The History of Counting (1999) by Denise Schmandt-Besserat, illustrated by Michael Hays.
I’ve been geeking out on math pretty hard these days, but this book should appeal to non-geeks as well. It takes us on a journey from prehistory to our modern Hindu-Arabic number system with clear historical explanations and respectful illustrations. There are pit stops in Sri Lanka, Papa New Guinea as well as ancient Sumeria, Phoenicia, Greece and Rome with a lot of emphasis on the power of 0 as a place holder. Very cool stuff. Really, not just for geeks.
“Most of us take our modern system of counting for granted. We forget, or never even realize, that counting had to be invented and that it has been improved upon over a long period of time. In fact, counting was not invented once but many times.”
My one quibble is that it would have been even better with some discussion of Mayan and Indian mathematical discoveries. Perhaps that book is yet to be discovered.