For those needing some background info on where wine originated and what made wine what it is today... I highly recommend A Short History of Wine by Rod Phillips. It's the perfect book to curl into as the summer months are coming to a close - autumn winds are a-brewing and soon the rains will fall in Northern CA.
(Please note that this is a budget friendly purchase!) =)
I haven't read this book in 7 years, but it seems appropriate to kick stuff off as it was topic of conversation earlier today. Despite the fact I'm not current on all the interesting information in this book - I have carried it with me every where I go only because it contains so much factual information and is (what I consider) a wine treasure.
The book is not short - a full 333 pages of history - but it is very much about wine. I have found with each individual that reads it, a particular section becomes what they favor most within the book. For instance, my favorite chapter was about phylloxera and its influence on the French wine industry. But that is because phylloxera, a tiny insect that is most prevalent on the roots and leaves of grapevines, is what drew me into my fascination with wine (after all, I am a science geek...). But others have very much enjoyed the chapters on democracy in relation to wine, as well as the information regarding the troubles of wine (a.k.a. Prohibition - another one of my favs).
I think the Introduction says it all (if I may quote Rod Phillips himself): "Wine has been called the gift of God and the work of Satan. It is a sign of civility and sophistication and a threat to social order. It is a part of a healthy diet and it kills. It is this very complexity that makes the history of wine so compelling."
How can you not want to read it now?