The Middle East has long been a source of media headlines. As Karl Sharro jokingly titled his book: “And then god created the Middle East and said ‘let there be breaking news’”. But jokes aside, if you’re from the Middle East, your overtly-politicised identity might have you looking for something a little deeper than what the media allows.
If you’re curious on where to start, we’ve rounded up a few options for you. From historical accounts to anthropologies, these are the best books about the Middle East you need to read.
From Beirut to Jerusalem
American journalist Thomas L. Friedman chronicled his days as a reporter in Lebanon and Palestine. In this book, Friedman recounts the events that took place in Beirut and Jerusalem, during the Lebanese Civil War, and the first Palestinian Intifada—using his accounts to provide an understanding of Middle Eastern politics. It’s important to note that the book has been criticized as providing an orientalist account of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Worth a read.
A History of the Arab Peoples
A must-read for anyone who is looking to learn more about the history of the Arab world. Its author, the British-Lebanese historian Albert Hourani trails 12 centuries of Arab civilization.
With Stones in Our Hands
This anthology focuses on anti-Muslim sentiments and behaviours, not particularly on the Middle Eastern region. With Stones in Our Hands is a series of writings by scholars and activists published to aid others in understanding the global vilification of Muslims and the role anti-colonialist sentiments in Muslim-majority countries plays.
When We Were Arabs
Ever been curious about what it means to be a Jewish Arab? Journalist Massoud Hayoun tells the story of his family’s life in Egypt, Tunisia, Palestine and Los Angeles in a process of identity reclamation.
No list on Middle Eastern books would be complete without a mention of Edward Said’s 1978 book, Orientalism. In it, Said coined the term ‘orientalism’; assigning it to the West’s representations of the East.