Books on the Middle East


August 7, 2023

956. Books on the Middle East (Near East)

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Further Reading:

Thomas Asbridge The First Crusade: A New History: The Roots of Conflict between Christianity and Islam, 2005.

Historian of the middle ages, Thomas Asbridge, traces the First Crusade, from its beginnings with Pope Urban II’s speech calling for arms to take back Jerusalem from the Muslims to the entry into the city four years later by a merciless band of crusaders who indiscriminately slaughtered virtually everything in their path. We are still experiencing the aftermath of this event nearly a thousand years later.

Dan Ephron Killing a King: The Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and the Remaking of Israel, 2016.

After nearly two decades of reporting on the Middle East, journalist Dan Ephron talks about the developing events between Israel and Palestine after the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. He also narrates the assassin Yigal Amir, who stalked Rabin for two years before murdering him.

Dexter Filkins The Forever War, 2008.

Award-winning correspondent Dexter Filkins shares the history of U.S. conflicts with militant Islamic fundamentalist groups from the rise of the Taliban in the 1990s through the decades-long war after 9/11. He gives first-person accounts of surreal and horrific scenes from Iraq to Afghanistan.

Andrew Hoskin Empire of Fear: Inside the Islamic State, 2015.

The world watched with terror in June 2014 when the Islamic State attacked and claimed a huge swath of the Middle East. BBC reporter Andrew Hosken tells where they came from, how they got their brutal ideology, and how they managed to seize such a massive landmass.

Michael B. Oren Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East, 2003.

Israeli historian Michael B. Oren shares the story of the Six Days War, which, in some ways, is ongoing today. His narrative highlights the events on and off the battlefield during the conflict. He also shows how the lines drawn to end the war have only prolonged the conflict.

Ari Shavit My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel, 2013.

Israeli journalist Ari Shavit tells the story of modern Israel from the perspective of the people who live there. Along the way, he explains the use of Masada as a symbol of Zionism, the nation’s current relationship with Palestine, and the farmers and religious ideologues who helped shape the nation today. It’s an excellent book for anyone seeking to understand modern Israel.

Mike Thomson Syria’s Secret Library: Reading and Redemption in a Town Under Siege, 2019.

On the edge of Damascus is the town of Daraya. It was one of the first places in Syria to be disrupted by the Syrian Civil War. The town lacked food for four years, and its residents were constantly attacked by artillery and snipers. Yet, underground, members of the community kept a secret library with books of all sorts that were rescued from the beleaguered city above. This is the story of that library and the people who kept it going.

Sandy Tolan The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East, 2007.

When 25-year-old Palestinian Bashir Al-Khayri traveled to Israel in 1967, he was hoping to see the stone house he and his family had fled nineteen years before. Once there, he met a current occupant, 19-year-old Dalia Ashkenazi Landau, who had moved there with her family after the Holocaust. The two began a friendship that lasted for decades.

For more information about the Further Reading series, see “Further Reading: Start Here.”


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