The Greatest "Middle East" 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 268 '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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  1. 1. One Thousand and One Nights by Unknown

    This is a collection of Middle Eastern folk tales compiled during the Islamic Golden Age. The stories are told by a young woman, who must weave a new tale each night for her husband, a king, to delay her execution. The tales are filled with magic, adventure, love, and betrayal, and include well-known stories such as "Aladdin's Wonderful Lamp", "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves", and "The Seven Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor".

  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. The Hebrew Bible by Jewish scripture

    This book is a comprehensive collection of Jewish scriptures, also known as the Hebrew Bible or Tanakh, which is divided into three sections: the Torah (Pentateuch), the Nevi'im (Prophets), and the Ketuvim (Writings). It includes historical accounts, laws, ethical guidelines, songs, prayers, wisdom literature, and prophecies, providing the religious, moral, and social foundations for Judaism and, by extension, Christianity and Islam. The book is considered sacred and authoritative by Jews worldwide.

  4. 4. The Christian Tradition by Jaroslav Pelikan

    "The Christian Tradition" is a comprehensive exploration of the historical development of Christian doctrine from the first century to the present day. It provides an in-depth analysis of the key figures, events, and ideas that have shaped Christian thought, emphasizing the diversity and richness of the tradition. The author meticulously examines the evolution of Christian beliefs, the controversies and conflicts that have arisen over the centuries, and the ways in which these beliefs have been interpreted and reinterpreted in different historical and cultural contexts.

  5. 5. Gospels by Unknown

    "Gospels" is a collection of four books from the New Testament of the Christian Bible, written by various authors. These books provide accounts of the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, each from a different perspective. They serve as the primary source of information about Jesus and form the basis of Christian theology and belief.

  6. 6. Eothen by Alexander William Kinglake

    "Eothen" is a vivid travelogue that chronicles the author's journey through the Middle East in the 1830s, capturing the essence of the region with a blend of personal adventure, cultural commentary, and historical insight. The narrative takes the reader on an evocative trip across countries like Turkey, Cyprus, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, and Jordan, offering a glimpse into the customs, landscapes, and daily life of the time. The author's keen observations and descriptive prowess bring to life the exotic locales, the encounters with diverse peoples, and the challenges of travel in an era before modern conveniences, all while reflecting the Victorian fascination with the Orient and its perceived mysteries.

  7. 7. Women Of Sand And Myrrh by Hanan Al-Shaykh

    The book is a poignant exploration of the lives of four women in a Middle Eastern desert town, where traditional values and modern aspirations clash amidst the oppressive realities of a patriarchal society. The narrative delves into the intimate struggles of these women as they navigate love, sexuality, and friendship while confronting the constraints imposed on them by gender and social norms. Their stories intertwine to paint a complex picture of female resilience and the quest for identity and freedom in a world where their roles are often predetermined by the sands of culture and the scent of myrrh.

  8. 8. The Rise of the West by William H. McNeill

    "The Rise of the West" is a comprehensive historical narrative that explores the development of Western civilization from the early stages of human history to the 20th century. The book provides a detailed analysis of various civilizations around the world, their interactions, and the resulting cultural exchanges that have shaped the modern world. It also discusses the significant factors, such as technological advancements, religious transformations, and political changes, that have contributed to the West's ascendancy.

  9. 9. The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power by Daniel Yergin

    "The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power" is a comprehensive history of the global oil industry, tracing its development from the drilling of the first well in Pennsylvania to the oil crisis of the 1970s and its aftermath. The book examines the key players, political conflicts, and technological advancements that have shaped the industry, and explores the profound impact of oil on the global economy and geopolitics. It also discusses the environmental and social challenges associated with oil production and consumption.

  10. 10. A History of the Crusades by Stephen Runciman

    This book offers a comprehensive and detailed examination of the Crusades, a series of religious wars fought in the medieval period. The author delves deep into the political, economic, and social circumstances that led to the wars, the key figures involved, and the long-lasting effects on both the Christian and Muslim worlds. The narrative is both scholarly and engaging, providing a balanced perspective on one of history's most complex and controversial periods.

  11. 11. The New Arabian Nights by Robert Louis Stevenson

    This collection of stories weaves a tapestry of adventure, mystery, and the exotic, set against the backdrop of the European and Eastern landscapes. It follows the exploits of a whimsical club of adventurers who engage in a series of thrilling escapades, from a bizarre murder investigation to the pursuit of a secret society. The tales are imbued with the spirit of the original Arabian Nights, blending the fantastic with the realistic, and are characterized by the author's signature wit and vivid imagination. Through these narratives, the book explores themes of romance, honor, and the nature of storytelling itself, all while captivating readers with its inventive plots and colorful characters.

