The first two chapters were so densely packed with Islamic history I am almost gave up on the book, but am so glad I didn’t. Nasr provides the clearest explanation of events in Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia of anyone I’ve read and does it primarily by describing the 1400 year conflict between Shiites and Sunnis. At the end of the book I felt I knew more about Middle Eastern politics than most of Bush’s advisors and half the U.S. media. That shouldn’t be taken as faint praise. The only caveat is that the writing is dense, textbookish, but well worth the effort. The book isn’t too long, either. December 2006.