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I read a lot of speculative fiction, and every year, the new Hugo award winner for best novel gets inserted somewhere near the top of my list. The 2017 winner was The Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin. The first two installments of Jemisin's Broken Earth series won best novel (the third installment is nominated at the moment). As far as I know, Jemisin is the first writer to win two Hugos for Best Novel consecutively. I hadn't gotten around to reading The Fifth Season, the first in the series, so I decided it was time to check it out. The book was ambitious, evocative, and unique, and looking back, I really disliked it. Generally I'm not picky about fiction. I enjoy pulp at least as much as more philosophically rich science fiction. Reading this book, I realized that the reason I disliked it so much wasn't something reasonable like weak characters, or pacing (objectively every aspect of Jemisin's storytelling seemed pretty solid). I think it was because when I imagined the setting in my head, It looked stupid to me. That's it. I found this story largely uninteresting, even though I enjoy stories which are much less high-brow, but aesthetically more appealing to me, such as The Expanse series. As far as I can tell, the only thing that unifies my favorite Sci-fi is a vaguely hard or sleek look (even if the look is just in my head). As a result, I often find very interesting classics by Frank Herbert, Ursula K. Le Guin, or Kurt Vonnegut largely inaccessible, whereas less ambitious books, and books which I can imagine well, like the Culture series are totally enjoyable to me. Has anyone else had a similar problem enjoying a book which is totally interesting, but aesthetically unappealing? Have you found a way to overcome this?
In Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum, the protagonist is tasked to find illustrations for a book on the history of metals with a focus on the curious rather than just the cold facts. I would buy this book in a heartbeat, if only it existed. This is why I am asking for suggestions on non-fiction that is interesting, informative and entertaining. I remember enjoying Stephen Hawking's A Short History of Time when I read it long time ago. Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything was okay, though its scope was clearly too large and, so I have understood, there were plenty of factual errors. A Long History of Electricity (there might be a pattern here) by a Finnish professor Ismo Lindell was an excellent read, especially since it deals so closely with the subject of my studies. In all the books, the "stories" are told, more or less, through individuals and mostly in chronological order (of discovery), which makes for a very pleasant and human reading experience. Speaking of humans, I also recently read Alan Weisman's The World Without Us. It had its moments but wasn't as well organized as the others and I often found it quite dull. So anyway, any subject will do, though I'm likely to skip A Colorful History of Tiffany Glass and will almost definitely not read one dedicated to war or economy. Feel free to suggest those too, however, as someone else might be interested. Illustrations are considered a plus. Thanks!