I've been meaning to read Christopher Clark's The Sleepwalkers, considered by many to be the definitive history of the years leading to WWI. But every time I pick up my doorstop volume I soon put it down again. Yes it's well written, yes it's impeccably researched, but frankly it strikes me as dull. It suffers from the same problem a lot of historical writing does --too much attention to detail and the minutiae of political wrangling and not enough to much else. There is no storytelling here to engage me, no sense of the world beyond the corridors of government.
I love history, it is the story of everything, and it's exciting to see it being presented and talked about in new ways. Which brings me naturally to Horrible Histories, the books (and tv series) that made history interesting to a generation of British schoolchildren. Its author, Terry Deary, found history in school boring (like I did, and like my 13 year old daughter still does) and vowed to save future generations from a similar fate. It too brings out the tiny stories of the past --in this case usually related to rudeness and bodily functions-- to engage children and bring history to life. It helps them understand that the past is a fascinating place and completely relevant to their lives. And it's fun!