A book for learning something...that's good in small doses
June 25, 2016 3:18 AM   Subscribe

This is perhaps a somewhat weird question. I do a lot of my reading in small bits - standing in line for 5 minutes at the grocery store, going down an elevator for a couple minutes, a 10 minute taxi ride, etc. Given the start and stop nature of that, it's tough to read very deep things where you really need to finish a long passage in one sitting or remember everything that had been said in the chapter or section. But I love reading books where I learn something - American history, how the internet came to be, becoming a great chef - all kinds of topics.

I'd love a book that teaches a particular topic that you think is somewhat digestible in this type of reading structure. I'm interested in learning one area - but open to anything as long as it's teaching me something. I am not looking for something with a bunch of short stories on different topics. I'm not sure what would even make a book better disposed for reading in quick bursts but maybe you do!
posted by anonymous to Education (11 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

Jan Morris´ Fifty Years of Europe: an Album is a fanciful but deeply perceptive assortment of vignettes, loosely arranged by theme, that encapsulates the very flavour and essence of Europe. (more precious than ever now)

Bitchfest: Ten Years of Cultural Criticism from the Pages of Bitch Magazine is a good feminist refresher

and in spite of the appaling name, The Mammoth Book of How it Happened: Ancient Rome is a fabulous collection of mostly short PRIMARY SOURCE documents covering 753 BC to 565 AD
posted by runincircles at 3:55 AM on June 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

Oxford's Very Short Introductions might be interesting here. Definitely portable.
posted by carter at 3:56 AM on June 25, 2016 [4 favorites]

little history of the world
posted by Ftsqg at 4:09 AM on June 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

I don’t know if an anthology of lots of separate pieces on a single broad topic meets your criteria? if it does, you could try Daily Life in Victorian London which is an anthology of primary sources about all aspects of life in Victorian London. I found it perfect for just picking up and reading in short bursts.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 6:53 AM on June 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Seems like bathroom readers or almanacs were meant exactly for short (or long!) bursts of reading. You can get the themed editions rather than the random facts ones.

Have you considered a subscription to a quality magazine? You can get most on your phone now.
posted by eisforcool at 6:55 AM on June 25, 2016 [3 favorites]

Jim Dunnigan's "Dirty little secrets" book series are like that. They're basically collections of small self-contained essays running half-a-page to 4 pages at a time.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:09 AM on June 25, 2016

Machinery's Handbook.
posted by Bruce H. at 10:52 AM on June 25, 2016

MaybeMark Forsyth's The Etymologicon, about language, with short essays on individual words or groups of words. Also, I don't think this meets your criteria but just in case - Who, or Why, or Which, or What...?: A Global Gazetteer of the Instructive and Strange. It has a page on every country with facts about them. As it's not exactly all on one topic (unless the topic is the world) I suspect it doesn't count, but it is enjoyable and informative.
posted by paduasoy at 2:14 PM on June 26, 2016

Don't Know Much About... books are pretty episodic.
posted by soelo at 8:39 AM on June 27, 2016

When I was in my 20s, my go to book for this was The Practical Cogitator.
posted by wittgenstein at 11:58 AM on June 27, 2016

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