  12. 12. West Eastern Divan by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

    The book in question is a collection of lyrical poems that reflects the author's fascination with Persian culture, inspired by the works of the Persian poet Hafez. It serves as a poetic dialogue that bridges Western and Eastern cultural traditions, exploring themes of love, wine, and the nuanced interplay between nature, humanity, and the divine. The work is notable for its attempt to transcend cultural barriers and promote understanding between the Occident and the Orient, showcasing the author's deep appreciation for the richness of Middle Eastern literature and philosophy.

  13. 13. Sandstorms by Peter Theroux

    "Sandstorms" is a compelling narrative that explores the intricate cultural and political landscapes of the Middle East. Through a series of interconnected stories and personal journeys, the book delves into the lives of individuals caught in the region's tumultuous sandstorms of change and conflict. The author offers a vivid portrayal of the Middle East's diverse societies, examining the impact of historical legacies and modern challenges on the people who navigate the shifting sands of identity, loyalty, and survival. With a keen eye for detail and a deep understanding of the region's complexities, the narrative provides a thought-provoking glimpse into the heart of a world often misunderstood by outsiders.

  14. 14. Habibi by Craig Thompson

    "Habibi" is a graphic novel that tells the story of Dodola and Zam, refugee child slaves who escape to the desert, where they rely on each other for survival. The story is a complex interweaving of themes including love, religion, exploitation, and the clash of cultures, told through a blend of Islamic folklore, the Qur'an, and contemporary issues. The novel explores the strength of human resilience and the deep bonds that can form even in the face of unimaginable hardship.

  15. 15. Destiny Disrupted by Tamim Ansary

    The book provides a sweeping historical account of the world from the perspective of Islamic civilization. It spans from the time of the Prophet Muhammad to the early 21st century, offering insights into how Muslims have seen their history unfold, which is markedly different from the Western narrative. The author delves into the rise and fall of empires, the evolution of Islamic thought, and the complex interactions between the Muslim world and the West. This narrative aims to bridge cultural divides by presenting a story that is often left out of typical Western-centric historical accounts, thus giving readers a more nuanced understanding of global history and the roots of contemporary geopolitical issues.

  16. 16. Travels (Ibn Battúta) by Ibn Battúta

    The book is a comprehensive travelogue written by a 14th-century Moroccan scholar and explorer who traveled extensively across the known world, from Africa to the Middle East, India, China, and Europe. The author shares his observations and experiences in vivid detail, offering unique insights into the diverse cultures, religions, and societies he encountered during his journeys. His accounts serve as a significant historical record of the world during the Middle Ages, providing a firsthand perspective of life during that period.

  17. 17. 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.

  18. 18. Crusade and Jihad: Islam and the Christian World by Bassam Tibi

    This book explores the historical, ideological, and political aspects of the Crusades and Jihad, comparing and contrasting the two. It delves into the origins and evolution of the Crusades and Jihad, their impact on Christian and Islamic societies, and their relevance in today's world. The author also examines the role of religion in conflicts and the use of religious ideologies for political purposes, providing a comprehensive understanding of these complex issues.

  19. 19. A Line In The Sand by James Barr

    This book delves into the complex history of the modern Middle East, focusing on the post-World War I era when Britain and France drew arbitrary borders, creating new nations and sowing the seeds for future conflicts. It examines the clandestine struggle between these colonial powers as they vied for dominance in the region, often at the expense of the local populations. The narrative reveals how the duplicitous actions and broken promises of Western powers during this period set the stage for enduring turmoil and established a legacy of distrust and instability that continues to affect the geopolitics of the Middle East to this day.

  20. 20. Alif The Unseen by G. Willow Wilson

    In a Middle Eastern city teetering on the edge of revolution, a young Arab-Indian hacker, who goes by the alias Alif, finds himself on the run from the state's oppressive security forces. After his computer-savvy skills and underground network are compromised by a heartbreak, he discovers the existence of the supernatural world of the jinn. With the help of an ancient and mystical book, Alif must bridge the gap between the seen and the unseen, blending technology with ancient Arabic lore, to protect himself and his community from the encroaching forces that threaten to engulf both the physical and the magical worlds.

  21. 21. Declare by Tim Powers

    In this supernatural espionage thriller, a British intelligence agent uncovers a secret history of paranormal forces and Cold War intrigue. The protagonist is drawn into a world where mythical creatures and occult rituals are entwined with real historical events, particularly those involving the Soviet Union. As he navigates a shadowy battlefield that spans from the ruins of post-war Europe to the deserts of the Middle East, he must confront a demonic entity and unravel a conspiracy that challenges his understanding of reality, all while grappling with personal demons and a complex love interest. The novel blends historical fact with dark fantasy, creating a unique tapestry of suspense and supernatural warfare.

Reading Statistics

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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