The best Mesopotamia books

Who picked these books? Meet our 26 experts.

26 authors created a book list connected to Mesopotamia, and here are their favorite Mesopotamia books.
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Mari and Karana

By Stephanie Dalley,

Book cover of Mari and Karana: Two Old Babylonian Cities

Amanda H. Podany Author Of Weavers, Scribes, and Kings: A New History of the Ancient Near East

From the list on the lives of real people in ancient Mesopotamia.

Who am I?

I’m a historian and professor of ancient Mesopotamia. I was born in the UK but have lived in the US for decades, and from childhood I loved ancient history and archaeology (even through a five-year stint as a bass player before and during college). No matter how long the human race exists in future, we have only one shared ancient global past, the remains of which represent a completely non-renewable resource and source of inspiration. There is plenty left to discover, with much evidence already excavated and awaiting interpretation. It’s a joy to analyze and share the words and life-stories of Mesopotamians in my books—in a conversation that stretches across millennia.

Amanda's book list on the lives of real people in ancient Mesopotamia

Discover why each book is one of Amanda's favorite books.

Why did Amanda love this book?

When this book first came out, I was just beginning work on my Ph.D. dissertation and it had a big influence on me. Stephanie Dalley writes in a wonderfully accessible style for general readers about the people of the 18th century BCE cities of Mari and Tell al Rimah, and throughout the book she quotes from the personal letters found there. She overcomes a common perception that the ancient world can seem removed and remote, by letting the ancient people speak directly to the reader. All the while, she also makes fascinating observations about what the documents reveal, and also includes discussions of archaeological evidence (such as culinary molds that were used to make fish-shaped bread, in the section on food preparation!).

By Stephanie Dalley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mari and Karana as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A study on the social aspects of Mari and Karana, this book provides an account of life in the nineteenth century BCE. Illustrations with photographs and drawings of objects uncovered during excavations provide a lively counterpart to the texts themselves, many of which are quoted in translation.


Book cover of Age of Kings (Great Ages of Man)

Don Hollway Author Of The Last Viking: The True Story of King Harald Hardrada

From the list on to make a history buff into a history expert.

Who am I?

As a history buff—one can never be expert enough—by looking to the past I hope to glimpse the future, but mostly to make sense of the present. Power, greed and sex have driven people since before history was written, but there have always been those willing to die for something more. What causes are worth such dedication? Who were these people who were willing to give all? I was never in the military (my contact lenses are thick as bottle caps) but I try never to write battle porn, only to tell their stories as accurately and entertainingly as I can.

Don's book list on to make a history buff into a history expert

Discover why each book is one of Don's favorite books.

Why did Don love this book?

Another series. When I was a kid, Time-Life Magazines ran a kind of book club. My family had several complete sets—The Seafarers, The Old West, the Science Library. We used to joke that Time-Life Books were the source of all knowledge. 21 titles in the Great Ages of Man series cover the entire span of civilization from ancient Mesopotamia to the 20th Century, each an overview of its period. For The Last Viking I used Barbarian Europe and Byzantium, but Age of Kings is my favorite; I’ve always been fascinated by the violent, glorious 17th Century. Though long out of print, you can still buy them by the set on Amazon. Easier, though, to pick your era and purchase by the title.

By Charles Blitzer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Age of Kings (Great Ages of Man) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Sketches the traits of the 17th century and its strengths and weaknesses


The Birth of the Gods and the Origins of Agriculture

By Jacques Cauvin, Trevor Watkins (translator),

Book cover of The Birth of the Gods and the Origins of Agriculture

Thomas T. Lawson Author Of Carl Jung, Darwin of the Mind

From the list on C.J. Jung and the evolution of culture.

Who am I?

A certain idea kept cropping up in my reading, triggered perhaps by Richard Dawkins's conception in The Selfish Gene, of the “meme.” It seemed that the meme had a life of its own. Then I came across Richerson’s and Boyd’s Not by Genes Alone, and they laid it out: cultures evolve. And they evolve independently of the genes—free of genetic constraints in an idea or thought to contribute to its own survival. That is up to the multitude of people who happen to come across it. I now have a new book readying for publication: How Cognition, Language, Myth, and Culture Came Together To Make Us What We Are.

Thomas' book list on C.J. Jung and the evolution of culture

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Why did Thomas love this book?

At about 10,000 BC, there appeared in Mesopotamia female statuettes, clearly privileging fertility. They came to be associated with the bucranium – the head and horns of the wild bull aurochs, and, over time, the pair took on the unmistakable stamp of a goddess and her consort, a bull.

