The best 18 Ancient History books



Yuval Noah Harari
A Brief History of Humankind
4.4 (3,858 ratings)

What's Sapiens about?

Sapiens (2015) traces the evolution of our species – from the rise of our most ancient ancestors to our current place in the modern, technological age. How have we, a species of hairless, tailless ape, managed to completely dominate the entire planet? These blinks show you the developments and trends that have allowed Homo sapiens to rise to the top.

Who should read Sapiens?

  • People curious about why our species – Homo sapiens – came to rule the world
  • Those who want to know how humans ended up living in a capitalist world community
  • Anyone curious to discover the beginnings of human society and culture

Maps of Meaning

Maps of Meaning

Jordan B. Peterson
The Architecture of Belief
4.7 (404 ratings)

What's Maps of Meaning about?

Maps of Meaning (1999) argues that myths provide the key to understanding the human psyche and our shared culture. Combining classic psychoanalysis with psychology, social and historical analysis, Jordan B. Peterson reveals how myths convey morality and create meaning in our lives – and what we can learn from them to reach our individual potential.

Who should read Maps of Meaning?

  • Psychologists interested in ancient history, and historians interested in human nature
  • Jordan Peterson devotees who want to dive deeper into his system of thought
  • Skeptics who want to better understand the author’s controversial theories



Stephen Fry
A Retelling of the Myths of Ancient Greece
4.7 (468 ratings)

What's Mythos about?

Mythos (2017) is a fabulous retelling of the Greek myths. It provides a great introduction to anyone interested in knowing more about the Greek gods and goddesses without any preknowledge or a classical education.

Who should read Mythos?

  • Lovers of Greek mythology
  • Anyone interested in creation stories from ancient cultures
  • Humans who want to understand their origin as seen by the ancient Greeks

The Iliad

The Iliad

The Greek Epic on the End of the Trojan War and Achilles’ Wrath
4.6 (13 ratings)

What's The Iliad about?

The Iliad (c. eighth century BC) is one of the oldest and most important works of Western literature. Attributed to ancient Greek poet Homer, the epic poem recounts the final days of the Greek siege of Troy. At the center of the story is Greek war hero Achilles, who has to beat back the Trojan enemy, struggle against meddling gods, and vie for recognition among his fellow Greeks. 

Who should read The Iliad?

  • Fans of classic literature
  • Bookworms and history nerds
  • Anyone interested in ancient Western culture



An Ancient Greek Tragedy on Civil Disobedience, Morality and Gender
4.6 (13 ratings)

What's Antigone about?

Antigone (c. 441 BC) is a tragedy by Sophocles, one of ancient Greece’s greatest playwrights. After a civil war, two brothers – the leaders of rival factions – are dead. One is remembered as a patriotic hero; the other, as a treacherous usurper. The king of Thebes, Creon, has forbidden anyone to bury the traitor – an order the man’s sister, Antigone, can’t square with her conscience. The stage is set for a conflict pitting the individual against the state, justice against law, idealism against realism, and a defiant woman against a male-dominated world.

Who should read Antigone?

  • Theater enthusiasts interested in the history of drama
  • Fans of classical literature and mythology
  • Anyone interested in exploring themes of morality, family, and power



Edith Hamilton
Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes
4.5 (150 ratings)

What's Mythology about?

In Mythology (1942), Edith Hamilton takes the reader on a swift journey through the classical annals, surveying the fascinating stories of Greek and Roman mythology. The power of these stories impacted art and literature for centuries. Here, you can learn their essence. From the creation of the world to the epic siege of Troy, Hamilton gives you the grounding you need.

Who should read Mythology?

  • Students of ancient history and classics
  • Any art lover who’s ever viewed a classical mythology-inspired painting with confusion
  • Dinner table conversationalists looking for a classical analogy to spice things up

The Song of Achilles

The Song of Achilles

Madeline Miller
A Novel
4.6 (21 ratings)

What's The Song of Achilles about?

The Song of Achilles (2011) is a creative retelling of Homer’s Iliad. The epic tale of the Trojan War is transformed into a moving love story, told from the perspective of Patroclus, the beloved companion of the Greek hero Achilles.

Who should read The Song of Achilles?

  • Hopeless romantics
  • Fans of Greek mythology
  • Anyone interested in the Iliad and the Trojan War

Ten Caesars

Ten Caesars

Barry Strauss
Roman Emperors from Augustus to Constantine
4.6 (77 ratings)

What's Ten Caesars about?

Ten Caesars (2019) charts the history of the Roman empire from its rise to its reinvention under the first Christian emperor in the fourth century AD. Along the way, it sheds light on the character and policies of the men who ruled it through years of triumphant expansion and catastrophic crises.

Who should read Ten Caesars?

  • History buffs
  • Classicists
  • Romanophiles



Nur Masalha
A Four Thousand Year History
4.1 (162 ratings)

What's Palestine about?

Palestine (2015) chronicles the long history of the land straddling the eastern Mediterranean between modern-day Lebanon and Egypt. By compiling an impressive set of sources both ancient and modern, Nur Masalha presents a nuanced history of the region, from its roots in ancient Philistine civilization to the advent of modern Palestinian nationalism in the nineteenth century, and Israel’s founding in 1948.

Who should read Palestine?

