While my reading time may be sporadic at best I do like to share when I've read something particularly good. There are a large number of books that pass through my hands and by my eyes that, while entertaining, are not noteworthy really. Not so for these two.
The first engrossing read is Lesley Hazleton's After the Prophet: The Epic Story of the Shia-Sunni Split in Islam. This is an exceptionally readable book about the years following the death of Muhammad and how the ensuing battle over who would become
the Muslim leader still reverberates in the Middle East today. It is well researched and very very well written. This is not dry text, this is as stated, an epic story and (for me at least), gives some clear understanding to the political and religious volatility that has persisted in that region of the world. If you've ever wondered how for 1400 years Islam could be so mired down in unrest and warfare, this may give you clues. If you read only one non fiction book this year, make it this one.
The second really good read is Company of Liars by Karen Maitland. The period is 1348 England and so well written you can almost be one of the company of Liars on their journey. It's a mystery of the best sort; suspense, high adventure and a great twist at the end. It is also so very believable. Ms. Maitland has developed her characters beautifully and their interactions in the period she has created are well researched so those that like their fiction to be a little more scholarly will not be disappointed.
Both these books attached themselves to me. I was unable to put either down after the first page was consumed and bereft when both were completed.