There’s something seriously wrong with me. Rather than attempting to understand the Mideast conflict via short web articles or easy-to-read books, I’ve jumped into an encyclopaedia-sized tome called A History of the Arab Peoples. Reviewers call it ‘a joy to read,’ but frankly, my head is spinning over the content’s complexity–and I’ve only just made it past Mohammed’s birth in Mecca around 570 AD. I want to give up, but it’s not in my nature. Besides, nothing’s easy when it comes to this area of the globe, so why should Albert Hourani’s New York Times bestseller be any different?