I always think that I should read more non-fiction than I do, and then I get caught up in yet another twenty-book fiction series. Well, I have read some non-fiction over the last few years, at least.
First up is some history. Frances and Joseph Gies have written a whole series of popular medieval histories, and their Cathedral, Forge, and Waterwheel is, as its subtitle says, a history of technology and invention for that period. They debunk the myth of the Middle Ages as stagnant, and discuss in detail a number of the key technologies that came about in the era, their origins (often tracing them back to the Chinese or Islamic invention), and their impacts. If you’re interested in the period and/or in history of technology, it’s good stuff.
Next up is Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow, which is one of those books that (at least for me) changes how you see the world. Kahneman won a Nobel Prize for the research that he summarizes in this book; fortunately, he’s as good a popularizer as he is a researcher, so the book is readable and absorbing.
Kahneman’s book is about how people think and make decisions, and it’s full of fascinating facts and insights that I’m not going to summarize here—seriously, go read this one in full; it’s densely informative enough to almost resist summary—but which will forever after make you distrust your own actions and beliefs, and look at other people’s in a wholly different light. This book won all sorts of awards and made a bunch of “best of” lists, and it deserved to. If you have any interest in science or the human mind, here’s your chance to read a Nobel Prize winner lucidly explaining his decades of research. Extremely highly recommended.