Peter Frankopan's The Silk Roads: A New History of the World is an extremely ambitious book.
It sets out to survey, in a single 500 page volume, some 2000+ years of history of the region which, roughly speaking, spans from Turkey and Egypt to Mongolia and Pakistan in the one direction, and from Yemen to Russia in the other.
That's a lot of land, and a lot of time, to cover.
Certainly if you, like me, struggle to distinguish Basra from Bactria, Samarkand from Sanjan, Karakorum from Kashgar, Mosul from Mashad, Dushanbe from Dunhuang, or Istanbul from Isfahan (ok, well, that last one I knew), then you'll find a lot to learn in this history of human activity in Central Asia over the last few thousand years.
And it's certainly a colorful book, full of great stories of traders, adventurers, explorers, merchants, prophets, and their interactions.
(Attila the Hun! Genghis Khan! Richard Lionheart! The Black Death! Vasco da Gama! T.E. Lawrence! Timur! Marco Polo!)
It's an immense scope, though, and Frankopan can barely get going on one episode before he races on to the next, breathless and impatient, rather like the White Rabbit: always in a hurry, but not quite sure where he's going.
I didn't mind any of the minutes I spent with The Silk Roads, but in the end I'm afraid that this part of the world is still rather a blur to me, which is a shame, because I think that's precisely the problem that Frankopan set out to solve.
Would he have been more successful (with me, at least), had he confined himself to a smaller region, or a shorter time period, the better to have used those pages to spend more time inhabiting particular incidents and characters? I'm not sure. I'm not much of a reader of histories, so I suspect this problem is just endemic to the genre, and it really just means that while his book was fascinating, I'm not really the target audience.