A while back I was surfing the net, trying to find new books to read, especially those that would potentially widen my world view and general knowledge on different subjects, namely history. I found many different lists composed by many different people, and decided to order the most interesting sounding of them online. One of those books I ordered was Arthur Herman's The Cave and the Light, and soon enough, the package arrived bearing my copy.
I wasn't expecting it to be as thick of a book as it turned out to be (676 pages, minues 103 pages of reference notes), but after a couple of weeks' of getting used to the idea of wading through a huge history book without giving up, I opened the book and started reading. I was almost instantly let down by Herman's somewhat thriller-like way of writing, with cliffhangers at the ends of chapters (and an almost Gladwellian way of describing The Sun King's morning routine, for example). But since I had decided to read the whole thing, I bit the bullet and struggled the first hundred pages or so.
After that, I got used to his style of writing, and things changed.
I started to love the book. I learned to ignore the rambling and the corny cliffhangers and see the philosophy underneath as it was. And I can honestly say, after years and years, I have finally found a book that has actually taught me something. And directed my thinking to new paths. And shown me a side of history I'd never recognized until now.
Herman, starting from Ancient Greece and Plato and Aristotle themselves, explains how the ideologies of those two thinkers have affected the ideologies of virtually every other thinker later, from the Roman Empire to the Middle Ages and Enlightenment and the late 20th century. He covers not only philosophy but also scratches the surface on politics and physics and religion. He will basically tell you everything you need to know to get interested in anything.
And above all else, he'll get you excited about history.