mind (1983) is a landmark text that first proposed the psychological theory of multiple intelligences. Upending the long-held conception that intelligence is just one general, monolithic trait, it argues instead that there are several intelligences that everyone possesses in different quantities. By studying them, educators and policymakers can reshape the educational system to benefit a much greater number of students than the current programs do.

Who should read Frames of Mind?

  • Psychology fans interested in one of the field’s significant texts
  • Educators, teachers, and tutors who want to better understand their students
  • Anyone fascinated by the human mind

How to Take Smart Notes

How to Take Smart Notes

Sönke Ahrens
One Simple Technique to Boost Writing, Learning and Thinking – for Students, Academics and Nonfiction Book Writers
4.4 (647 ratings)

What's How to Take Smart Notes about?

How to Take Smart Notes (2017) is exactly that – an explanation of how and why to take smart notes. It explains how this simple, little-known, and often misunderstood technique can aid your thinking, writing, and learning. With the help of smart notes, you may never face the horror of a blank page again.

Who should read How to Take Smart Notes?

  • Students and professors with papers to write
  • Budding nonfiction writers
  • Notetakers hoping to up their game

The Fate of Rome

The Fate of Rome

Kyle Harper
Climate, Disease, and the End of an Empire
4.4 (350 ratings)

What's The Fate of Rome about?

Over the years, countless historians have theorized about the causes of the fall of the Roman Empire. The Fate of Rome (2017) tells this story from a slightly different angle, taking into consideration new information about the climate and epidemiological events that played a major role in the prosperity and downfall of one of the largest empires in history.

Who should read The Fate of Rome?

  • Roman history enthusiasts
  • Environmentalists and others interested in climate change
  • Anyone curious about the causes of the Roman Empire’s fall

Learn Like a Pro

Learn Like a Pro

Barbara Oakley and Olav Schewe
Science-based Tools to Become Better at Anything
4.4 (313 ratings)

What's Learn Like a Pro about?

Learn Like a Pro: Science-based Tools to Become Better at Anything (2021) looks at the most powerful strategies for staying focused and learning effectively. Both coauthors draw on their past struggles with learning, and use insights from experts and research to find out what works and what doesn’t. 

Who should read Learn Like a Pro?

  • Students looking to supercharge their learning
  • Anyone who has struggled to learn something new
  • Education gurus

Who We Are and How We Got Here

Who We Are and How We Got Here

David Reich
Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past
4.3 (134 ratings)

What's Who We Are and How We Got Here about?

Who We Are and How We Got Here (2018) takes readers on a journey through the world’s anthropological history, demonstrating that people have continually migrated and mixed over time. Recent scientific advances are allowing scientists to study human DNA from the distant past and compare it to that of those alive today. The insights about humans’ origins are both fascinating and revealing.

Who should read Who We Are and How We Got Here?

  • Scientists with burgeoning interests in anthropology and languages
  • Ethno-nationalists looking to have their views challenged
  • Genealogists looking for the bigger picture

The Undercover Economist

The Undercover Economist

Tim Harford
The economics behind everyday decisions
3.9 (120 ratings)

What's The Undercover Economist about?

The Undercover Economist explains how economics defines our lives. From the price of a cappuccino to the amount of smog in the air, everything is tied to economics. The book shows us how economists understand the world and how we can benefit from a better understanding of economic systems.

Who should read The Undercover Economist?

  • Students of economics
  • Anyone who wants to reduce their daily shopping bills
  • Anyone interested in how economics affects our everyday lives

The Red Queen

The Red Queen

Matt Ridley
Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature
4.5 (67 ratings)

What's The Red Queen about?

The Red Queen (1993) takes a close look at evolutionary trajectories and how they have been guided more by reproduction than by survival. These blinks describe how the search for suitable mates has produced such remarkable phenomena as the spectacular tails of peacocks and the powerful intelligence of humans.

Who should read The Red Queen?

  • Students of biology and anthropology
  • Fans of popular science
  • Unfaithful partners looking for a scientific justification for cheating

At Home

At Home

Bill Bryson
A Short History of Private Life
3.9 (97 ratings)

What's At Home about?

At Home (2010) offers an in-depth look at the history of the home. These blinks walk you through stories that each “take place” in a different room in a house, explaining the history of spaces such as a bathroom or kitchen. Interestingly, you’ll explore how each space evolved into the rooms we live in today.

Who should read At Home?