Jacques Cauvin, who conducted their excavation, was able to link the pair with the birth of agriculture, and in so doing he found that the individual came, for the first time, to stand in a worshipful posture toward an other-worldly existent bringing about for humanity thereby an entirely new cultural orientation. Indeed, the pair bore “all the traits of the Mother-Goddess who dominated the oriental pantheon, “right up to the time of the male-dominated monotheism of Israel” (p. 31).

By Jacques Cauvin, Trevor Watkins (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Birth of the Gods and the Origins of Agriculture as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Jacques Cauvin has spent many years researching the beginnings of the Neolithic in the Near East, excavating key sites and developing new ideas to explain the hugely significant cultural, social and economic changes which transformed mobile hunter-gatherers into the first village societies and farmers in the world. In this book, first published in 2000, the synthesis of his mature understanding of the process beginning around 14,000 years ago challenges ecological and materialist interpretations, arguing for a quite different kind of understanding influenced by ideas of structuralist archaeologists and members of the French Annales school of historians. Defining the Neolithic Revolution…


Perilous Glory

By John France,

Book cover of Perilous Glory: The Rise of Western Military Power

Beatrice Heuser Author Of War: A Genealogy of Western Ideas and Practices

From the list on war in general.

Who am I?

I have studied aspects of war and strategy – mainly on the political-military interface level – for the past forty years of my life. My interest originated from my parents’ stories about their childhood and early youth in the Second World Wars, its horrors and hardships, and from myself living in South-East Asia during the time of the Vietnam War. Moreover, I became obsessed with the fear of nuclear war through reading and hearing about it. So I have studied aspects of war, much as an oncologist studies cancer, in the hope that a better understanding may eventually help us ban it in practice (and not just in theory as it has been since the Briand-Kellogg Pact of 1928).

Beatrice's book list on war in general

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Why did Beatrice love this book?

John France has a knack for making the history of war interesting and readable, without taking away its gore and horror, without making you think it in any way romantic or desirable. The title already captures it: the book is largely about the rise of Europe (or later: the West) on the back of military prowess, but at what perilous price! The book aptly traces military traditions and continuity of ideas and concepts, but also profound changes, from Antiquity to the present, giving us a grasp of the essence of warfare during different periods. This book can be said to replace Sir Charles Oman’s old classic.

By John France,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Perilous Glory as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A major new history of war that challenges our understanding of military dominance and how it is achieved

This expansive book surveys the history of warfare from ancient Mesopotamia to the Gulf War in search of a deeper understanding of the origins of Western warfare and the reasons for its eminence today. Historian John France explores the experience of war around the globe, in Europe, Asia, Africa, and America. His bold conclusions cast doubt on well-entrenched attitudes about the development of military strength, the impact of culture on warfare, the future of Western dominance, and much more.

Taking into account…


The Secret of the Incas

By William Sullivan,

Book cover of The Secret of the Incas: Myth, Astronomy, and the War Against Time

John M. Saul Author Of What the Stork Brought: African click-speakers and the spread of humanity's oldest beliefs

From the list on the origins of humanity's earliest beliefs.

Who am I?

As a geologist, I met and shared meals – occasionally under the stars – with individuals with strikingly different backgrounds. In time I realized that, whatever their DNA, they all shared certain beliefs, that the happy dead eventually go upward, for example, even if they start by going down or out to the horizon. Eventually, I concluded that the entire human adventure began in a single moment the day one of our forebears asked another "What shall we do about death?" and was understood. Humans have a single genetic heritage; we also have a single cultural heritage.

John's book list on the origins of humanity's earliest beliefs

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Why did John love this book?

My personal background and fieldwork have been in North America, Africa, and Europe. Sullivan's book opened the world of ancient South America for me. The Incas lived in a Sacred Kingship, an institution in which Church and State were one, invented in ancient Mesopotamia and diffused as far as the Andes, carrying with it a promise of eternity. In Sacred Kingships, the King was to funnel the essence of the undying Heavens into the ways of Earthbound mortals. Sullivan shows how this all went dreadfully wrong for the Incas when they began to treat mythological notions as literally true, applying the technical language of myth to the real world.

By William Sullivan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Secret of the Incas as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Step by step, Sullivan pieces together the hidden esoteric tradition of the Andes to uncover the tragic secret of the Incas, a tribe who believed that, if events in the heavens could influence those on earth, perhaps the reverse could be true. Anyone who reads this book will never look at the ruins of the Incas, or at the night sky, the same way again. Illustrations.


The Watermelon Boys

By Ruqaya Izzidien,

Book cover of The Watermelon Boys

Susan Lanigan Author Of White Feathers

From the list on World War One that don’t have the same old story.

