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Books of Interest: The Complicated, Modern Middle East

A post from Collection Development Manager Carol James

We’ve seen so many images of strife on the evening news, and so many stories of seemingly intractable conflicts in the Middle East.   In recent months, we’ve also witnessed exciting, and sometimes violent, impulses towards change and new beginnings.  How much do we really understand about the rich cultural and historical diversity of the many countries that make up the modern Middle East?  From Kandahar to Benghazi, this list of books by historians, journalists, government insiders and people of the region themselves may deepen, broaden, and challenge our understanding of what’s happened and what’s possible in this vital and volatile part of our world.

West of Kabul, East of New York by Tamim Ansary.  A memoir of growing up between Afghan and American cultures, the author describes straddling the Western and Islamic worlds.

The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict Between America and al-Qaeda by Peter Bergen. The journalist’s understanding of bin Laden’s world — often based on personal interviews with present and former jihadists — make this necessary reading for anyone wanting to understand our times.

Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women by Geraldine Brooks. A rich tapestry of the varied lives women live under Islam, and a captivating and diverse portrait of a little known world.

Danger and Opportunity:  An  American Ambassador’s Journey Through the Middle East by Edward P. Djerejian.  Offers perspectives and guidance gleaned from forty years of diplomatic service under eight presidents.

The Tenth Parallel: Dispatches from the Fault Line Between Christianity and Islam by Eliza Griswold.  Stories from along the latitude line in Africa and Asia where Christianity and Islam often meet and clash.

The Modern Middle East: A Political History Since the First World War by Mehran Kamrava.  Succinct and authoritative review of the making of the modern Middle East.

The Middle East: A Brief History of the Last 2000 Years by Bernard Lewis. One of the world’s foremost authorities on the Middle East searches the past for answers to questions that will inevitably arise in the future.

The Media Relations Department of Hizbollah Wishes You A Happy Birthday: Unexpected Encounters in the Changing Middle East by Neil MacFarquhar.  From his boyhood in Libya onward, the author has encountered dynamic men and women pioneering political and social change across a surprising landscape.

Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East by Michael Oren.  Explores the lasting impact six days of intense Arab-Israeli fighting had on world politics, providing information on the conflict’s major participants, its causes, and its tragic outcome.

Egypt After Mubarak by Bruce Rutherford.  Examines the political and ideological battles that drive Egyptian politics and shape the prospects for democracy throughout the region.

The Lemon Tree: An Arab, A Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East by Sandy Tolan. Personalizes the Arab-Israeli conflict by tracing the intertwined lives of a Palestinian refugee named Bashir Al-Khairi and a Jewish settler named Dalia Eshkenazi Landau.

Storm From the East by Milton Viorst.  Thoughtful history of the encounters between Arab nationalism and Western colonial expansion, and how these conflicts are still being played out in the modern world.

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