A very good book on an important topic, innovation, from Matt Ridley. A Brit, but I don't hold that against him.
Approximately the first two-thirds of the book is wide-ranging history, and darn good story-telling. Chapter by chapter: how energy was harnessed to do useful work and provide reliable heat and light; how our health was improved; transportation; food production; "low tech" items, like our numbering system; communication and computing; and prehistoric innovation.
Back when I taught computer stuff, I wish I'd had Ridley's great sketch of "who invented the computer". Answer: nobody, really. Or lots of people, over decades and even centuries.
And he could have (but didn't) put in a plug for my favorite unsung area of innovation: packaging technology. There must be a bunch of pretty good stories of how hard-working techies put together metal, plastics, cardboard, paper, ink, tape, glue; all molded, folded and perforated to fine tolerances. In often attractive eye-grabbing arrangements. Simply to be easily ripped open, unscrewed, cut, or pulled apart, to get at whatever's inside. Not to mention that the packages need to be strong and safe enough to endure transportation from here to there to there to there… winding up at your domicile without spilling the goods.
I wouldn't have the slightest idea how to do that. And yet it happens, and nobody thinks it's a big deal. (Well, it's not the biggest deal. Still.)
Ridley devotes the last third of his text to pull out some general lessons about innovation. He notes that there's usually no lightbulb going off, no quantum leaps. It often happens by accident (see: Post-Its). Often involves combinations of ideas from unexpected sources, lots of trial and error. It's less likely to happen in large companies, which tend to be bureaucratic and sclerotic. (Exception: when a company sets up a blue-sky "skunk works" division that's given a green light to pursue out-there ideas.)
Finally, Ridley discusses fakes and frauds: he's got a good section on Theranos, summarizing the Carreyrou book (if you haven't read it, you should). And then there are the enemies of innovation: entrenched special interests, modern-day Luddites, etc. (Ridley should have, but didn't, give a shout out to Virginia Postrel's The Future and its Enemies.) And there are disturbing signs that America could be losing its innovative mojo as a whole. Are we destined to be out-innovated by others? (I'm tending pessimistic today, so: probably.)