Who am I?

I am a writer based in Ireland. When I was fifteen, I read about the Battle of Verdun, and the horror and ineptitude of it led me into an obsession with World War I. Visiting the Imperial War Museum, I learned about the white feather of cowardice, bestowed by girls upon men out of uniform. Such a transformation of a symbol of peace to an instrument of stigma and shame made me think of Irish society as well as British. When White Feathers was published, its refusal to follow a sentimental “Tommy in the trenches” line angered some revisionist critics. But in the end, it is a passionate and intense love story with resistance.

Susan's book list on World War One that don’t have the same old story

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Why did Susan love this book?

Again set in the Middle East, this novel about Ahmad and Carwyn, Arab and Welsh, who are both drawn into the war on its Eastern Front, is an absorbing story from a part of the world that has been neglected in World War I fiction. The two men are both betrayed by the English in different ways, and Izzidien’s Iraqi-Welsh heritage allows her to draw a compassionate picture of both protagonists. It also shows how the rapacious European colonialist mentality that underpinned the entire war created the conditions for terrorism and strife in the region today.

By Ruqaya Izzidien,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Watermelon Boys as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Shortlisted for The Betty Trask Prize

It is the winter of 1915 and Iraq has been engulfed by the First World War. Hungry for independence from Ottoman rule, Ahmad leaves his peaceful family life on the banks of the Tigris to join the British-led revolt. Thousands of miles away, Welsh teenager Carwyn reluctantly enlists and is sent, via Gallipoli and Egypt, to the Mesopotamia campaign.

Carwyn’s and Ahmad’s paths cross, and their fates are bound together. Both are forever changed, not only by their experience of war, but also by the parallel discrimination and betrayal they face.

Ruqaya Izzidien’s evocative…


Book cover of In the Land of Blood and Tears: Experiences in Mesopotamia During the World War (1914-1918)

Hans-Lukas Kieser Author Of When Democracy Died: The Middle East's Enduring Peace of Lausanne

From the list on anti-democracy in Turkey & the Middle East.

Who am I?

My encounter with young refugees and former political prisoners from Turkey in Basel in the early 1980s decisively oriented me as a future historian toward the Middle East. My studies led me to discover the end of the Ottoman Empire and the post-1918 efforts to bring peace and a new order, both globally and nationally, as a highly under-researched, but essential topic.

Hans-Lukas' book list on anti-democracy in Turkey & the Middle East

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Why did Hans-Lukas love this book?

This is a personal account from the decade preceding the Lausanne Treaty.

Jakob Künzler and his wife were stationed in the Swiss Hospital in Urfa, Mesopotamia, and witnessed the destruction of the Armenians at close hand. As disturbing as is Künzler’s sober report, at the same time it is a declaration of love for a turbulent land of different languages, religions, and the people who live there.

By Jakob Künzler,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked In the Land of Blood and Tears as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Presents information regarding the Armenian massacres in Urfa, Ottoman Turkey during the World War (1914-1918). the fate of the Armenian widows and orphans as well as author's description of his work in the German Orient Mission hospital, deportations of the Armenians as well as the Kurds, requisitions of the Armenian property by the Turkish government officials and citizens.


Inanna, Lady of Largest Heart

By Betty De Shong Meador,

Book cover of Inanna, Lady of Largest Heart: Poems of the Sumerian High Priestess Enheduanna

Nataša Pantović Author Of Metaphysics of Sound: In Search of The Name of God

From the list on the ancient Mediterranean classics beyond the usual.

Who am I?

Nataša Pantović holds an MSc in Economics and is a Maltese Serbian novelist, adoptive parent, and ancient worlds’ consciousness researcher. Using stories of ancient Greek and Egyptian philosophers and ancient artists she inspires researchers to reach beyond their self-imposed boundaries. In the last five years, she has published 3 historical fiction and 7 non-fiction books with the Ancient Worlds' focus. She speaks English, Serbian, all Balkan Slavic languages, Maltese and Italian. She has also helped build a school in a remote village of Ethiopia, and has since adopted two kids, as a single mum!

Nataša's book list on the ancient Mediterranean classics beyond the usual

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Why did Nataša love this book?

Scholars have disagreed when written records become literature, yet the earliest literary authors known by name are Ptahhotep (who wrote in Egyptian) and Enheduanna (who wrote in Sumerian), dating to around 2400 BC. Enheduanna is the earliest known Female Poet. She was the High Priestess of the goddess Inanna and the moon god Nanna (Sin). She lived in the Sumerian city-state of Ur in Syria. So this would be my 3rd recommendation for all the researchers of Ancient History.

