Genghis Khan - R.P. Lister Reading this I'm reminded of those "human-animal hybrids" that exercise some Republican lawmakers so much - an odd mixture of biography and novel that doesn't work very well in either genre.

R.P. Lister is not a historian but a "novelist, poet, and travel writer" (per the backcover), and his purpose in writing this book is to render the primary source of this period, The Secret History of the Mongols, into an easily readable and understandable format.

As a biography, it's simply a recapitulation of the Mongol court's propaganda machine. The Secret History is considered fairly reliable as these things go but it's not going to put the Great Khan, his family and close associates in a bad light. As a novel, the effort itself is not misguided but the writing is simply subpar. For the nonhistorian who's interested, it probably is more accessible than the source, however.

To end on a postive note: I do wish that I had read this before watching the recent film Mongol (forget who directed it but he's a Russian). It would have been easier to follow if I had had some idea about the background amongst the various characters.