I’m a little slow on the uptake, obviously, but I’ve just discovered that Orson Scott Card READ MY BOOK. And commented about it on his blog.

Here’s what he says:

“Susan Wise Bauer’s The History of the Ancient World from the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome is, in a way, a ridiculous project — it simply can’t be accomplished. Yet this is a worthy attempt to put in one volume an account of the major events, people, and movements of ancient peoples who kept written records (or had significant encounters with people who did). She skips from place to place and time to time quite deftly; she organizes the account so that it’s easy to keep track of who is doing what at the same time that someone else is doing something else. Naturally, the history of each people and nation has to be sketchy, a mere synopsis of a summary. Wherever she wrote about a time and place I happen to have studied, it became painfully clear just how cursory and superficial her accounts all must be. Yet she is rarely inaccurate. If your first introduction to a particular ancient nation is this book’s version of their history, and then you read in-depth books, you will certainly learn and understand far more than she could possibly have offered, but you won’t have to unlearn much of what she told you.”

I guess I put too much sheer hard labor into finding, digesting, interpreting, and retelling the stories of the ancient world to completely agree with “superficial and cursory.” But that last sentence is a rare compliment, and Card’s remarks are generally dead-on….he has identified the enormous central dilemma of the world historian.

And I’m not saying that just because I’m a huge Card fan.

Ender’s Game was a book I read in one sitting, and have never forgotten it; I think it changed forever the way I think about war.

And on a less geek-fan note, here’s a notice that just came out in the William & Mary Alumni Magazine.

This was a surprise to me; thanks, Justin, for bringing it over. (OK, I am a bad alumna. I hadn’t even opened the magazine yet…)

“Susan Wise Bauer M.A. ’94, Ph.D. ’07 believes that history should be studied chronologically. In The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome (W.W. Norton, 2007), Bauer urges readers to make connections across countries and cultures linking Britain to the far coast of China. The book offers a complete chronological history of major human events all over the world, from the time of the Sumerian king Alulim to the fall of Rome. Each chapter includes a timeline and maps to help the reader make associations between simultaneous events transpiring in two very different and geographically separated countries like Britain and India. The book blends history with human emotions to reveal the relationships between various classes and people. Bauer combines historical events with the literature of the time, primary sources such as private letters, folklore and other materials to give the reader a human face of history and the causes behind world events.”

(In case you’re wondering, there were three babies in that gap between M.A. ’94 and Ph.D. ’07.)

Showing 6 comments
  • Jenny

    I’m a huge Card, fan, too but he failed to take into account the fact that for 90% of the readers out there, your book IS their first introduction to world history! The remaining ten percent (the truly educated, scholars, history majors, etc.) might benefit from this review, I guess, but I wish he had been more civil and stuck with words like “synoptic” instead of “cursory” and “superficial.”

  • shanmar

    LOL…. How many pages are in your book? “Cursory” and “superficial” must have stung a bit, to say the least. They are the last words which would have come to my mind!

    Congratulations on your ability to exhibit grace under pressure.

  • sunny

    hi Susan, do you remember me from korea? wow, i loved ender’s game and ender’s shadow and its so cool that mr Card commented upon you wow wowwowowowow. um, well i hope that youll keep on being just IMPOSSIBLE to ignore in front of many others..in that literature world (and beyond). hope youre well :):):):D:D:D:D

  • James

    Great footnote about the difference in years between 94 and 07! 🙂

  • Allen


    I’m a Marine & reading your History of the Ancient World. You are killing me as a military man — why do you orient your maps to the South? I have to turn the book upside down to figure out where in the heck you are.

    Good book though…

  • Susan


    only oriented the older maps of Egypt to the south–and only because that’s how THEY saw their world. For them, north was down and south was up. The maps force you to view the Egyptian world as the Egyptians did. Useful, I think.


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