This is the type of book that is probably best used as a reference book, but worth reading through in its entirety. I thoroughly enjoyed reading through the "parallels", although in the majority of instances that word is used very loosely. As the authors make clear in their introduction: "There are genre parallels, motif parallels, social institution parallels, plot parallels, and parallels in historical events."
As you read through the text you will be treated to an introduction to each ancient document that usually discusses it's origin, date, and reason for its inclusion in the book. In addition to this, as you read through each selection you will be treated to referenced biblical texts for comparisons. Although the referenced biblical texts strewn throughout each ancient selection often seemed quite awkward when presented as parallels. I flipped open the book randomly and pulled up an example of this. This particular ancient text reads as follows:
"Then I will travel with you to safe harbor, Then we shall live together forever" pg229
The parallel text is Psalm 94:19 which reads as follows: "In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul." KJV.
As you can see, I was left scratching my head as to how this was a parallel, but others are slightly more applicable, dealing with similar topics(ie: food, life, oxen, etc.) as we see in the biblical texts.
Now to the primary topic, the stories/texts themselves! Many of these stories are thematically similar(ie: laments, poems, stories about brothers, laws against crimes, stories about barren women, etc.) to the biblical narratives, but often strikingly different in actual content and intent. The most notable exception to this is the flood story of Gilgamesh. However, this is difficult to determine if this is due to a common tradition of a real event, a borrowed tradition from one culture to another, or something else entirely. As the authors themselves make clear: "Establishing the correct connection between related biblical and non-biblical traditions is never easy. Simple solutions are generally misleading solutions." (Forward xiii).
The most enjoyable parallels were those that demonstrated grammatical and stylistic similarities of the texts - it is a beautiful reminder that the Hebrew people were a real people, in the real world, who interacted with their cultural peers.
That said, I learned quite a bit from this volume and I have accumulated a few pages of notes for further study.