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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars History's Most Lovable Bloodthirsty Tyrant
Mainstream historians may object to some of the claims in this book, but John Man has created quite a readable mix of travelogue and history. This is more a work of interpretation, rather than direct research, as Man has combined his own past learning about Genghis Khan and the Mongols with his modern-day travels to Mongolia in search of surviving relics. So do not expect...
Published on April 15, 2006 by doomsdayer520

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47 of 47 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Strange Mix
Genghis Khan by John Man is a strange mix of history and travelogue that doesn't seem to hang well together. Man has attempted to meld his personal experiences travelling Mongolia to visit the major Genghis-related sites with a history of Genghis Khan. As a result, you will find out not only about that 13-th century builder of the Mongol nation and empire but also about...
Published on November 9, 2005 by William D. Shingleton


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47 of 47 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Strange Mix, November 9, 2005
Genghis Khan by John Man is a strange mix of history and travelogue that doesn't seem to hang well together. Man has attempted to meld his personal experiences travelling Mongolia to visit the major Genghis-related sites with a history of Genghis Khan. As a result, you will find out not only about that 13-th century builder of the Mongol nation and empire but also about Man's trevails attempting to find Burkhan Khaldun, Mongolia's sacred mountain. If you like to see some of the author's personality injected into a story about someone else, this may enhance the book for you. If you find such things unprofessional or uninteresting, this is not the history of Genghis Khan that you want to read.

Genghis Khan the book is clearly written as a popular history. There are few footnotes and little in the way of new ground is broken when it comes to research on Genghis. Instead, Man appears to rely on the established (albeit conflicting) sources that have been used by other scholars. Significantly, Man goes to great lengths to point out and discuss the major debates when it comes to Genghis Khan's life, a major positive point for this book. He also mines previously uncovered primary sources such as The Secret History for all that they are worth.

The book really falls into three sections. The first deals with many of the legends that surround Genghis Khan and his early youth. Due to the lack of sources on Genghis this section reads almost more like mythology than history. The beginning is also marked by a stretch of Man discussing his travels in Mongolia to sites where Genghis may have been born.

After about 50 pages the hazy mythology of Genghis gives way to more detailed and authoritative accounts of the major events of Genghis' rise to power and his conquest of China and Eurasia. This account forms the second section of the book and lasts for about 200 pages. Man's account deals mostly with political events and does not delve into much detail regarding Genghis' personal life, likely because such information simply does not exist. However, Man paints a portrait of Genghis as ruler, including his willingness to learn from the technology and education of his enemies both to increase the Mongols' military might and to improve administration in the newly-won and ravaged territories.

The final section of the book reverts back to mythology and speculation and deals with Genghis' death and burial. Since the location of Genghis' grave remains unknown, it is an attractive target for research, and Man is clearly fascinated by the issue. Like the first section, this section contains long passages regarding Man's search for possible grave locations, including details about what he ate and who his guides were.

While I personally do not care for the way that Man has interjected himself, the book remains extremely readable and accessable to the non-expert on Mongolia. While Man makes the point that Genghis was not the mindless barbarian that so many histories portray, he also does not shy away from discussing the scale of the descruction wroght by the Mongols. Because of the passage of time and the lack of credible primary sources, it is impossible to tell how many people perished under Mongol swords, but Man does an admirable job of trying to parse the approximate numbers. He doesn't flinch from discussing the negatives of the Mongols and deserves credit for not turning this project into a hagiography.

