I had the pleasure of hearing Rocky Kolb (Dr. Edward W. Kolb of University of Chicago and of Fermilab) speak recently (great lecture). I decided to re-read his book, "Blind Watchers of the Sky". It was hillarious in many places and gave me a detailed picture of the development of astronomy. (Incidentally, Rocky Kolb considers himself as a "blind watcher of the sky.")
One of my favorite chapters was the one about Johannes Kepler, including Kepler's ideas concerning astronomy leading to his three famous laws upon which modern astronomy was developed. The best part of the chapter about Kepler was Rocky Kolb's hillarious description of Kepler's life (which was far from what one would expect of a genius such as Johannes Kepler). It is difficult to believe that a man with such a sad early background (unbelievable family) would become one of the greatest astronomers of all time. The rest of us all owe a great deal to Kepler for his insights about elliptical planetary motion.
I had a difficult time putting down Dr. Kolb's book. I took time out for working, eating, and sleeping. The book has a complete section at the back which explains a lot of astronomical ideas in a manner which makes them understandable to a novice.
"Blind Watchers of the Sky" is OUT OF PRINT but can be purchased "used" on the web or ordered through a bookstore. It might be on the shelves in your local public library (if you have a local public library). Sadly, my public library does not have this book. Grrrr...
Then again. There are many, many books which have grabbed my attention. For the layman, this book is one of the best. Of course, Bad Astronomer's book, "Bad Astronomy," is also one of the best. I am looking forward to BA's next astronomical offering (hopefully sooner than later). Regardless, I will wait patiently. I do not know how BA can find the time to write with his busy schedule.