After about 30 minutes of reading the covers of each book and laying each of my favorites on the floor next to me, I had a ring of books circling me like flower petals. After 45 minutes, my boyfriend came over to help me decide (I was making him late for watching some sports game or another). After talking about it, I decided that I wanted to read a history that wasn't so cut and dry that it would put me to sleep on our long rides through Scandinavia. I also wanted a book by someone who had actually LIVED in the Middle East. Somehow, reading a book written by a Harvard scholar with no practical experience among Middle Eastern people has no appeal to me. Finally, I settled on this book: Destiny Disrupted by Tamim Ansary.
Ansary, someone familiar with both East and West, took a wonderful approach in writing this book. He explains that there are two narratives of world history: the world from the western perspective and the world from the "eastern" perspective (not including the Far East). He explains that even our notion of what is "west" and what is "east" is different (everything is relative, is it not?). Anyways, it is such a great book, really touching on the main topics that have influenced the Islamic world. I highly recommend it!