The best 15 The Middle East books

The Middle East is a region with a rich tapestry of history, cultures, and complex geopolitical landscapes. Understanding its nuances is crucial, and our carefully selected book list offers invaluable insight into its multifaceted dynamics.

Dive into these illuminating reads to broaden your perspectives and grasp the intricacies of the Middle East. Ready to embark on this enlightening journey with us?

The best 15 The Middle East books
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1
The Middle East Books: ISIS by Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan

ISIS

Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan
Inside the Army of Terror
4.1 (46 ratings)
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What's ISIS about?

ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror (2015) charts the rapid rise of the Islamic State in the Middle East, from its early beginnings to its self-proclaimed caliphate in Iraq and Syria. Grippingly told, the story of ISIS’s domination over al-Qaeda in Iraq and its slow but ruthless push in Syria also shines light on the failings of the West in dealing with this fanatical yet disciplined jihadi group.

Who should read ISIS?

  • People interested in international politics and the rise of terrorism
  • Historians or students of Middle Eastern studies
  • Anyone with an interest in examples of religious extremism

2
The Middle East Books: The Muqaddimah by Ibn Khaldūn

The Muqaddimah

Ibn Khaldūn
An Introduction to History
4.0 (106 ratings)
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What's The Muqaddimah about?

The Muqaddimah (fourteenth century, first English edition 1958), a classic text on the Islamic history of the world, focuses on the rise and fall of civilizations. It offers a unique glimpse into the world of the fourteenth-century Arab Muslim, and is regarded as a foundational text in several academic disciplines.

Who should read The Muqaddimah?

  • History enthusiasts
  • People interested in social organization
  • Participants in Mark Zuckerberg’s A Year of Books

3
The Middle East Books: The Seventh Million by Tom Segev

The Seventh Million

Tom Segev
The Israelis and the Holocaust
4.0 (56 ratings)
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What's The Seventh Million about?

The Seventh Million (1991) is all about the way in which the Holocaust has shaped the Israeli identity. These blinks detail everything from the Zionist response to Nazism and the arrival of the first European Jewish refugees in Palestine to the Six-Day War and Holocaust Memorial Day.

Who should read The Seventh Million?

  • Jews, Israelis, Germans and Americans
  • Historians and students of the Holocaust

4
The Middle East Books: Lawrence in Arabia by Scott Anderson

Lawrence in Arabia

Scott Anderson
War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East
4.8 (108 ratings)
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What's Lawrence in Arabia about?

Lawrence in Arabia (2013) reveals how a small cast of characters forever changed the Middle East during World War I and the Arab Revolt. At its center was T. E. Lawrence, a brash and untrained young military officer who was torn between two nations and experienced firsthand the broken promises of politics and the horrors of war.

Who should read Lawrence in Arabia?

  • Students and historians interested in World War I
  • People curious about the history of the Middle East
  • Anyone who likes a thrilling story

5
The Middle East Books: The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright

The Looming Tower

Lawrence Wright
Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11
4.0 (48 ratings)
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What's The Looming Tower about?

The Looming Tower (2006) is all about al-Qaeda, its formation, and the personalities behind it. These blinks detail the route taken to power by al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and the run-up to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack that devastated the United States.

Who should read The Looming Tower?

  • Anyone interested in the global effects of national policies
  • Political science junkies
  • History enthusiasts

6
The Middle East Books: Jerusalem by Simon Sebag Montefiore

Jerusalem

Simon Sebag Montefiore
The Biography
4.1 (149 ratings)
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What's Jerusalem about?

Jerusalem (2011) tells the story of a city considered holy by three of the world’s major religions, and which is central to some of the greatest conflicts in human history. These blinks detail the history of Jerusalem, the near-constant battles it has inspired and the fundamental role it has played in shaping humankind over the course of millennia.

Who should read Jerusalem?

  • Anyone interested in theology, history and war
  • Jews, Christians and Muslims
  • Anyone interested in the crucial precursors to the ongoing conflict in the Middle East

7
The Middle East Books: Destiny Disrupted by Tamim Ansary

Destiny Disrupted

Tamim Ansary
A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes
4.5 (126 ratings)
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What's Destiny Disrupted about?

Destiny Disrupted (2009) tells history from an Islamic perspective. It begins before the emergence of Muhammad and Islam in the seventh century CE and ends with the decline of the Islamic empires in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. On this epic journey, Tamim Ansary describes the fascinating stories of great Muslim states, scholars and leaders – a perspective on history that is, unfortunately, widely unknown to most Westerners.

Who should read Destiny Disrupted?

  • Historians and students of religion
  • Westerners curious about the Islamic perspective on world history
  • Readers eager to learn more about Islamic culture and religion

8
The Middle East Books: Black Flags by Joby Warrick

Black Flags

Joby Warrick
The Rise of ISIS
4.3 (47 ratings)
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What's Black Flags about?

Black Flags (2015) tells the origin story of the infamous terror organization known as the Islamic State or ISIS. These blinks detail a history that begins with a fledgling insurgency in Iraq following the US invasion in 2003 and ends with one of the most powerful and frightening terrorist groups of all time.

Who should read Black Flags?

