The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
by Edward Gibbon
It's not so much the history, which has largely been superseded, nor the topic, which is spectacularly fashionable but politically facile, but rather the glorious and unforgettable language that makes Gibbon worth a long and comfortable visit. Gibbon is wonderful, by turns censorious and sympathetic but always showing a keen wit and a liberal interest in every facet of antiquity. He studies to be witty and seldom can resist a good story, and he carefully weighs facts and character alike.
If you enjoy history, and if the cadences of the periodic sentence do not fill your spirit with fear or your mind with confusion, do not make the mistake of waiting for your 49th birthday to make Gibbon's acquaintance.