One of the first things you learn as a history student is how one sided history can be. I know I can say with certainty that I never spent more than a chapter or two learning anything of note from the Eastern World while I was in high school in America; in fact it took a burning curiosity with Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia that led to me learning anything at all about the region. And after visiting the area several times and interacting with a lot of locals, I was curious to learn more.
I initially picked up this book after reading a couple historical fiction novels set around the time that Islam was founded. I was really intrigued with reading a history book from a perspective different from my own. The book was written by an Afghan man born and raised in Afghanistan and who eventually moved to the US. Working in the history textbook industry, he noticed that textbooks in the Western world glossed over huge portions of history and that eventually led him to write this book.
The book covers over 1000 years of history but spends a lot of time centered around the hundred or so years surrounding the life and death of the prophet Muhammad. And I have to say that I liked where this book took me.
I really enjoyed this book for several reasons. First I enjoyed the the narrative style of the book. This book was written in such a way that someone who is not a history person could pick it up and gain some value from it. Secondly, I really admire how he was able to keep a narrative, almost conversational style while not sacrificing historical value. I have suffered through so many history books as a history major that this was a nice change.
But what I enjoyed most about this book was being able to view historical events not as how they affect the US or Europe, but how world events shaped those countries in the Middle East. It was also fascinating to get a glimpse into the eastern perspective on current events that eventually led to some of the tensions between east and west that still exist today.
I read this book through a combination of audiobook (The audiobook is narrated by the author so that was nice) and paperback and if I had to offer any complaint, it would be how as the book made its way towards the modern day, I felt like less time was spent on things. One day I was driving to work listening and my attention wandered for a minute (damn San Diego traffic) and suddenly the Russians and Germans had entered the scene and the world was approaching WWII. I ended up going back to reread that whole section.
In a nutshell, I can’t recommend this book enough. If you have any interest in current events or history, I think this is a great read.