ORIGINAL BOOK REVIEW: “Tales of Invasions and Empires: Our Place in Time (c. 1100-1400)” by Kent Augustson

(POSTING TO SPA April 17th) Tales of Invasions and Empires

cipa evvy award

2019 CIPA EVVY Award

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION*:

This is the first book in a trilogy offering an original interpretation of our place in time that makes the discord of the current day more comprehensible. This is accomplished using three devices.

First, recognizing that human history is the history of civilizations, we have identified four civilizations that, with their spread, account for about 85% of the world’s population today. These are Confucian China, Hindu India, the Muslim Middle East, and the Christian West. To gain an appreciation of these four is to know well today’s world and to glimpse where we are heading.

Second, we provide a unique time frame for the progress of these civilizations which expands upon German philosopher-historian Karl Jasper’s well-regarded argument for an Axial Age relating to love, morality and wisdom in the centuries surrounding 500 BC. We postulate a new Axial Age in our day that speaks to power.

Third, we make our simple but powerful hypothesis accessible by avoiding complex reasonings and endless accumulations of data. Rather, presented perceptively in each book are seventeen memorable tales about the civilizations that link to one another, interact with one another like a long novel of four families out of which our theme evolves. Beginning with 1100 AD when these civilizations start to meaningfully interrelate, the books cover three centuries apiece. The final chapter in this work provides a summation of how events in the 12th to 14th centuries directly relate to the present day.

REVIEW:

QUICK NOTE AT THE TOP: The world has changed somewhat since this book came out in 2018; in the last month alone, twenty million United States citizens have lost their jobs in one of the biggest economic downturns of all time, a reality that is echoed and magnified on a global scale. Whatever else COVID-19 does, it has done much to lay bare the systems of power that underpin daily life. And the fragility of our “modern” world. Augustson has dealt with several chunks of history in his books, including the 2014 publication of Our Place in Time: The New Axial Age and the Pivotal Years (2015-2020), which would be a better place to dig for his predictive insights into what’s happening now.

To return to this particular book: I’m always deeply appreciative when authors can manage to do three things: show their authority (and expertise) on a subject, make plain their personal bias without it compromising the book’s value, and produce a readable book. Augustson doesn’t lead with his thirty years in government affairs; I had to delve into the authors notes and so forth at the end. But it becomes pretty clear from early on that he knows what he’s doing so far as crafting a persuasive argument and backing it up with curated information that’s digestible to the common reader. There are charts. There are maps. There are structured chapters. But there’s also a kind of playfulness and a clear voice to the work which keeps it from feeling overwhelmingly textbooky.

Augustson starts with seventeen chapters about seventeen intersecting lives. Fair warning, though: he takes it for granted that readers are familiar with some terms that I personally hadn’t seen before (“Jaspers Age” being one, and “Axial Age” another). A little quality time with le Googl brought me up to speed, but it’s well worth taking a pause after the introduction to study the initial charts and timelines and lock in some of those terms before going further. I was set up well for this book by reading Keay’s history of China last year and having started Dalrymple’s The Anarchy more recently. (Not to mention all the Western Civ courses I took through high school and college, getting both the Commonwealth (Australian) and individualistic (American) takes on that third of Augustson’s four cornerstones. Once I finish Dalrymple, Augustson has inspired me to look for a book specifically on the history of Islam and Muslim culture; then I will have a better understanding of his four cornerstone civilizations.

Augustson’s grasp of the facts of history is one thing, but his ability to draw together the different threads of history in very different parts of the world by focusing on the intersecting lives of one or two individuals per chapter is what sets this history apart. Whatever you personally believe about the threefold ages Augustson argues in favor of, it is worth reading this book simply for the pleasure of seeing so many otherwise disparate lives wound so cleverly together. The fifteenth chapter, which deals with “Global Cold and the Black Death” is both hard and valuable to read on its own.

IN SUMMARY:

Augustson’s experience in government affairs is put to work in this mammoth installment of what could safely be called history with a bent towards interpretation, and he makes an interesting argument for the realization of humanity in three ages. Fair warning: This book weighs over a pound, so make sure to have set aside some serious reading time.

WHERE TO BUY?

