I have always enjoyed learning about history. There is so much to learn from the past that can help us today.
Thomas Cahill is a prolific writer and student of history. In his Hinges of History series he recounts significant events in the formation of Western civilisation. To date the series includes five best-selling books. I have recently finished reading The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels (1999) and Desire of the Everlasting Hills: The World Before and After Jesus(2001). Cahill has an uncanny ability to take broad-ranging topics and times and condense them into readable portions written with a creativity that provokes further interest. As with any book, you need to "eat the meat and spit out the bones," but there are some good insights in his writings.
If you are interested in church history, I heartily recommend Justo Gonzalez two-volume work The Story of Christianity. I read it a few years back and couldn't put it down. Baker Books has a new multi-volume series on church history that looks good too.