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Publisher's Summary

The authors devoted five decades to the study of world history and philosophy, culminating in the masterful 11-volume Story of Civilization. In this compact summation of their work, Will and Ariel Durant share the vital and profound lessons of our collective past. Their perspective, gained after a lifetime of thinking and writing about the history of humankind, is an invaluable resource for us today. The rare archival recordings of the Durants in conversation, made from 1957-1977, illuminate our present condition and offer insightful guidance for the future.
©2004 John Little, Monica Ariel Mihell, and William James Durant Easton; (P)2004 Durant archival recordings 1957-1977 used with permission of John Little, Monica Ariel Mihell, and William James Durant Easton

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  • Overall

This is a must for every Educated Person

I read a lot. But this is one of the most important books I have ever read. I just wish every body would have the opportunity to listen to or read this book. Rarely is there such a distilled understanding of what history has to teach us. Durrant is one of the most intelligent, articulate and deep thinking people of our time (dead now). I now own his 11 volume history of the world. But this book is a gem. A clear thinking, facinating view of the sweep of history from one of the few people who really, really understand the sweep of history. This is a must read for everyone in my humble opinion. You don't even need to be interested in history really. You just have to be interested in humanity, it's state and the great priciples of life. It is almost more of a book of philosphy derived from a study of the history of humanity.

32 of 32 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Michael
  • Collierville, TN, United States
  • 11-05-04

I Am Humbly in Awe.

Will Durant started out caught up in the socialist ferver of his time and one will find remnants of that in his writing. Yet the breadth of what he wrote trumps any idealogical subtleties and places him firmly in the company of such timeless writers as Wells and Gibbon. Reading Durant I find myself so appreciative of this supremely educated man's breadth of perspective that he matched with a humble lack of presumption (an amazing feat for someone so learned). I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS BOOK. Who wouldn't want to read the conclusions of a man who spent over half a century studying, synthesizing, and writing The Story of Civilization. WONDERFUL!

30 of 31 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Eric
  • San Diego, CA, USA
  • 11-30-04

6,000 Years In a Nutshell

The book, itself, is a swift collection of fascinating ideas. It reminds me of Jacques Barzun's "From Dawn to Decadence" in its ability to draw ideas from the famous events and characters of history. Since it is so quick, one isn't able to follow the roots of the ideas that surface like one might with Barzun. One must take the author's word for a lot of his conclusions. But, the thoughts stimulated from this survey are quite rewarding nonetheless.

The narrator is reliable and appropriate for the tone of the book. The quite enjoyable interviews are more for learning the personality of the Durants rather than amending the ideas in the book, but are still insightful.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Cal
  • Northville, MI, USA
  • 03-22-05

Genius Mind

This is one of the best books I've read on history. It encompasses the basic actions and motivations of the human race since the start of civilization with philosophical twist. Excellent reading for future leaders and philosophers.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

A Freshman All Over Again

Will & Ariel gently and articulately took me in a head lock and pried my eyes open and made me gaze upon my ignorance a new. I feel like I am a college freshman all over again with a mountain of ignorance to plow through. 200 undergrad hours and 20 countries failed to properly illuminate much of the wonder they bare here. Do not deprive yourself of these delicious perspectives on the patterns of religion, morality, trade, economics and the clash of classes through the ages.

15 of 16 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story

If you only read one book on history, this is it

Americans seem particularly immune to the lessons of history but also openly disdainful of the subject. Well, for those of you who are in that category but realize reading an insightful survey of history might add to your overall education, this is the best choice.

Or, if you enjoy reading history, this recording gives you a great touchstone to the context of whatever you are reading at the time. Herodotus' Greek histories make much more sense when the aspect of the strategic importance to trade the Dardanelles played in the Greeks vs Persians.

I have listened many times over and still glean insights that I had missed or relationships.

The huge bonus of the live interviews of the Durants is worth the cost alone.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Yousuf
  • Mississauga, ON, Canada
  • 06-12-07

A treat complemeting author's previous works

After listening to engaging works from Will Durant like "Story of Philosophy" and "Heroes Of History," it was a treat to listen to the intellectual bring it all together and share his personal views on history. In particular, it was striking to here Durant's attempt to demonstrate how the cycles of history relate to the changing moral fiber within societies.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Excellent Interviews

The narrator interviews of Will and Arial Durrant are exquisite. Will Durrant's intelligent answers are stunning.

15 of 19 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

The Lessons of History

This book brought me back to the reading of history. I found new interest in this subject from reading Durant.

I enjoyed hearing the authour speak as well as hearing his words read.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story
  • Michael
  • Walnut Creek, CA, United States
  • 11-23-14


It is not possible to summarize the lessons of history so compactly, and I would not really recommend this book on its own, but as a capstone to Durant’s massive history series it is quite nice. I enjoyed the authors ideas of what America should do to postpone, for a short while, our inevitable demise as a civilization.

The narration of the actual book was excellent, bold and clear, with humor and feeling.

Having read and listened to Durant’s many volume history I completely enjoyed the short interview sections between chapters with the 72 year old author and his wife, Ariel. Ariel correctly points out, one should not take the advice of an old man, nevertheless it was fun to hear the author’s voice and his opinions that have changed over the years. The audio of the interview parts is really not great and the interviewer is not very good (with repeated Ah huhs and sometimes quite silly questions).

7 of 9 people found this review helpful