The Object Lessons project, edited by game theory legend Ian Bogost and cultural studies academic Christopher Schaberg, commissions short essays and small, beautiful books about everyday objects from shipping containers to toast.
The Atlantic hosts a collection of "mini object-lessons", brief essays that take a deeper look at things we generally only glance upon ("Is bread toast only insofar as a human toaster perceives it to be 'done?' Is bread toast when it reaches some specific level of nonenzymatic browning?)
More substantive is Bloomsbury's collection of small, gorgeously designed books that delve into their subjects in much more depth: "lively analyses of the remote control's material, literary, and cultural history to explain how such an innocuous media accessory can change the way we occupy our houses, interact with our families, and experience the world."
Here's Steven "How We Got to Now" Johnson on the series: "The Object Lessons series achieves something very close to magic: the books take ordinary—even banal—objects and animate them with a rich history of invention, political struggle, science, and popular mythology. Filled with fascinating details and conveyed in sharp, accessible prose, the books make the everyday world come to life. Be warned: once you've read a few of these, you'll start walking around your house, picking up random objects, and musing aloud: 'I wonder what the story is behind this thing?'"
Mini Object Lessons [The Atlantic]
Object Lessons [Objectsobjectsobjects]