The bottom line is that this is not a book for experts but is not a bad jumping-off point for someone with a casual interest in Genghis Khan. I suspect that this book is particularly useful and interesting for people who may actually be travelling to Mongolia on business or a lark and want to get oriented. I just think that the melding of the author's personal experiences with the history of Genghis the man detracts from the overall quality of what is otherwise a good survey of one of the most important figures of the last 2,000 years.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars History's Most Lovable Bloodthirsty Tyrant, April 15, 2006
Mainstream historians may object to some of the claims in this book, but John Man has created quite a readable mix of travelogue and history. This is more a work of interpretation, rather than direct research, as Man has combined his own past learning about Genghis Khan and the Mongols with his modern-day travels to Mongolia in search of surviving relics. So do not expect newly detailed research breakthroughs, because this is one of those "living history" books. One particular problem is that Man uses a lot of conjecture and opinionating when tackling gaps or contradictions in the historical record. But in the end, we do get a very good summary of all the present knowledge on Genghis and his descendants, and Man engagingly discusses this very intriguing and complex historical personage. This especially applies to how Genghis was surely a genius in military strategy and administration, and was a remarkable leader of men, while also being responsible for the destruction of dozens of classic cities and the slaughter of probably a few million people. Man also discusses the sheer hugeness of the Mongols' empire-building practices, why these once-anarchic nomads decided to destroy every settled civilization in the known world then return to their simple pastoral lives, and how Genghis has been deified as both a god and a devil by multiple societies ever since. Add to this Man's exploration of the modern landscape and the Mongols' ongoing influence, and this conjectural but still very readable book really shows what made Genghis and his boys tick. [~doomsdayer520~]
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Chinggis Khan...??? Temujin...?? Genghis Khan...sound familiar?..read on..., December 14, 2005
By 
El Zahrul "el" (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) - See all my reviews
The book gives a general idea of the "man", his background, his conquests and the mystery that eludes and shrouds him. The Great Khan is truly mysterious...and with limited historical records, I am greatful that the author has sacrificed time and effort to personally experience, the Mongolian experience, in order to get in touch with the atmosphere and conditons that Genghis may have experienced. These personal accounts sometimes got in my way while reading, I just wanted the author to get on with it... yet at times these personal accounts were justifiable as they helped in clarifying certain points.

Overall, I'd say the book was ok... its in my personal book collection... my quest for another book on the Great Khan will not end here...
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A challenging and rewarding read, July 31, 2005
John Man's Genghis Khan is a chalenging and rewarding read. It will come as a bit of a jolt to readers used to reading popular biographies of more modern figures. This is a very different experience to reading about, say, Churchill or Kennedy. More modern subjects have a wealth of source material available to the historian, whose task becomes one of selection and condensation. Not so for a 13th century leader whose life was often deliberately shrowded in secrecy. Man's task is not to wade through volumes of material, but to actually find material. And he does a terrific job.

He has pieced together a rivetting account of Genghis Khan's life, from birth to death and beyond. He takes the reader on a journey in search of Genghis, through the steppes and deserts of Central Asia, into Europe, and to China.

One strength of this book is Man's depth of knowledge and experience. He has clearly spent a great deal of his life in Mongolia, has picked up the language and immersed himself in the culture of the Mongols. He still sees himself as an outsider, an indication of his great humility, but he is certainly not typical of many modern writers who adopt a subject only until their book is published. The scope of this book is truly impressive.

A word should also be made about the illustrations. The book has two sections of illustrations, and many seem to be photographs taken by Man himself. They add to the enjoyment and experience of the read, as do the several maps included in the text.

Another great strength of this book is in capturing the present day spirit and influence which Genghis still holds in Mongolia and beyond. There is a nice concluding chapter on Genghis's current place in international relations and how modern day leaders manipulate his image and legacy for geopolitical reasons.

Overall, this is not your average popular historical biography. I imagine the general reader, like me, doesn't dwell too much on 13th century Mongolia. But for a glimpse of the life, death and resurrection of one of history's greatest leaders, I can imagine no better treatment.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not a great book, April 1, 2007
By 
P. Carey (Cologny Switzerland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Genghis Khan: Life, Death, and Resurrection (Paperback)
Read both this book and Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford. John Man spends too much time describing his own travels which was not why I bought the book. Jack Weatherford's book is far more informative and covers not just the life of Genghis Khan but his lasting influence on the world.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars `Genghis Khan is one of history's immortals.', November 18, 2010
This review is from: Genghis Khan: Life, Death, and Resurrection (Paperback)
By the time of his death in 1227, Genghis Khan ruled an empire that stretched from the Caspian Sea to the Pacific Ocean. His empire was larger than either that of Rome, or Alexander the Great. To many Muslims, Russians, and Europeans, Genghis Khan is remembered as a murderer of millions. He is honoured in China as the founder of the Yuan dynasty, and in Mongolia he is revered as the father of the nation.

