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Know EVERYTHING (without trying too hard)

Michael Z. Stones
The list author says: "These are some books I've read that have given me both enjoyment and lots of informational tidbits that come in handy. They cover a broad area of knowledge without being difficult or boring to read."
A Short History of Nearly Everything
A Short History of Nearly Everything
"This is an overview of science... all of it.   What's great is that it's written by a non-fiction writer and total layman, he went out and found experts in all the fields and tried to get them to explain things to him.  It's very well written, he illustrates the concepts in fun ways and also includes many stories about the quirky scientists making these discoveries throughout history."
Don't Know Much About History: Everything You Need to Know About American History but Never Learned
Don't Know Much About History: Everything You Need to Know About American History but Never Learned
"This is an easy to read overview of American History that also debunks a lot of the myths and inaccuracies that we may have been taught in grade school.  The author went on to write a whole series of "Don't Know Much About..." books which are all pretty good but this was the first and the best."
The Everything World's Religions Book: Discover the Beliefs, Traditions, and Cultures of Ancient and Modern Religions
The Everything World's Religions Book: Discover the Beliefs, Traditions, and Cultures of Ancient and Modern Religions
"I'm a bit ashamed to have read this, it's one step up from 'Religion for Dummies' but it was actually an interesting overview of all the major religions and the various sects, denominations, etc.  It summarizes all the basic beliefs and history and seems much more unbiased than similar books I've paged through.  This is also from a big series of books which covers diverse topics in a similar way."
The Illustrated World's Religions: A Guide to Our Wisdom Traditions
The Illustrated World's Religions: A Guide to Our Wisdom Traditions
"A much more respectable (and respectable looking) way of learning about religion.  Although actually not as broad reaching as the "Everything" book above."
The Intellectual Devotional: Revive Your Mind, Complete Your Education, and Roam Confidently with the Cultured Class
The Intellectual Devotional: Revive Your Mind, Complete Your Education, and Roam Confidently with the Cultured Class
"A very digestable daily knowledge book covering 7 different topics (one for each day of the week) for 365 days.  Topics include history, literature, math and science, philosophy, religion, fine arts and music."
The Intellectual Devotional: American History: Revive Your Mind, Complete Your Education, and Converse Confidently about Our Nation's Past
The Intellectual Devotional: American History: Revive Your Mind, Complete Your Education, and Converse Confidently about Our Nation's Past
"Like the intellectual devotional but for American History.  The seven weekly topic areas are politics & leadership, war & peace, rights & reform, business, building America, literature, and arts"
The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World
The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World
"This is a book about a guy that decided to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica cover to cover.  It's about his journey as well as the odd and interesting things he learned.  If you're the type of person to be interested in this list you'll probably enjoy and identify with this book."
A to Z of Classical Music (3rd Extended Edition)
A to Z of Classical Music (3rd Extended Edition)
"This is a two CD set attached to a huge illustrated booklet with bios of many composers and movements throughout history.  If you're not a classical music fan you will still recognize many of the pieces from places like movies and Bugs Bunny cartoons. Some of the pieces are only samples but it's a great price for how much content you are getting."
A - Z of Opera (includes 762 page booklet)
A - Z of Opera (includes 762 page booklet)
"Just like A-Z of classical music but with opera, which you might have guessed.  Knowledge of pretentious opera music is quite critical for sounding more cultured and educated than you are."
30,000 Years of Art: The Story of Human Creativity Across Time and Space
30,000 Years of Art: The Story of Human Creativity Across Time and Space
"Very impressive book of art throughout the ages"
Rick Steves' Mona Winks: Self-Guided Tours of Europe's Top Museums
Rick Steves' Mona Winks: Self-Guided Tours of Europe's Top Museums
"This is actually a European museum guide but you could read it for art knowledge and learn lots about the great works and all the artistic periods.  Pull up the works online as you read and it's almost like your there (not really, if you get the chance to go to Europe, do that instead).  Incidentally if you do get to go to Europe I highly recommend any of the Rick Steve's guides."
The Reduced Shakespeare Co. presentsThe Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr (abridged)
The Reduced Shakespeare Co. presentsThe Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr (abridged)
"Doesn't contain a huge amount of knowledge but it's HILARIOUS.  The more you all ready know about Shakespeare, the funnier it gets and if you know nothing you'll learn a little and still have a great time."