Well several new books actually. I've recently got a book entitled "The Heirs of Prophet Muhammad" by Barnaby Rogerson. This book is about the cause of the split in the Ummah beginning with Ali, the Prophet's (Pbuh) cousin and son -in law and Aisha his beloved wife. Rogerson's account is interesting. It gives us an insight into the Sunni- Shia schism that is to split the Ummah not long after the Prophet(pbuh) passed away in AD632. Rogerson's account is full of verve and zeal, turning the history of Islam into an epic that is both real and engaging. It traces the time of the Prophet's death and the inherent differences that arose between two of his favourite people. He traces the beginnings of this deep enmity between the prophet's wife and his favourite companion as starting from the time of Aisha's late return from a trip in which she was left behind by the caravan. Being the good wife that she was she stayed where she was and waited to be rescued. Unfortunately nobody knew that she had been left behind and while waiting she fell asleep. She was discovered by Safwan, one of the Prophet's men. Worried that she might be molested or even kidnapped by desert tribes he politely told her he would accompany her back to Medina and so began the whispers behind her back that she and Safwan were in fact lovers. Things came to a head and the Prophet was asked to decide what to do. After prayers he asked the opinion of his followers and one by one gave their answers. Most vouched Aisha's innocence and Ali, even though he did not doubt that Aisha was innocent told the Prophet :"God hath not restrictd thee and there are many women besides her." This frank advice told Aisha how much he was jealous of her closeness with the prophet and she never forgave him for it even though later a revelation revealed her innocence.
According to the writer this was the beginning of the Sunni - Shia schism that afflicted Islam until today. Well written and shows a depth of knowledge about Islam's early history. Really worth reading and in fact so touching in places it literally reduced me to tears. Especially the part about Ali's assasination and the prophet's grandson, Husseins's martyrdom.
Other books I've been reading are 1421 by Gavin Menzies - another historical account but of the Chinese sea voyages of discovery. These occurred long before Columbus "discovered " America. Menzies accompanied the book with photos and other proofs that it was the Chinese actually who discovered the world, and not the Spanish or the Portuguese.