Canoeing the Congo: The First Source-to-Sea Descent of the Congo River
By Phil Harwood
Published in 2012
Thibault’s Score: 3/5
I decided to read this book because my brother in law spent some time working in the DRC, and I want to learn more about the country in preparation for my own visit.
This book is a short account of former British royal marine commando and explorer Phil Harwood’s canoe journey from the source of the Congo river to the sea.
His journey starts at one of the many sources of the Congo river in Zambia. He makes his way to Lubumbashi, and from there goes on a half year long canoe journey across the DRC.
Along the way, he faces many dangers: malaria, crocodiles, hippopotamuses, rapids, and waterfalls. More dangerous than nature, are the locals. Hostile tribes where the men are predominantly aggressive bandits and corrupt thieving officials plague his voyage. He also makes a number of friends such as a pentacostal pastor and a family of fishermen with a homemade shotgun who help him along the way.
Overall, I found the book to be a pretty good read. It reminded me of stories that my brother in law has told me over the years about his time in the DRC. However, at some times, Harwood does come off as kinda douchey, especially when he praises himself throughout his book.
Canoeing the Congo is an excellent read for anyone preparing to go to the DRC, or other central African countries, but not good enough that I universally recommend it.
The Race for Paradise: An Islamic History of the Crusades
By Paul M. Cobb
Published in September 2016
Thibault’s Score: 4/5
After reading God’s Battalions, a mediocre book written by a modern day Catholic to defend the morality of actions taken by crusaders almost 1000 years ago, I had low expectations. I’ve also read The Ornament of the World, a book written by a modern leftist that justly praises the achievements of Islamic Spain while completely ignoring the rape, genocide, and oppression of that regime.
I kind of expected the Race for Paradise to be in the same tradition - I thought it would be a snuff job to cover up past atrocities and justify modern political ideas.
Instead, I was very pleasantly surprised to find a well written and in depth history of the crusades from an Islamic perspective without any modern political commentary.
Paul M. Cobb is a non-Muslim Islamic history specialist who took previously untrasnalted Islamic sources, and built a narrative history of the crusades using those.
I learned so many fascinating details which really helped me understand the crusades. For example, the Muslims didn’t perceive the crusades as a large scale apocalyptic event. Some local Muslim rulers even supported the crusaders with supplies and free passage hoping that they would fight their internal political enemies within the Islamic ummah.
Few of the stories in this book were new to me, as I’ve read many of the same ones in the many other crusades books that I’ve read. However, the emphasis was on different details and different characters.
The audiobook is also very well recorded. It is read by the author, which is always the best. It also came with a downloadable file that includes diagrams of all of the maps that are included in the original book.
I strongly recommend this book to anyone who knows a little about the crusades but wants to learn more from a different perspective. Really good and well produced audiobook version.
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