veryshortintroductions ). These paperbacks deal with a lot of issues, written by experts in these fields.
One of my favorites is "The Renaissance" by Jerry Brotton (amazon.com ). It has just 148 pages (including the index). The author describes the period from 1333 through 1605 when Europe awoke from the agony of the dark middle ages and the economic growth started which lasts untill today. Brotton reports about the jumpstarts of the western economy, science, medicine & art which made the growth of wealth possible.
I am also impressed by "The Roman Empire". The Author, Christopher Kelly, distilled the peak years of the ancient capital`s history (31 BC through AD 192) in just 153 pages. Surprisingly easy to read are "Molecules" and "The Elements", both by Philip Ball. He tells us how atoms are interacting and forming our world and how science, especially chemistry, makes use of this. "Mathematics", "Statistics" and "Logic" helped me refresh my basic knowledge. Also "Cosmology" and "Galaxies" are well done and opened my eyes to the infinity surrounding us.
This series, which covers a broad range of issues including the arts, philosophy and politics, is very helpful if you want to take a quick dip into a not too familiar matter.