  • Students of sociology, anthropology and history
  • People with an interest in the history of domestic life



Richard Wiseman
The Curious Science of Everyday Lives
3.6 (32 ratings)

What's Quirkology about?

Quirkology (2007) takes a uniquely scientific look at some common questions that are often dismissed as trivial: What kind of impact does astrology have on our lives? Is the number 13 really unlucky? Can a joke truly be harmful? And more!

Who should read Quirkology?

  • Readers who enjoy quirky scientific facts and experiments
  • People who like to debunk superstitions and myths
  • Anyone interested in popular psychology

The Romanovs

The Romanovs

Simon Sebag Montefiore
4.5 (100 ratings)

What's The Romanovs about?

The Romanovs (2016) charts the stunning rise and dramatic fall of one of the world’s great dynasties. The Romanov family helmed the Russian empire for three centuries filled with family dramas, power struggles, political upheaval, and opulent spending.

Who should read The Romanovs?

  • Russophiles and Romanov fans
  • Fans of history with a taste for juicy drama
  • Revolutionaries brushing up on old-school socialist revolts

Time Travel

Time Travel

James Gleick
A History
4.0 (76 ratings)

What's Time Travel about?

Time Travel (2016) details the history of a captivating concept. These blinks explain how the idea of time travel came into the popular consciousness, what problems the theory presents and how you might already be time traveling without even knowing it.

Who should read Time Travel?

  • Anyone who has ever wanted to travel through time
  • Students of physics
  • Lovers of science fiction

The True Believer

The True Believer

Eric Hoffer
Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements
4.0 (57 ratings)

What's The True Believer about?

The True Believer (1951), published in the aftermath of World War II, is an exploration of mass movements and the means by which they attract followers. These blinks will take you on a walk through history – showing how, under certain circumstances, be they right or wrong, anyone can become a true believer.

Who should read The True Believer?

  • People wanting to learn about the history, logic and component parts of mass movements
  • Those interested in group psychology
  • Anybody with an interest in politics and how change is affected



Serhii Plokhy
The History of a Nuclear Catastrophe
4.6 (190 ratings)

What's Chernobyl about?

Chernobyl (2018) documents the 1986 nuclear meltdown that shook the Soviet Union. It is an insightful and meticulously researched work of history, drawing from newly opened archives to shed fresh light on the disaster. Piecing together the entire episode, Plokhy takes us from the fateful minutes before the disaster to the cleanup operation and, finally, the disintegration of the USSR.

Who should read Chernobyl?

  • Fans of the HBO miniseries who want to dig deeper
  • Those born after the disaster, trying to make sense of its consequences
  • Nuclear power plant operators

The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty

The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty

Dan Ariely
How We Lie to Everyone – Especially Ourselves
4.3 (47 ratings)

What's The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty about?

Using various experiments to uncover the hidden factors that drive us to cheat in everyday situations, author Dan Ariely finds that certain anticipated motivators – for example, money – actually don’t play a crucial role in our dishonesty. At the same time, other, quite unexpected forces influence us very strongly – for instance, the social acceptability of cheating, and even our altruistic tendencies.

Who should read The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty?

  • Anyone who considers themselves to be a good, honest and honorable person
  • Anyone interested in the psychology of irrationality
  • Anyone who wonders why people constantly cheat and lie

On Saudi Arabia

On Saudi Arabia

Karen Elliott House
Its People, Past, Religion, Fault Lines – and Future
3.9 (54 ratings)

What's On Saudi Arabia about?

On Saudi Arabia (2012) gives a fascinating overview of a country rife with contradictions. Despite being immensely wealthy, Saudi Arabia is filled with people who live in abject poverty. And although on its way to being counted among the world’s most powerful countries, it has an education system that’s received execrable rankings. Add to this a liberal dose of religious fanaticism and a complex royal family and you’ll begin to see why Saudi Arabia has struggled to come to terms with itself.

Who should read On Saudi Arabia?

  • Readers wanting to know more about life in Saudi Arabia
  • Economists interested in a rich yet struggling nation
  • Travelers considering a visit to Saudi Arabia

The Better Angels of Our Nature

The Better Angels of Our Nature

Steven Pinker
Why Violence Has Declined
4.5 (77 ratings)

What's The Better Angels of Our Nature about?

The Better Angels of Our Nature (2012) takes a close look at the history of violence in human society, explaining both our motivations to use violence on certain occasions and the factors that increasingly restrain us from using it – and how these factors have resulted in massive reductions in violence.

Who should read The Better Angels of Our Nature?

