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The Selfish Gene is wonderfully tight, indeed very little noise and a whole lot of signal.

Here's two books if you want to learn about math you might want to learn about: The Facts on File Dictionary on Mathematics by Gibson, and Foundations and Fundamental Concepts of Mathematics by Howard Eves, which takes a historical approach, but is not a history per se. More like "this is what the Greeks did, in this period the use of calculus was pretty loose and look at this equation that Euler thought was right, these are the steps that brought rigor to it" etc.

Susan Wise Bauer has been writing a series of history books solely focused on "politics", i.e. no coverage of the arts besides occasional mentions; that can be a very useful framework to then hang study of things like the arts off of. Also no wild speculation like Guns, Germs and Steel is filled with, if it wasn't written down and passed down to us, it gets only brief mention. Here's the first one: http://www.susanwisebauer.com/books/history-of-the-ancient-w...

Samuel Eliot Morison wrote a series of book on the History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, they're focused on what happened in detail, with charts of the movement of the ships in various battles and so on. The TV series Victory at Sea was based on them, and they're a good framework to then hang more detailed study of the war off of: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_United_States_Naval...

As Wikipedians put it, This History of U.S. Naval Operations also intentionally avoided a certain amount of analysis, for instance deferring to other works for the causes of the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor. The intended audience for the work, to quote from the preface, was "the general reader rather than the professional sailor."

There are two very tight and short books on self-defense, Jeff Cooper Principles of Personal Defense and Massad Ayoob's In the Gravest Extreme, The Role of the Firearm in Personal Protection, "Just the facts, ma'am", firearm centric but wonderfully focused.

ADDED: Sun Tzu's The Art of War is itself very focused (the media on which it was written strongly encourages that!), although the commentary, traditional and what modern translators add, can wander into fluff. A lot of it is relevant to modern non-violent life, and don't forget that "You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you". I recommend Samuel B. Griffith's translation, he was a professional military officer.

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