Tutankhamen by Joyce Fyldesley
The Siesta and the Midnight Sun: How Our Bodies Experience Time by Jessica Gamble
An interesting long at our circadian rhythms, both in terms of the shorter daily cycles and longer seasonal ones. The author looks at a number of studies about what happens when usual daylight clues are removed and how in such cases human beings resort to a much longer sleep/wake cycle. She also looks at how cultures adapt when there is an absence of light, such as the Arctic in winter.
Similar to At Home by Bill Bryson, but somehow not as compelling. Based on a miniseries in Britain, Lucy Worsley charts the history of our lives as seen through our home. Covers much of the same ground as Bryson's book but is still full of interesting facts: for instance closets were once considered retreat spaces for reflection and prayer. Definitely of interest to history junkies, particularly of the Tudor and Victorian age.
The World of Downtown Abbey by Julian Fellowes
A no-brainer for Downton Abbey fans, lots of great facts from the daughter of Julian Fellowes. Gorgeous pictures of life on set, too.
50 Popular Beliefs That People Think Are True by Guy P. Harrison
I adored this book. I devoured (almost) every single one of the 50 entries in just a couple of days. I would put this on the list of books that everybody MUST read at some point in their lives. Basically, the author cuts through all the nonsense and superstition in the world to explain in plain, non-condescending language, why things just aren't true. Beliefs such as ghosts, UFO's, homeopathy, bad medicine, and religion all get exposed. Although you may laugh at some of the beliefs (such as that witches are real), the author is quick to point out how harmful these beliefs can be, as in parts of Africa where the murder of innocent children on charges of witchcraft are ongoing. Quite simply, this is an outstanding book on the necessity of thinking critically. There is no ranting and raving here, the author is almost gentle in his approach, and his arguments are all the better for it.
Fans of funny travel writing a la Bill Bryson will probably enjoy this tale of a man who tours Europe using a 1963 guidebook (Europe on $5 a day) that he found at a flea market. The advice the book gives is of course hilariously out-of-date and Europe has changed considerably since then. Or has it? This book explores Europe then and now, as well as providing a guide to what you can get nowadays for $5. (Not much, as it turns out).
I've saved the most mysterious for last. The name of Easter Island represents a secretly thrilling world of wonder for me, a far-flung island so remote its closest inhabited neighbour island is over 2,000 km away. Nevertheless, I was surprised to learn that it actually has a good tourist industry, thanks to daily flights from Chile. It seems that not even this remote island is safe from the ravages of the modern world - sigh. Still, the history of the island is full of enough surprises and puzzles to keep even the most jaded explorer happy. Here's a fact I learned: the islanders were obsessed with hats, and when the Europeans came wearing theirs, the native women would sexy-dance to distract them and then grab the hats and run. For some reason I feel this is the thing I'm going to remember the most about this book.