Montaillou: The Promised Land of Error - Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, Barbara Bray When I began my undergraduate career I was part of an honors seminar where this was one of the books we read.

It was an eye-opening experience and probably did as much as anything at that time in propelling me to specialize in Medieval history. Montaillou was a village in southern France that suffered an inquisitorial investigation in the mid-14th century because of a recrudescence of the Cathar heresy (which had been "eradicated" in the previous century, or so the Church believed). The book's fascination and brilliance lies not so much in its discussion of the inquisition but in the insight the inquisition's depositions (that it took from the peasants) gives into the lives of the people of Montaillou.

LeRoy Ladurie is a major figure in the Annales strain of Medieval historiography, which focuses on such sources to tease out how people lived and thought, and Montaillou is one of the better examples for a general reading audience to enjoy.

It's been 20 years since I read this book but I can still remember the sexual peccadillos of the village cleric, Le Clergue, and I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the period and looking for something other than a history that relies upon the usual sources - monastic chronicles, primarily - and talks about the usual "stuff" - politics & economics.