Enheduanna's contributions to Sumerian literature, include the collection of hymns known as the "Sumerian Temple Hymns", 37 tablets to be exact, from 2,700 BC. The temple hymns were the first collection of their kind, the copying of the hymns indicates that they were used long after and held in very high esteem.

Sīn or Suen (Akkadian: EN.ZU or lord-ess of wisdom) or Nanna was the goddess of the moon in the…

By Betty De Shong Meador,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Inanna, Lady of Largest Heart as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The earliest known author of written literature was a woman named Enheduanna, who lived in ancient Mesopotamia around 2300 BCE. High Priestess to the moon god Nanna, Enheduanna came to venerate the goddess Inanna above all gods in the Sumerian pantheon. The hymns she wrote to Inanna constitute the earliest written portrayal of an ancient goddess. In their celebration of Enheduanna's relationship with Inanna, they also represent the first existing account of an individual's consciousness of her inner life.

This book provides the complete texts of Enheduanna's hymns to Inanna, skillfully and beautifully rendered by Betty De Shong Meador, who…


From the Mari Archives

By Jack M. Sasson,

Book cover of From the Mari Archives: An Anthology of Old Babylonian Letters

Amanda H. Podany Author Of Weavers, Scribes, and Kings: A New History of the Ancient Near East

From the list on the lives of real people in ancient Mesopotamia.

Who am I?

I’m a historian and professor of ancient Mesopotamia. I was born in the UK but have lived in the US for decades, and from childhood I loved ancient history and archaeology (even through a five-year stint as a bass player before and during college). No matter how long the human race exists in future, we have only one shared ancient global past, the remains of which represent a completely non-renewable resource and source of inspiration. There is plenty left to discover, with much evidence already excavated and awaiting interpretation. It’s a joy to analyze and share the words and life-stories of Mesopotamians in my books—in a conversation that stretches across millennia.

Amanda's book list on the lives of real people in ancient Mesopotamia

Discover why each book is one of Amanda's favorite books.

Why did Amanda love this book?

Now I realize that this isn’t a narrative history, but I think you will find it fascinating. It’s a big compendium of excerpts from more than 750 letters that were found in the archives of the ancient palace of Mari, organized by topics such as “Dynastic Marriages,” “Crime,” “Caring for the Gods,” “Death and Burial,” and many, many more. It’s a book to dip into rather than to read from beginning to end, and it’ll help you get a sense of the vast amount of detail about real people that is to be found on Mesopotamian clay tablets (especially ancient letters). Jack Sasson’s enthusiasm and deep knowledge of the subject is palpable in his many explanatory paragraphs and long footnotes.

By Jack M. Sasson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked From the Mari Archives as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For over 40 years, Jack M. Sasson has been studying and commenting on the cuneiform archives from Mari on the Euphrates River, especially those from the age of Hammurabi of Babylon. Among Mari's wealth of documents, some of the most interesting are letters from and to kings, their advisers and functionaries, their wives and daughters, their scribes and messengers, and a variety of military personnel. The letters are revealing and often poignant. Sasson selects more than 700 letters as well as several excerpts from administrative documents, translating them and providing them with illuminating comments. In distilling a lifetime of study…


The First Ghosts

By Irving Finkel,

Book cover of The First Ghosts

Paul Pettitt Author Of Homo Sapiens Rediscovered: The Scientific Revolution Rewriting Our Origins

From the list on understanding the evolution of the human mind.

Who am I?

I went to university wanting to become a Roman specialist, but ended up going backwards in time until I landed with a bump on the hard flints of the Palaeolithic (Old Stone Age). I research aspects of the behaviour of the Pleistocene (Ice Age) indigenous Europeans – the Neanderthals – and the origins and evolution of our own species, Homo sapiens. I undertake fieldwork across Europe, and I’m particularly interested in the origins and early development of art – both on portable objects and cave walls – and the long-term evolution of our treatment of the dead. My scientific love is how we can try to get inside the mind of our most remote ancestors.

Paul's book list on understanding the evolution of the human mind

Discover why each book is one of Paul's favorite books.

Why did Paul love this book?

As a specialist in the funerary practices of our earliest ancestors, I avidly awaited the publication of Finkel’s latest, this time deploying his considerable scholarship to the question of how Sumerians, Assyrians, and Babylonians thought of ghosts, spirits, demons, and the underworld.

You don’t need to be a believer to enjoy this intimate picture of the minds of some of the earliest known urbanites and intellectuals at a time when history was just emerging. Out of the fired clay leap stories of underworld journeys such as that of Gilgamesh, of spirits that rise up from below, of exorcisms, omens, and the shadows that lurk in the corners of the house.

