Millennium, By Tom Holland

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From the rise of Charlemagne to the first shocks of the Crusades, Tom Holland's galloping history of Europe in the centuries on either side of 1000AD confirms both his mastery and his originality.

With the cultures of Rome (Catholic), Byzantium (Orthodox) and al-Andalus (Muslim) sharing the spotlight through so-called "dark ages", and pagans thriving to the North and East, his enthralling panorama pays as much heed to creeds as to castles; to captives as to knights, at a time when Norse Dublin boasted "the largest slave market" in the West.

This rare conjunction of great deeds and big ideas brings out the apocalyptic fantasies that shadowed the epoch. Holland not only conjures a Viking raid on Essex, a Berber coup in Cordoba or a doctrinal wrangle at Cluny with equal verve – but, crucially, shows how each piece of the jigsaw fits together.