The best 27 Ancient History books

Ancient History continues to fascinate and captivate our modern world. Understanding the roots of human civilization and the cultures that shaped our societies is essential for appreciating our present and future. That's why we've compiled a list of must-read books on this fascinating topic.

Our list offers a wealth of knowledge and insights into the intricacies of ancient civilizations, their achievements, and their impact on the world. So, let's uncover the mysteries of the past and embark on this enlightening journey together!
The best 27 Ancient History books
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1
Ancient History Books: Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

Sapiens

Yuval Noah Harari
A Brief History of Humankind
4.4 (5,535 ratings)
Listen to the Intro
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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

2
Ancient History Books: The Code Book by Simon Singh

The Code Book

Simon Singh
The Science of Secrecy From Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography
4.2 (54 ratings)
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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

3
Ancient History Books: Holy Sh*t by Melissa Mohr

Holy Sh*t

Melissa Mohr
A Brief History of Swearing
4.1 (51 ratings)
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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

4
Ancient History Books: The Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan

The Silk Roads

Peter Frankopan
A New History of the World
4.6 (218 ratings)
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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

5
Ancient History Books: Palestine by Nur Masalha

Palestine

Nur Masalha
A Four Thousand Year History
3.9 (377 ratings)
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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

6
Ancient History Books: Mythology by Edith Hamilton

Mythology

Edith Hamilton
Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes
4.5 (181 ratings)
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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

7
Ancient History Books: Maps of Meaning by Jordan B. Peterson

Maps of Meaning

Jordan B. Peterson
The Architecture of Belief
4.6 (542 ratings)
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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

8
Ancient History Books: Zero by Charles Seife

Zero

Charles Seife
The Biography of a Dangerous Idea
4.4 (332 ratings)
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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

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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

10
Ancient History Books: Ancient Egypt by Ian Shaw

Ancient Egypt

Ian Shaw
A Very Short Introduction
4.2 (219 ratings)
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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

11
Ancient History Books: Powers and Thrones by Dan Jones

Powers and Thrones

Dan Jones
A New History of the Middle Ages
4.6 (337 ratings)
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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

12
Ancient History Books: The Iliad by Homer

The Iliad

Homer
4.5 (73 ratings)
Listen to the Intro
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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

13
Ancient History Books: The Anglo-Saxons by Marc Morris

The Anglo-Saxons

Marc Morris
The Roots of England
4.7 (221 ratings)
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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

14
Ancient History Books: The Immortality Key by Brian C. Muraresku

The Immortality Key

Brian C. Muraresku
The Secret History of the Religion with No Name
4.1 (46 ratings)
Listen to the Intro
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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

15
Ancient History Books: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The Song of Achilles

Madeline Miller
A Novel
4.3 (44 ratings)
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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

16
Ancient History Books: Mythos by Stephen Fry

Mythos

Stephen Fry
A Retelling of the Myths of Ancient Greece
4.7 (613 ratings)
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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

17
Ancient History Books: Antigone by Sophocles

Antigone

Sophocles
4.8 (36 ratings)
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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

18
Ancient History Books: The Things We Make by Bill Hammack

The Things We Make

Bill Hammack
The Unknown History of Invention from Cathedrals to Soda Cans
4.3 (199 ratings)
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What's The Things We Make about?

The Things We Make (2023) dispels the myth around some of the greatest and most ordinary inventions. It retells their making as a creative application of the engineering method, a principle that explains how people in ancient times built some of the marvels that still capture our imagination today.

Who should read The Things We Make?

  • Anyone fascinated about how things of beauty and utility are made
  • Engineering history buffs
  • Curious minds trying to apply the engineering method to their own lives

19
Ancient History Books: The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius

The Consolation of Philosophy

Boethius
4.2 (14 ratings)
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What's The Consolation of Philosophy about?

The Consolation of Philosophy (524) provides an exploration into distress and suffering. It delivers a philosophical perspective on life’s harsh realities, putting forward the idea that wisdom can bring solace, even in dire circumstances.

Who should read The Consolation of Philosophy?

  • Philosophy enthusiasts
  • Seekers of wisdom
  • Those facing distress

20
Ancient History Books: The Song of Roland by Anonymous

The Song of Roland

Anonymous
4.9 (10 ratings)
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What's The Song of Roland about?

The Song of Roland (ca. the eleventh century) is an anonymous epic poem that tells the heroic deeds of Frankish king Charlemagne’s knights in their battle against Muslim Saracens in Spain. One of them, military leader Roland, bravely leads his men against the enemy – risking death to defend chivalry, honor, and the Christian religion. 

Who should read The Song of Roland?

  • Fans of epic poetry and ancient literature
  • History buffs interested in medieval Europe and early French culture
  • Military history enthusiasts wanting to read early accounts of battles

21
Ancient History Books: Electra by Sophocles

Electra

Sophocles
3.3 (15 ratings)
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What's Electra about?

