The History of Herodotus
To read The History (Herodotus' only book) is to seek one's roots as a member of Western democratic civilization. It is in part a gripping and much revered tale of colossal confrontation between freedom-loving Greek-speaking peoples (the Athenians, Spartans, and others) and the seemingly unstoppable forces of the Persians. The Asiatic "Great King" Xerxes, who followed in the footsteps of Cyrus and Darius and assembled a military force numbered in the millions, was intent on enslaving the Greeks as he had so many other countries in the region- Egypt, Asia Minor, Syria, Babylonia, etc. The heroic battles near Athens- at Marathon (490 BCE), Thermopylae, Salamis, and finally Plataea (479 BCE) were classical Greek's crowning military achievements, and Herodotus was determined to record these great deeds for future generations (particularly in view of the ignominious and disastrous Peloponnesian Wars that followed). You can find an outline summary here by Michael McGoodwin.