Barber was recommended to me by a friend, as I was at the time writing an article on the formation of English. Reluctant to pick up such a 'mainstream' book - as I am a self-admitting intellectual snob - I was forced to read it by my friend with the promise that I never had to listen to any of her recommendations again if I disliked it.
What a complete shock to find that not only is this the most comprehensive and concise history of the English language that I have come across, it is the best written book on the topic by far.
If you are interested in understanding the formation and development of the English language, with a view to understanding the effects of globalisation and the spread and subsequent change of English, this is the book for you. I've been informed that many universities recommend this as a good guide, and I definitely endorse its use to make some difficult concepts very easy to understand. I love the way particularly that the chapters are set out, which I feel makes the best of the wide range of topics covered.
I feel that the only drawback is that in places the detail isn't deep enough if you are interested in academic analysis. That said, this is the starting point that anyone interested in the subject would need; self-confessed intellectual snob or the loosely interested passer-by, this is the perfect starting block.