  • Anyone who thinks the world is becoming an increasingly violent place
  • Anyone who’s interested in the forces and reasons that drive us to and keep us from violence
  • Anyone interested in the history of violence in human societies

Moody Bitches

Moody Bitches

Julie Holland
The Truth About the Drugs You’re Taking, the Sleep You’re Missing, the Sex You’re Not Having, and What’s Really Making You Crazy
4.1 (48 ratings)

What's Moody Bitches about?

Moody Bitches (2015) is your guide to the female body and brain. These blinks explain some of the reasons behind the emotions and fluctuating moods that women can experience and how they can better tune into themselves, embrace their feelings and their bodies.

Who should read Moody Bitches?

  • Women who are frustrated by their mood swings
  • Young girls who want to know more about their brains and bodies
  • Women who want to have better sex

Nine Nasty Words

Nine Nasty Words

John McWhorter
English in the Gutter: Then, Now, and Forever
4.0 (125 ratings)

What's Nine Nasty Words about?

Nine Nasty Words (2021) is a foul-mouthed exploration of our linguistic taboos. This title picks apart exactly why some words come to be profane.

Who should read Nine Nasty Words?

  • Language-lovers aiming to deepen their appreciation of words
  • Salty talkers looking to pick up new profanity
  • Anyone curious about the origin of taboos

How To

How To

Randall Munroe
Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems
3.8 (68 ratings)

What's How To about?

How To (2019) is an intentionally impractical, lighthearted guide to accomplishing a wide variety of tasks in extremely outlandish but plausible ways. Drawing from science, math and history, and combining them with a unique sense of humor, How To takes you on an amusing journey through some of reality’s most bizarre possibilities. 

Who should read How To?

  • Science geeks looking for scientifically-rigorous amusement 
  • Tech mavens ready to push technology to the limits 
  • Anyone who enjoys offbeat comedy

I Contain Multitudes

I Contain Multitudes

Ed Yong
The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life
4.3 (60 ratings)

What's I Contain Multitudes about?

I Contain Multitudes (2016) peers into the microscopic world of microbes, and offers fascinating insight into the countless ways in which our lives are influenced by them. You’ll find out how ancient microbes helped make the world livable for mankind and how they continue to help all of Earth’s living creatures through remarkable and essential partnerships.

Who should read I Contain Multitudes?

  • Germophobes
  • Health-conscious readers
  • Foodies and science geeks

Leveraged Learning

Leveraged Learning

Danny Iny
How the Disruption of Education Helps Lifelong Learners, and Experts With Something to Teach
4.2 (84 ratings)

What's Leveraged Learning about?

Leveraged Learning (2018) provides a six-step process for designing and implementing an optimized method of learning or teaching any subject. Drawing on recent advances in the field of education, its lessons are equally applicable to those pursuing traditional, newfangled, or self-led courses of study – no matter whether the aim is personal, professional, or academic advancement. 

Who should read Leveraged Learning?

  • Lifelong learners 
  • Current or future students of formal education programs 
  • Teachers, course designers, and educational entrepreneurs

Some Assembly Required

Some Assembly Required

Neil Shubin
Decoding Four Billion Years of Life, from Ancient Fossils to DNA
4.1 (41 ratings)

What's Some Assembly Required about?

Some Assembly Required (2020) is an approachable account of the great transformations in the history of life. Paleontologist Neil Shubin started his career looking to fossils for the answers to life’s greatest questions – but with recent scientific advancements, he argues that studying DNA reveals more about the journey we took to become human.

Who should read Some Assembly Required?

  • People interested in the history of evolution
  • Science enthusiasts
  • Anyone who loves an amazing factoid

The Tangled Tree

The Tangled Tree

David Quammen
A Radical New History of Life
4.6 (34 ratings)

What's The Tangled Tree about?

The Tangled Tree (2018) provides curious readers with a vital recap of the many scientific twists and turns that have taken place in our understanding of evolution since the days of Charles Darwin. Author David Quammen’s lucid explanations will bring you up to speed on all we know and don’t know about how life developed on planet Earth.

Who should read The Tangled Tree?

  • Students of biology and the natural sciences
  • Anyone curious about where life came from
  • Fans and critics of Charles Darwin

The Origins of Political Order

The Origins of Political Order

Francis Fukuyama
From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution
4.4 (42 ratings)

What's The Origins of Political Order about?