To me, this is the most profound statement on early humans at their most imaginative, and if you believe it a useful manual for the prospective ghost hunter.

By Irving Finkel,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The First Ghosts as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'It's enthralling stuff, mixing the scholarly with the accessible and placing storytelling right at the heart of the human experience.' - History Revealed

'A fascinating journey' - Yorkshire Post

'The book is a delight to read: each chapter is as academically astute as you would expect from this author, but delivered with a light touch and entertaining writing-style that sweeps the reader through the pages.' - Archaeology Worldwide

In The First Ghosts, he has found the perfect medium for bringing the ancient Mesopotamians back from the dead... Despite the morbid theme and remote cultural milieu, this is not a sombre…


Book cover of Anabasis (The Persian Expedition)

Prit Buttar Author Of The Reckoning: The Defeat of Army Group South, 1944

From the list on changed my view of history.

Who am I?

"History can become a dull and uninteresting subject, but the stories of the past are far more interesting and inspiring than the very best fiction. These stories tell us about how our world came to be, and the paths that our predecessors travelled; and they show us that, despite the decades and centuries that separate us, they were driven and inspired by the same factors that drive and inspire us today." Prit Buttar was a doctor, first in the British Army and then a GP, until retiring in 2019. Less than a year later, he volunteered to go back to work during the current pandemic.

Prit's book list on changed my view of history

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Why did Prit love this book?

There’s no substitute for reading about events by someone who was there. This book is about a largely forgotten incident, when 10,000 Greek mercenaries became involved in an attempt by Cyrus the Great to seize control of the Persian Empire from his brother. When Cyrus’ bid failed, the Greeks found themselves far from home and surrounded by foes; they then marched through Mesopotamia and modern-day Turkey to the Black Sea coast, where they were able to find ships that took them home to Greece.

It’s a tale of adventure and struggle, and sheer determination not to give in. It’s also a great example of how the author of such a work can find themselves faced with the difficult task of describing their own role in events. In the second half of the work, Xenophon gives increasing prominence to his personal leadership and suggestions. Regardless of any elements of self-promotion, it’s…

By Xenophon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Anabasis (The Persian Expedition) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Widely considered the most famous work of the professional soldier and writer Xenophon, “Anabasis” is a true tale of dangerous adventure in ancient Greece. Though advised not to join the army of 10,000 by his friend Socrates, Xenophon does set out with Cyrus the Great in that man’s attempt to gain the empire of Persia from his brother. When this leader is killed in battle, however, the army loses cause and direction, and the result is a ‘marching republic’ in which the remainder of the army must fight their way home. Through endless miles of hostile territory where their foes…


Book cover of Mathematics in Ancient Iraq: A Social History

Amanda H. Podany Author Of Weavers, Scribes, and Kings: A New History of the Ancient Near East

From the list on the lives of real people in ancient Mesopotamia.

Who am I?

I’m a historian and professor of ancient Mesopotamia. I was born in the UK but have lived in the US for decades, and from childhood I loved ancient history and archaeology (even through a five-year stint as a bass player before and during college). No matter how long the human race exists in future, we have only one shared ancient global past, the remains of which represent a completely non-renewable resource and source of inspiration. There is plenty left to discover, with much evidence already excavated and awaiting interpretation. It’s a joy to analyze and share the words and life-stories of Mesopotamians in my books—in a conversation that stretches across millennia.

Amanda's book list on the lives of real people in ancient Mesopotamia

Discover why each book is one of Amanda's favorite books.

Why did Amanda love this book?

Mesopotamian mathematics is a fascinating subject; their numerical system was based on 60, and the ancient thinkers were adept at many types of calculations and word problems. Hundreds of clay tablets reflect their advanced understanding of mathematical principles. Eleanor Robson explains clearly in this book how historians and mathematicians have interpreted the evidence, and she discusses not just specific mathematical texts, how they are understood, and the way ideas were expressed, but she also introduces the scribes who developed and learned it all, and even the buildings in which they worked. The book is a “social history,” as the subtitle notes, and also an intellectual adventure.

By Eleanor Robson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mathematics in Ancient Iraq as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This monumental book traces the origins and development of mathematics in the ancient Middle East, from its earliest beginnings in the fourth millennium BCE to the end of indigenous intellectual culture in the second century BCE when cuneiform writing was gradually abandoned. Eleanor Robson offers a history like no other, examining ancient mathematics within its broader social, political, economic, and religious contexts, and showing that mathematics was not just an abstract discipline for elites but a key component in ordering society and understanding the world. The region of modern-day Iraq is uniquely rich in evidence for ancient mathematics because its…


Book cover of Handbook to Life in Ancient Mesopotamia

Jeffrey Peter Clarke Author Of The Man Who Sought Eternity

From the list on the time of Gilgamesh.

