What it's about: the decades-long quest to decipher Linear B, a long-lost Mycenean (c.1400 BCE) script that resurfaced in 1900 Crete.
Cracking the code: Though British architect Michael Ventris deciphered Linear B in 1952, his efforts were aided by the work of American scholar Alice Kober, who painstakingly constructed syllabic grids at her kitchen table in the 1940s but died before she was able to solve the mystery.
Who it's for: This suspenseful history will appeal to language geeks, armchair archaeologists, and puzzle addicts.
What it's about: For nearly 30 years, anthropologist Don Kulick immersed himself in the culture of the tiny Papua New Guinea village of Gapun, where residents fought to preserve the dying Tayap language.
Read it for: a thought-provoking exploration of how colonialism and economic instability impact language.
Don't miss: Kulick's attempts to learn Tayap from elderly villager Raya.