Ultimately I really enjoyed this audiobook. Audiobooks as a format really help me to absorb nonfiction books, particularly ones that I would normally have trouble taking the time to concentrate on. And this was a pretty fascinating book. I knew next to nothing about Genghis Khan, the Mongols, this period in history, or the cultures of the people who lived in this area. After reading the book I know a little!
Firstly, Genghis Khan wasn’t even his name! His name was Temüjin. Genghis and Khan were both honorary titles that he earned in his lifetime, a lifetime of him pretty much being an intelligent, progressive badass. For being a guy with such a world conquering reputation, he actually was pretty great? I don’t know! I feel weird typing that!
I don’t have time to get into everything while I’m trying to get my reviews in under the wire, but the book does a really good job of placing his life in context, and it’s well worth reading. I particularly liked the way that he was unafraid to make changes to his society, when he had the power to do so, because he saw no point in doing things in certain ways just because that’s the way they’d always been done. He essentially abolished the ruling class in Mongol society, and made life better for his citizens in a bunch of different ways (including for women). Even all the conquering, if Weatherford can be believed (I don’t know his historical bona fides), didn’t come from a place of being bloodthirsty or wishing to dominate. The glory for the Mongols wasn’t in the violence or how the battles were won, but in the pride that came from having won them, and what happened afterwards. He was also just a really great strategist!
The reason I’m giving this 3.5 stars instead of four is that it really threw me that Genghis Khan dies halfway through the narrative. I just lost the thread of it after that, even though there was some interesting stuff to be found there. I also thought there was some dull stuff. I just did not care about hearing his heirs fighting over their inheritances or trying to keep his empire together.