Bang! The Complete History of the Universe by Brian May, Patrick Moore, Chris Lintott
What I especially liked about this books is how it starts the discussion of the Big Bang Theory with some of the basics such as units of time, units of distance, how to visualize space,etc. They include good references to the major researchers in this field. It covers the events following the Big Bang with some references to particle theory, when the universe lit up, how galaxies and stars form, how stars generate the various elements and how our solar system and life evolved. This book doesn't rely very much on the underlying physics.
Symmetry and the Beautiful Universe by Leon M. Lederman and Christopher T. Hill
The emphasis in this book that also discuss the Big Bang theory of the universe is different since it focuses first on energy, then on conservation of energy. The authors introduce readers to the work of Emmy Noether, a famous mathematician whose work showed if there is any continuous symmetry it maps to a conservation theorem. Google Tech Talk offers a good video on her and the Fabric of Reality.
The Road to Reality by Roger Penrose
This book is too much to read at one sitting. It has some of the coolest ideas in physics, and then all the others that support them. Roger Penrose is known for Penrose Tiling, what's not to like in someone who makes pretty graphics.
Seriously, though, the subtitle of this books is A Complete Guide to The Universe and when you see the contents, starting with geometry and calculas and then moving on to surfaces (such as Manifolds) before moving into the Ladder of Infinity and on out into the Universe and Space-Time, he follows the increasingly more complex mathematics of objects, shapes and spaces. One concept, that of dimensions greater than n, seems very hard to visualize ergo the reader finds them relating to how Penrose Tilings came into being.
I haven't read all of this book. I've concentrated more on the sections on particle theory. He eventually works his way through to supersymmetry, supradimensionality and strings, but I'm not there yet.
Most of the discussion doesn't revolve around pages and pages of mathematics, although they are included and pretty much anyone with a basis in calculas shouldn't be too intimidated. It is primarily a mathematics book but he does allow good explanations about the woo-woo, spacy sort of things science fiction imagines. Sometimes, I think the mathematicians imagine more than anyone else, I mean, n-space? By the way, this book has the best cost to weight to content ratio of the whole bunch of them.
A Brief History of Time and A Briefer History of Time by Stephen Hawking
Stephen Hawking was to blame for my attempt at taking masters level physics courses, indirectly of course, because I read his autobiography written by Kristine Larsen titled Stephen Hawking: A Biography. In it, he goes off to school in England, wanting to get a masters degree in physics, not sure what he wants to do as a thesis, so just starts digging into the literature about black holes. So, of course, I imagined I would do that, too at the University of Central Florida. Well, I learned not. First of all, they fling Masters degree students through the combined math of three separate fields and you take on a whole new set of knowledge at the same time while also putting together coursework to teach others.. So I said, time out, could I do this a lot slower, please, as maybe an independent studies course. The answer was no, were you planning on cheating? No, of course not. What I wanted to do was look at the raw data for the atomic model especially related to particles. Eventually, I found several source books including the Springer Handbook of Atomical, Molecular and Optical Data which provided plenty of food for thought for those of my inclinations and also the Planetary Scientist's Companion (although much of the data is online and much more complete) it is rather handy to have it right beside your chair.
What Stephen Hawking does in A Brief History of Time is to explain what we know about time and space and how to visualize the connection of the two from the moment of the Big Bang and onward. He discusses Black Holes, Worm Holes, and the Principle of Uncertainty and its relationship to particles. A Briefer History of TIme was written afterward, for those who wanted a simpler view. He also discusses what happens to the universe over time i.e. in the future.
This books takes a space-time look at primarily stars and universes and explains how they decay and at what age and why. It also discusses what will happen to civilizations that live around those stars. Atomic model data plays a big role because as stars burn up their basic atomic elements i.e. hydrogen and through fusion produce helium and so on through the different stages of radioactive decay, the behavior of stars and the universe around them alters. This book was especially helpful for documenting what the evidence that supports the expanding model of the universe includes.
The Whole Shebang by Timothy Ferris
This book is similar to the preceding ones in explaining the expanding model of the universe but it does so using different evidence. It talks about meteorite data for one (its nice to see geology show up). It also discusses the search for life and explains the history behind why it is statistically so odd to have not found extraterrestrial life and touches on the subject of God. The book takes a primarily historical look at the data collected so far and how it supports the model.