If, like me, your lifelong goal is to learn something new every day, you’ll love these 20 non-fiction books. Each one is loaded with fascinating facts that will make you instantly smarter! Check them out!
“Learn something new every day” has been a lifelong goal of mine. Once upon a time, I wanted to obtain and retain enough random knowledge to become a Jeopardy champion. I’ve since given up on that goal, mostly because I tend to freeze up when speaking in public so I’d never make it past the first round of auditions. I haven’t, however, given up on the spirit of the goal. While I may never stand up there with a buzzer in my hand, I can at least learn enough to play along at home and feel like a Jeopardy champion.
20 Books That Will Help You Learn Something New Every Day
Whether you dream of becoming a record-breaking champion on the world’s greatest quiz show or just want to know enough to feel like you could compete against the likes of Ken Jennings (who is still the greatest Jeopardy champion in my mind), these books will help you get there.
I’ve chosen books ranging from general facts & trivia to what I consider to be the most complete yet approachable guide to different specific topics. Enjoy!
FYI, this post uses affiliate links. If you buy through them, I get a commission at no extra cost to you. However, all of these books are either on my bookshelf (literally and digitally) or on my wish list. I wouldn’t share them if I didn’t think they’d help you reach your knowledge goals. 🙂
My top 5 picks:
Don’t have time to read all 1990+ words of this post? Here’s a super abbreviated version of my top 5 picks!
1.Natural History: The Ultimate Visual Guide to Everything on Earth
My brother got me the Natural History: The Ultimate Visual Guide to Everything on Earth book off my Christmas wish list this past year, and I’m not even a fraction of the way through it. It’ll take me at least a year to get through all the photos and facts about everything from earth’s minerals to mushrooms to macaws (birds in general, but I was going with the alliteration flow there). I love opening it up to a random page and gaining some new tidbit of unexpected knowledge.Amazon
2.National Geographic The Photo Ark: One Man’s Quest to Document the World’s Animals
The National Geographic The Photo Ark was a birthday gift about two years ago. As the name implies, the majority of the thick tome is dedicated to stunning photos, but there’s still a lot to learn within the 400 pages. Plus, like they say, a picture is worth a thousand words! You’ll discover plenty of animals you never even knew existed.Amazon
3.10,000 Things You Need to Know: The Big Book of Lists
For those of us who adore lists, 10,000 Things You Need to Know is a dream come true. With 100 lists of “top 100s” curated by experts in their fields spanning across a whopping 1,000 pages, it’ll keep you busy for a very long time! Don’t worry, it’s not just page after page of boring bullet-point lists. The entire thing is beautifully arranged and illustrated, making it totally approachable and enjoyable.Amazon
4.The Book of Everything: A Visual Guide to Travel and the World
Another one from my own wish list, The Book of Everything is exactly what it promises in the subtitle- a visual guide to the world. Every page features fun illustrations and interesting facts about everything from the highest mountains to the longest rivers and beyond. It’s written by The Lonely Planet and at just 204 pages it’s a relatively short read.
5. Ken Jennings’s Trivia Almanac: 8,888 Questions in 365 Days
A somewhat oldie but always a goodie, the Ken Jennings’s Trivia Almanac: 8,888 Questions in 365 Days is filled with “this day in history” tidbits and a questions in different levels of difficulty for you to answer each day. If you’re not quite a Jennings genius (I know I’m not), don’t worry; he gives you the answers.Amazon
6.Weird but true! 2020: wild & wacky facts & photos!
Yes, this one is technically a kids’ book, but I have an older edition that I found just as enjoyable as my son did. It truly is filled with some really weird but true facts, including a guide to toilets throughout time! Is it useful information? Heck no! That’s why it’s so fun!Amazon
7. The Arts: A Visual Encyclopedia
Another one that’s designed for kids, DK’s The Arts: A Visual Encyclopedia is also perfect for adults who want to learn more about art history in the least pretentious way possible. Along with guides to different art styles, it also covers some of the most influential artists throughout history. As with all DK books, it’s an easy read for all ages.Amazon
8. The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Mythology
I love all things mythology. Even though I’m not religious myself, learning about other culture’s ideas about the how and why of the universe fascinates me. This one is a good introduction to world religions throughout history. Think of it as an overview, something to help you decide which mythology you’d like to really home in on. As a few reviewers point out, it is lacking in a few areas and skips a few gods, but it would be impossible to fit every single god and myth into one book.Amazon
9.Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine
The Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine calls itself “the definitive home reference to healing with the world’s oldest form of medicine,” and it does a pretty good job of living up to that description. It’s a great source of info for those who prefer a more natural approach to treating simple ailments. I strongly believe that old and new medicine can complement each other. Even if you’re not really into natural medicine, you’ll still learn a lot about the different plants and how our ancestors used them.Amazon
10.The Human Body Atlas: How the human body works
When my son was little, he had a complete meltdown every time he got the smallest of cuts. He was convinced he would bleed to death! So, I taught him how and where in the body blood cells were made. Somehow, his bed time ritual became a lesson in human anatomy. My son knew more about the respiratory and circulatory system at age 3 than most people learn in a life time.
