For the purpose of getting a good thorough grounding in Western ancient history, I highly suggest picking up a copy of Colin McEvedy's The New Penguin Atlas of Ancient History*.
It takes a base map that covers all of Europe, North Africa, and the Near East, and shows it on every other page. The only thing that changes on the map is the year it depicts, and the cultural/political boundaries drawn. The other page opposite is a discussion of what happened between the previous map and that one to make it look like that.
One thing you tend to really miss reading most History works is how various societies interrelated with their contemporaries, how they changed over time, and what else was going on around them during those changes. This Atlas gives you those things. When you are done, at a macro level you will feel like Neo: "Whoa...I know history."
In addition it is:
- Relatively short, at about 120 text pages
- An entertaining read (McEvedy was a hell of a writer).
- An invaluable reference.
- Cheap (most I can see it selling for online is $25. $11 is more typical)
Its main drawback is that this is an evolving field, and I believe the last revision was two decades ago. So some details will be a little dated. However, this still gives him at least a few years on the Durants.
* - Goodreads link to the (non-"New") unrevised edition. While the differences are interesting, get the "New" revised edition.