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I recently read and thoroughly enjoyed Tamim Ansary's book Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World through Islamic Eyes. It deals with the rise of Islam, Islamic culture, and subsequent interactions with European and Asian powers (for better or worse).
West Meets Afghanistan
Ansary's writing is lively and not without humor and compassion for all involved. As an Afghan he provides unique insights into that part of the world. He is also the author of West of Kabul, East of New York: An Afghan American Story, which I look forward to reading.
Context for Turkey
From there my thoughts moved to Turkey and the Ottoman Empire, which seem to be once again gaining prominence in the news. I came across two excellent books; Lords of the Horizon: A History of the Ottoman Empire and Istanbul: Memories and the City.
The first provides an excellent overview of an empire whose memories still stir strong emotions in such places as the Balkans. The latter is a more personal history of a city that was once the capital of this empire; it is by Nobel Prize laureate Orhan Pamuk.
Music of Turkey
My musings then took me to music, particularly the military music of the Ottoman Empire--it gave to us the one of the first, if not the first, military bands to actually take to the field in support of the troops. After the siege of Vienna in the late 17th Century, these bands inspired Western composers (including Mozart who incorporated Turkish themes into his Abduction From the Seraglio).
Joe Toschik is a public services librarian at Half Moon Bay Library.