This book is well worth having on your shelf for those moments where you realise you don't really know anything about a certain Mughal emperor, African dictator or English king of yesteryear. This is not an in-depth historical study, nor is it intended to be; it is a whistle-stop tour that is incredibly wide-ranging and, at times, subjective in the verdicts it delivers on historical characters. I do think that, at times, the author falls into cliche a little, ending chapters with sentences like "His life was short, but his works will live forever." But perhaps that is an almost inevitable result of trying to write about so many subjects in the one volume.
As a literature enthusiast I particularly enjoyed entries on Austen, Byron, Dickens and the Russian writers, though I felt the entry on Shakespeare was limited and predictable.
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