The Best American Nonrequired Reading
This series, edited by Dave Eggers, is put together through the 826 Valencia project. As I understand it, students submit their picks for the best reading they have come across, whether it is fiction, non-fiction, news, or comic, and then a team of students edit the best submissions into a book, with help from a professional guest editor. This is an excellent series and an interesting way to keep in touch with the zeitgeist.
33 1/3 Series
Truthfully, I have not started this series yet, but the book pictured is on its way from Amazon as I write this. The idea behind this series is a single book, by a single author for each of the great albums. I opted to start with David Bowie's Low, while the friend that recommended the series to me started with the Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique. At the moment there are 38 books covering a wide range of classic albums by a variety of authors. It looks quite promising.
Uncle John's Bathroom Readers are, hands down, the best books of trivia and minutia out there. With a wide topical focus and varying lengths of articles, the books are designed to be read in the bathroom. Or anywhere else where one may have anywhere from a few seconds to half an hour to kill. Uncle John's Curiously Compelling is the most recent wide-focused book, but there are several others including the "Uncle John Plunges Into" sub-series. Good to keep around for, well, you know.
Lonely Planet Journeys
Lonely Planet Journeys are a little hit and miss, but when they do hit, they contain some of the best travel narrative to be found. I have recently ordered "My 'Dam Life" by Sean Condon, after having read his books "Sean and David's Long Drive" and "Drive Thru America", also in the Journeys series. Others in the series have left me a little flat, but overall the series has been well enough edited that I keep returning to it whenever I need a travel fix.
Speaking of travel fixes, the Travelers Tales series is an interesting series collecting various pieces of travel essay, narrative, and story from a myriad of sources, including their own online magazine, and then collecting them in regional books. The book on Japan was one of the few books I read about Japan before moving here, and every subsequent book I have read (Hong Kong, China, Brazil) has had me wanting to up shop and move all over again. They are just that compelling.
Smart Pop Books
This last series, from publisher BenBella Books, is one I just came across recently. In short, the books are collections of essays about various pop licenses, usually television shows (Lost, C.S.I, Firefly) or movies (Star Wars, the Matrix) with a few overarching media properties as well (007). This is another new series for me; so far I am only about half way finished with "Finding Serenity", a collection about the television show "Firefly" and the movie "Serenity", and am quite enjoying it. In fact I am enjoying it enough that I have already ordered books from on 007 and Star Wars from the same series.
And that's it. These are the six non-fiction series that I go to whenever I want something to read; these are the series that I buy without reservation and that I recommend to friends and family or have had recommended to me.