Who am I?

I am Jeff Clarke, author and graphic designer. I have always been interested in origins and beginnings, whether it be the universe, life on Earth, military aviation and ancient societies. I possess a valuable private library of my own and generally prefer to use this rather than on-line sources as the authors’ qualifications are more easily ascertainable. I design the covers for all my novels.

Jeffrey's book list on the time of Gilgamesh

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Why did Jeffrey love this book?

This book, like the others, is an essential reference for anyone researching the subject.

It covers in detail geography, rivers and irrigation, archaeology and building, government and society, religion and myth, language and writing, architecture, and the arts, economy and trade, food and agriculture, arms and warfare, everyday life, customs and society in general.

Getting down to finer details is the strength of this book. A great asset it has to be for the finer points in developing a novel.

By Stephen Bertman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Handbook to Life in Ancient Mesopotamia as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Modern-day archaeological discoveries in the Near East continue to illuminate our understanding of the ancient world, including the many contributions made by the people of Mesopotamia to literature, art, government, and urban life The Handbook to Life in Ancient Mesopotamia describes the culture, history, and people of this land, as well as their struggle for survival and happiness, from about 3500 to 500 BCE. Mesopotamia was the home of a succession of
glorious civilizations-Sumeria, Babylonia, and Assyria-which flourished together for more than three millennia. Sumerian mathematicians devised the sixty-minute hour that still rules our lives; Babylonian architects designed the famed…


Book cover of ...and forgive them their debts: Lending, Foreclosure and Redemption From Bronze Age Finance to the Jubilee Year

Keith Harrison-Broninski Author Of Supercommunities: A handbook for the 21st century

From the list on how community can save society.

Who am I?

I studied Mathematics – the art of solving a problem by making it as general as possible, then attacking it with a combination of different techniques. By profession, I am a technologist, but the problem that interested me wasn’t technical – I wanted to know why, when most people are basically well-meaning, the world was in such a mess! Early on in my career, I came to believe that better collaboration was part of the answer. Later, I saw how you also needed the right kind of communities. Along the way, I’ve learned a lot about psychology, biology, systems theory, learning theory, anthropology, history, management, economics, finance, and more. I’m still learning.

Keith's book list on how community can save society

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Why did Keith love this book?

I can’t say how much I love this book. It explains everything we know intuitively about economics but find hard to justify. Hudson was one of the few who saw the 2008 crisis coming, and he is still one of the few who know what we must do now. Taking the discussion of David Graeber’s extraordinary 2011 book Debt: The First 5000 Years to the next level, Hudson shows how Bronze Age rulers understood economic instability better than we do. When people get into serious debt, their personal crises not only destroy their own lives but ripple outwards to derail society, by giving their creditors enough power to compete with governments. To avoid society being run into the ground, governments must start cancelling debts – as they did long ago.

By Michael Hudson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked ...and forgive them their debts as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In ...and forgive them their debts, renowned economist Michael Hudson – one of the few who could see the 2008 financial crisis coming – takes us on an epic journey through the economies of ancient civilizations and reveals their relevance for us today. For the past 40 years, in conjunction with Harvard’s Peabody Museum, he and his colleagues have documented how interest-bearing debt was invented in Bronze Age Mesopotamia, and then disseminated to the ancient world. What the Bronze Age rulers understood was that avoiding economic instability required regular royal debt cancellations. Professor Hudson documents dozens of these these royal…


Ishmael

By Daniel Quinn,

Book cover of Ishmael

Arielle Ford Author Of The Love Thief

From the list on growing your soul and opening your heart.

Who am I?

I’ve always loved fairytales, whimsical stories, and mysteries. Plus, I’m passionate about mind-expanding, heart-opening books that offer me new ways to understand myself and the Universe we live in. And I particularly like books that show me ways to have more of what brings me joy and pleasure. When I can get all of this in a novel I’m in heaven.

Arielle's book list on growing your soul and opening your heart

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Why did Arielle love this book?

This is a very original book with deep wisdom delivered through a most unique relationship about a man and the Gorilla who becomes his Guru!

One of the most life-changing concepts I took from the book is that there are two kinds of people in the world: leavers and takers. I recognized that I am essentially a taker, but the book made me realize that to be a better person it was time for me to become a leaver.

