Hmmmm, I haven’t really read much non-fiction of late, aside from A Night in Transylvania: The Dracula Scrapbook. Though I did check out Domestic Life in England … but that’s a fairly narrow interpretation of the question, isn’t it?
I think (though I know it might be monotonous) that I’d have to go with the two Little House books I’ve recently read, Little House in the Big Woods and Farmer Boy, or even The Witch of Blackbird Pond. I say that because all of those books address the mundane everyday tasks that make life livable, from making headcheese or caring for stock to making candy in the snow or growing a prize pumpkin. And though such details are endlessly fascinating, they also create an appreciation for the amount of time and work that running a household has taken throughout history, something I appreciate more as an adult than I did as a child.
The Witch of Blackbird Pond touches on those same tasks, but it also places its story and drama squarely amongst historical fact; there is a Great Meadows in Wethersfield, and there was a Governor Andros and a Gershom Bulkeley, and the Connecticut Colony charter did disappear one night when it was theatened. The narrative is closely intertwined with the historical record, and I have to say that a fair amount of my understanding of colonial history in America stemmed from books such as this.
Which brings me to the last point: all three books, geared though they are to a juvenile audience, engender an understanding of a different America. They illustrate ideas and illuminate how people–not just their authors, but their audiences as well–thought, what they thought about, and how those conceptions might differ from ours. You’ve got your politics, your philosophy, your gender roles, and what have you. And that’s fabulously informative.
(Kinda phoning it in lately, aren’t you, BTT?)