The Greatest "Middle East History" Books of All Time

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This list represents a comprehensive and trusted collection of the greatest books. Developed through a specialized algorithm, it brings together 280 'best of' book lists to form a definitive guide to the world's most acclaimed books. For those interested in how these books are chosen, additional details can be found on the rankings page.

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Middle East History

Middle East History is a category of books that focuses on the historical events, cultures, and societies of the Middle East region. This includes the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, Persia, and Egypt, as well as the Islamic Golden Age, the Ottoman Empire, and the modern political and social developments in the region. These books explore the complex and diverse history of the Middle East, including its conflicts, religions, and cultural traditions, providing readers with a deeper understanding of this important and influential part of the world.

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  1. 1. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

    This graphic novel is a memoir that provides a personal account of the author's childhood and young adult years in Iran during and after the Islamic revolution. The story portrays the impact of war, political upheaval, and religious extremism on ordinary people, while also exploring themes of identity, resilience, and the power of storytelling. Despite the harsh realities the protagonist faces, the narrative also includes moments of humor and warmth, providing a nuanced view of life in Iran during this tumultuous period.

  2. 2. Orientalism by Edward W. Said

    This book is a critical examination of Western attitudes towards the East, particularly the Middle East, and how these attitudes have shaped and continue to shape Western policies and perceptions. The author argues that the West has a long history of viewing the East as the "other," exotic and inferior, and that this view has been institutionalized through academic disciplines, literature, and media. This "Orientalism," as the author calls it, has served to justify colonialism and imperialism, and continues to influence Western attitudes and policies towards the East today.

  3. 3. Under the Yoke by Ivan Vazov

    "Under the Yoke" is a historical novel set during the April Uprising in Bulgaria in 1876 against the Ottoman Empire. It presents a vivid portrayal of the events leading up to the uprising, the rebellion itself, and its tragic aftermath, through the eyes of the inhabitants of a small Bulgarian town. The novel explores themes of patriotism, sacrifice, love, and the struggle for freedom, providing a detailed and realistic depiction of the period.

  4. 4. The Twilight Years by Sawako Ariyoshi

    "The Twilight Years" is a poignant story revolving around the life of a middle-aged woman who is burdened with the responsibility of taking care of her ageing and ailing father-in-law while trying to balance her work and personal life. The novel explores the themes of old age, family responsibilities, societal expectations, and the struggles of women in a patriarchal society. It offers a critical examination of the social, cultural, and personal issues related to aging and care-giving in post-war Japan.

  5. 5. The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad

    This book provides an intimate and eye-opening look into the everyday life of an Afghan family. The narrative follows a bookseller in Kabul, who despite the oppressive Taliban regime, courageously continues his trade. The story delves into his family dynamics, the struggles of his two wives, his children's lives, and the societal norms and customs they navigate. It paints a vivid picture of life in Afghanistan, exploring the themes of love, courage, resilience, and the power of literature.

  6. 6. Persepolis Two by Marjane Satrapi

    This graphic novel continues the story of a young girl growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. After being sent to Europe for her safety, she struggles with feeling out of place and longs for her homeland. Eventually, she returns to Iran, only to find it vastly different from the place she remembered. The book explores themes of identity, culture, and the effects of political upheaval on a personal level.

  7. 7. Arabian Sands by Wilfred Thesiger

    This book is a detailed account of the author's travels across the Arabian Peninsula during the 1940s. The narrative provides an in-depth look into the Bedouin way of life, their customs, and the harsh desert environment they inhabit. The author's journey takes him through the Empty Quarter, one of the most inhospitable places on earth, challenging his endurance and resilience. The book is a testament to the author's love for adventure and his admiration for the Bedouin people, offering readers a glimpse into a world that has largely disappeared.

  8. 8. The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein

    This book explores the concept of "disaster capitalism", the idea that global capitalism thrives on disaster and chaos. The author argues that free market policies are often pushed through while countries are reeling from wars, natural disasters, or economic crises. She provides a historical analysis of these events, from Chile in the 1970s, to Russia in the 1990s, to the war in Iraq, demonstrating how governments and corporations exploit these periods of shock to implement economic reforms that would otherwise be rejected.

  9. 9. Imperial Life in the Emerald City by Rajiv Chandrasekaran

    "Imperial Life in the Emerald City" provides an in-depth look at the American occupation of Iraq, focusing on the Green Zone in Baghdad, which served as the U.S. headquarters. The book reveals how the U.S. administration was ill-prepared for the task of rebuilding Iraq, and how their lack of understanding about the country and its culture led to many mistakes and blunders. The author, through his first-hand accounts and interviews, paints a picture of a surreal, insulated world within the Green Zone, cut off from the harsh realities of the war-torn country outside.

  10. 10. Journal of the Discovery of the Source of the Nile by John Hanning Speke

    This book is a detailed account of an adventurous exploration to discover the source of the Nile River. The author, an English explorer, recounts his journey through Africa, detailing the various hardships, dangers, and cultural encounters experienced along the way. The narrative culminates in his discovery of Lake Victoria, which he claimed as the Nile's source. The book offers an intriguing look into 19th-century African exploration and the determination that led to one of the era's most significant geographical discoveries.

  11. 11. The Valleys of the Assassins by Freya Stark

    This travelogue presents the author's journey through the Middle East, specifically Persia, in the early 20th century. The narrative is a blend of history, geography, and personal exploration, as the author ventures into remote and dangerous regions, including the infamous "Valleys of the Assassins." The book provides a detailed and vivid account of the author's experiences and observations, bringing to life the landscapes, cultures, and histories of the regions she explores.

  12. 12. Arab and Jew by David K. Shipler

    The book explores the cultural, political, and personal divisions between Arabs and Jews in the Middle East, specifically in Israel and Palestine. The author, through extensive interviews and personal experiences, delves into the deeply rooted prejudices, stereotypes, and mutual misunderstandings that fuel the ongoing conflict. The book sheds light on the human aspect of the struggle, highlighting the shared similarities and the tragic consequences of the divide.

  13. 13. From Beirut to Jerusalem by Thomas L. Friedman

    This book is a comprehensive exploration of the Middle East and its complex history, politics, and conflicts, written by a journalist who spent a decade in the region. The author offers an insightful analysis of the Lebanese civil war, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the broader regional dynamics, providing an in-depth understanding of the issues from a personal perspective. The book combines historical research, political analysis, and personal anecdotes, making it an engaging and informative read for anyone interested in Middle Eastern affairs.

  14. 14. Ghost Wars by Steve Coll

    "Ghost Wars" is an in-depth exploration of the complex history of Afghanistan from the Soviet invasion in 1979 to just before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The book provides an intricate account of the CIA's role and America's foreign policy in Afghanistan, the rise of the Taliban, and the emergence of Osama Bin Laden. It also details the numerous missed opportunities to capture or kill Bin Laden, and the failure to prevent the 9/11 attacks.

  15. 15. Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS by Joby Warrick

    This book provides a detailed account of the rise of the terrorist group ISIS. The narrative delves into the history of the group, tracing its roots back to a Jordanian street thug, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who morphed into a jihadist leader. It also explores the geopolitical conditions and missteps by world leaders that allowed the group to grow in power and influence. The book offers an in-depth look at the personalities and events that contributed to the emergence of one of the most notorious terrorist organizations in the world.

Reading Statistics

Click the button below to see how many of these books you've read!

Download

If you're interested in downloading this list as a CSV file for use in a spreadsheet application, you can easily do so by clicking the button below. Please note that to ensure a manageable file size and faster download, the CSV will include details for only the first 500 books.

Download