I always take a little longer to read non-fiction – just the nature of the beast.
Michael Wood is a long-standing favorite of mine – in tandem with his television series. He truly is a rarity – a historian who knows how to popularize history without losing insight and scholarship.
When I heard about his The Story of England, I just had to get it straight away. The concept of depicting the culture and history of England from prehistoric times to modern day, through the archives and archaeology of a single set of village hamlets, was inspiring. And I can say that the reading validated my anticipation.
I particularly liked the medieval period of history, and the Tudors, but I can say that the book was interesting and insightful throughout. What I particularly liked was his ability to use contrasts and comparisons between different time periods (often with examples of families who lived in or near the locale for those represented periods), and expressing insightful patterns in history.
And of course, his writing is crisp, fluid, and even at times, poetic.
Perhaps the only criticism I can throw in – which does not undermine my rating of 5 for this work – is that the geography often mentioned of areas outside of the locale are not represented by maps. As a non-Englishman, I simply lose my sense of direction and geographical context when reading about various counties and cities. It would have been helpful to have a few extra maps.
I heartily recommend this book to any student of history or culture.