You can find Tales of Invasions and Empires wherever good books are sold, including Amazon and Barnes and Noble. You can also find out more about Kent Augustson’s work on the book’s Outskirts Press author page.

WHAT NEXT?

Regrettably, the far-reaching effects of the current global pandemic prevented me from finishing the book I had intended to review two weeks ago, so you can look for that review next Friday. It has been worth the extra time, however.  I’m speaking of Barry Beaven’s God, Me, and the Blackhorse, a hard-hitting memoir of war. (I know, I picked light subjects to review in a time of global unrest. Comforting.) I’ll see you all back here next week, then, and in the meantime I hope you stay safe and healthy.

 

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

* Courtesy of Amazon book listing.


SONY DSC

ABOUT KENDRA M.: With nine years in library service, six years of working within the self-publishing world, as well as extensive experience in creative writing, freelance online content creation, and podcast editing, Kendra seeks to amplify the voices of those who need and deserve most to be heard.

Friday Conversations With A Self-Publishing Writer 10/25/13

When talking with a neighbor today, I mentioned my appreciation for novels of “historical” fiction and how much I’ve learned from them.  She asked for an example, and I immediately thought of an exceptionally well-written book about how many Christians—living in Germany at the time Hitler was coming into power—“looked the other way” when facts were revealed about the treatment of their Jewish neighbors.  My neighbor then showed me a book she’d just read, a self-published novel titled Barbed Wire and Daisies by Carol Strazer.  “It is the story of a mother and her children trying to escape the hell of German occupation in WWII,” she said.  “And it’s so visually written that I could almost stumble over the rubble of destruction.”

She continued,  “The sadness I feel today when reading books like that goes beyond the horrific truth of those events because I become even more aware that we humans haven’t learned much from those experiences.”  Then she asked me if I’d read any of the “soldier blogs” that pepper the Internet.  I had to admit that I haven’t.  “These are the real life histories that need to be developed into books,” she stated.  “Only the truth, told from the perspective of these soldiers—these boots-on-the-ground—can make the world taste the dust storms and feel the pain of war.”  After that conversation, I have a lot more to think about.

Personally, as one of the millions of people who breathe in our FREEDOM every day because of the sacrifices of our military men and women—and their families—I can only agree with my friend.  I have no immediate knowledge of what it really feels like when bunk-mates don’t return from a mission.  I never stood to attention at a desert memorial service as my platoon saluted each of the lost soldiers whose kevlars had been placed on their weapons, their dog tags hanging below their helmets as they should have been hanging around their necks.

So, today, I have no specific writing advice to share with you; only the hope that someone who is reading this will begin writing the true stories of the real life histories they’ve lived.  Or, if you’re a writer and know one of our soldiers/warriors, maybe they could tell you their experiences and you could develop the book.  Our world is being forever changed by these events.  We need to know what has happened—from many perspectives—so that we have the real opportunity to make the future better and brighter.

Royalene ABOUT ROYALENE DOYLE: Royalene Doyle is a Ghostwriter with Outskirts Press, bringing more than 35 years of writing experience to authors who need “just a little assistance” with completing their writing projects. She has worked with both experienced and fledgling writers helping complete projects in multiple genres. When a writer brings the passion they have for their work and combines it with Royalene’s passion to see the finished project in print, books are published and the writer’s legacy is passed forward.

Friday Conversations With A Self-Publishing Writer 10/18/13

I LOVE Historical Fiction! Not only do I find inspiration, hope, and encouragement when I read these books, but I often become acquainted with a new author (new to me, anyway) who took the leap into self-publishing.  When a writer dives into researching everything from footwear and clothing to politics and mores within a specific time period, readers become their beneficiaries—and learn life survival skills that are easily passed forward within this genre.

The most recent historical/biographical fiction I’ve worked with is set in the late 1800s, early 1900s.  The central character is a young woman who stepped way outside her comfort zone in the world of medicine to become one of only a handful of women physicians in her generation.  I can still picture the scene—during her medical school days—when a cloth screen was set up in the classroom to separate her from her male classmates.  The professor thought it “indelicate” to discuss the subject matter of his class in “mixed company,” and that was his solution.  This was a true occurrence and added to my understanding of how my grandparents thought about male/female relationships and why they often seemed confused—even embarrassed—by their grandchildren.