The book that I used to teach him was a bit more simplistic than this one. I choose one for you that’s a little more advanced than what I used with my toddler. Still, it’s very approachable and easy to follow!Amazon
11.Now I Know: The Revealing Stories Behind the World’s Most Interesting Facts
If you prefer a more well-rounded education than the last few books offered, start with Now I Know. While the cover gives me a bit of a headache, the inside lives up to it’s promise. You’ll learn why the alphabet actually has 27 letters, how to sort of win at a race track, and other strange little bits of info.Amazon
12.Random Illustrated Facts: A Collection of Curious, Weird, and Totally Not Boring Things to Know
The Random Illustrated Facts book is perfect for those who literally only have a few spare seconds to learn something new every day. For the most part, each page has an illustration and a single fact. Find out which animals were the first passengers on a hot air balloon, which movie was the first to show a toilet being flushed, and other totally useless yet fascinating facts.Amazon
13.The Book of Weird and Unusual Trivia
One of my favorites, The Book of Weird and Unusual Trivia took me about 4 months to get through and taught me so many weird little facts that I never realized I needed to know. For example, I learned all the weird names for groups of animals! It’s a fun read and a great bathroom book.Amazon
14.The Book of Mis-information
One from my wish list, The Book of Mis-information is from the same publisher that put out the weird and unusual trivia tome above. The “mis-information” is fairly lighthearted and politics-neutral. In other words, it’s less about true propaganda and more about random things we tend to believe that are absolutely untrue.Amazon
15. 50 States, 5,000 Ideas
Even if, like me, you’ll never be able to afford to travel nearly as much as you’d like (or at all, these days), this is still an excellent book filled to read. I like to know what’s out there that I’ll never get to see. 😀 If you do have enough disposable income to actually leave your house, it’ll give you some great ideas of places to visit beyond the usual tourist traps.Amazon
16.Atlas Obscura, 2nd Edition: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders
I just finished Atlas Obscura’s 2020 page a day calendar (yeah, I’m weird, I read those things like books). Now, I really want the full version! It’s loaded with totally weird places to visit for those of us who prefer a more unique vacation. Like I said, I can’t afford to travel right now, so books like this help me “see” the world around me without leaving my comfy chair.Amazon
17.The Shakespeare Encyclopedia: The Complete Guide to the Man and His Works
Whether you love Shakespeare and want to expand your knowledge or abhor him and just want to learn enough to get through school, the The Shakespeare Encyclopedia will help you reach your goal. It’s detailed enough that even the Bard’s biggest fans will learn something new. For those who hate the guy but need a basic understanding of his works to get through high school or college, skip to the 2nd section for a great overview of his plays, or the 3rd to learn about his poems.Amazon
18.The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook
It’s hard to find a decent survival book that isn’t written by or for hardcore preppers. The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook comes the closest, though. Probably because it was written before prepping became a trend. The 20-year anniversary edition is updated with more modern scenarios, but still retains the heart and humor of the original. Learn how to survive everything from falling out of a plane without a chute to an “Out-of-Control Autonomous Car.”Amazon
19.Dictionary of Word Origins: The Histories of More Than 8,000 English-Language Words
While my college professor would beg to differ, I’ve always been fascinated by the history of the English language. Sure, I failed out of the class during my only semester away at school, but I failed out of all of them because I never went. I was a lot different back then, and that’s all I’ll tell you. In case you’re curious, I maintained a 3.9 GPA once I moved back home for college.
Anyway, even though I blew off the class 20+ years ago, I’ve developed a great love for the topic over the decades. Out of all the word origin story books, this one appears to be the most complete (it’s a wish list book). It’s a must for anyone who ever thought, “I wonder why it’s called a fish?”Amazon
20.True Facts that Sound Like Bulls#*t
I just borrowed True Facts that Sound Like Bulls#*t: 500 Insane-But-True Facts That Will Shock And Impress Your Friends for free through Kindle Unlimited and I’m looking forward to reading it asap (my KU membership ends in a week and I’m waiting for another good deal to renew it). So far, just from the “Look Inside” preview, I learned that hippo sweat is pink (and why), that beetles pretty much rule the earth, and that baboons had pet dogs. The facts are short and sweet, making it a fun little “waiting in line” read.Amazon
There you go! Each of these 20 books will definitely help you learn something new every day. Grab them all and you’ll spend the rest of your life absorbing useful or wacky facts!
If you have any favorite trivia books or encyclopedias, I’d love to hear about them. I’m always looking for new books to add to my wish list!
Last update on 2023-12-10 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API