Armies of Heaven: The First Crusade the the Quest for the Apocalypse by Jay Rubenstein
This book was kind of…amazingly amazing. It’s a comprehensive history of the First Crusade written with a sense of humor (I mean, half the story is about the visions of [probable] crazy men, telling it straight up in 2012 doesn’t work, for me at least). It’s easy and enjoyable to read and introduced me to some great historical figures.
I like history and history books of all sorts, but I love history books that play out like an epic story, which this does. Jay Rubenstein seems to look at the past much as I do and he even threw in one of my favorite truths: people have always thought, and will always think, that they are living in the end times. The Crusades seem silly. The idea that the Apocalypse was imminent or, better yet, in progress, seems absurd. But there are folks today who claim that humanity is at its lowest, that, um, the Mayans predicted the world would end this year. Yeah, that actually seems to be a pretty popular theory. No matter how much more advanced we think we are, there are always plenty of gullible, uh, less than rational humans populating our planet. I love when historians point that very simple fact out.
Final note: this book mentions Greek Fire, Trial by Combat, Trial by Ordeal, and some super creative ways to kill people. In short, there’s some awesome gore going on.