A knowledgeable student of British history I could never be, what with all those Dukes, Earls, Edwards, Elizabeths, Catherines, Mortimers and Somersets, to name only a tiny fraction of the hundreds of titles and families. Who is a Plantagenet, who is a Lancaster, and which color rose won which wars, when? All fascinating, but too much memory work. That's why reading Winston Churchill's A History of the English Speaking Peoples -- particularly The Birth of Britain, the first in the four-volume series -- is so necessary and exhilarating. His narration moves you along as if on a conveyor belt, rapidly story-telling his way through the centuries, revealing each monarch's triumphs, foibles and disasters, describing battles like he was actually there, detailing important information that sits neatly at the back of your mind, ready to be accessed the next time the Black Death or Edward I comes up in polite conversation.