You only thought you didn’t care to know more about the anatomical wonders that are your fingers. These books make the blandest of subjects wildly interesting.


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THERE’S A GOOD CHANCE somebody out there is about to be offended. They’ll cry, “What do you mean, you don’t find the science of waves instantly and completely fascinating?” For that, we sincerely apologize. But as the saying goes, it’s different strokes for different folks, and chances are we aren’t the only ones who typically find subjects like classical music history and bread-making techniques a little, well, dry.

Turns out, though, all it takes is a stylishly written guide on these topics to find the “how cool” in the otherwise ho-hum. Here are some books that turn the fascinating factor up full blast.

TOPIC Fingers. Yes, fingers.
THE BOOK The Finger: A Handbook by Angus Trumble (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $28) Available now
WHY IT’S WORTH READING The smart, witty author of A Brief History of the Smile is back to help us understand why those wiggly bits that help us through the day deserve some attention. Really, when’s the last time you thought about your fingers if they weren’t cold or you hadn’t smashed one with a hammer? Trumble examines the digit through art, science and more.
A SNIPPET “It is hardly a good thing to be under someone’s thumb, or to be able to twist someone around your little finger, although there are always plenty of people who assume it is.”

TOPIC All kinds of waves
THE BOOK The Wave Watcher’s Companion: From Ocean Waves to Light Waves via Shock Waves, Stadium Waves, and All the Rest of Life’s Undulations by Gavin Pretor-Pinney (Perigee, $23) Available July 6
WHY IT’S WORTH READING Pretor-Pinney had us at cumulus in his previous book, The Cloudspotter’s Guide: The Science, History, and Culture of Clouds. Quite the elegant writer, Pretor-Pinney has a talent for winding in loads of facts without exhausting the reader. If only high school physics had been this much fun.
A SNIPPET “This caravan of crests could not have been more different from the little peaks that busied across its surface. But, just as the little crests had passed under the seaweed rather than sweeping it along with them, so these gentle giants rolled in under a small sailing dinghy without dragging it toward the shore, as they would were they currents of water.”

TOPIC The history of yoga
THE BOOK The Great Oom: The Improbable Birth of Yoga in America by Robert Love (Viking Adult, $28) Available now
WHY IT’S WORTH READING We thought you’d have to be really into yoga to dig this one. Not so! Oom’s got big characters, secret marriages, famous American families, spies and much more. It’s definitely truth-is-stranger-than-fiction territory.
A SNIPPET “It is a maxim among spiritual seekers that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. And so, as if plucked from a candlelit cave in the foothills of the Himalayas and materialized on the muddy streets of the frontier town of Lincoln, this dapper Asian emigre stood before the skinny, wide-eyed kid from Iowa.”

TOPIC Growing wheat and turning it into bread
THE BOOK 52 Loaves: One Man’s Relentless Pursuit of Truth, Meaning, and a Perfect Crust by William Alexander (Algonquin Books, $24) Available now
WHY IT’S WORTH READING There are people who don’t obsess over food. We’re not those people, but we’ve heard of them. Even those people would enjoy 52 Loaves. As Alexander takes readers along on his quest for the perfect loaf, he also invites us into his life — and, thanks to his honesty and his sense of humor, he’s somebody you’ll want to know.
A SNIPPET “I was fairly distraught over my own insipid loaf. It didn’t even make for edible toast, and almost any bread tastes good when you toast it.”

TOPIC The periodic table of elements
THE BOOK The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of Elements by Sam Kean (Little, Brown and Company $25) Available July 12
WHY IT’S WORTH READING There’s no need for rote memorization this go-around. Kean’s talent for storytelling turns the table into a tome of tantalizing tales you’ll never forget — a hefty feat for which we give him an Au, er, a gold star. The stories behind the elements and the scientists who discovered them are full of intrigue, obsession and even scandal (yes, scandal).
A SNIPPET “The point is that the universe can accommodate far more states of matter — different micro-arrangements of particles — than are dreamed of in our provincial categories of solid, liquid, and gas. And these new states aren’t hybrids like Jell-O.”