The 7 Best Books About Civilization To Improve Your Writing Skills

If you want to expand your literary horizons, take a look at some of the best books about civilization to add to your list!

The history of the world is long and complicated, and one of the best ways to learn about it is to study the history of civilization. There are a lot of best sellers that can help you learn more about everything from the times of ancient civilization to Napoleon and even modern western civilization. If you learn more about human history, look at some of the top civilization books you should explore.

1. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, by Jared Diamond, 1999

Best Books About Civilization: Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, by Jared Diamond, 1999
Kenneth Zirkel, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, is one of the top books to examine the story of civilization. In the book, Jared Diamond takes on the remarkable challenge of analyzing nearly the entirety of the scope of human history. He goes from the rise of civilization to how it has evolved and why humanity may have made a few mistakes along the way.

“History followed different courses for different peoples because of differences among peoples’ environments, not because of biological differences among peoples themselves”

Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies
  • Age of Exploration
  • Colonization
  • Culture
  • Infection
  • Armament

2. Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity, by David Graeber and David Wengrow, 2021

One of the top new releases on human history published in the 21st century, Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity, by David Graeber and David Wengrow, seeks to redefine how we look at the social evolution of humanity. Starting with ancient history and moving through the development of agriculture, this book focuses on the start of democracy and the impacts of inequality. Finally, it looks at a few possibilities for where we go from here. He seeks to challenge some faulty assumptions and encourages the reader to take a different look at the future of humanity. 

“We are projects of collective self-creation. What if we approached human history that way? What if we treat people, from the beginning, as imaginative, intelligent, playful creatures who deserve to be understood as such?”

David Graeber and David Wengrow, Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity
The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity
  • Hardcover Book
  • Graeber, David (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 704 Pages - 11/09/2021 (Publication Date) - Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Publisher)

3. The Story of Civilization, by Will Durant and Ariel Durant, 1975

The Story of Civilization, by Will Durant and Ariel Durant, is a complete history of humanity that starts in the ancient world, progresses through Caesar and the fall of Rome, moves through the Medieval era, and highlights the impacts of World War I and World War II. It seeks to highlight every important event throughout the history of humanity, explain why we are where we are, and what the past might tell us about the future. It is broken into 11 separate hardcover books, each of which is a short history of significant events during that era. 

“In the end, nothing is lost. Every event, for good or evil, has effects forever”

Will Durant and Ariel Durant, The Story of Civilization
Sale
The Story of Civilization - Full 11-Volume Set
  • Hardcover Book
  • Durant, Will, and Ariel Durant (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 08/08/1975 (Publication Date) - Simon and Schuster (Publisher)

4. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari, 2011

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind is a book that seeks to figure out why, out of the handful of human species that inhabited the earth tens of thousands of years ago, ours was the one to survive. He also explores why our species came to believe in things like nations, gods, money, books, laws, and more. This story explores some of the more prominent themes from the history of humanity. Then, it uses that information to project where we might be going next as the modern world continues to evolve. 

“How do you cause people to believe in an imagined order such as Christianity, democracy, or capitalism? First, you never admit that the order is imagined”

Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

5. A History of Civilizations, by Fernand Braudel, 1995

A History of Civilizationsby Fernand Braudel, paints the history of humanity with a broad brush. It doesn’t get bogged down by the details but surveys the numerous ways civilization evolved in the modern world. While he does not focus on the significant events that charted the course of humanity, he does a great job of explaining how humanity got to the point where we are today and how the clash of civilizations has influenced the course of humanity. It uses the past to project the future of human civilization. 

“When the [colonial] contact was violent, in fact, failure was more frequent than success. ‘Colonialism’ may have triumphed in the past: but today it is an obvious fiasco.”

Fernand Braudel, A History of Civilizations
Sale
A History of Civilizations
  • Penguin Books
  • Braudel, Fernand (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 640 Pages - 04/01/1995 (Publication Date) - Penguin Books (Publisher)

6. The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome, Susan Wise Bauer, 2007

The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome, by Susan Wise Bauer, charts the course of early human history in this text. The goal is to find a way to connect the stories of all peoples into one, talking about how ancient civilizations emerged from caves. The book explores the rise of ancient Rome and Greece, early Chinese states, and early historical events in Europe. She continues to chart the course of ancient humanity through the fall of the Roman Empire. She uses vivid details, exploring how the decisions made by important individuals influenced the expansion and collapse of numerous great civilizations from ancient history. 

“Civilization began in the Fertile Crescent, not because it was an Edenic place overflowing with natural resources, but because it was so hostile to settlement that a village of any size needed careful management to survive”

Susan Wise Bauer, The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome
Sale
A History of Civilizations
  • Penguin Books
  • Braudel, Fernand (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 640 Pages - 04/01/1995 (Publication Date) - Penguin Books (Publisher)

6. The World Without Us, by Alan Weisman, 2008

Best Books About Civilization: The World Without Us, by Alan Weisman, 2008
Soppakanuuna, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The World Without Usby Alan Weisman, takes a slightly different approach to the history of civilization. Specifically, it takes a closer look at our impact on the planet and what it might look like without us. Our massive infrastructure has significantly impacted the planet, but what might it look like if we vanish? A fascinating, creative tale, Weisman takes an analytical approach to what a post-human planet might look like. 

“Without us, Earth will abide and endure; without her, however, we could not even be”

Alan Weisman, The World Without Us
Sale
The World Without Us
  • Picador USA
  • Weisman, Alan (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 432 Pages - 08/05/2008 (Publication Date) - Picador (Publisher)

7. The World Until Yesterday: What We Can Learn From Traditional Societies, by Jared Diamond

The World Until Yesterday: What We Can Learn From Traditional Societies is another book from the mind of Jared Diamond that highlights some of the triumphs of traditional societies and what we can glean from them to make the world a better place. Too often, people look at ancient civilizations as failed states, but there is a lot that we can learn from their ability to adapt to the world around us and why they lasted as long as they did, with some lasting for thousands of years. So what lessons do they have to teach us? 

“Factual knowledge is not always sufficient by itself to motivate an adaptive behavior. At times, a symbolic belief system that departs from factual reality fares better.”

Jared Diamond, The World Until Yesterday: What We Can Learn From Traditional Societies
The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?
  • Hardcover Book
  • Diamond, Jared (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 512 Pages - 12/31/2012 (Publication Date) - Viking Adult (Publisher)

Interesting in learning more? Check out our round-up of the best Hemingway books!

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