Anyone that has a true desire to understand the Word of God will and MUST dedicate a lot of time into the Old Testament. The Old Testament basically is the New Testament concealed and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed. If nonfiction historical books are not your cup-of-tea you may have to force yourself to read them! Without a true understanding of the setting, history and culture of the times of the Old Testament much of our studies are stunted and come from a 21st century approach which will not produce a rich understanding of the Word of God. The vast majority of the New Testament and many of the very words of Jesus are direct quotes from or relating to Old Testament principles.
As for those that believe that the Old Testament is irrelevant to this 21st century is the same and gets close to what is called “Replacement Theology,” which pointedly states that because the Jews rejected Jesus as the Messiah the promises they had which began with Abraham are no longer for them but for the gentiles. Jesus came to fulfill the law and thus in our theology and understanding of the Word of God we must dedicate a lot of time to the principles, instructions and nature of the Old Testament.
F.F. Bruce has written a wonderful book that is easy to read which gives a very thorough timeline of history for the nation of Israel. He will take you through the journey of the people, kings and events from the Exodus until the fall of the second temple. This is a very good book for those that want to understand a little more about the history of the nation of Israel.