I first learned of the Battle of Hastings in my high school world history class, and since that time I have encountered it while homeschooling my kids, in other reading, and in Teaching Co. lectures, but 1066: The Year of the Conquest by David Howarth filled in many gaps in my knowledge. The book takes its readers through the events that led to Harold's coronation as King of England and Duke William's consequent invasion to secure the crown that he believed was rightfully his, culminating in the Battle of Hastings. At just two hundred pages, I'm sure it's not an exhaustive history, but it is certainly informative for those whose knowledge about the battle was picked up piecemeal like mine was.
The author is very fair and evenhanded in his assessment of the events and players in the crucial year of 1066. He does not engage in the riduiculous speculation so common among historians today that result in equally ridiculous interpretations of history. The writing itself is very good. I can see why The New Yorker commented, "A model of scholarly popular history . . . Mr. Howarth is a brilliant writer, full of wit and solid common sense."
David Howarth was a military historian; I had never read any military history before now, but this book was so much more interesting and engaging than I ever thought a book about military history could be, and I will likely stop avoiding books of that type now. This book would also make an excellent addition to a high school history curriculum.