Unfortunately I am totally unaware of the research and most of the basic methodology of Linguistics, but I am really keen on knowing more about languages because I am a passionate learner of new ones, and I find etymology to be the main source of my interest, as well as one of the tools that help me more in learning a new language. Also the comparison between languages words and grammars, fascinate me, and I very often find myself interested and keen on studying a new language only under the push of the enthusiasm that these comparisons hint at.
Therefore, my question concerns references. Where to look for books (and any other kind of material) on comparative linguistics (accessible to a non-expert), especially on the hidden influences that are clearly visible to anyone who, like me, starts to venture into the realm of languages.
I have also been wondering for a while if there are any not-too-technical references on the history of languages from a geographical point of view. For example, how migrations and wars , colonisations, etc. influenced the melting, mixing, distortions of different languages.
Thank you very much for your help!