I was first introduced to the works of David Macaulay by a friend with a big book about castles, cathedrals, and mosques. I was enthralled by the methods that our ancestors used to erect the architectural wonders of the world. Instead of removing the awe of wonder, it increased it by showing me the ingenuity of the human race. The Way Things Work (updated in 1998 with the word ‘New’) describes the simplest machines (gears, screws, friction) to the very complex (nuclear power, sensors and detectors, digital systems). I see this book as a great way to spend silent reading time or a primer for more in-depth research projects. Or, you know, something to read in the bathroom.
The Way Things Work is probably his most famous work but I also recommend his other books. The illustrations force you to interact with a fundamentally information-based book in an almost narrative way.