Thursday, February 25, 2010

Book Review: The History of the Medieval World by Susan Wise Bauer

I was given the opportunity to read The History of the Medieval World by Susan Wise Bauer before it became available to the public. I jumped at the chance, not because I'm a history lover, but because we use her history curriculum in our home school. It was also perfectly timed because we happen to be using Volume 2 which covers the medieval time period this year.

If you are familiar with Story of the World, you'll recognize her voice in her adult series. Her style shows through even while increasing the vocabulary and information to suit her adult readers. That style is casual, like she's telling you the story. This helps make the details of history more accessible to those of us who are not lovers of history. You would never find me reading a dry historical text; however, History of the Medieval World isn't your typical historical tomb of boredom.

Another difference found in History of the Medieval World is that fact that she is very thorough in her overview of history. There are very many details here, yet you never get lost because she ensures that you don't. She's covering the entire world, chronologically, in one book. Because of this, chapters jump around from region to region. You might read about, say Rome, in one chapter, then visit China, Africa, and India before returning to Rome. She helps you transition, helps you remember what last happened in Rome when you return to it. She also ensures that you don't get confused about the flow of time from region to region. This happened at the same time as that, this happened as a result of that, etc. Further, each chapter ends with a mini timeline giving you a visual of how the events you just read about fit in with the events you read about in the preceding. There's a lot to follow, but she makes sure you don't get lost.

I had one major complaint: the book jumps right in without any introduction. I realize that this is volume two of what will likely be a four book series (if it follows her Story of the World series), thus it is just picking up where volume one left off; however, it would have been nice if there had been an introduction, allowing this book to stand on it's own as well.

I'm not going to tell you that I loved the book. I didn't love it; it was just okay. But I think that is a testimony of my dislike of history, not Ms. Bauer's writing ability. Her elementary curriculum is helping me to enjoy history for the first time in my life. I'm just not ready for grown up history yet. For those who are, I recommend her book whole-heartedly.

Pick up a copy of her book by ordering direction from her website. For a limited time, she is offering signed copies.

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Anonymous said...

Sounds like it worth a look - wonder if the library has it? Eli is getting a bit bored w/ the kid version - was there stuff in this one that would freak me out to have him exposed to?