In this book John Man presents an overview of the history, and the mystery, surrounding Genghis Khan. This is accompanied by a personal travelogue from John Man's travel to Mongolia to find and visit Genghis-related sites. Searching for physical signs of Genghis Khan in Mongolia proved challenging, but provides an interesting view into life in this remote country.

I have mixed views about this book. John Man's enthusiasm for his subject is clear, and the book is easy to read but I wanted to read more about Genghis Khan's life, times and influences and less about John Man's travels and theories. The contemporary detail did add to the overall portrait of Genghis Khan by giving some sense of how he is viewed in Mongolia, and this will be important to some readers.

I wonder what sense Genghis Khan himself would make of his legacy: both fact and legend?

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars At times more like a conversation., October 3, 2009
This review is from: Genghis Khan: Life, Death, and Resurrection (Paperback)
Written in quite a scattered style this book on Genghis Khan is probably very good for the beginner because it gives a range of detail and opens up a lot of knowledge about the early years of Genghis to the layman. The author never strays into any sort of overly specialised or academic tones and the book is a light and easy read.

The most arresting feature of the book for me was the manner in which it's written. John Man seems quite enamoured of the travelogue style of history that one might get from, say, Michael Wood where the conversational style mixed with the sense of travel and wonder at new vistas as well as new knowledge can be such a stirring mix. Alas for the author his swapping of styles can be an issue. No sooner does a series of chapters move the chronological narrative of the story of Genghis Khan forward than the reader is jerked somewhat uncomfortably to the present day as the author relates the details of his own journey in the footsteps of the great Khan. What is a pity is that both stories are worthy. I am all for finding out about the hardships of the road and his adventures on the trail - after all I read travelogues as well so it's a genre I have some affinity for. What was problematic for me was having that juxtaposed somewhat uncomfortably with also very readable chapters on Mongol traditions and outlooks on life and governance and the quite brilliant tactical and political aspects of Genghis Khans life.

As I say, both the stories in this book are worthy in their own way. However having the two threads intertwine neatly and comfortably is something that has escaped the author on this occasion. Yet despite this I'd fully recommend this book to any armchair historian or anyone lucky enough to be going to modern day Mongolia. I can only imagine it would be a magnificent read as you sat on the Trans-Mongolian train as it steamed across the open steppes. A concise and highly readable account of both a journey of research and of a man who changed the world through sheer force of will.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars overall average, June 6, 2004
By 
El Zahrul "el" (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Genghis Khan (Hardcover)
In my opinion, the title "Genghis Khan: A Biography" should be reviewed. The book does give a general idea of the "man", his background, his conquests and the mystery that eludes and shrouds him. I am greatful that the author has sacrificed time and effort to personally experience, the Mongolian experience, in order to get in touch with the atmosphere and conditons that Genghis may have experienced. These personal accounts sometimes got in my way while reading, I just wanted the author to get on with it... yet at times these personal accounts were justifiable as they helped in clarifying certain points.
Overall, I'd say the book was ok... its in my personal book collection... and there it will remain...
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An engrossing read, September 22, 2005
By 
Jayant Dasari (Tulsa, OK United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
John Man's done a great job of sequencing the historic events in a way that captures the attention of the reader. I must however hasten to add that not all the events have been asserted as facts leaving some scope for reader's fantasy. John tends to hop back and forth between decades and centuries at some points where in he tries to place the reader in an appropriate context to best understand and appreciate certain facets of Genghis's vision and life. That might leave the readers a little lost in time :) Over all a very well done book that leaves readers rather enlightened on the geopolitical dynamics of ancient Eurasia.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read, January 7, 2008
This review is from: Genghis Khan: Life, Death, and Resurrection (Paperback)
I am no expert on Genghis Khan and picked this book at an airport. I really enjoyed reading this book. There's really not much to complain about at the same time, this isn't extraordinary. I must say that this book is full of information, maps, and makes a good read. Your time wouldn't be wasted if you read this book.
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Genghis Khan: Life, Death, and Resurrection
Genghis Khan: Life, Death, and Resurrection by John Man (Paperback - February 6, 2007)
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