Baugh’s A History of the English Language is a supremely wonderful resource for learning about the origins and evolutions of English. Admittedly, it’s a bit more like a textbook than the sort of book you’d read for shits and giggles, but while my eyes would glaze over a bit when he would get into tables of Old English pronoun declensions, the history and some of the more easily-understood mechanics of change were absolutely fascinating.
A History of the English language methodically (the paragraphs are numbered, for goodness’ sake) traces English, beginning in its most primeval stages as Saxonic dialects, through its various injections of Latin via ecumenical campaigns by the Catholic Church or the more subtle inclusions from Norman, into the heavy Scandanavian influences from conquering Norsemen, into the period of great consonant change seen in Middle English and the early Renaissance, and finally into the relatively dormant transition to modern English, which saw changes in vocabulary and not very much else.
The whole book is filled with examples which sometimes stretch on for entire pages. I won’t pretend that it held my interest the entire time—it was downright boring sometimes, to tell the truth—but sometimes Baugh goes on interesting historical tangents, or brings up a genuinely fascinating point, and I smack my head and say, “So that’s why we say [word] that way!” It was moments like these that held my interest.
By and large, though, A History of the English Language doesn’t strike me as the sort of book one would read all the way through for fun. It’s more in the style of a reference work, filled with hard data in easily-accessible sections. It’s too inconsistent to be a truly fun read (I rather expected that), but it certainly is interesting if you have the patience to slog through it.