Want to become an instant expert? Visit FIVE BOOKS, which promises to make you one on lots of interesting topics.
You'll find the following statement on the website: "Every day an eminent writer, thinker, commentator, politician, academic chooses five books on their specialist subject. From Einstein to Keynes, Iraq to the Andes, Communism to Empire. Share in the knowledge and buy the books."
Poking around a bit, I discovered lists that I didn't quite understand because the choices didn't exactly fit but that may be because the 'experts' chose with different criteria. And it isn't all dry academia stuff. I actually found a list by Sophie Kinsella called "Chic Lit". At any rate, it is all very fascinating and certainly worth a look.