Posted by: Nathan | March 27, 2007

Book Review: The Arabian Nights

Okay, so I’ve been planning multiple book reviews for some time now, but a few things have stopped me: 1. School. 2. Work (d’oh!). 3. People don’t like book reviews that much. Admit it; you don’t. I know I skim through book reviews whenever I encounter them, especially if I’m disinterested in said book to begin with. With that in mind, I’m going to a shorter review format designed to let the prospective reader know what’s good and bad about a given work a without boring people who don’t read.

We start with the famous Arabian Nights or The Thousand and One Nights as it is alternately called. This book is one of those “classics” that every one’s supposed to read, but unlike most other canonical works, this one is extremely accessible. The Arabian Nights is a series of frame narratives, the overarching of which is Sheherazade’s (Shuh-hair-uh-zawd) storytelling ability that keeps her from being executing by the angry sultan Shahryar. The book consists of all the tales Sheherazade tells, and they are lots of fun.

Most of us are familiar with some version of the following stories which all spring from The Arabian Nights: “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves,” “Aladdin and the Magic Lamp,” “Sinbad the Sailor,” etc. These were all fun to read as a part of the larger work. “Aladdin” I found much improved over the Disneyized version (big surprise). “Sinbad” is quite odd but still enjoyable. In addition to these familiar stories, I enjoyed “Judar and His Brothers” also.

At the recommendation of a knowledgeable Barnes and Noble staff member, I read the unexpurgated translation, i.e. the sexy parts are not edited out. The Arabian Nights never gets pornographic, but it does have some steaminess from time-to-time. Don’t like that? Read an expurgated translation. My translation was decent; I read Richard Burton’s adaptation of Jack Zipes’ translation, whatever that means.

I enjoyed the book thoroughly at the start, but then grew tired of it as it went along. The stories eventually melt into each other and become somewhat formulaic. It was enjoyable but never profound: B @ 7.4/10.


  1. Of all the great book reviews I’ve read, this is definitely one. You hit the salient points and made me long for the day that I can read novels and other forms of prose again.

    For what it’s worth, I had a high school teacher who said that papers should be like a girl’s skirt: long enough to cover the subject, short enough to keep it interesting. I’m not sure how much sense it makes, but it’s funny.

  2. I hope, for the sake of humor, that this high school teacher was a man.

  3. ‘Twas

  4. I actually don’t think the skirt analogy is too inaccurate. It’s view of women, however, is another issue…

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