By Daniel Quinn,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Ishmael as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the most beloved and bestselling novels of spiritual adventure ever published, Ishmael has earned a passionate following. This special twenty-fifth anniversary edition features a new foreword and afterword by the author.

“A thoughtful, fearlessly low-key novel about the role of our species on the planet . . . laid out for us with an originality and a clarity that few would deny.”—The New York Times Book Review

Teacher Seeks Pupil.
Must have an earnest desire to save the world.
Apply in person.

It was just a three-line ad in the personals section, but it launched the adventure of…


Cities

By Monica L. Smith,

Book cover of Cities: The First 6,000 Years

Greg Woolf Author Of The Life and Death of Ancient Cities: A Natural History

From the list on ancient cities.

Who am I?

I learned to dig as a teenager in the school holidays and studied the ancient world at Oxford and Cambridge before beginning my career as a university teacher. I have been lucky enough to travel all over the world for my work, and have spent time living in some amazing cities including Paris, London, Madrid, and Rome. I love exploring new urban landscapes from Moscow to Lusaka, Såo Paulo to Toronto and I am looking forward this summer to moving to another great metropolis, Los Angeles.

Greg's book list on ancient cities

Discover why each book is one of Greg's favorite books.

Why did Greg love this book?

An exciting overview of one of THE big themes of world history, an anthropological essay that draws on urban traditions from five continents. It is really good on the materiality of cities, everything from how they were built and where they get their food to what happens to their garbage. A great balance too between the huge variety of cities and what we today can learn from early urbanism.

By Monica L. Smith,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Cities as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"A revelation of the drive and creative flux of the metropolis over time."--Nature

A sweeping history of cities through the millennia--from Mesopotamia to Manhattan--and how they have propelled Homo sapiens to dominance.

Six thousand years ago, there were no cities on the planet. Today, more than half of the world's population lives in urban areas, and that number is growing. Weaving together archeology, history, and contemporary observations, Monica Smith explains the rise of the first urban developments and their connection to our own. She takes readers on a journey through the ancient world of Tell Brak in modern-day Syria; Teotihuacan…


Come, Tell Me How You Live

By Agatha Christie Mallowan,

Book cover of Come, Tell Me How You Live

Lindsay Allason-Jones Author Of Roman Woman: Everyday Life in Hadrian's Britain

From the list on how people in different periods or cultures lived their lives.

Who am I?

I am an archaeologist, mostly working in the Roman period. Until I retired in 2011, I was the Director of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Artefact Studies and Reader in Roman Material Culture at Newcastle University, having previously been the Director of Archaeological Museums for the University. My working life started by specialising in identifying those small items which come out of every excavation, but more and more I became interested in what those artefacts told us about the people who lived on the site. Reading books about peoples’ lives in other cultures and periods provides insight into those people of the past for whom we have little documentary evidence.

Lindsay's book list on how people in different periods or cultures lived their lives

Discover why each book is one of Lindsay's favorite books.

Why did Lindsay love this book?

The title sums up what archaeologists are trying to do when they excavate a site. In this short book, Agatha Christie provides ‘an inconsequent chronicle’ of five archaeological field seasons in Mesopotamia in the 1930s, in the course of which she gently and wittily reveals a picture of the British working abroad between the Wars – a way of working that now seems as distant as the period she was uncovering.

By Agatha Christie Mallowan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Come, Tell Me How You Live as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Agatha Christie's personal memoirs about her travels to Syria and Iraq in the 1930s with her archaeologist husband Max Mallowan, where she worked on the digs and wrote some of her most evocative novels.

Think you know Agatha Christie? Think again!

To the world she was Agatha Christie, legendary author of bestselling whodunits. But in the 1930s she wore a different hat, travelling with her husband, renowned archaeologist Max Mallowan, as he investigated the buried ruins and ancient wonders of Syria and Iraq. When friends asked what this strange `other life' was like, she decided to answer their questions by…


Dawn of Empire

By Sam Barone,

Book cover of Dawn of Empire

Gordon Doherty Author Of Son of Ishtar

From the list on the Hittite Empire.

Who am I?

I'm a Scottish writer, addicted to reading and writing historical fiction. My love of history was first kindled by visits to the misty Roman ruins of Britain and the sun-baked antiquities of Turkey and Greece. My expeditions since have taken me all over the world and back and forth through time (metaphorically, at least), allowing me to write tales of the later Roman Empire, Byzantium, Classical Greece and even the distant Bronze Age.

Gordon's book list on the Hittite Empire

Discover why each book is one of Gordon's favorite books.

Why did Gordon love this book?

