I've been scrambling to finish Why Nations Fail before I release my quarterly book list at the end of the month. I've got about a hundred pages to go, but so far what had surprised me is how little economics the book contains. It is more of a survey of history used to support the principle that "inclusive" institutions that allow for competition and creative destruction are the necessary elements of economic growth and prosperity. That strikes me as an insight not worth a 500-page investment, but if you're interested in the Rise of Venice or the Dutch East India Company, among others, it's worth a look, although I suspect there might be better sources.
Here is a review of the book by William Easterly. Here is an enjoyable interview with one of the book's authors.