  • Students of history or politics
  • Supporters of both Israel and Palestine looking to inform themselves on the region
  • Palestinians who’d like to learn more about the complex historical tapestry of their land

Bedtime Biography: Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World

Bedtime Biography: Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World

Jack Weatherford
The Rise of the Mongol Empire and Its First Great Khan
4.6 (313 ratings)

What's Bedtime Biography: Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World about?

Read to you by Marston York.

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World (2004) tells the fascinating story of Genghis Khan, the man who founded the great Mongol Empire. Today, he’s remembered as a ruthless, violent conqueror who thrived on bloodshed and destruction. What has largely been forgotten, though, is how he united disparate peoples, fostered trade and modernization, and advanced democracy – and in so doing, ushered in the modern world.

Who should read Bedtime Biography: Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World?

  • History buffs
  • Global citizens interested in the roots of the modern world
  • Anyone with preconceived notions about the Mongol Empire

The Silk Roads

The Silk Roads

Peter Frankopan
A New History of the World
4.6 (176 ratings)

What's The Silk Roads about?

The Silk Roads (2015) is a comprehensive history of the world, written with an eye to the networks of trade that shaped it. The networks of trade first established in ancient Persia and later linked with Chinese trade routes created a great network between the East and the West. But these Silk Roads are not relics of the past. They have morphed and changed, and their impact can be felt today, right down to America’s fateful engagement in the region where it all began.

Who should read The Silk Roads?

  • Economists looking for historical parallels
  • Intrigued followers of world events who want to learn about trade
  • Historians of all stripes



Charles Seife
The Biography of a Dangerous Idea
4.4 (318 ratings)

What's Zero about?

Zero (2000) is the fascinating story of a number banned by the ancient Greeks and worshipped by ancient Indians. Zero – as well as its twin, infinity – is a number that’s been at the heart of both mathematics and philosophy over the centuries.

Who should read Zero?

  • Popular science enthusiasts
  • History buffs curious about how concepts have evolved over time
  • Philosophers interested in everything . . . and nothing

Powers and Thrones

Powers and Thrones

Dan Jones
A New History of the Middle Ages
4.6 (310 ratings)

What's Powers and Thrones about?

Powers and Thrones (2021) is a comprehensive history of the Middle Ages. Tracing time from the fall of the western Roman Empire to the Protestant Reformation, these blinks reveal how forces such as global networks, climate change, mass migration, pandemics, and technological innovation, as well as political leaders, the clergy, and knights, shaped the medieval world.

Who should read Powers and Thrones?

  • History nerds fascinated by the Middle Ages
  • Anyone curious about the history of pandemics
  • Sociologists, archeologists, and political scientists

The Anglo-Saxons

The Anglo-Saxons

Marc Morris
The Roots of England
4.7 (192 ratings)

What's The Anglo-Saxons about?

The Anglo-Saxons (2021) is a history of the Germanic warriors and settlers whose arrival in Britain in the sixth century changed the course of the island’s history. Beginning with the collapse of Roman rule, it charts the rise of Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, their conversion to Christianity, and the gradual unification of the country that became known as England. Along the way, it sheds light on the development of England’s language, culture, cities, and political and religious institutions. 

Who should read The Anglo-Saxons?

  • History buffs 
  • Anglophiles 
  • Medievalists

The Immortality Key

The Immortality Key

Brian C. Muraresku
The Secret History of the Religion with No Name
4.0 (28 ratings)

What's The Immortality Key about?

The Immortality Key (2020) investigates the mysterious religious rituals of the Ancient Greeks and the early Christians. Muraresku spent 12 years researching a controversial hypothesis about the role of psychedelic drugs in spiritual experiences.

Who should read The Immortality Key?

  • Historians and classicists
  • Anyone interested in Christianity or spirituality 
  • People who are curious about psychedelic drugs

Ancient Egypt

Ancient Egypt

Ian Shaw
A Very Short Introduction
4.3 (200 ratings)

What's Ancient Egypt about?

Ancient Egypt (2021) is a succinct introduction to the history and culture of one of humanity’s oldest civilizations. It touches on different aspects of Ancient Egyptian society and covers topics such as religion and mythology, the hieroglyphic writing system, and Egyptian ideas about death and mummification.

Who should read Ancient Egypt?

  • Students of archeology or Egyptology looking for a primer on Ancient Egypt
  • Museumgoers who want to learn more about the culture behind the exhibits
  • History buffs who just can't get enough of the Land of the Pharaohs

The Code Book

The Code Book

Simon Singh
The Science of Secrecy From Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography
4.2 (38 ratings)

What's The Code Book about?

The Code Book (1999) lays out the long and intriguing history of secret communication. These blinks will take you on a journey from Ancient Greece to the modern-day NSA, detailing innumerable stories of cunning, determination and deceit along the way.

Who should read The Code Book?

  • Anyone interested in codes, secrets and world history
  • People with a taste for stories of wartime espionage
  • Any linguist and mathematician

Holy Sh*t

Holy Sh*t

Melissa Mohr
A Brief History of Swearing
4.2 (42 ratings)

What's Holy Sh*t about?

Holy Sh*t (2013) is a journey through the history of swearing. Starting in ancient Rome and coming up to the present day, these blinks delve into the cultures of different periods to highlight the rich evolution of swear words and obscenities throughout history.

Who should read Holy Sh*t?

  • Language lovers
  • Historians, anthropologists and students of cultural studies
  • People who want to broaden their swearing vocabulary

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