10 favourite non-fiction books for learning about the world

why reading about the world is so awesome

One of my favourite ways to learn about the world as a family is through reading! Whether you’re exploring Prince Edward Island by reading Anne of Green Gables or visiting Kings Cross Station in London with Harry Potter, books are a great way to introduce us to different people, cultures and places!

We’ve always loved discovering a new part of the world with storybook characters as our host. We are also very lucky to be living in a time when there’s some amazing non-fiction books to use as a base for discovery too. These books are packed full of facts and many have breath-taking illustrations. Check out 10 of our favourites below!

the books

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1. Maps (Special Edition) by Aleksandra Mizielinska + Daniel Mizielinski this book is filled with the most delightfully illustrated maps that are packed with little treasures to discover. There is something quite enjoyable about opening this book to a random page and poring over the map, seeing what you can discover about a new country!

2. A Short History of the World by Ruth Brocklehurst + Henry Brook, illustrated by Adam Larkum this history is published by Usborne, and provides a really interesting overview of world history from the Ancient world to present day. The illustrations are gorgeous and there are helpful timelines throughout that let you see at a glance what is happening in different continents during the different time periods.

3. The Silk Roads: A New History of the World by Peter Frankopan, illustrated by Neil Packer this book has actually had another life as a fairly hefty tome for adults. Peter Frankopan has adapted his original work and added the amazing artwork of Neil Packer to make it suitable for a younger audience. The premise of the book is that many of us from ‘western’ countries are presented with a fairly one-dimensional look at the world. – The Silk Roads presents us with a wider history and helps us to see how interconnected the world is. As Peter writes in the introduction, ‘to understand the world of today and tomorrow, you need to understand the world of yesterday.’

4. What a Wonderful Word by Nicola Edwards, illustrated by Luisa Uribe did you know that nakama is a Japanese word that means ‘friends who are like family’? And abbiocco is an Italian word that means ‘drowsiness from eating a big meal’. This book is chock-full of 29 untranslatable words from around the world. That is, you can’t take one of these words and simply substitute it with its match from another language. Discovering words such as this is a wonderful way to learn little quirks about another culture, and the illustrations are so beautiful too!

5. Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species retold and illustrated by Sabina Radeva this beautifully illustrated book provides an interesting and appropriate introduction to Charles Darwin’s work. As Sabina writes in the author’s note: ‘from this book children can learn the power of observation and recognise how curiosity about the natural world can lead to incredible discoveries.’

6. The Atlas of Heroes by Sandra Lawrence, illustrated by Stuart Hill this book begins with a young, Alicea Gataki who discovers her Great Great Aunt Helena was an explorer who kept maps of the world detailed with various heroes of myth and legend. As Alicea reads through the maps, she learns a great deal about her Aunt Helena as well as the heroes she wrote about!

7. Endangered Animals: A world of threatened species by Martin Jenkins, illustrated by Tom Frost this book presents 30 endangered animals from around the world. It does a wonderful job of showing how humans have contributed to the endangered status of these animals, and serves as an excellent conversation starter as to what we can do to help. Tom Frost’s graphic stamp illustrations are beyond gorgeous too.

8. Prisoners of Geography: Our world explained in 12 simple maps by Tim Marshall, illustrated by Grace Easton + Jessica Smith just like Peter Frankopan’s The Silk Roads has been adapted for a younger audience, so too has Prisoners of Geography. The premise of this book is that the geography of the world has had a direct effect on the way world history has panned out. I love any book that lets me see something I think I’m familiar with in a new way – and that’s just what Prisoners of Geography does. This is a thought-provoking book – great for meaty conversations.

9. Curiositree: Human World: A visual history of humankind by Amanda Wood + Mike Jolley, illustrated by Andres Lozano I love the back blurb on this book: ‘Go on your very own learning adventure by exploring 60 visually compelling information charts from human history.’ and I love that you can either turn to a random page, or pick an interesting-to-you topic from the contents and get a really awesome overview of a subject concerning the human world – whether that be, the first farmers, the world in tune, or another brick in the wall (walls throughout history) – each topic explored is a fascinating jumping off point.

10. The Element in the Room: investigating the atomic ingredients that make up your home by Mike Barfield, illustrated by Lauren Humphrey this is such a fun and interesting book to learn all about the 118 elements that make up the periodic table – and how they make up just about everything in the universe!

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I hope you enjoy exploring the world through the pages of some of these books - they're real treasures that our family just loves!

Stay Curious!

Hana xo