Why did I love this book?
This is my favorite book for showing how culture affects perceptions of history. Ansari writes brilliantly of the time between the Prophet Muhammad and the fall of the Ottoman Empire and beyond. My favorite quote about differences between Western and Eastern cultures, says it all: “What looks from one side like a campaign to secure greater rights for citizens…looks from the other side like powerful strangers inserting themselves into the private affairs of families and undercutting people’s ability to maintain their communal selves as families and tribal networks. In short what looks from one side like empowering each individual, looks from the other side like disempowering whole communities” (p.353). The book is full of similar cultural insights and is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding the Middle East.