Reading Mongolia: The Secret Life of the Mongol Queens

Once I started reading about Mongolia, I just couldn’t stop. BUT I HAVE TO, since I’ve got 140+ countries left to go on this journey. So, I’m wrapping it up with one more book by Jack Weatherford.

Since I enjoyed the book about Genghis Khan so much I was really excited about this one, especially since I’m all about my sisters throwing it down. But I was a bit disappointed: fascinating history about powerful women, but as it moved away from Genghis and his wives and daughters, I lost interest.

It was hard to keep the thread after the Mongol empire started to really disintegrate; the political and social reality of fraying societies is generally all about constant churn and lots of violence, and to be honest that’s depressing to me. Also, there are just brief glimpses of individuals; that’s understandable, since most cultures have never been that interested in keeping detailed records of women’s lives and contributions, but it was still unsatisfying. It made the book feel strung together, and a bit thin.

Overall verdict: okay but not great, which is a shame.

Mongol women at Naadam_festival
Mongol women at Naadam_festival (image by, via Wikimedia Commons)

Reading Mongolia: Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World

Like I warned you a few days ago, I went on a reading binge with Mongolia. And my third book, Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, by Jack Weatherford, was a complete winner.

Excuse me for shouting, but I LEARNED SO MUCH. I loved it. You know I won’t tell you much of anything in terms of details, but this book has my most enthusiastic support. You should totally check it out!

I was reading it on a business trip, and a woman sitting next to me on the plane kept looking at the cover, and finally had to ask me all about it. Genghis Khan has a lot of charisma, even after 800 years.

And here’s me, making a stretched personal connection to all of this…my dad owned his own business. When it came time to think about retiring, he had a very serious talk to me about his kids NOT inheriting the company. He had watched quite a few unsuccessful generational transitions in his own industry, and he was a big reader of history. I remember him saying “it doesn’t often work, even for Genghis Khan” and you know what…he was right. He sold the company to the employees, and it was the right thing. I’m not sure if he had read this book, but I have the feeling he did…

Portrait of Genghis Khan
Portrait of Genghis Khan
(image in the Public Domain, via the National Palace Museum, Taipei, Taiwan)

Reading Mongolia: Travels in Manchuria and Mongolia: A Feminist Poet from Japan Encounters Prewar China

I get most of the books for the blog from the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, because libraries rule. Especially when searching through the system conjures up an oddity, like my next selection for Mongolia…

Travels in Manchuria and Mongolia: A Feminist Poet from Japan Encounters Prewar China, by Akiko Yosano and translated by Joshua A. Fogel. Like, there’s no way on this earth I would ignore that.

This book is very much a travelogue of an intelligent and very Japan-centric woman. Of her time. I’m not going to unpack the intensity and multiple layers that exist even within the title. Japan and China have a…complicated relationship, especially during the time period discussed…there are many people, much smarter than me that could inform you. From many different angles.

What I can say is that I experienced this book in conjunction with several other titles about Mongolia, and Ms. Yosano’s observations of life on the steppe fit in perfectly with what’s described in those books. It was really enjoyable to get “backup” from a somewhat detached observer. Also, it was a great reminder to be open to what you might find when you’re searching for something else…you never know what you’ll stumble across.

Dromedary camels by the sand dunes of Khongoryn Els, Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park, Ömnögovi Province, Mongolia
Dromedary camels by the sand dunes of Khongoryn Els, Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park, Ömnögovi Province, Mongolia
(image by User:Doron [CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Reading Mongolia: The Blue Sky

I went on a bit of a reading binge with Mongolia, and it started if off in the best way possible. First of the pile was The Blue Sky, by Galsan Tschinag (translated by Katharina Rout).

It’s the first installment in an autobiographical trilogy, and one of two in the trio that have been translated from German. Why German and not Mongolian or Tuvan or some other Central Asian language? All part of the tale, my friend, and you know I don’t like to give anything away.

It’s a beautiful story, written by a fascinating, insightful author. I feel like every book I pick up has the potential to change me; some do and others, not so much. This one definitely did. It opened my eyes in a way I’m very grateful for. Oh, and I cried for like a day after I was done (the ending is heartbreaking), and it was totally worth it…

Yurt on the Mongolian Steppe
Yurt on the Mongolian Steppe (image by P.Lechien [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons)