When it comes to his preferred reading, “Nonfiction’s my game,” says Bob Balaban, who has had roles in films as wide-ranging as Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Gosford Park, Best in Show, and The Grand Budapest Hotel, and in television series such as The Politician. “I’m particularly happy when I’m reading about anything scientific you don’t have to go to graduate school to understand; any book about history as long as it contains a character I can wrap my skittering mind around; and animals in trouble, as long as they’re not too cuddly,” he says. “Or wearing a hat.” Here, Balaban, who is set to appear in Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch (in theaters this summer), recommends his favorite nonfiction books.

My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey, by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor

At 37, the neuroscientist Jill Bolte Taylor suffered a near-deadly stroke on the left side of her brain. She recovered unimpaired after an eight-year period of intense therapy and wrote a book detailing the process from beginning to end. Her painstaking account stands as a rare scientific record of this kind of terrifying hemorrhagic attack.