It took me a few times to get into this book, but I’m really glad that I stuck with it — very rewarding. It’s basically the story of Islam from Muhammed through Ali & Hussein, and goes into good detail on the events that led to the Sunni/Shia split.
I don’t think I have a really great understanding of things after reading the book, but at least I’m more familiar than I’ve been with the basic concepts & points of view. I hadn’t ever seen a ~200 page account of that time period, and think it’s a really great length for getting a better-than-surface-level understanding, at least as a starting point. Definitely recommended for anyone interested in Islam, of course, but also in understanding some of the foundational issues in geopolitics today.