Starting with the serious one, I listened to Foundation by Peter Ackroyd. My wife raves about Ackroyd's histories of England, so figured I'd try the first one. And she was right. It was great. Foundation takes us from Roman times up to but not including Henry VIII. Unsure if I'll read any more of them; my favorite historical time frame is Medieval and earlier. Foundation takes us through and beyond the Middle Ages. I think my favorite part of this book is when the speaker reads out letters written by the English back then, to include their comments about shitting. People are people, no matter when.
The serious short one is Serendipities by Umberto Eco. Damn that guy could write. This book is so much fun, especially for language lovers. Most of the five essays were about the philosophical language movement, Descartes, Wilkins & Co., and their attempts to divvy knowledge into manageable chunks, and turning that into a language. Quite interesting and one of my areas of interest. (For a couple good reads on this subject, check out The Artificial Language Movement by Andrew Large and Universal Language Schemes in England and France, 1600-1800 by James Knowlson.) There's also the search for the Adamic language, for many years thought to be Hebrew, and he reminds us of the not-always-theoretical experiment from hundreds of years ago: What language would a child speak if they never had any linguistic input?
And finally, the family book club picked False Assurances by Christopher Rosow. This book is a fast read with short chapters along the lines of Dan Brown. Action on every page, story that pulls you in, that sort of thing. Fun read certainly, and I gave it 4 stars instead of 5 only because the author fell for the same trap that every author (and screenwriter, for that matter) does when writing these kinds of stories: cell phones and uncleared people are NOT allowed in secure areas!