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Interesting Books for People Who Love Interesting Facts

Any time of year is a great time of year to delve into a fascinating new book, but the holidays present special opportunities to buy books for those we love (and perhaps snag a few new titles for ourselves). The books below include both recent releases and a few favorites from our editorial staff. The titles cover some of the same categories — our spectacular but imperiled natural world, rich stories from history, and more — that you know and love from the Interesting Facts newsletter and website. Happy reading!

Knowing What We Know: The Transmission of Knowledge From Ancient Wisdom to Modern Magic”

In his latest offering, Simon Winchester — perhaps best known for his book on the making of the Oxford English Dictionary, The Professor and the Madman — explores the creation and transmission of human knowledge, from Babylonian cuneiform to artificial intelligence. Filled with memorable facts and anecdotes drawn from across history and the globe, the book is also a tour through the human mind, with a whole section on polymaths such as Benjamin Franklin and Richard Feynman.

An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us”

Ed Yong is a marvelously gifted writer with an ability to synthesize complex science into funny, touching, deeply humane pieces. He won a Pulitzer for his coverage in The Atlanticof the COVID-19 pandemic, and in An Immense World, he turns his talents to understanding the rich sensory worlds of other animals, from how dolphins echolocate to how bumblebees can detect Earth’s magnetic field. He also shows how much human sensory limits (we’re resolutely visual, to the disadvantage of other senses) have hindered our ability to understand other creatures — and how much our own senses often pale in comparison to the amazing abilities of those we share the Earth with.

Endangered Eating: America’s Vanishing Foods”

You know about endangered animals, but what about endangered foods? In Endangered Eating, culinary historian Sarah Lohman explores the story of eight American foods — dates from the Coachella Valley, wild rice from the Upper Midwest, heirloom cider apples from upstate New York — picked from the selections in Slow Food International’s “Ark of Taste” (think Noah’s ark, but for food). Along the way, Lohman learns from shepherds, fishers, and farmers, as well as scientists, historians, and activists, to explore the journeys these foods have taken. And she includes recipes, so readers can be part of saving these threatened foods themselves. It’s a delicious read.

A History of Women in 101 Objects”

This curated compendium of objects from prehistory to today follows an “intimate and particular” journey through the history of women. Whether she’s writing about handprints on a cave wall or Kim Kardashian’s diamond ring, a bidet or a piece of chocolate, cultural journalist Annabelle Hirsch’s mini-essays are lively, witty, and illuminating, proving that the past is a complicated (and fascinating) place.

Alfie and Me: What Owls Know, What Humans Believe”

In 2018, ecology professor Carl Safina (a licensed wildlife rehabilitator) got a tip about a baby eastern screech owl that had fallen out of its nest. The owlet ended up needing prolonged care and became a part of Safina’s family, eventually finding a mate and raising her own brood. Alfie and Me muses on Safina’s connection with the bird during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as on larger lessons about Western ways of thinking about nature versus Indigenous and Asian ways. Overall, Safina strives to convey the “consistent magic” of his little friend.

(Amazon/Bookshop)

Cleopatra: Her History, Her Myth”

We tend to think of Cleopatra today as a beautiful seductress who looks a lot likeElizabeth Taylor, but our attempts to understand her have been heavily hampered by Roman propaganda. After all, there are no words of her own left. Renowned writer Francine Prose dissects the many myths around Cleopatra and looks beyond the legends created or immortalized by Plutarch, Shakespeare, and others. She considers both ancient sources and modern representations of Cleopatra in theater, art, film, and more to offer a feminist reinterpretation of one of history’s most fascinating figures.

Last Light: How Six Great Artists Made Old Age a Time of Triumph”

Young artists might have a reputation for being brash and experimental, but this book argues that older artists can also be daring “if they too bring the confidence to attempt new things.” Richard Lacayo, Time magazine’s art and architecture critic from 2003 to 2016, explores the work of Titian, Goya, Monet, Matisse, and others, showing how these artists, in their later years, pioneered new forms and techniques and in many cases set the stage for artists who followed.

(Amazon/Bookshop)

Eight Bears: Mythic Past and Imperiled Future”

Bears have always loomed large in the human cultural imagination, from Indigenous myths to modern toy stores. But only eight species of bears remain on Earth, and most are now threatened with extinction. In her deeply reported book Eight Bears, journalist Gloria Dickie explores the stories of each species of bear we have left — have you ever heard of the spectacled bear? — meeting the biologists and conservationists who are in a race to save them.

(Amazon/Bookshop)

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania”

Erik Larson’s Dead Wake is a nonfiction book about the sinking of the Lusitania, and how that tragedy impacted the United States’ entrance into World War II. The depth of his research really shines through in the book, which is a meticulously detailed and fascinating account of the event. The bestseller paints a vivid portrait by blending personal accounts and details about this turbulent chapter in history.

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Absolutely loved this book! The insights into human nature were profound and thought-provoking. By the way, if anyone needs help with essays or assignments related to themes explored in this book, I highly recommend the cheap essay writing service uk. They provided exceptional assistance with my literary analysis, ensuring I grasped every nuance of the author's intent. Their expertise truly complemented my understanding of this captivating read!

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