This is one of the best history books I've ever read. The author covers a huge period, almost 4,000 years, looking at the different types of society that flourished in this region without getting bogged down in tedious details of who invaded whom. He is an imaginative and creative writer, showing analogies between Mesopotamian societies and our own, but without presenting his informed speculations as facts and without imposing a modern mindset on ancient people who often thought very differently- despite having many of the same problems that we face today. Illuminating the present and assisting prediction of the possible future is surely the main point of studying history!
Although the author is Jewish he does not present Old Testament accounts as historical facts, but shows them to be myth and propaganda, same as most other contemporary accounts. Thus for example he mentions that the Bible's description of King Solomon's court would have been modelled on that of Assyrian society, not the reality of a minor tribal chieftain which is what Solomon would have been if he existed at all. This book has directed me to many other areas of further reading, by asking very basic questions which other histories skate over. For example- WHY did people first switch from hunter-gatherer Mesolithic life to agricultural Neolithic? The latter involved more hard work, less freedom, and poorer physical health- so why did they do it? Kriwaczek doesn't answer this question but he does at least ask it.
The author's autobiography, by the way, would be well worth reading if he ever writes it. Born in Austria before the War, fluent in eight languages, worked as a dentist all over the Middle East before switching to journalism- what a wealth of life experience!
My only criticism of this book is that it should have "Timeline" chart, and that approximate dates should be signposted more clearly in the text.