  • Anyone wondering how ISIS came into existence
  • Students of geography, politics and history
  • People interested in the Middle East

9
The Middle East Books: The Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan

The Silk Roads

Peter Frankopan
A New History of the World
4.6 (219 ratings)
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What's The Silk Roads about?

The Silk Roads (2015) is a comprehensive history of the world, written with an eye to the networks of trade that shaped it. The networks of trade first established in ancient Persia and later linked with Chinese trade routes created a great network between the East and the West. But these Silk Roads are not relics of the past. They have morphed and changed, and their impact can be felt today, right down to America’s fateful engagement in the region where it all began.

Who should read The Silk Roads?

  • Economists looking for historical parallels
  • Intrigued followers of world events who want to learn about trade
  • Historians of all stripes

10
The Middle East Books: Islam by Karen Armstrong

Islam

Karen Armstrong
A Short History
4.3 (238 ratings)
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What's Islam about?

Islam: A Short History (2000) charts the meteoric rise of Islam from its birth as a small sect in seventh-century Arabia to a global religion with just under two billion followers. What makes Islam unique among faiths, Karen Armstrong argues, are its refusal to postpone justice to the next world and quest to create the perfect society in the here and now. She follows this thread in her fascinating tour of 1,500 years of Islamic history.

Who should read Islam?

  • Believers and non-believers
  • History and politics buffs
  • Whoever seeks to understand Islam is beyond the headlines

11
The Middle East Books: When Women Ruled the World by Kara Cooney

When Women Ruled the World

Kara Cooney
Six Queens of Egypt
4.1 (200 ratings)
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What's When Women Ruled the World about?

Ancient Egypt is a historical anomaly: the Egyptians called upon women to lead their country more frequently than any other culture. Tracing their rise to power within the authoritarian system of divine kingship, When Women Ruled the World (2018) tells the stories of Egypt’s six most important female leaders – Merneith, Neferusobek, Hatshepsut, Nefertiti, Tawosret and Cleopatra – and explores what lessons they hold about female leadership for us today.

Who should read When Women Ruled the World?

  • Folks who are interested in the history of female leadership
  • Women who want to be inspired by female trailblazers of the past
  • History buffs who want to learn more about life and death in ancient Egypt

12
The Middle East Books: Killing the Killers by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard

Killing the Killers

Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard
The Secret War Against Terrorists
3.9 (265 ratings)
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What's Killing the Killers about?

Killing the Killers (2022) takes you deep into the global war on terror. As it examines the role of Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, it moves through all the theaters of action including Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Iran, and Afghanistan. It’s the eleventh book in the best-selling Killing series.

Who should read Killing the Killers?

  • Fans of the Killing series
  • History buffs interested in the war on terror
  • Lovers of dramatic story-telling

13
The Middle East Books: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

The Kite Runner

Khaled Hosseini
4.6 (76 ratings)
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What's The Kite Runner about?

The Kite Runner (2003) is narrated by Amir, an Afghan living in the US, as he reflects on his childhood in Kabul, and an incident that changed his life. This best-selling novel is a story of friendship, family, betrayal, and redemption.

Who should read The Kite Runner?

  • Fathers and sons
  • People interested in Afghanistan

Anyone who’s curious about a book that was a New York Times bestseller for 2 years


14
The Middle East Books: Saving Aziz by Chad Robichaux with David L. Thomas

Saving Aziz

Chad Robichaux with David L. Thomas
How the Mission to Help One Became a Calling to Rescue Thousands from the Taliban
4.1 (113 ratings)
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What's Saving Aziz about?

Saving Aziz (2023) is the story of how one man’s daring rescue of his friend and brother-in-arms turned into a multi-organizational effort that has resulted in rescuing over 17,000 allies from Afghanistan. 

Who should read Saving Aziz?

  • Anyone interested in Afghanistan history
  • Military history buffs
  • People in need of an inspiring story of the goodness in humanity

What's Son of Hamas about?

Son of Hamas is a gripping memoir by Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of one of the founders of the Hamas organization. It provides a rare insider's perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and offers a unique account of his journey from being a Hamas operative to working as an undercover agent for the Israeli intelligence agency. Yousef's story is both eye-opening and thought-provoking, shedding light on the complexities of the Middle East.

Who should read Son of Hamas?

  • Individuals interested in understanding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from a personal perspective

  • Readers who enjoy memoirs and true stories of personal transformation

  • Those looking to gain insights into the mindset and motivations of individuals involved in extremist organizations


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 FAQs 

What's the best The Middle East book to read?

While choosing just one book about a topic is always tough, many people regard ISIS as the ultimate read on The Middle East.

What are the Top 10 The Middle East books?

Blinkist curators have picked the following:
  • ISIS by Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan
  • The Muqaddimah by Ibn Khaldūn
  • The Seventh Million by Tom Segev
  • Lawrence in Arabia by Scott Anderson
  • The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright
  • Jerusalem by Simon Sebag Montefiore
  • Destiny Disrupted by Tamim Ansary
  • Black Flags by Joby Warrick
  • The Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan
  • Islam by Karen Armstrong

Who are the top The Middle East book authors?

When it comes to The Middle East, these are the authors who stand out as some of the most influential:
  • Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan
  • Ibn Khaldūn
  • Tom Segev
  • Scott Anderson
  • Lawrence Wright