The 99% Invisible City: A Field Guide to the Hidden World of Everyday Design
A lovely collection of blog posts about all the hidden stuff in your city. Why lampposts are shaped the way they are. Why manhole covers are round. What the markings on sidewalks mean.
It’s a great reader – every “chapter” is really just a blog post or podcast episode, so you can read 4-5 of them in a sitting.
There’s a lot here, and a lot to remember, so I don’t know that I’m any more of an expert that I was before, but it did give me an appreciation that things are the way they are for good reasons. If something seems strange or unique, it’s really just a product of the forces that existing when it was developed, and subsequent changes haven’t generating enough inertia to change them.
Fascinating stuff. Sooner or later, you stop trying to remember everything and just read for the fun of it.