In The Origins of Political Order, Francis Fukuyama delves into the history of modern state-building. Instead of focusing on Ancient Greece or Rome like many earlier scholars, he traces political histories in China, India, the Middle East and Europe. Using a comparative approach, Fukuyama explains how diverse political and social environments allowed Europe to develop many different political systems.

Who should read The Origins of Political Order?

  • Anyone interested in history
  • Anyone interested in politics or international relations
  • Anyone curious about the role of human biology in history

The Model Thinker

The Model Thinker

Scott E. Page
What You Need to Know to Make Data Work for You
3.9 (153 ratings)

What's The Model Thinker about?

The Model Thinker (2018) is a guide to using models to make data talk. In a world inundated with information, it sheds some much-needed light on the patterns underlying the noise – and points us toward the ways we can reveal those patterns for ourselves.

Who should read The Model Thinker?

  • Modeling novices interested in making sense of data
  • Future-focused leaders interested in predicting the next big thing
  • Anyone who wants to sound a little smarter at dinner parties

How Music Got Free

How Music Got Free

Stephen Witt
What happens when an entire generation commits the same crime?
4.7 (16 ratings)

What's How Music Got Free about?

How Music Got Free (2015) tells the remarkable story of the mp3 file, from its inception in a German audio lab to its discovery by a man working in a North Carolina CD-pressing plant, who would eventually team up with a piracy group to bring the entire music industry to its knees.

Who should read How Music Got Free?

  • Musicians and music consumers
  • Anyone interested in copyright law
  • Anyone interested in internet freedom

On Paper

On Paper

Nicholas A. Basbanes
The Everything of its Two-Thousand-Year History
4.3 (16 ratings)

What's On Paper about?

Paper: we use it so much we don’t realize how fundamental it is to our society. We don’t just record our thoughts on it, we base our currency on it, use it for entertainment and employ it for hygiene. These blinks of On Paper (2013) outline the history of this simple but amazing tool.

Who should read On Paper?

  • Students of history, sociology or politics
  • Anyone who has ever used toilet paper
  • Origami fans



Neil MacGregor
Memories of a Nation
4.4 (47 ratings)

What's Germany about?

Germany (2014) is about the culture and history of the Germanic nations that eventually came together to form modern Germany, a state which has had its share of dramatic historical moments.

Who should read Germany?

  • Culture vultures
  • Historians
  • Travelers to Germany

Making the Modern World

Making the Modern World

Vaclav Smil
Materials and Dematerialization
3.8 (31 ratings)

What's Making the Modern World about?

Making the Modern World (2014) is a guide to humanity’s material consumption through history and into the future. These blinks explain the major material categories of our time and how we can effectively manage them as we move forward.

Who should read Making the Modern World?

  • Anyone interested in the material flow and consumption of modern society
  • Every manufacturer, designer and product developer

Why Information Grows

Why Information Grows

César Hidalgo
The Evolution of Order, from Atoms to Economies
4.1 (16 ratings)

What's Why Information Grows about?

Why Information Grows (2015) takes you straight to the heart of the battle between entropy and order, examining the way that information is propagated and its impact on life, civilization and the universe. In doing so, the book offers a thought-provoking explanation for the success of human beings on earth.

Who should read Why Information Grows?

  • Anybody interested in economics
  • Anybody wanting to know the truth about order and chaos
  • Anybody interested in what makes our planet special



Tania Luna and LeeAnn Renninger
Embrace the Unpredictable and Engineer the Unexpected

What's Surprise about?

Surprise (2015) takes a closer look at the very concept of surprise, how it works and how to embrace and create it. What’s more, the authors show us how surprise can keep our relationships flourishing and allow us to live life to the fullest.

Who should read Surprise?

  • Anyone bored with fixed routines and structures
  • Anyone with a fear of the unpredictable
  • Anyone curious about how surprise works

Getting Better

Getting Better

Charles Kenny
Why Global Development Is Succeeding and How We Can Improve the World Even More

What's Getting Better about?

As pessimists talk of an economic development crisis, author Charles Kenny is optimistic in his assessment that in fact, all over the world, we’ve made enormous progress in overall quality of life. Getting Better shows that the spread of technology and ideas has fostered a revolution of happiness and standard of living unprecedented in human history. Kenny provides evidence to make us enthusiastic about the progress we’ve attained so far, and offers suggestions on what is to be done if we want to keep this progress alive.

Who should read Getting Better?

  • Anyone interested in international politics and development aid
  • Anyone looking for a fresh and optimistic outlook on the world
  • Anyone interested in economics and global development

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