Number One on his list:
The Stories of EnglishRead about the other books on Quinion's list.
by David Crystal
This richly textured, nontechnical account of the evolution of English is fascinating because it interweaves multiple narratives. In parallel with the standard language, David Crystal discusses varieties usually considered nonstandard -- dialect, slang and the speech of ethnic minorities -- which previously hadn't received the same level of attention. Traditionalist speakers and grammarians deplore such varieties as inferior or corrupt, but they are increasingly becoming accepted as legitimate, not least because only one in three speakers of English now has it as a mother tongue. With a cornucopia of examples that range from "The Canterbury Tales" to "The Lord of the Rings," and from the correspondence of medieval kings to Internet chatroom gossip, Crystal's exposition is a delight.
Also read about David Crystal's top 10 books on the English language and five best books on the history and use of English.