I can't recommend this book enough. It's gripping history in itself, but Tuchman weaves a tapestry of the era that informs, amuses, and horrifies. She is adept at making the reader relate to faraway events and shining a light on their relevancy in the modern world.
A history book like you have never read, reads like a novel. The subtitle is "The Calamitous 14th Century." Barbara Tuchman anatomizes the century, revealing to us both the great rhythms of history and the grain and texture of domestic life as it was lived: what childhood was like; what marriage meant; how money, taxes, and war dominated the lives of serf, noble, and clergy alike. Here are guilty passions, loyalties and treacheries, political assassinations; sea battles and sieges; fear of the end of the world; corruption in high places and a yearning for reform; satire and humor; sorcery and demonology; lust and sadism on the stage. Here are proud cardinals, beggars, bailiffs, feminists, Jews, scholars of the university, grocers, banders, clerks, sorcerers, mercenaries, saints and mystics, lawyers and tax-collectors, and, dominating all, the knight in his valor.