For those first starting the study of the Crusades, and for those who need a book or two as a reference to go back to from time to time, these three works should be on your shelf. I’m ordering them based on priority, not the alphabet!
When taken together, these three books will demolish virtually every myth that most moderns (including some misinformed Christians) have about the Crusades:
General Studies/Starters/Must Have
Stark, Rodney. God’s Battalions: The Case for the Crusades. New York, NY: Harper One, 2010.
Madden, Thomas F. The New Concise History of the Crusades. Updated ed. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2005.
Riley-Smith, Jonathan. What Were the Crusades? 4th ed. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2009.
Now if you are like me and want to know more details, and want to be more of an “expert,” I’ve organized the rest of the bibliography topically (not alphabetical). I’m assuming that the basic narratives of Stark and Madden will take care of the basics, and now we need more detail.
Riley-Smith, Jonathan. The First Crusaders, 1095-1131. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997.
Riley-Smith, Jonathan. The First Crusade and the Idea of Crusading. Reprint ed. London: Continuum, 2003.
France, John. Victory in the East: A Military History of the First Crusade. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.
Phillips, Jonathan. The Second Crusade: Extending the Frontiers of Christendom. New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 2007. *Just to warn you, Phillips can be a bit of a modern chauvinist and a bit snarkey*
Gervers, Michael, ed. The Second Crusade and the Cistercians. New York: Macmillan, 1992.
Gillingham, John. Richard I. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002.
Münz, Peter. Frederick Barbarossa: A Study of Medieval Politics. N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1969.
Queller, Donald E, and Thomas F Madden. The Fourth Crusade: The Conquest of Constantinople. 2nd ed. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999.
Angold, Michael. The Fourth Crusade: Event and Context. Harlow: Longman, 2003.
Christiansen, Eric. The Northern Crusades. 2nd, new ed. London, England: Penguin, 1997.
Jordan, William C. Louis IX and the Challenge of the Crusade: A Study in Rulership. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1979.
Callaghan, Joseph F. Reconquest and Crusade in Medieval Spain. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004.
Crowley, Roger. Empires of the Sea: The Siege of Malta, the Battle of Lepanto, and the Contest for the Center of the World. New York: Random House, 2008. *Some consider these events to be the end of the Crusading Spirit.*
Smail, R. C. Crusading Warfare, 1097-1193. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.
Marshall, Christopher. Warfare in the Latin East, 1192-1291. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992.
France, John. Western Warfare in the Age of the Crusades, 1000-1300. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1999.
Kennedy, Hugh. Crusader Castles. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001
Barber, Malcolm. The New knighthood: A History of the Order of the Temple. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ Press, 2012.
Riley-Smith, Jonathan. Hospitallers: The History of the Order of St. John. London: Hambledon Press, 1999.
Bostom, Andrew G. The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of non-Muslims. Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 2008.
Fregosi, Paul. Jihad in the West: Muslim Conquests From the 7th to the 21st Centuries. Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1998.
Ye’Or, Bat, and David Littman. Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilizations Collide. Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2002.
Dark Ages Myth
Woods, Thomas E. How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization. Washington, DC: Regnery, 2005.
Haskins, Charles Homer. The Renaissance of the Twelfth Century. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1955.
Scott, Emmet. Mohammed & Charlemagne Revisited: The History of a Controversy. Nashville, Tenn.: New English Review Press, 2012.
Stark, Rodney. The Victory of Reason: How Christianity led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success. Random House trade pbk. ed. New York: Random House, 2006.
Folda, Jaroslav. Crusader Art: The Art of the Crusaders in the Holy Land, 1099-1291. Aldershot: Lund Humphries, 2008.
Riley-Smith, Jonathan. The Atlas of the Crusades. New York: Facts on File, 1990.
Madden, Thomas F. Enrico Dandolo & The Rise of Venice. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University, 2007.