Image 1 of 12: A clear-eyed narrative of Islam’ origins and its contemporary fragmentation. Armstrong shatters stereotypes and convincingly shows that the billion followers of the world's fastest growing religion are overwhelmingly modern and moderate. A romp through Islamic history, clichés evaporating at every turn.
Image 1 of 12: Do sexual norms reflect society’s politics? Half-Egyptian broadcaster and academic El Feki dove into a 5-year investigation of the intimate lives of ordinary 21st-century Arabs. In turns serious and entertaining, her thesis is that sexual norms reflect the politics of a society.
Image 1 of 12: Aslan explores Islamic schisms, akin to the Protestant split from Catholicism, stating Islam must experience its own "Reformation." He writes that Islamic conflict can only be resolved from within; violence is part of that struggle; and Western interference delays the solution.
Image 1 of 12: A book of searing drama and incisive analysis, this 1,107 page brick is a sweeping history of the last half century of MidEast conflict. Fisk, the longest-serving western correspondent in the Middle East, is his own best source for detail from the mid-1970s: his love of the Middle East is passionate.
Image 1 of 12: This magnificent, Pulitzer-winning history of oil on all continents (not just the MidEast) reads like a detective novel. A bit dated (published in 1993), the book still provides indispensable story of oil's role as the Middle East's most powerful eco-political engine.
Image 1 of 12: The standard for anyone trying to understand the political factions and sects and tribes that have been tirelessly battling in the region and their vital connection to Western civilization. Friedman updated the 20-year-old original with a new chapter addressing developments since first publication.
Image 1 of 12: Good literature is a window into culture. This Arab bestseller provides a captivating shortcut into Egyptian mores, tracing the last half century of the nation's history and anxieties while breaking taboos along the way.
Image 1 of 12: 8: What Went Wrong: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response Bernard Lewis
Image 1 of 12: Penetrating insight into women’s lives in Iran, Egypt and KSA shatter stereotypes about life behind the veil. Brooks shows that, despite cultural controls, women gained advantages such as equal pay in Tunisia, vibrant political life in Iran; and small social inroads in KSA.
Image 1 of 12: The Israeli special-warfare commander and counterterrorist for 25 years spills the beans on Israel's elite forces inner workings. Not your usual war games book: he concludes that "no people can rule another people without their consent" and that there’s no "realistic alternative" to sharing land with the Palestinians.
Image 1 of 12: A collection of essays & speeches that attempt to explain Zionism, its centerpiece is Herzog's 1961 debate with Brit historian Arnold Toynbee on whether there’s moral equivalence between "what Nazis did to European Jews and what Israelis did to Palestinian Arabs". A difficult read and tough to put down.
Image 1 of 12: Maloof writes that traditions deserve respect only insofar as they "respect the fundamental rights of men and women." He opposes the singular identity of fanatics who are "easily transformed into butchers", and says that any doctrine can be murderously perverted, including liberalism, nationalism, and religion.
The first Thursday of March is World Book Day, a yearly event organized by UNESCO to promote reading, publishing and copyright. What started in 1995 as a single day has ballooned into a week - and sometimes month! - long series of international book-based happenings to encourage us to step away from the keyboard and drop that remote control. Use the event as an excuse to tuck into some new reads; what better way to crack the incomprehensible nut that’s called the Middle East?
Well, for starters you might look to the Old and New Testaments and Quran to derive some conclusions about the origins of MidEast troubles. Grand old tomes, all - but World Book Day aims to broaden our literary appetites - incite us to pick up something new, experience a new point of view.
While the subject of the Middle East is too complex, fascinating and controversial to be reduced to a single title (however brilliant and well-marketed), you can self-educate with a short stack of essential books that cover a broad range of themes and perspectives.
Check out these books - as accessible to casual readers as they're enlightening for experts - listed in no particular order. And let us know your pick for the best book to boost appreciation for this zip code called the Middle East.