Triumph: The Power and the Glory of the Catholic Church by H. W. Crocker III
With a title like Triumph: The Power and the Glory of the Catholic Church, any reader can make a reasonable guess about the attitude of author H. W. Crocker III. He's as pro-Catholic a writer as you may ever come across. He covers the two thousand year history of the Catholic Church and hits all the highlights--the apostles' initial efforts, the age of Constantine, the split with the Eastern Orthodox, the challenges of the Middle Ages, the Crusades, the various forms of the Inquisition, etc. etc. An amazing amount of history is packed into fewer than 500 pages, including plenty of lesser known events. The book is thoroughly written and researched.
The book is also thoroughly biased in favor of the church, which is okay when dealing with issues where history about the church has been unclear or distorted. On the other hand, his bias in dealing with groups like the Orthodox church is too heavy-handed and colorful. Crocker goes on about how eastern Christians are so effeminate and self-absorbed and that's what caused and perpetuates the Great Schism. Protestants receive similar treatment (Elizabeth I's sailors are almost always referred to as "sea dogs," while the Spanish Armada gets plenty of respect). While I understand the importance of arguing the Catholic position, I bristle at cheap, unnecessary pot shots in an otherwise scholarly work. Crocker could easily have written just as entertaining and engaging a book without resorting to "boo-hiss, them!" histrionics. Also, that kind of rhetoric undercuts his authority as a historian.
I found this book entertaining and informative in parts but it also made me wince in many other parts. I'm not sure who I'd recommend it too--probably not people outside of the Catholic Church. Proceed with caution!