The best Genghis Khan books

Many authors have picked their favorite books about Genghis Khan and why they recommend each book. Soon, you will be able to filter this list by genre, age group, and more. Sign up here to follow our story as we build a better way to discover books.

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Book cover of Genghis: Lords of the Bow

Genghis: Lords of the Bow

By Conn Iggulden,

Why this book?

Conn Iggulden is no stranger to historical battle fiction. Like others on this list, at least a dozen other novels could have been selected in this spot. Yet, Lords of the Bow expresses a savage bleakness in Genghis Khan’s earliest campaigns against the Xi Xia and Jin that will linger in the mind of any reader.

Mr. Iggulden’s writing regarding the Battle of Badger’s Mouth is incredible – not only for the complexities of the Mongol-Jin battle but equally due to Mr. Iggulden’s use of terrain and weather to raise tension. The battle is brief on the page, and overtaken…

From the list:

The best historical fiction novels depicting premodern battle

Book cover of Of Battles Past

Of Battles Past

By Bryn Hammond,

Why this book?

The magnificence of the first in the Amalgant series is the immersive reconstruction of Mongol social, political, and religious worlds, as well as the lives of its people. Hammond resistantly reads histories produced by hostile cultures, instead privileging the earliest and most comprehensive Mongol tellings of their own lives, The Secret History of the Mongols. This is no dry historical account of cultural norms, steppe relations, or material artifacts, but an intimate and humane telling of the personal tragedies and struggles that would change the world as the war-orphaned Temujin grows to be the man we know as Chenggiz…

From the list:

The best seriously historical historical fiction novels

Book cover of The Barefoot Emperor

The Barefoot Emperor

By Philip Marsden,

Why this book?

What William Dalrymple is to India, Philip Marsden is to Ethiopia. They are both inspired travel writers and scholarly historians. What I particularly loved about The Barefoot Emperor was that it actually reads like a page-turning thriller. Central to the story is the towering figure of the Emperor Tewedros, a brilliant military commander, political reformer, and charismatic leader, who was both loved and loathed by the warring factions that made up his kingdom. His rise and fall compare with anything achieved by Julius Ceasar or Genghis Khan, and Marsden captures his incredible, true-life story with bravura writing that leaps off…

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The best books that show you the real Ethiopia

Book cover of Invisible Cities

Invisible Cities

By Italo Calvino,

Why this book?

Invisible Cities is a surreal fantasy classic that blurs reality by describing it with poetic specificity. Marco Polo and Genghis Khan hold a number of conversations in the Khan’s beautiful garden and Polo regales the great conqueror with descriptions of the various cities Polo has visited. Are any of these cities real? Does it matter? Each one is weird and cool and seems to allude to dreamy truths about existence. Every time I teach a fiction workshop, this is on the syllabus. Each city is a mini-exercise in world building.    

From the list:

The best novels to unsettle your reality

Book cover of A Hero Born

A Hero Born

By Jin Yong, Anna Holmwood (translator),

Why this book?

Jin Yong’s characters move in the gritty village lanes or wander China’s remote mountains, seeking vengeance, escaping persecution, forming alliances. The launch of a martial arts series, A Hero Born was first serialized in a Hong Kong newspaper in the 1950s and is about a young hero who ends up in the Mongol camp of the future Genghis Khan. It’s a thrilling read and proved an immediate sensation, spawning movies, video games, comic books, etc.  Holmgren’s new translation offers a window into the gallant world of martial men and women who will fight to the death to defend their honor.…

From the list:

The best books for entering the world of imperial China

Book cover of After Tamerlane: The Rise and Fall of Global Empires, 1400-2000

After Tamerlane: The Rise and Fall of Global Empires, 1400-2000

By John Darwin,

Why this book?

You might not know who Tamerlane is, but you should. He was one of the last of the ‘World-conquerors’ in the tradition of Genghis Khan, the man who marched the Mongols from one end of Eurasia to the other in the 13th century. Tamerlane died in 1405 and with him the last nomadic empire of the Eurasian steppes. The Europeans then took up the quest ‘to conquer the word’. But John Darwin tells this story like no one else before him: Rather than starting the story of the European “Age of Discovery” on the bows of Iberian ships crossing…

From the list:

The best books on empires in world history

Book cover of In the Empire of Genghis Khan: A Journey Among Nomads

In the Empire of Genghis Khan: A Journey Among Nomads

By Stanley Stewart,

Why this book?

As a child, Irish author Stewart dreamed of riding a horse across Mongolia and this book is the fulfillment of his dream. In the heart of the book, Stewart travels 1,000-miles across the vast steppes of Mongolia on horseback. He encounters stunning scenery, a hilarious nomad wedding brawl, and “a vast medieval world of nomads apparently undisturbed since 1200.” This book is worth it just for my favorite exchange.  While Stewart was watching the wrestling competition at  Mongolia’s annual Naadam Festival, he asked a fellow observer why the wrestler’s jackets had “long sleeves but an open front that left the…

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