I read it some 15 years ago… yet when I close my eyes I can still see Eskkar and Trella and their small band, smell the heat and dust of Mesopotamia. Surrounded by marauding raiders, they must use their wits and will to survive in order to build the earliest of walled cities. Tense and beautifully immersive, Barone’s ‘Dawn of Empire’ is unique and memorable – perfect escapism!

By Sam Barone,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dawn of Empire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Three thousand years before the birth of Christ. An epic conflict is about to begin. The price of victory? Civilization. The price of defeat, a return to the dark ages.

The hopes of civilization rest on one man's shoulders: Eskkar, once a barbarian, nowa warrior in charge of defending a small town which lies in the path of a vastbarbarian war party. The last time the invaders came to Orak, they spared no one and the tiny candle of trade and agriculture that had begun there, the first in all of human history, was extinguished.

But Eskkar and Trella, the…


Women at the Dawn of History

By Agnete W. Lassen (editor), Klaus Wagensonner (editor),

Book cover of Women at the Dawn of History

Amanda H. Podany Author Of Weavers, Scribes, and Kings: A New History of the Ancient Near East

From the list on the lives of real people in ancient Mesopotamia.

Who am I?

I’m a historian and professor of ancient Mesopotamia. I was born in the UK but have lived in the US for decades, and from childhood I loved ancient history and archaeology (even through a five-year stint as a bass player before and during college). No matter how long the human race exists in future, we have only one shared ancient global past, the remains of which represent a completely non-renewable resource and source of inspiration. There is plenty left to discover, with much evidence already excavated and awaiting interpretation. It’s a joy to analyze and share the words and life-stories of Mesopotamians in my books—in a conversation that stretches across millennia.

Amanda's book list on the lives of real people in ancient Mesopotamia

Discover why each book is one of Amanda's favorite books.

Why did Amanda love this book?

Women were integral to everything in Mesopotamia—politics, religion, economy, society, you name it—for the entire multi-millennium lifetime of the culture. I find this book, which is the catalogue of an exhibit for the Yale Babylonian Collection, to be a particularly interesting study, and it has gorgeous illustrations. The six chapters include two that focus on prominent women, the priestess Enheduanna and Queen Sammu-ramat (Semiramis), as well as discussions of many women who were not well known. The objects that were displayed in the exhibit are illustrated in the second half of the book, each described with a paragraph or two. These really give you a sense of how archaeologists and historians draw their conclusions from ancient evidence, and how individual lives can be reconstructed from objects and texts.

By Agnete W. Lassen (editor), Klaus Wagensonner (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Women at the Dawn of History as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the patriarchal world of ancient Mesopotamia, women were often represented in their relation to men - as mothers, daughters, or wives - giving the impression that a woman's place was in the home. But, as this volume explores, they were also authors and scholars, astute business-women, sources of expressions of eroticism, priestesses with access to major gods and goddesses, and regents who exercised power on behalf of kingdoms, states, and empires. Illustrated in colour and black & white throughout.


Book cover of Joseph and His Brothers

Barbara Artson Author Of Odessa, Odessa: A Novel

From the list on why immigrants leave their country of origin.

Who am I?

I barely knew my grandparents who came to this country in 1905 and spoke only Yiddish. Because my mother refused to speak of her life in Odessa I was totally unaware of the persecution she and her family witnessed and experienced. As a psychoanalyst who helps people understand their own family’s history to better understand themselves, my historical novel, Odessa, Odessa helped me piece together what little I knew of my family’s history, and what I gleaned from my research and reading of novels, to render this portrait. Thomas Mann describes, in writing Joseph and His Brothers, putting clothing on the myth. I put the clothing on the history of my mother’s life story. So relevant today!

Barbara's book list on why immigrants leave their country of origin

Discover why each book is one of Barbara's favorite books.

Why did Barbara love this book?

Thomas Mann, “puts clothing on the myth” of the biblical story of Joseph in this deeply profound and moving novel that reveals aspects of the human condition: love, greed, ruthlessness, forgiveness, jealousy, and ambition. Joseph and His Brothers remains relevant to the 21st-century reader. If I had to choose one novel to take with me to read on an isolated island, this would be the one I chose.

By Thomas Mann,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Joseph and His Brothers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE BOOK- As Germany dissolved into the nightmare of Nazism, Thomas Mann was at work on this epic recasting of the the great Bible story. Joseph, his brothers and his father Jacob, are at the prototypes of all humanity and their story is the story of life itself. Mann has taken one of the great simple chronicles of literature and filled it with psychological scope and range- its men and women are not remote figures in the Book of Genesis, but founders of states in a fresh, realisic world akin to our own .