Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World
Before reading this, I knew nothing, like seriously nothing, about Ghengis Khan and the Mongol empire. I knew stereotypes, about rape and pillage, but that was it. This book was a revelation. A fascinating account of how a small nomadic tribe ended up taking over a large chunk of the world.
This is the story of Ghengis Khan, who rises from humble beginnings to rule a vast empire. He does this through relentless war and destruction of his enemies, but also by allowing those he conquers to go on about their lives, worshipping how they choose, living how they choose, as long as they accept his reign (and tax).
It’s also the story of how future generations both expanded and lost territory through theory leadership successes and victories. (There is the drunk heir who fucks up the western expansion, and the careful distant relative who ends up taking over much of China.) All in all a fascinating book that walks that pop history line well. I totally enjoyed it.
A good crime novel is often as much about place as it is about characters and plot. Raymond Chandler is telling us not just about some caper gone wrong, he’s telling us about Los Angeles. Same with Richard Stark and New York City and, in the present case, Attica Locke and East Texas.
Clearly, Locke knows this area well. The story of a two murders, likely racially motivated, in a small town, and the investigation that follows feels deeply rooted in the details of food, music, and geography that give this book its weight. The black Texas ranger, the black small business owner, the white landowner and cops live in a real place, even if the town in this book is actually fictional.
In the hands of a lesser talent this book could have been clichéd or doctrinaire, but Locke is a smart, nuanced, writer (incredibly, this is her first novel) and she tells this story of racism, violence, and betrayal incredibly well. It’s a cliché, but I couldn’t put it down.