Electra (410 BC) is a deep dive into the power of emotions and the thirst for justice. It outlines the severe grief and anger of Electra, a character in ancient Greek mythology, who yearns to avenge her father’s murder.

Who should read Electra?

  • Fans of Greek mythology
  • Drama enthusiasts
  • Students of literature

22
Ancient History Books: The Odyssey by Homer

The Odyssey

Homer
4.6 (75 ratings)
Listen to the Intro
00:00

What's The Odyssey about?

The Odyssey (c. eighth century BC) is one of the foundational works of Western literature. The ancient Greek epic chronicles the arduous 10-year journey of hero Odysseus as he strives to return home from the Trojan War. Battling vengeful gods, mythical monsters, and the siren call of temptation, Odysseus's quest is not just for Ithaca, but for identity and meaning in a turbulent world.

Who should read The Odyssey?

  • Adventurers who love an epic travel story
  • Fans of fairy tales, fantasy, and mythology
  • Students of classic literature

23
Ancient History Books: Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

Blood Meridian

Cormac McCarthy
Or the Evening Redness in the West
4.7 (9 ratings)
Listen to the Intro
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What's Blood Meridian about?

Blood Meridian (1985) tells the gripping tale of “the kid,” a runaway teenager who falls in with several gangs of violent filibusters following the Mexican-American War. Inspired by historical events, the story follows the outlaws as they cut a bloody swath through the desert wilderness, murdering Mexicans, Native Americans, and fellow men alike.

Who should read Blood Meridian?

  • People interested in the history and mythology of the American West
  • Fans of Westerns, curious about a gripping tale that subverts the genre
  • Anyone who appreciates a visceral and intense story

24
Ancient History Books: The Metaphysics by Aristotle

The Metaphysics

Aristotle
4.5 (22 ratings)
Listen to the Intro
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What's The Metaphysics about?

First released in the mid-4th century BC, The Metaphysics is Aristotle’s major work in ontology, the philosophical study of existence and reality, including the interplay of substance and essence, potentiality and actuality.

Who should read The Metaphysics?

  • Aspiring philosophers
  • Curious minds interested in ontology
  • Students of ancient Greek thought

25
Ancient History Books: Eve by Cat Bohannon

Eve

Cat Bohannon
How the Female Body Drove 200 Million Years of Human Evolution
4.4 (106 ratings)
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What's Eve about?

Eve (2023) is a witty corrective to human evolution, spanning 200 million years of biology. Asking why science overlooked key questions about female bodies, it upends male-centric assumptions about how our species evolved. Ranging from wet nurses to C-sections, these musings will change what you think you know about evolution.

Who should read Eve?

  • Readers interested in evolutionary biology and the history of the female body
  • Feminists seeking greater scientific understanding of human evolution
  • Students and academics studying gender, reproduction, and human development

26
Ancient History Books: The Trojan Women by Euripides

The Trojan Women

Euripides
4.0 (76 ratings)
Listen to the Intro
00:00

What's The Trojan Women about?

The Trojan Women (415 BC) is a tragedy of war, centered on the plight of the defeated women of Troy. It emphasizes the cruel realities and senseless destruction that follows a brutal conflict, reminding readers of the high cost of war.

Who should read The Trojan Women?

  • Avid fans of Greek tragedy
  • Learners of ancient history
  • Students studying warfare consequences

27
Ancient History Books: Euthyphro by Plato

Euthyphro

Plato

What's Euthyphro about?

Euthyphro is a philosophical dialogue written by Plato, in which Socrates engages in a debate with Euthyphro about the nature of piety and the definition of holiness. Through their discussion, the book explores the concepts of morality, ethics, and the relationship between the gods and human actions. It challenges readers to critically examine their own beliefs and values.

Who should read Euthyphro?

  • Philosophy enthusiasts seeking a deeper understanding of ethical dilemmas
  • Students or scholars of ancient Greek philosophy
  • Individuals interested in exploring the foundations of moral reasoning and morality

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Ancient History Books
 FAQs 

What's the best Ancient History book to read?

While choosing just one book about a topic is always tough, many people regard Sapiens as the ultimate read on Ancient History.

What are the Top 10 Ancient History books?

Blinkist curators have picked the following:
  • Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
  • The Code Book by Simon Singh
  • Holy Sh*t by Melissa Mohr
  • The Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan
  • Palestine by Nur Masalha
  • Mythology by Edith Hamilton
  • Maps of Meaning by Jordan B. Peterson
  • Zero by Charles Seife
  • Bedtime Biography: Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford
  • Ancient Egypt by Ian Shaw

Who are the top Ancient History book authors?

When it comes to Ancient History, these are the authors who stand out as some of the most influential:
  • Yuval Noah Harari
  • Simon Singh
  • Melissa Mohr
  • Peter Frankopan
  • Nur Masalha