Monday, September 9, 2013

A small rant and Mongols

Quiet rant…

I was just reading 1 star review on GoodReads about a book that everyone else was giving 4 or 5 stars. The guy never finished the book. How can one give a star rating on a book that wasn't completed? That peeved me so much, I almost left him a comment. He's welcome to not care for a book, a writer, a subject, whatever, but to rate it without knowing how it ends and the story comes together... Mind you, I haven't read this book, I like to read pro and con reviews about books I'm unsure of adding to my ever growing list of books I want to read. This one has promise, this guy just got under my skin. I figured, it's about a book, I can vent here. (The book did get added in the end.)

Just for kicks, I'll talk about one of my GoodReads books. Go figure.

My mom gave me this book, after reading it herself. She knows I've always been drawn to the Mongols, perhaps due to a past life experience (if you believe in that sort of thing), or perhaps because my fathers German - as far as we can trace back - family has distinctly Asian features. I've been asked by Japanese women where my ancestors/grandparents were from. High check bones, rounded nose, large lips, slight eye flap. Me, Dad, Uncle, Aunt, both Cousins... It fascinates me where/how this trait came to be in our family line.

It took me six months to read this book (almost to the day). That's not the books fault; I tend to read non-fiction very slowly, sometimes reading a chapter and putting it down for a long time and then picking it back up again several non-fiction books later. History isn't going anywhere after all... Right? I might have done this book a slight injustice handling it in my usual fashion. The real Mongol queens come to life in some places and by putting it down, I may have ruined some of the magic. I did prefer the beginning with Genghis Khan and his daughters/granddaughters and the end (I won't spoil it). The middle was - historically - more about the men and the mess they made of everything after Genghis passed on. However, it was important to the narrative to keep the historical flow going, even if the stupid guys were a little tedious.

I particularly liked how Mr. Weatherford was able to use multiple sources throughout the centuries, both Mongol and from outside cultures to cross reference the stories and narratives that have been passed down through history. Where there are holes in the records, he says so.

The four star rating comes from it being non-fiction and I have a very specific type of non-fiction that gets five starts. I know it when I see it; this one came close 4.5 if I could.

And the ending is divine. Worth reading every word. To me, it is inspirational.

After posting this review on GoodReads a high school friend, who is now a university professor, contacted me on GR, she had this to say: "I teach a course on the Mongols and I assign this book.  Weatherford is a very appealing writer and his books also got me interested in the Mongol Empire. Check out his _Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World_ which is a more general history of the Mongol Empire but also very appealingly written. If you still need a Mongol fix, there is a good English-language version of the epic _Secret History of the Mongols_ (Paul Kahn, ed., Cheng and Tsui Publishers)." Both have been added to my "want to get" (now at 2309 books). Another GR friend recommended a 2007 "Russian movie about Genghis Khan's early life called Mongol." I'll definitely be checking to see if that's available for streaming. 

Next up a novel that got me through a sinus infection/head cold.

Thanks for reading!

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