The huge success of recent TV series period pieces should also encourage the historical fiction writer.  More than other genres, the details that must accurately paint these stories are perfect for film development.  Plus, the characters from days-gone-by are easily portrayed as bigger-than-life, while retaining the elements of humanity with which we can all identify.

I’ve come to discover that good fiction tells a good story, excellent fiction introduces readers to a character they will never forget, and award winning fiction compels the reader to live the life of the characters as they walk through each and every event.  This happens—for me—most often within the pages of historical fiction.

Can any writer become an award winning historical fiction author?  Here is a little quiz that will help you answer that for yourself.

  1. Did you enjoy history classes in school?  Could you picture yourself living in log cabins, or animal-skin teepees, or caves?
  2. Do you like the smell of libraries?  Some current writers do most of their research on the Internet; however, discovering that one “key element” and/or fact among library archives is a real treat!
  3. Can you hear, see, smell, taste, and touch the environment of the time period you’re writing about?
  4. Do you share the same passions of your main character?  Rather than “walking a mile in his or her shoes,” could you walk a thousand miles beside them?
  5. Do you understand the motives behind your main character, his companions and the antagonist(s)?

I’ve known folks who have worked on (and off) on their historical fiction novel for years.  If you are one of those writers, I would like to nudge you (sharply) to GET IT DONE and GET IT PUBLISHED!  Other people may have written about your hero, but only you can tell it with the passion that you hold.

Royalene ABOUT ROYALENE DOYLE: Royalene Doyle is a Ghostwriter with Outskirts Press, bringing more than 35 years of writing experience to authors who need “just a little assistance” with completing their writing projects. She has worked with both experienced and fledgling writers helping complete projects in multiple genres. When a writer brings the passion they have for their work and combines it with Royalene’s passion to see the finished project in print, books are published and the writer’s legacy is passed forward.

Weekly Self-Published Book Review: The Mind of the Historian: Causation in Philosophy of History

Book reviews are a great way for self-publishing authors to gain exposure. After all, how can someone buy your book if he or she doesn’t know it exists? Paired with other elements of your book promotion strategy, requesting reviews is a great way to get people talking about what you’ve written.

When we read good reviews, we definitely like to share them. It gives the author a few (permanent) moments of fame and allows us to let the community know about a great book. Here’s this week’s book review by Midwest Book Review:

The Mind of the Historian: Causation in Philosophy of History

Ali Parsa

Publisher: Outskirts Press

ISBN: 9781432769222

Reviewer: Andrey Bilko

The compelling title “The Mind of the Historian”grabbed my interest right away. Writing history is a fascinating and extremely tough job, requiring the author to juggle the often blurry facts with appropriate analysis and creative commentary while refraining from inventing history as much as possible. Nevertheless, there are a multitude of influences,  like the atmosphere of the time and place when the story is retold or written, affecting the writing of history. It is crucial to understand the author and where he is coming from in order to correctly judge his work. Besides these points, the main goal of Dr. Parsa’s book is looking into the causes behind historical events. Finding the causality between events is the prime role of a historian. The interrelationships between events and people have to be presented and united in a way, which explains their progression from the start to the finish.

The question of causation is a philosophical one. What is causation in the first place? What is the most applicable definition? Philosophers, scientists, and historians have been pondering and offering their opinions on the subject for thousands of years. People like Aristotle, Isaac Newton, and David Hume, just to name a few, all presented certain theories. The truth lies somewhere amidst the clash between the scientific method, social science, and philosophy.

Besides introducing the reader to causation in the Western philosophy, the main focus of the book is causation in Islamic history, which is supported by the case study of the work “Zayn al-Akhbar” by 11th century Persian historian Gardizi. In addition, there is another chapter devoted to analysis of twelve other historians writings between the 9th and 13th centuries in the Islamic world. Dr. Parsa aims to dig deep into these historians’ minds, who represent a broad spectrum of the overall historian community.

“The Mind of the Historian” is based on a dissertation, which gives it some dryness in certain parts. However, considering the subject matter, it reads fairly smoothly. It is a must have for those interested in Perso-Islamic historiography and a curious read for someone wishing to learn more about historical writing.