The Sea Wolves (2014) by Lars Brownworth is a fairly compact history of the Vikings. The book is broken into sections describing the viking raiders, the explorers, traders and how the viking lands were ruled.
The vikings were an incredible group of people who used their seafaring skills to mount a series of raids against much of coastal Europe. Their plunder was enormous. Surprisingly initially their weapons were fairly small but their hit and run tactics were very effective. The vikings were also staggeringly violent, slaughtering people who they defeated on a regular basis. They also captured and traded slaves. Eventually they improved their weapons, their tactics and began to conquer parts of the British Isles and France. Here they quickly took on many of the local customs. The exploration carried out by the vikings was also remarkable, culminating in their discovery of the Americas.
The vikings also traded extensively across Europe and carried their boats as far as the Middle East. It’s truly amazing. As well as this they established a number of states including what would eventually become the Russian state.
The book goes over a lot of ground pretty quickly and the pace makes it a breeze to read. It’s really a remarkable story and the impact that the vikings had on Europe as sea raiders is made very clear. Just as the Mongols had a huge effect on the history of Asia the vikings radically altered Europe.