This is a classic work on the history of Islamic societies. I'm not a historian, but found the book very readable. Its 900+ pages present an in-depth analysis of the history of North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, leading up to the rise of Islam. Interestingly, Lapidus reveals the rise of Islam did not happen in a sudden, broad sweep, as I had been led to believe. Rather, Islam was adopted by Bedouins, merchants, etc. one tribe and village at a time. According to Lapidus, Islam has been marked with internal strife from the beginning when numerous civil wars over doctrine, leadership, and interpretation of the Prophet's message, led to the division of the faith into its Sunni and Shi'a sects. It is an incredible story that every westerner should read. The book covers the periods prior to Mohammed's revelations through the 20th century, and is divided into three parts:
The Origins of Islamic Civilization: 600 to 1200
The Worldwide diffusion of Islamic Societies
The Modern Transformation
As a Christian, I found the depiction of Christianity's role in the Middle East, especially in the early days of Islam, interesting. Lapidus is a noted scholar and has done us all a service by writing this book. I highly recommend it.