Germany: Memories of a Nation by Neil MacGregor (2014)
Neil MacGregor was director of the British Museum from 2002 to 2015, and previously director of the National Gallery from 1987 to 2002. As such, he has had unparalleled exposure to historical and cultural artefacts, and this multi-award winning book charts the history of Germany in terms of objects, buildings, statues, and memorabilia. MacGregor's study has been called "a distinctly British book" by one reviewer in terms of its treatment of German history, and it is a fascinating survey of cultural history from an outside perspective.
Soul of the Age by Jonathan Bate (2008)
Jonathan Bate's 2008 book Soul of the Age is unquestionably among the best recent offerings on Shakespeare's biography for the general reader. The book is divided into seven sections that mirror the Seven Ages of Man speech from Shakespeare's As You Like It, taking the reader through various stages of the playwright's career and upbringing. The book is entertaining and accessible, with quotations from across the Shakespeare canon interposed between compelling biographical anecdotes.