Author: Susan Wise Bauer
Length: 868 pages
I enjoyed history in school, but only when it was taught by certain teachers. I distinctly remember thoroughly loving Coach Masters, my World History teacher in high school. In hindsight, I’m not sure if it was because he was so awesome, or because it was the first time someone actually presented me with history I could be passionate about – not just enjoy in passing. Masters made you dive in with all you had and really learn it; it wasn’t just dates and factoids, it was people, their dreams, their loves, and their wars.
As an adult, reading history has become a little more specific. I tend to read a lot of Ancient and Medieval history most, they are kind of my go to topics. There is so much that was skipped over in school and it is so riveting! So naturally, when I decided to homeschool my daughter I started collecting the Susan Wise Bauer history books – they are fascinating overviews of history as well as wonderful teaching tools.
Reading Susan Wise Bauer reminds me of that history class with Coach Masters. She gets personal.
It took me a full year to read The History of the Ancient World, mostly because I made a promise to do at a snail’s pace. I plan to use it as a loose textbook for kiddo’s high school years and I wanted to make sure that you could pause, go read other things, and come back to it. Is it reasonable to assign this for a year in addition to x number of other books? Yes, oh, well then lovely.
The book is wonderful and impressive. Bauer makes history accessible and easy to understand in a world filled with dull and extensive flow charts that will make even the most knowledgeable scholars heads spin.
My absolute favorite is a lengthy footnote on the Borg (from Star Trek) and how similar the mentality of the Borg was to a tribe of people sweeping the land in the very earliest parts of history. ‘See?’ she practically says, ‘It’s good to be a sci-fi nerd.’
My only lament – and this may simply be a first edition issue – is that toward the end I began to find typos (I think). There’s an amputed that should be amputated. I honestly thought maybe it was a variance of the word I had never seen used and had to look it up. There’s a died that should have been die. These two things tripped me up for a second, but I found it a little refreshing. Having just written a book myself it was good to know that someone I esteem so highly also makes errors when writing her books.
But then there was the bit that tripped me up a LOT. During the aftermath of Alexander the Great’s death there are two spellings for what I’m 99% positive is supposed to be one person. Welcome to the great Cassander vs. Cassender dilemma…
The first time I saw this, I thought: Is there one person or two? Am I really ignorant with poor reading comprehension and these are two distinct people? There’s no way I can be the only person to find the longest running series of typos ever… But for pages on end Bauer switched from Cassander to Cassender.
If it is a typo, I get it. In my novella I couldn’t keep my fingers from typing Lilly Hollow to save my life, when the name of my imaginary town is Lily Hollow. It drove me absolutely crazy going through and fixing them all. If there is a typo found in my novella post publication, I would bet money that it will be in the form of an extra L.
With Cassander and Cassender there are soooooo many times that it is written as both. Part of me is still convinced that there is a strong possibility that I am just that dumb. I will be seeking out a second edition just to figure it out. The ancient world is full of mystery and excitement and long winded Chinese dynasties and Egyptians going crazy with who they marry and who they kill, but the acting king(s) of Macedonia post Alexander the Great is the guy(s?) that throws me for a loop.
All in all, though, I STILL think this is a must have in any historian’s or homeschooler’s library. It was worth every penny and I think that this one – for once – is one I actually paid full price for at Barnes & Noble. Bauer will remind you that there is so much to discover and be passionate about in history, because there’s just so much of it in general… you may even fall in love.